A letter to the Washington Post: Pseudo education in Venezuela
It seems that lately US newspapers are more and more willing to pick up letters from Venezuela that take a strong stand against articles they publish. Yours truly got a letter in the Boston Globe a few weeks ago. Today I have received a letter from Isabel Lara that made it to the Washignton Post. I am posting this letter in full below:
Friday, June 2, 2006
To say that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is educating the masses "in his image" is an understatement [news story, May 25]. He is using higher education as a tool for ideological manipulation and brainwashing.
Public education has been free in Venezuela since 1870. Mr. Chavez himself enjoyed the benefit of free education during Venezuela's previous oil bonanza, when the most prestigious academic institutions in the country -- Simon Bolivar University and Central University of Venezuela -- were not only free of charge but also free of government ideological intervention.
The first time I heard Mr. Chavez speak was at a conference at Simon Bolivar University after he had been freed from jail following an attempt to topple the democratically elected president. I wonder if a teacher at the new Bolivarian University of Venezuela today could invite or take on as a student a Venezuelan citizen who signed the petition against Mr. Chavez.
The Chavez government is spending millions on this new university, while choking Venezuela's established universities, not paying professors their salaries and owing retired professors their pensions. The article cited the case of a student who was not able to pass the entrance exams at Central University but now is studying at Bolivarian University. Doing away with entrance exams so that everybody can have access to higher education without the imperialistic obstacle of a standardized test or even good grades is one of Mr. Chavez's ideas. The result will be a college degree that is worthless. Who wants to hire a doctor or a lawyer who does not meet basic academic requirements?