Part I: Introduction
Five years ago, I had the opportunity to live in Cuba for several months. I was aJunior in college, and through my experiences and studies in the field of education, I hadcome to recognize the pernicious inequities in American public education. I decided togo to Cuba to research and write about the nation’s public education system, which Iunderstood was founded upon the principles of universal literacy and Paulo Freire’srevolutionary
Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
While in Cuba, I came to see that while theCuban educational ideals were liberatory and egalitarian, the achievement of those idealswas flawed, at best. Though my access to Cuban schools was somewhat limited giventhe political relationship between the United States and Cuba, in each class that I visited,I observed a drive towards conformity to an imposed standard of thinking. I wrote, in myanalysis of these classes,
“Mientras el hombre nuevo de Cuba está desarrollando y haciendo sus propias decisionesy su propio pensamiento, observé una conformidad que me sorprendió. La maestra preguntó varias veces a los estudiantes de octavo grado sobre la paz, relacionesinternacionales, y valores básicos. Algunas de las respuestas fueron escritas y otrasfueron más informales, pero casi todas tenían algo que ver con el imperialismo y elsistema estadounidense. Los estudiantes de doce, trece y catorce años repitieron variasveces cosas contra los Estados Unidos en cuales fue obvio que no habían pensado mucho.En las respuestas que no mencionaron el imperialismo la maestra recomendó, o más,exigió que los estudiantes re-escribir sus respuestas y cuando las hicieron otra vez,hablaron sobre el imperialismo.”
Since my observations and analysis of Cuban education, I have attempted to discern a process of education that better approximates the core tenets of Freire’s pedagogy, andmore completely empowers students as individuals, and as members of a community.Upon returning to the United States, I began teaching in various capacities. After
School for International Training, Independent Study Project, 2004. “While the New Man of Cubadevelops and makes up his own decisions and his own mind, I saw a conformity that surprised me. Theteacher asked the 8
grade students several times about peace, international relations, and foundationalvalues. Some of the students’ responses were written and others were less formal, but almost all of themaddressed the topic of American imperialism. The students of twelve, thirteen, and fourteen years oldrepeated several comments against the U.S. in ways that made it obvious they were not fully thoughtthrough. In the answers that were given that did not mention imperialism, the teacher demanded that thestudents rewrite their answers, and when they did, they wrote about imperialism.”