Resolution 058 has been added to the list of grievances against the government which have plunged the country into months of civil unrest.
Resolution 058 is a government initiative to open up the curriculum-setting project for schools throughout the country to members of the community. The resolution calls for a process lasting around four months, during which time parents, teachers, and pretty much every member of a school’s community will be consulted regarding how and what schools will teach. While the government claims that the process will create a more democratic curriculum, critics fear that the resolution will crack open a window through which the government will force political indoctrination into schools.
The risk for political indoctrination through school curricula is not a new phenomenon in Venezuela. According to Maryann Hanson, the Minister of Education, Chavez himself played an important role in the creation of all the books used in schools throughout the country. Back in November of last year, the Minister said:
He [Chavez] looked over the contents [of the books], and set guidelines for the correction of images, of other things, of historical dates (…) so, he is the author of the books. That’s why he appears [in them]. Credit must be given where credit is due, and the credit is his.
They complain that Chavez appears [in the books], they accuse us of worshipping the Supreme Commander and we say: “If he’s the person who has recovered all of the Bolivarian ideals, why wouldn’t we place him there?”
During the same interview, it was brought to the attention of the Minister that Venezuelan education should have “respect for all currents of thought”, as is guaranteed in Article 102 of the Constitution. Speaking specifically to those who say that Chavismo is promoted as a religion, the Minister said:
I am loyal to President Hugo Chavez, and yes, I worship him, so what? Ese es mi problema [Roughly, “That’s not your problem”].
The Minister ended by saying:
This is a revolution, and as the Supreme Commander said: ‘A revolution is cultural and educational, or it’s not a revolution.’
Given some of the content found in Venezuelan school books, fears of political indoctrination through school textbooks are not completely unfounded. According to an examination of school history books conducted by Tulio Ramirez of the Universidad Central de Venezuela, the grade six history textbook examines nine different presidential terms (a period of 41 years) in a total of 20 pages, while Chavez’s presidential term takes up 26 pages.
Indeed, even a superficial examination of Venezuelan school textbooks reveals a questionable amount of political material. The grade five math textbook includes this description of Venezuela on page 24:
We are the sons and daughters of Bolivar, our army has only left this land to help our brethren nations fight for liberty.
A seemingly innocuous statement, yet undeniably out of place in a grade five math textbook.
Page 29 of the same textbook, in its overview of the state of Miranda, includes this factoid a propos of nothing:
In a city in Miranda called Guarenas, specifically in the Trapichito terminal, a popular rebellion got started on February 27 1989 called “El Caracazo”. On the 27 and 28 of February, people rose up against the neoliberal economic policies of the then president Carlos Andres Perez, who ordered state security forces to massacre the people.
Nevermind the fact that “neoliberalism” is a fairly advanced economic philosophy that is rooted in hundreds of years of political and economic theory the complexity of which can hardly be covered in grade five, or that El Caracazo was itself a complex event, the cause of which can hardly be dismissed by a single word. The fact that this comically out-of-place text finds itself in a grade five mathematics textbook can only point to an ulterior motive for its inclusion: the instilment of the idea that neoliberalism is bad.
Whether or not neoliberalism is bad is, of course, a matter of opinion. One may reach a conclusion on the question by critically examining historical events and scholarly writings on the subject. The goal of education is not to make children “Think as I do”; it is to give them the tools so that when they encounter the complexities of the world, they may come to their own conclusions using critical thought.
It is within the context of an already highly political school curriculum that Resolution 058 appears. Today, the Vice Minister of Education, Soraya El Achkar, said that the new curriculum will not be ready for the school year starting in September, since the consultations created by Resolution 058 will take several months to complete. The consultations called for by Resolutuion 058 will most certainly go ahead some time this year, and the window to inject more politics into school textbooks will once again be opened.
A protest sign against Resolution 058. It reads, “Venezuelan Parents for a Free and Pluralistic Education. NO! To the Plan de la Patria and to indoctrination!”
Venezuelan mothers protesting Resolution 058.
The sign on the left reads “Don’t mess with my grandchildren. ‘No’ to indoctrination”:
The sign reads, “I want my son to be a citizen, not a militia“:
This one reads, “I gave birth to my son, and only I choose what, how, and when he studies. ‘No’ to indoctrination”:
Venezuelan school children: