Andrés Núñez Leites

Nov 4, 2019

1. The regressive educational proposals of the Partido Nacional (National Party, Uruguay) program are not, in any way, exclusive to that neoliberal political force. Not only do they tune in with the rest of the neoliberal right, but with some proposals from the neoliberal left of the Frente Amplio (Broad Front, Uruguay) especially during the Mujica administration, in which the emblem of what both men and women aspire for the education system was created: the UTEC (Technologycal University), a university without co-government, politically controlled by the executive branch, and, like this one, at the service of the requirements of transnational Corporations, in this specific case, in the tertiary educational area.

2. The administrations of the FA advanced in the same direction in which the PN now proposes to accelerate the march, but those did so through another administrative strategy: the creation of a parallel institutionality. This explains not only UTEC, as a non-university university according to the canon of UDELAR (University of the Republic, statal), but the Ceibal Project, as a graft of technological fetishism from top to bottom, from an American neocons NGO via the Uruguayan president of the first and third FA government: Vázquez . Note that even with trade union control, the FA had one of its most serious conflicts with the education unions, which twisted its hands, discarding a "decree of essentiality" that still shames the left for its repressive nature and the explicitness of both the difference of opinions and of interests between the left elites and its bases. And even with the aforementioned control, the FA could not avoid, in its internal arena, the struggle between forces more inclined towards pedagogical neoliberalism (whose paradigm are those boureaucrats expelled from the government that gave rise to the NGO EDUY21) and a more conservative sector more inclined towards a universalistic cultural tradition linked to the general culture, of Marxist roots. That internal struggle sealed an unstable equilibrium: it allowed the government to move forward in the sense of imposing privatization projects and massive outreach plans without teacher consultation, opening the doors of education to large companies that have put the state at their service, such as UPM , submitting the evaluation of education to the corporative parameters of PISA, etc. But at the same time, it led it to institutionalize teacher participation in the teaching control bodies, to legally recognize the freedom of professorship (although in the contradictory wording of the Education Law, where in the same sentence such freedom is proclaimed, the submission of the teacher to the orders of the pedagogical police of the system is proclaimed too) and to stop technocratic projects of institutional and curricular reform promoted by the neoliberal pedagogical current, clearly regressive in terms of the social distribution of the general culture, the linguistic capital and the capacity of abstraction.

3. The strategic educational political objective of the PN is to break down internal resistance against the neoliberal pedagogical project in the educational system, something that the FA could not solve, remaining half-way (neither neoliberal “DNA Change” nor humanist reaffirmation and update) . Judging by the explicit proclamation of its programmatic lines, the strategy of the PN seems to be to go towards a frontal clash against teachers organized in trade unions, by proposing to expel teachers' representatives from the governing bodies of education (which should be remembered are not elected via trade union but by universal teacher vote, which has also allowed teachers of the neoliberal right to enter those governing bodies), by proposing to eliminate the requirement of 10 years of teaching experience to participate in those bodies - opening the door to technocracy outside the system - by insinuating a will of greater restriction of the freedom of professorship. To develop this strategy, the PN has an invaluable advantage: organized teachers do not configure a social force that is at the base of their power, and attacking them does not represent a risk in terms of legitimacy before the voters of the party. The FA did not have that possibility, which explains that bitter phrase of Mujica, symptomatic of this failure: “We have to get together and tear down those teachers' unions. There is no other /way/. Hopefully we will get them out of the way.”[1] But as a counterweight, a PN government and its center and right coalition will have not only the teachers' unions, but even many of the politicians and militants of the neo-liberal left in support of teachers' struggles against the political control of education, meaning against de PN government, as this fights will be perceived as a point where to attack the new government, despite they, the neo-liberal left, do not oppose the underlying issue.

