- How Education Shaped Communist Cuba
- Book review
- Cuban Youth and Revolutionary Values Educating the New Socialist Citizen By Denise F. Blum
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- Cuban Youth and Revolutionary Values: Educating the New Socialist Citizen
In contrast to the high secondary school enrollment in the United States, however, which remains at a steady 96 percent, Cuba's secondary school enrollment is much lower. This difference caught my attention. What were the teenagers doing if they were not in school? The adolescent schooling years are of serious concern to the Cuban government, which considers them a time to hone revolutionary teaching, to form new cadres to lead and perpetuate socialist values and norms, and to "ferment" conciencia—but fewer Cuban students are electing to stay in school.
What, then, are Cuban schools' role and responsibility in increasing secondary enrollment? How does low secondary enrollment affect society, and what options are Cuban students choosing instead of further schooling? My work with Cuban students and teachers, while it did not necessarily answer enrollment statistics, did uncover some students' feelings about the educational curriculum, aspirations for their own future, and attitudes toward school in the late s, during a period of economic change.
It was at a celebration of the Literacy Campaign at Cuba's National Literacy Museum while I was in Cuba collecting data for my master's thesis that I met Lizabet, a former literacy worker, or brigadista.
She not only shared the story of her experience as a brigadista, she also told me how much she loved teaching civic education to ninth graders and invited me to visit her school, Granma Junior High School a pseudonym in Havana. During the initial stages of my research, I always referred to my school site by its revolutionary name all Cuban schools are named after heroes or martyrs of the revolution. I also referred to it by the municipality in which it was located, never by the name of the neighborhood, and perhaps this missing link was what lay behind the reaction of MINED at the end of my study.
In the course of the conversation I mentioned the name of the neighborhood, at which I received looks of shock as they suddenly realized they had granted me permission to conduct research in a school located in what they termed a "marginalized neighborhood. I spent approximately five of my fifteen months of fieldwork observing and participating in activities at Granma Junior High School and with the families in La Flor another pseudonym neighborhood. I lived with a family and divided my time among consulting archival documents, conducting forty-five formal audiotaped interviews, making daily school observations, and participating in school, community, and family activities, through which I acquired hundreds of hours of taped field notes and interviews.
Family members, teachers, education officials, and education researchers are equally involved in the educational process, and so I included the stories of their experiences as well.
How Education Shaped Communist Cuba
Because older people frequently commented on the differences between their generation's and their children's or grandchildren's generation's education and value inculcation, I have also used generational interviews to show the significance of historical context, socializing mechanisms, and general reception of educational policy by the Cuban population. Receiving formal permission from the Cuban government to conduct long-term research in a Cuban school was unprecedented, according to MINED officials.
Likewise, my methods of data collection, analysis, and interpretation were unique by the very activity of conducting research in this "forbidden research terrain" Fuller I began seeking permission for a long-term engagement during the initial years of fieldwork for my master's thesis. Even with the intense monitoring of my work by government officials, teachers and students wanted their stories told, and navigated the political obstacles for me so that I would "see more" and tell the "real story.
Although I expected heavy monitoring, what I did not expect was the intense suspicion my research methods ignited. Not a single Cuban educator and only a few Cuban anthropologists had ever heard of ethnography.
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I was repeatedly asked why I wanted to go back every day to the school: what was I looking for that I had not already seen? Why was I constantly taking notes? Why did I not have a survey? Why did I spend so much time collecting data?
What was qualitative research? What would my final dissertation contain, and how could this research possibly be scientific? Because of the U. Neither perception was easy to shake or to live with. Nevertheless, applying a survey instrument seemed to ease the tension as well as to open more opportunities for dialogue. So I did a survey. With all of the political sensitivity surrounding my presence as a U.
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He asserted, "Criticism of the Cuban education system is okay, but with all of our difficulties, please do not leave us beaten up and on the floor. As you know, we have a history of being bullied by the United States. Recognize that we have implemented methods to save our educational system. We care about our people. Try to leave it on a positive note. I had the choice of describing the glass as half empty or half full.
Candidly, I responded, "For me, it was not one extreme or another. I really did see marvelous things taking place at the school, as well as critical struggles for teachers and students. All countries struggle with many of the same issues.
The U. Instilling proper values is a major struggle for the United States, too.
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Since schools have always reflected the government-endorsed normative framework for a society, Cuban schools are an interesting site in which to study the process of human transformation. Cuban schools are both the generators and the meters of the values implicit in this evolving socialist society, offering insight into Cuba's future political system and its particular flavor, and using explicit methods to inculcate revolutionary values.
Furthermore, the country's about-turn in politics and economics to accommodate a socialist ideology at the advent of the Cuban Revolution and again at a time of economic crisis in the s makes its accompanying effects in schooling noteworthy. The response of the Cuban people to their government and its institutions is crucial to cultivating and maintaining conciencia to reproduce and perpetuate socialism.
Cuban Youth and Revolutionary Values Educating the New Socialist Citizen By Denise F. Blum
Ernesto "Che" Guevara used the term conciencia when he formulated his ideas about moral incentives. For Guevara, the word meant more than is implied by the English translation of "consciousness" or "awareness. Fidel Castro has defined conciencia as "an attitude of struggle, dignity, principles and revolutionary morale" Castro , Conciencia, during the Cuban Revolution, was at the very heart of socialist ideology. Therefore, my goal became to document the methods of its inculcation and internalization in Cubans.
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Education has always reflected the political and economic structure of society. As a result, schooling will be explicitly aligned with the means of production. Insofar as Cuba before was a capitalist country, the radical change to socialism necessitated the schooling or socialization of a new personality, the new socialist man or woman. The means to inculcate this ideological orientation was the implementation of Fidel Castro's totalizing concept of the country as "one huge school," and the most salient mechanism for inculcating this new orientation was the Marxist-Leninist work-study principle, the dominating principle in schooling from kindergarten through college and even in professional life.
Educating society has been the key to creating both the material abundance and the social consciousness required by the sought-after ideal communist society. Educational policy in post Cuba established transformational tasks for the schools and defined new standards of conduct that required active cooperation among schools, families, and the organized community. When questioned about the obvious reflection of Cuban revolutionary ideology in the schools, Cuban educators never deny it. Just as it was before the triumph of the Revolution and as it is in present-day Italy" cited in Leiner , 6.
Cuban Youth and Revolutionary Values: Educating the New Socialist Citizen
What does it mean for education to be an instrument of the state? Is this beneficial or detrimental, and to whom? Che Guevara was the chief promoter of pursuing these ideals in educational policy, especially in the initial phases of the revolution. He embodied the revolutionary ideals bundled in the new socialist man concept. As a part of that, our schools need to form the New Man—one who is motivated not by greed or self-interest but by the good of all," he said.
In this process of total societal transformation, schools were given the responsibility of creating new socialist men and women. As Castro proclaimed, "All revolution is an extraordinary process of education. Revolution and education are the same thing" b, In other words, the revolution could not occur without proper education, and schooling had to explicitly serve the revolution. Like other countries, Cuba has used education along with economic and political measures to resolve basic developmental problems. In contrast to many countries, however, the Cuban government has rejected traditional development ideologies and strategies.
Instead of partial, incremental reforms it has opted for a major structural transformation.