A letter from a parent to a schoolteacher from October 15, 2012, has been making waves in the news and on the internet in Chile. It sounds identical to the ignorant remarks thrown at educators in the U.S. as they have fought for basic rights like unions, as well as pushed back against policies like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, which practically institute teacher culpability without providing nearly enough resources to combat the economic and social problems that–gasp–educators can’t fix by themselves.
Chile, not surprisingly, faces very similar issues. While students, teachers, and supporters have taken to the streets en masse to call out the government on the failure of the neoliberal educational system, as this letter shows, sometimes, parents still expect teachers to take on full responsibility for their child’s education, rather than sharing that task. This is my translation:
Mr. Professor: (Hmm, couldn’t remember the teacher’s name?)
I do not have time to go talk to you at the school. If my son has bad behavior, it is on your time, in your class, in your classroom.
I cannot leave my office to talk to you every time that it occurs to you. The problems with my son’s grades are because you don’t understand him at all. It is you who has to review his notebooks, his homework, and his books. This is your job. You are the educator. Do the work.
Of course we are going to talk, but when I have the time.
The letter was shared on Facebook by Diccionario Señas Chile, and it has been shared over 5,400 times and had almost 1,000 comments that take both sides. Many of them support the teacher, while others claim that teachers are “lazy.”
To me, this letter indicates another aspect of looking at education as a business deal vs. looking at it as an opportunity to create a better society. This father refused to leave his office to participate in his child’s education, both because that would have taken him away from work (money, or the opportunity to make it), and because he sees his child’s education as a business transaction, rather than social right that needs to be constantly bolstered by family, community, government, and society. Education, to him, was a service provided in exchange for money, rather than part of his resposibility as a Chilean, and global, citizen.
That mentality is what neoliberalism did to education in Chile, in addition to reproducing vast economic inequality. Hopefully, if Chile reforms its educational system, mentalities will also change over time. And then, maybe the U.S. can look to Chile as an example for educational reform.