Martyred Teachers In Mexico
Perhaps it is not surprising in the present political climate that the deaths of 12 teachers fighting to defend public education in Mexico have gone virtually unnoticed. The presidential hopeful and presumptive Republican Party nominee Donald Trump has built a vast political following railing for the construction of a wall to keep illegal immigrants out of the United States. His rhetoric obscured important events inside Mexico.
Last Sunday in the southern state of Oaxaca, demonstrations turned deadly. Government security forces opened fire on a group of teachers engaged in an act of civil disobedience, undertaken to focus attention on government efforts to undermine public education.
The protests were not unexpected. A broad coalition of students, teachers and activists have been engaged in a range of non-violent protests since Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto first announced his education plans in 2013. These so-called national education policy reforms promote the typical agenda of Global Corporate Education Reform including the general defunding of public education, the adoption of standardized testing, the evaluation of teachers tied to student test scores and the privatization of schools. While Nieto appears to be the chief proponent of the laws international conglomerates such as The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank are the real driving force behind such neoliberal reforms in Mexico and beyond.
As in countless communities across the United States, Mexican teachers have revealed the damaging features of these so-called reforms. Such measures further alienate, marginalize, and deny opportunities to low-income students. Teachers also called attention to the failure of politicians to consider the inadequacies of testing in addressing the specialized needs of many students from rural and indigenous communities.
The government response in Mexico has been heavy-handed and violent. Thousands of teachers have been fired. Smaller numbers have been detained. In spite of the peaceful nature of the protests, Mexican officials sanctioned the use of what they initially described as “moderate force“ against teachers. These supposed “moderate” tactics were used last week against activists occupying a highway in Oaxaca with tragic consequences.
Activists and analysts both in Mexico and the United States have read these efforts as an attempt to subvert the democratizing potential of public education. In a recent TeleSUR interview for instance, National Autonomous University of Mexico professor and Legal Scholar John M. Ackerman observed that the government’s Martyred Teachers In Mexico:
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