At Powerline, John Hinderaker notes that the “leftist majority in Venezuela’s legislative assembly has adopted a measure that extends state control over education and mandates that all education be conducted in accordance with ‘the Bolivarian Doctrine.’ Opponents of Hugo Chavez call it the ’socialist indoctrination law.’” John goes on to describe (including photographic evidence) how pro-Chavez jackboots — sort of the Venezuelan version of ACORN or the SEIU — were dispatched to beat up dissenters.
John’s post reminded me of three things. First there was that warm embrace in April between Chavez and President Obama. Second was the fact that Obama had enthusiastically teamed up for years with his friend Bill Ayers, the self-described communist and former terrorist, in an ambitious education reform project in Chicago — the Annenberg Challenge, a kitty they used to line the pockets of sundry radicals. And third was the speech Ayers gave in 2006 at the World Education Forum in Venezuela, with a smiling Hugo Chavez in attendance. I’ve posted on it before — prior to the election, when the media and a choir of moderates insisted that we knuckle-draggers were making too much of the trifle that Obama was pals with a disturbing number of America-hating revolutionaries. But somehow it seems worth repeating some excerpts today — you know, as a weekend interlude amid the debate over Obama’s effort to nationalize another one-sixth of the private sector:
President Hugo Chavez, … invited guests, comrades. I’m honored and humbled to be here with you this morning. I bring greetings and support from your brothers and sisters throughout Northamerica [sic]! Welcome to the World Education Forum. Amamos la revolucion Bolivariana! …
[M]y comrade and friend Luis Bonilla, a brilliant educator and inspiring fighter for justice … has taught me a great deal about the Bolivarian Revolution [i.e., Chavez’s movement] and about the profound educational reforms underway here in Venezuela under the leadership of President Chavez. We share the belief that education is the motor-force of revolution, and I’ve come to appreciate Luis as a major asset in both the Venezuelan and the international struggle—I look forward to seeing how he and all of you continue to overcome the failings of capitalist education as you seek to create something truly new and deeply humane…. [For more information on the Venezuelan socialist Luis Bonilla-Montoya, see here.]
I began teaching when I was 20 yeas old in a small freedom school affiliated with the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The year was 1965, and I’d been arrested in a demonstration. Jailed for ten days, I met several activists who were finding ways to link teaching and education with deep and fundamental social change. They were following Dewey and DuBois, King and Helen Keller who wrote: “We can’t have education without revolution. We have tried peace education for 1,900 years and it has failed. Let us try revolution and see what it will do now.”
I walked out of jail and into my first teaching position—and from that day until this I’ve thought of myself as a teacher, but I’ve also understood teaching as a project intimately connected with social justice. After all, the fundamental message of the teacher is this: you can change your life—whoever you are, wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, another world is possible. As students and teachers begin to see themselves as linked to one another, as tied to history and capable of collective action, the fundamental message of teaching shifts slightly, and becomes broader, more generous: we must change ourselves as we come together to change the world. Teaching invites transformations, it urges revolutions small and large. La educacion es revolucion!
… [I’ve] learned that education is never neutral. It always has a value, a position, a politics. Education either reinforces or challenges the existing social order, and school is always a contested space—what should be taught? In what way? Toward what end? By and for whom? At bottom, it involves a struggle over the essential questions: what does it mean to be a human being living in a human society?
Totalitarianism demands obedience and conformity, hierarchy, command and control. Royalty requires allegiance. Capitalism promotes racism and materialism—turning people into consumers, not citizens. Participatory democracy, by contrast, requires free people coming together, voluntarily as equals who are capable of both self-realization and, at the same time, full participation in a shared political and economic life.
… Venezuelans have shown the world that with full participation, full inclusion, and popular empowerment, the failing of capitalist schooling can be resisted and overcome. Venezuela is a beacon to the world in its accomplishment of eliminating illiteracy in record time, and engaging virtually the entire population in the ongoing project of education.
… [W]e, too, must build a project of radical imagination and fundamental change. Venezuela is poised to offer the world a new model of education—a humanizing and revolutionary model whose twin missions are enlightenment and liberation.
Viva Mission Sucre!
Viva Presidente Chavez!
Viva La Revolucion Bolivariana!
Hasta La Victroria Siempre!