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Education as Contested Terrain Nicaragua, 1979-1993 Robert F. Arnove 1994 Presented by Alex Fraser
 
 
Arnove wrote this book because he wanted to "document as comprehensively and objectively as possible the transformati...
Major themes :   The revolution in Nicaragua occurred in 1979.  The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was victor...
Educational goals:    1)  Convert the formerly dispossessed and socially excluded into protagonists of their own education...
How did it begin? Between March 23 and August 23, 1980, about 60,000 brigadistas, mostly high school students, mobilized t...
Milestones: Illiteracy rate reduced from 50 to 25% over 10 years of age. Drawbacks: Many volunteer instructors had minimal...
Impact of War . There was massive destruction and displacement in the countryside . Schools and clinics, the symbols of th...
Other Conflicts The Catholic church viewed with alarm what it saw as an implacable march of the country down the path to a...
Education For the Sandinistas, all educational systems indoctrinate.  Education, by its y nature and etymology -  educare ...
Results of National Literacy Campaign (CNA) -FSLN claimed a 13% illiteracy rate at the close of the CNA in August, 1980. -...
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Education as Uncontested Terrain: Nicaragua, 1979-1993

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  • Arnove wrote this book because he wanted to "document as comprehensively and objectively as possible the transformations in Nicaraguan society and education over a fourteen year period." The author fully discloses his opposition to U.S. foreign policy in Central America and Nicaragua in particular during the 1980s.  He actually ran for U.S. congress in 1982 on a third party ticket.   He mentions his very close personal ties with many of the top educational leaders in the Sandinista regime and in the country's schools and universities. Still, he tries to maintain objectivity throughout his investigations and he admits in a later edition of this book  an altering of some of his views and opinions in light of what transpired in the field. He recounts a conversation he had early on with an official of the Ministry of Education (MED), who brought up the story of Aristotle who, when asked by a student how he could disagree with his mentor, Plato, responded:  "Between my teacher and the truth, I must choose the truth."  In other words, don't avoid criticizing the revolution if that is where the truth leads you. My own disclosure:  I was on ALA fellowship in 1993-94 in Nicaragua, just after the general elections which the Sandinista govt. allowed only because they were convinced that they would win.  They lost.  A new government was ushered in, one that had the full support of the United States.   I didn't know much about the prior regime at the time or their widely praised literacy campaign.  I knew a whole lot more about both matters a year later.  I should mention also that my wife is Nicaraguan.  She was one of the thousands of teachers sent to the countryside to alphabetize the illiterate peasantry.  Though college educated, she learned, in some ways, as much from them as they from her.   Which brings up an aspect of literacy campaigns not usually talked about; the reciprocol nature of the teacher-pupil relationship.   Major themes :  The revolution of 1979 happened.  The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was victorious.  The FSLN had in mind a complete socio-cultural-economic transformation of the country.  According to the MED, popular education was to be "essentially and necessarily linked to the strategic political project of the FSLN."    Educational goals:  1)  Convert the formerly dispossessed and socially excluded into protagonists of their own education. 2)  Eliminate illiteracy and introduce adult ed. as priorities of the revolution. 3) Link educational process to scientific and technical fields. 4)  Realign educational system along new economic and social model.   How did it begin? Between March 23 and August 23, 1980, about 60,000 brigadistas, mostly high school students, mobilized to the countryside to work with, learn from, and teach the largely illiterate peasantry.  I mentioned before that learning was a two way process.  Many folks living in the countryside, illiterate though they were, had an abundance of "indigenous knowledge", for lack of a better term.  You'll recall the Zimmerman article we read for Tonyia's class.  They knew all kinds of health remedies, agricultural techniques, weather predicting, etc. that their more educated teachers could only marvel at.  Of course, none of this mean't that they could not benefit from or that they didn't want to learn how to read.  They could and they did.   3.7 million texts were produced. National science fairs with rewards were organized to encourage students to solve real world problems. Young people were expected to be involved in military defense, manufacturing and production, and education.  It was a challenging and exhilirating time for everybody but especially young people, who had never been so enfranchised and charged with responsibility as they were now.   Milestones: Illiteracy rate reduced from 50 to 25% over 10 years of age.   Drawbacks: Many volunteer instructors had minimal education themselves, sometimes just a step ahead of the students.  This is the contention of the author.  My wife strongly disagrees; she maintains that the majority of volunteers were in college and that supervisors in the field had several years of college. The major threat to the literacy campaign stemmed, of  course, from the counter revolution, which really took off shortly following Reagan's election.  Arguing the merits of the counter revolution is outside the scope of this presentation.  There were serious consequences, however, such as the following: Most government spending now was re-directed towards national defense and away from health and education. - Inflation hit 200% in 1985, 1000% in 1987. - Teacher's salaries shrunk drastically and became insufficient to live on; street vendors selling uncontrolled items such as cold water could make more in a week than a teacher could make in a month.   Impact of War . There was massive destruction and displacement in the countryside . Schools and clinics, the symbols of the revolution, were routinely attacked.  Teachers were killed. Many schools had to shut down for safety reasons. Thus, many children were left without schooling.   Other Conflicts The Catholic church viewed with alarm what it saw as an implacable march of the country down the path to a godless Marxist-Leninist dictatorship.  Students rose up in protest at a number of the catholic schools but they were no match for the Sandinistas who were far more numerous and well organized.   There was opposition to the literacy primers which were baldly ideological in content.  They came straight out of the pedagogical ideas of the Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire.  Words were broken down into morphemes and phonemes (basic units) but the words themselves were loaded.  The first word to learn was Revolucion , then liberacion , genocidio, masas populares. The indoctrination was explicit.  In some communities, there was divergence from the protocol.  Some Catholic priests and Protestant ministers used the bible as a  text to teach literacy - Indigenous people on the Atlantic coast, Miskitu, Rama, Sumu, Creole, and English speakers felt excluded at first because literacy campaign was all in Spanish Sandinistas tried to address the problem - in 1984 they initiated bilingual education in 35 pre-schools, they started to employ indigenous teachers.  Some texts were altered to reflect folktales and realities of the coast.  - The Mosquito Coast, on the Atlantic side, was a British protectorate up until 1850.  It remained autonomous until 1891.  Even today, Spanish speakers there are viewed with suspicion - they're called "Spaniards", as if they were conquistadors from Spain.   Education For the Sandinistas, all educational systems indoctrinate.  Education, by its very nature - not to mention etymology, educare (to lead ) , is a political act.  The Sandinistas were simply indoctrinating according to a new liberationist ideology.  They were replacing the ideology of the old Somoza regime.  - In addition to native volunteers and paid employees, outsiders were brought in to teach in the schools, especially Cubans and Soviet nationals, but also Americans and Europeans sympathetic to the regime.  - Not everyone appreciated the foreign intervention.  Cuban advisors and instructors were everywhere and they gained a reputation for arrogance and intolerance - their pronouncements on scientific and dialectical and historical materialism were to be taken as dogma, without questioning.   Results of CNA -FSLN claimed a 13% illiteracy rate at the close of the CNA in August, 1980. -Arnove's calculation came to about 23%. - By 1988, the illiteracy rate was back up to about 35%, by 1993, over 40% in Managua, 50% in the rural areas (MED). - At the beginning of the CNA, the illiteracy rate was estimated at 50%, aged 10 and older  - So, in 10 years, the literacy rate went from 90% to 50%. -What happened?  FSLN did exaggerate their figures.  But, many who did acquire minimal reading and writing skills, lost those skills through disuse. - Increasing hostilities in the countryside and diminishing economic resources for education did the rest. - One interesting longitudinal study from UNAN revealed some positive outcomes.  A sample of 500 women who had become literate during the campaign had far lower mortality and morbidity rates among their children, than those who were illiterate. -Thus, thousands of children were alive and healthier due to having mothers who were literate and had some skills.
  • Transcript of "Education as Uncontested Terrain: Nicaragua, 1979-1993"

