June 19, 2013
Too cool for school
If the wave of school occupations in this capital was distinctly ebbing as the week drew to a close, a cynic might well conclude that students do not care to be anywhere near their classrooms when there is a long weekend on the way but even if such cynicism is unjustified and the agreements progress, the deeper educational problems are far from solved. If the protests arose against City Hall’s initiative to update school curricula (spreading from an initial four schools to more than 50 in little more than a fortnight), there is cause for concern over how quickly the conflict was politicized against Mayor Mauricio Macri and how little reaction there was from the student mainstream against the politically militant and extremist minorities. Ironically enough, perhaps one prime reason for this apathy is not so much excessive curriculum updating as far too little. In the eyes of today’s youth, there are doubts whether the educational system has fully entered the 20th century, never mind the 21st — it lags hopelessly behind a technological revolution which teachers (even when not primarily occupied with their trade union agenda) have no real self-interest in joining because all too often they will know less than the pupils they are supposed to be teaching. This is not to say that the students despise the value of schooling (a surprisingly high number have expressed their assent to the classes lost in the last couple of weeks being recovered in December) but they see the traditional classroom as less and less the venue of education, hence
making the recent loss of schooldays somewhat relative.
Nevertheless, the loss of days still sees Argentina lagging even further behind the rest of the world, especially the emerging markets in other continents even more than the developed world with its dead-end, demographically depleted youth (especially in Europe). There have been far too many days lost already this year to teacher strikes with no guarantee against more to come and now these school occupations have come along to abbreviate the school year yet further — there seems little hope for a school system where the pay levels seem to obsess the teachers far more than the curricula. Last but not least, the worst thing society can do at large with this key to the country’s future is passively deplore teacher and student attitudes, looking to the government for the answer — politicians (especially here) are so wedded to the short-term that they will never make a priority out of a long-range educational strategy without sustained social pressure.