The battle for education in Mexico

Education has always been both a technical and a political issue. Because although it has a scientific component (mathematics, chemistry), it also has an ideological dimension. It shapes – or at least tries to – our identities and loyalties: who are the heroes and villains of the story; what is socially right and wrong, what is moral or immoral.

Since the nation-state began to control education, all countries have used it to imprint a certain vision of the world. Sometimes this has generated positive results. For example, in The politicization of the Mexican child, Rafael Segovia explains the role of the country’s history as a factor of social cohesion. Other times it has given rise to controversy and disagreement, such as the inclusion of topics on sexual education in the curriculum.

Despite everything, in Mexico education managed to establish itself as a State project, more or less independent of political ups and downs. From the profiriato, going through the Revolution, the PRI and the transition, characters like Vasconcelos, Bassols, Reyes Heroles or Lujambiomaintained a scientific approach, the promotion of technology, the creation of institutions such as the UNAM, the IPN, the Colmex, CIDE, Conacyt and its Public Research Centers.

In particular, basic education was one of the great achievements of the “Mexican miracle”: public schools spread from the cities to the most inhospitable towns; in 1970 illiteracy was more than 25%, by 2018 less than 5%. This contributed to social mobility, creating a robust middle class, and democratic change.

But López Obrador arrived: he eliminated full-time schools; canceled the 2013 reform, which required evaluation of teachers for the benefit of students; resurrected and returned power to the CNTE, a quasi-criminal organization, which spends more time exercising violence and blackmail than teaching in salons.

Now, it imposes an educational reform (a conceptual mess that navigates between Marxist notions and New Age spirituality. It is a jumble that censors merit and evaluations; it intends to cancel school grades; it condemns science as a “neoliberal” invention and knowledge as a “Western” oppression.

Instead, it promotes “knowledge” together with a “community” and “decolonial” approach, although there is no diagnosis or evidence that the alleged scheme has ever worked anywhere, but rather ideological hunches. And if it couldn’t get worse, the budget for education is the lowest in a decade. As Jesús Silva-Herzog put it succinctly, “The school of the regime, like the regime itself, knows what it hates, but does not know what it wants.”

Faced with the lag caused by the pandemic, which requires making up for lost time, and in the face of the advancement of a knowledge society that demands people with scientific skills; while the world needs programmers, the lopezobradorismo wants to return to the trapiche culture. To the resignation of “we are poor, but honest” they now add the “we are ignorant, but decolonized and we vibrate high”.

But those of us who want a better present and future for our children; Those of us who want them to have better opportunities to develop and fulfill themselves cannot throw in the towel. Committed teachers, organizations that work in the sector, and above all, mothers and fathers, must give everything in this battle for education.

Guillermo Lerdo de Tejada Servitje



The battle for education in Mexico