I was lucky: I finished the ninth grade with one teacher for each subject. A few years later began the debacle of the “emerging teachers” — who were not allowed to specialize. The same teacher would teach the arts and sciences to the whole high school. The old guard of teaching withdrew in fear (the devil knows more because he’s old than because he’s the devil) and most of the teachers changed the level of instruction, asked to move down, or retired from a long and always underpaid career.
Shutting off the voice of experience, the Ministry of Education gave free rein to its imagination of the absurd, and classes without specialization gave way to classes by television. To make matters worse, the salary and poor classroom conditions remained the same. We finished the academic era and entered the ideological era: more politics, less knowledge.
So things continued until the pitcher went to the well one too many times*. The emerging teachers quickly tired of a profession that was more work than earnings, and the government decided to punish them with seven long years of obligatory social service in the classroom. Negligence, corruption and mediocrity established themselves where, previously, wisdom and education had lived. Parents who had the economic wherewithal found private teachers, and the rest resigned themselves to changing their children’s school all the time.
Then it occurred to someone to try the strange idea of a “new” approach: specialized education. Now they’ve gone back to the days when the mathematics teacher only worried about numbers and not syntax or historic dates. Four or five schools in Havana are serving as guinea pigs for the “unprecedented experiment” and the parents — among whom are several friends of mine — move heaven and earth to ensure that their children are among those chosen to “test the new formula.”
* Popular saying: The pitcher that goes to the well too many times is sure to break.
December 4, 2010