The objectives that defined the agenda and electoral proposal of now President López Obrador are THE problems of Mexico: poverty, corruption, inequality and insufficient growth. The strategies to defeat these wrongs can be argued, but no one can dispute their transcendence in today’s national reality. The true dilemma lies elsewhere: it concerns structural and systemic problems that must be understood in their dimension because, contrariwise, the president -and the country- will be in pursuit of nothing more than another mirage. Another of the many that accumulate at each morning presidential-press-conference.
“Many of the problems are systemic, says Charles Murray in his new book,* but they will not be solved by going after their appearance. They will be solved, or ameliorated, by going after systemic educational problems, systemic law enforcement problems, systemic employment problems.” That is, instead of claiming that a better teacher or a better textbook is going to transform the system of education (or the equivalent in matters of Rule of Law), the only way to achieve the sought-after transformation is recognizing its structural nature and conceiving public policies expressly designed for such a purpose.
In Mexico, the latter implies beginning with the objectives of the educational system, which were never about the education of the population, equalizing opportunities, or training for life. Education in the post-Revolutionary era was always an instrument of political action oriented toward control of the citizenry and manipulating their way of thinking to construct aideological hegemony. Rather than it being a transformative factor, education was always conceived for control, due to which it not only tolerated the growth of powerful teachers’ unions, but this also was an express objective of corporativist Mexico. Just as procuring control of industrial-sector workers, control of teachers and subordination of the populace was sought through an educational system tailored with that objective in mind. In this, the Mexico of the XX century was much more like the old Soviet Union than the rest of the Latin-American nations and nothing more contrasting with the emphasis adopted by the Asian nations to convert education into the transformative factor of their societies.
In Asia, especially in countries such as Korea, Japan, Singapore and Taiwan, education became the transformative instrument of their societies. Nations without great natural resources, all of them viewed education as the means through which they could raise the productivity of their economies, improve the incomes of their populations, and enter triumphantly into the developed world. It is not by chance that the second wave of governments dedicated to the same objective -like China and Vietnam- have regarded education as the key element in their economic project. The rapid rise in their per-capita rates of income speaks for itself.
Try as the diverse educational reforms from the nineties up to those of the Peña government might, the tangible fact, measured by results, is that the country remains stagnant in this matter. Now, with a president who thinks that the sole legitimate objective of a government is political, -that is, ignoring any technological or analytical consideration- Mexico has returned to the logic of the seventies in which the express purpose of education (not merely de facto) is control of the citizenry. Moved by the notion of throwing overboard anything that does not contribute to the concentration of power and the subordination of everything and everyone to the president, the current government threatens to remit thecountry to neolithic political post-Revolutionary times.
Why educate Mexicans if all that is needed to employ Colonial-era technologies is, at most, basic education? In other words, instead of bringing about the elevation of the population’s income levels and their opportunities to make it in life, starting with the most impoverished, the government of President López Obrador is in the quest of equalizing down: for everyone to be poor. That may not be its avowed objective, but it is the one toward which its policies are advancing, and its result will be decades of lagging behind, in addition to amassed resentments that will do nothing other than complicate the panorama. Additionally, this is the reason for an enormous growth in the number of Mexicans migrating to the United States.Instead of pursuing the development of Mexico, the aim appears to be having a hand in the development of our neighbors.
Inequality and poverty are a palpable reality, the product of an entire system devoted to preserving those circumstances. Even the most ambitious governments in developmental matters omitted the attacking of structural problems -social, political, petty fiefdoms- the daily bread in the lives of most Mexicans. It is paradoxical, but above all pathetic, that the most radical government in its rhetoric in these affairs is also the most reactionary, one that will contribute most over the last half century to increasing poverty, inequality and, why not say it, corruption. Life is full of surprises.