    1. 1. Education as Contested Terrain Nicaragua, 1979-1993 Robert F. Arnove 1994 Presented by Alex Fraser
    2. 4. Arnove wrote this book because he wanted to "document as comprehensively and objectively as possible the transformations in Nicaraguan society and education over a fourteen year period." The author fully discloses his opposition to U.S. foreign policy in Central America and Nicaragua in particular during the 1980s.  
    3. 5. Major themes :  The revolution in Nicaragua occurred in 1979.  The Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was victorious.  The FSLN desired a complete socio-economic transformation of the country.  According to the MED, popular education was to be "essentially and necessarily linked to the strategic political project of the FSLN." 
    4. 6. Educational goals:  1)  Convert the formerly dispossessed and socially excluded into protagonists of their own education. 2)  Eliminate illiteracy and introduce adult education as priorities of the revolution. 3) Link educational process to scientific and technical fields. 4)  Realign educational system along new economic and social model.
    5. 7. How did it begin? Between March 23 and August 23, 1980, about 60,000 brigadistas, mostly high school students, mobilized to the countryside to work with, learn from, and teach the largely illiterate peasantry.    3.7 million texts were produced. National science fairs with rewards were organized to encourage students to solve real world problems. Young people were expected to be involved in military defense, manufacturing and production, and education.    
    6. 8. Milestones: Illiteracy rate reduced from 50 to 25% over 10 years of age. Drawbacks: Many volunteer instructors had minimal education themselves, . The major threat to the literacy campaign stemmed, of  course, from the counter revolution. Most government spending now was re-directed towards national defense and away from health and education. - Inflation hit 200% in 1985, 1000% in 1987. - Teacher's salaries shrunk drastically and became insufficient to live on
    7. 9. Impact of War . There was massive destruction and displacement in the countryside . Schools and clinics, the symbols of the revolution, were routinely attacked.  Teachers were killed. Many schools had to shut down for safety reasons. Thus, many children were left without schooling.
    8. 10. Other Conflicts The Catholic church viewed with alarm what it saw as an implacable march of the country down the path to a godless Marxist-Leninist dictatorship.  Students rose up in protest at a number of the catholic schools but they were no match for the Sandinistas who were far more numerous and well organized.
    9. 11. Education For the Sandinistas, all educational systems indoctrinate.  Education, by its y nature and etymology - educare (to lead ) - is a political act.  The Sandinistas were simply indoctrinating according to a new liberationist ideology.  They were replacing the ideology of the old Somoza regime.  - In addition to native volunteers and paid employees, outsiders were brought in to teach in the schools, especially Cubans and Soviet nationals, but also Americans and Europeans sympathetic to the regime. 
    10. 12. Results of National Literacy Campaign (CNA) -FSLN claimed a 13% illiteracy rate at the close of the CNA in August, 1980. -Arnove's calculation came to about 23%. - By 1988, the illiteracy rate was back up to about 35%, by 1993, over 40% in Managua, 50% in the rural areas (MED). - At the beginning of the CNA, the illiteracy rate was estimated at 50%, aged 10 and older 
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