4. A phrase that borders on the grotesque, within the PN program, is “Elimination of teacher representation in the ANEP councils (arts. 58 and 65). Teaching is a citizen issue and should be governed by the representatives of the citizens. ”[2] On the one hand it is obscene to imply there is an opposition between teachers and citizens, as if the former were not part of the second group. On the other hand, teachers representation does not even cover the majority of the positions in the government of education. In addition, the only representatives of the citizens are, at the national level, deputies and senators, president and vice-president, meaning those congressmen and executive leaders directly elected by the citizens, therefore, education will inevitably be governed not by representatives of the citizens, but, at most, by delegates of the representatives of the citizens, which always happened. Precisely a point in favor of the FA is to have combined the majority political delegation with the minority teacher representation, even if it was not but an escape valve for the bottom-up teacher pressure in the hierarchical order. In reality, what the PN program seeks is to eliminate the teachers' representatives and keep the delegates of the citizens' representatives. Teachers, in this political vision, are conceived as selfish beings who only watch over their guild interests, while the delegates of citizen representatives would act with a universal vocation. This fallacy of the universal representation of citizenship and of the "State Policies" on which I have particularly extended on another occasion [3] hides the fact that no government, even if it sees itself as universal, is other than the consolidation of a winning side in a political struggle, in a contest between power relations. Even if something is agreed upon by all political parties, it does not guarantee that it will “represent” even the majority of citizens, although it does represent hegemonic forces and possibly majority public opinion. Much wiser than the current leaders of the neoliberal left and right, were the politicians of the early twentieth century, who, when they legally and constitutionally enshrined the autonomy of teaching, giving preponderance to technicians in the field (teachers, although were delegates of citizen representatives). That autonomy was never total, not only because of the political election of the members of CODICEN (State's Education authority in Uruguay, designated by the executive branch but invested with technical autonomy) and the decentralized Councils (each one speciallized in different educational levels), but because of the inevitable pressures of each government and each opposition parties. However, the constitutional safeguarding of the requirement of teaching experience and the consecration of administrative autonomy for the formulation of educational policies, although it did not prevent each government with its own ideology from leaving its mark on the educational system, it did prevent education it was easily manipulated by the veleities of each ruler on duty and the messianic plans of his technocrats on duty. Lawmakers of the early twentieth century knew that the education system deals with a precious part of the nation: the subjectivity of young generations, and that it had to be protected from political coups. That is to say: they had more republican conscience.

5. What is the model of the person, the kind of human being to whom both the right and the non-liberal left aspire? What subjectivity do they seek to create? It is a purely executive subject, a social actor without history, a pure present without conscious philosophy, although there is a philosophy implicit in the worldview that takes people and nature as resources, which that actor thinks he knows, when he simply processes information pre-interpreted by elites who (these do know) control the sense of knowledge (which necessarily requires conceptual content and theoretical and discursive relationships that make sense of that knowledge). A flexible subjectivity to change functions, to adapt permanently to corporate requirements, based on a positive psychology and a cognitive habitus that identifies knowledge and consumption. It is part of a globalist agenda, part of the progress of the economic Corporations that have devastated the sovereignty of the States and have turned them into contracted agents to generate the environment that their investments require. The neoliberal agenda in education seeks to more efficiently couple the educational system and economic system, so that the former generates the subjectivities that the latter needs to produce.

6. The sovereign struggle in other areas, for example in environmental and economic conflicts, seems to find its limit in the productive interconnection of the global economy and the consequent abysmal structuring power of the large financial capitals behind the Corporations, which it will probably mean that in education an order cannot be restored or produced outside the influence of these powers. Education always ends up adapting to the economic system, but there are margins of flexibility on which to operate for the benefit of communities and specific people, even against economic power. It is the place of resistance; all power generates them, and they manifest themselves both reactively and creatively. Hence, neither for the champions of economic globalism and neoliberal pedagogy is everything given, because the result, in the interaction with the resistances that it awakens and that now, if the right-wing wins the national elections will be accentuated, can it lead to the production of a reality different than planned. In fact, the struggle for the conservation and updating of the idiosyncrasies of our educational system, of its civilizing potential, radiating from general culture, to the extent that at the same time that teachers theoretically elaborate and designe practical actions around its speciallized matter and dare to associate with other forces that struggle for our autonomy as a society in the face of the overwhelming power of large capitalist corporations, it has some possibilities of being much more than a testimonial force.

[1] Note: The original sentence said by ex President Mujica, included the phrase "hacer mierda a esos gremios", which cannot be literally translated to English, but it is a vulgar metaphor that means something close to "destroying teachers' unions to the point that they end up turned into feces". It is a ver rude expression for River Plate's Spanish variation speakers.

[2] (p. 164)