Revolutionizing Education and the Face of Venezuelan Society

The opposition’s problem is that Venezuelan democracy is taking the country in a direction that has stripped them of their political power, and threatens to empower the working class beyond all recognition. Now the schooling system is a new principal target for outright revolution.

foreign policy talks of democracy to mean subversion to Western
capital, although this interpretation arises via dubious logic from the
unwavering principle of economic freedom for all. Obviously, all policy
(including economic) should follow from democratic choice, but the
inherent problem for capitalists is that their ideology can only be
seen to benefit a majority when viewed from the perspective of an
increasingly privileged minority.

position of Western countries, having plundered the third world for
time immemorial, is clearly better than that of their victims, whose
claims to successful Westernization are evident only in the centers and
well-kept suburbs of major cities and resorts. Venezuela is a country
that has broken free of the preferred form of imposed capitalism; that
which places particular emphasis on the ability of U.S. multinationals
to operate abroad as they see fit, embedding themselves with political

is maintained primarily through the media system, which is operated
entirely by the capitalists themselves, and the school system, which is
so important in terms of avoiding masses of truly critical thinkers
that it must be centralized in the hands of the capitalist state. With
the public education and media optimised to keep obedient,
unquestioning workers enclosed in a mass capitalist reality, there will
only be a minority of dissenters. These will go largely unheard, and
can thus be prevented from assuming political power.

was once like modern-day Colombia, where President Uribe was
“conclusively” voted in with a mere 7.3 million votes in a country of
43 million. Mass abstention happens to be a conclusive demonstration of
how the system alienates the poor, because political candidates only
pretend to speak for majority interests.

things have changed in Venezuela since Chavez came to power in 1999,
following an unusual, fortuitous and tragic set of circumstances. He
was comprehensively re-elected in 2006 as 75% of the electorate turned
out to vote. Venezuela probably has the most politicized population on
the planet, and the most fair and trustworthy democratic process.


opposition’s problem is that all this democracy is taking the country
in a direction that has stripped them of their political power, and
threatens to empower the working class beyond all recognition. In order
to do this, the capitalist media is being marginalized in an entirely
legal fashion, maintaining the freedom of the opposition to say
practically anything they wish. Meanwhile, the schooling system is a
principal target for outright revolution.

schooling in Venezuela follows the Western format, which in normal
circumstances guarantees most students enter the workplace without even
the slightest knowledge of politics. Why would the elites want to
politicise anybody when the status quo is already working for them? All
they require are institutionalized workers who follow orders, accept
reality, and spend the rest of their lives slaving to enrich the
capitalist class (and a relatively small section of themselves).

true revolution in Venezuelan public schooling would not require the
teaching of any particular ideology, or even values. The difference
would simply be a liberation from a one-way, teacher-student monologue,
and all the incessant memorization and testing that implies. In the
traditional system, students are essentially receptacles for a state
curriculum which of course narrates the elitist Western perspective of
history. A revolutionary curriculum would tell a rather different
story, since input into its content would come from society as a whole
and not just the corridors of government.

from a more realistic ‘people’s history’ of the world, the emphasis
would undoubtedly be on usable skills, a classical education, and
important issues concerning the planet. But the eventual outcome has
little to do with any designated curriculum, because the priority is
that students play a role in adapting their education to their own
interests, and that the teacher is more of a catalyst or moderator, who
inspires debate and questions, and permits the maximum degree of
personal freedom.


idea is simply to fit education into the structure of society at large,
rapidly reshaping to accommodate popular power and ideas which happen
to conflict with capitalist principles. The media environment in
Venezuela is now far removed from the previous arrangement of a lame
duck state TV channel that stooped so low as to broadcast commercials,
while all other stations and print media were operated by rich private
interests. State media now actively combats the Westernization of
culture and exposes the very foundations upon which capitalism is

the state media has expanded to prioritise culture and education, while
an explosion in grassroots media has resulted in thousands of local
radio stations and community publications. The government has reined in
the private media’s penchant of throwing insults at the new government,
and denied the renewal of a free-to-air broadcast license to a TV
network that conspired to overthrow it in 2002, while habitually
perpetuating distortions and morally questionable soap operas.

new TV spectrum has become more protective of children, and is now far
more racially representative. Unfortunately, the private stations
continue to present the white European faces in abundance, together
with mind-numbing commercials and Western influences, and utilizing
their freedoms to brazenly oppose all government policy, thereby
twisting the truth for a large section of a society.

way the opposition frame the process of revolutionary change is
interesting. Traditional media and schooling are perceived to be a
natural order, and therefore correct and harmless. Children have always
been fed Christian ideas in school, so that is undoubtedly the best way
to raise them. I was taught this way, so why not my children? They
raise the question of the freedom to have one’s child schooled in any
given fashion, but misunderstand the entire nature of what the
revolution wants to achieve.

a start, the key choices provided within traditional education are
between religious and secular, with the option of an elite school if
you have the money to pay for it. Any choice between traditional and
“liberational” education would be a valid one, though it is worth
noting that no such choice existed when elites were in government. What
Chavez seeks to impose on all schools is a democratic curriculum, while
the mode and method of teaching itself will adapt over time. It is
likely that there will remain the option to teach in the traditional
fashion, though over time people would recognise any superior method
and its popularity would spread.

the opposition do not desire any change in any part of the curriculum
or protocol, and so their tactic is to sow fear that parents will lose
their children to the state. Distortion and ignorance are widely
evident. A Globovision reporter, sent to a school in a nice part of
Caracas where parents were waiting to collect their children, asked
one: “Do you believe that the ideals of socialism should be taught in
school?”. The answer was: “Of course not. I don’t know anything about
socialism, and it doesn’t interest me. I am 44 years old, was raised in
democracy, and want my son to be a democrat also.”

parent, when asked whether religion should be taken out of schools,
replied: “Never! We’ve had it for 200 years and it has produced
excellent results.” He goes on to say “They just want to indoctrinate
our children”, which is the common refrain, along with allegations of
“Cubanization” and the idea that the government wants citizens to
become “instruments of the state”.

who has read Paolo Friere, the Brazilian Marxist pedagogist, knows that
teaching Marxist ideas is not advocated in any of his books. In
materials produced by the Venezuelan Ministry of Education, they appear
to rely heavily on his studies and writings, which do not concern the
actual content of education, only the “liberational” method. Quite
simply, this produces inquisitive beings capable of comprehending and
critiquing the society around them. This, he said, was the basis of a
just society and true democracy.

famous quote in the Ministry’s materials is that of Simon Rodriguez,
the philosopher and educator, and tutor to Simon Bolivar:

teach is to teach to think. To assign things to be recited from memory
is to train parrots… Teach the children to ask questions, so that,
asking the Why behind what you tell them to do, they become accustomed
to obeying Reason: not authority, like the limited, nor custom, like
the foolish.

people in the Venezuelan opposition claim the natural order of
education is democratic, free or correct, it shows that they are
accustomed to obeying authority and custom. In next year’s display of
democracy, which will center on “revolutionizing” education, the
opposition will be invited to give democratic input into a new
curriculum, and will refuse. The reality they construct for themselves
is based on being ignorant about proposed changes, and resistant to
change based on this ignorance.

Source: Ven Central