Instant teachers

Among my son’s friends is one who is particularly apathetic who is about to finish basic secondary school.  He cares little for his books and it’s been a headache for his parents to manage to get him as far as the ninth grade.  A week ago I learned that he was heading for a teaching career.  I thought they were talking about another boy because, at least the one I knew well, lacks any vocation or skill for standing in front of a classroom.  When I wanted to know his reasons, he clarified my doubts by explaining, “I’m going to study to be a teacher because they study in the city and I don’t want a scholarship in the country.”

A very high percentage of those who choose a teaching specialty—I would venture a guess that it’s nearly all of them—do so because they have no other option. They are those students who, because of bad grades, can’t aspire to a computer specialty or pre-university hard sciences.  In fewer than three years of training, they will be standing next to a chalkboard with students nearly their own age.  Without these “instant teachers” the classrooms would be empty of instructors because the miserable salaries have led to an exodus to better paying occupations.

It scares me to think of the young people studying under the marked disinterest and poor training of this boy I know.  I live in terror of hearing my grandchildren tell me, “The star in the Cuban flag has five points because it represents the five Cuban agents in U.S. prisons,” or that, “Madagascar is an island in South America.”  I’m not exaggerating; we hear a ton of anecdotes like this from the parents of children taught by emerging teachers.  If such a noble profession continues to be filled by the least qualified, the education level of the generations to come will be very poor.  Already, a teacher confessed to my son and his classmates, when they started the 7th grade, “Study hard so you won’t end up like me.  I had to become a teacher because of my bad grades.”


  1. For once, I’m afraid, the dismal situation you describe is not unique to Cuba. Here in Britain, we have a saying: “Those that can – do. Those that can’t – teach. Those that can’t teach – teach teachers.” Sad but true. As a parent, I had to expend considerable time and energy finding well-motivated teachers.

  2. Excerpt from the article “The Fish Die by the Mouth”:

    Cuban schoolchildren begin their classes each day with the following slogan of indoctrination: “Pioneers for Communism, we will be like Che.” They will be then the new men; fanatics, liars, assassins and failed men, reaching the total realization of being like Che. Hatred to the enemies of the revolution is inculcated to the children in scholastic age. This quote of José Martí condemns hatred: “The haters should be declared traitors to the Republic. Hatred does not construct”

  3. For those who wants the Embargo lifted.

    Bail out Cuba? No way!
    With bailout fever spreading through the Capitol, it’s hardly surprising that even a bankrupt dictatorship has found surrogates to plead for a handout.

    Americans thought the financial-services industry was audacious in asking for billions of taxpayer dollars while senior managers gold-plated their bathroom fixtures, scheduled ”team-building” sessions at luxurious resorts in the Napa Valley and paid themselves unmerited bonuses. Then executives of Detroit’s Big Three automakers, also seeking billions, flew their private jets to Washington.

    Now, a host of business and trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) and the American Farm Bureau, are voicing their support for bailing out the Cuban government. In a letter earlier this year to President Obama, they urged him to extend U.S. trade credits and financing to the Castro brothers’ regime. Needless to say, Cuban authorities quickly reacted to this generous — and unconditioned — proposal with praise and enthusiasm.

    The letter essentially endorsed a Cuba-policy report released by the NFTC just as the Paris Club of creditor nations disclosed that Cuba already owes $29.7 billion to its international trading partners — with little hope for repayment — and ranks second on the list of the world’s most indebted nations.

    Coincidentally, the Castro regime’s biggest international benefactor, President Hugo Chávez of oil-rich Venezuela, is scrambling to adjust his domestic and international spending as declining oil prices remain steady below the $50 a barrel mark. Chávez had been making his short- and mid-term budget forecasts on an assumption that the price of oil would average $60 a barrel. From a fiscal standpoint, it’s unsustainable for him to continue his ideological handouts around the hemisphere. However, Cuba has been the biggest beneficiary of Chavez’s largesse, raking in about $5 billion a year.

    If U.S. trade credits and financing aren’t sufficient to bailout the Cuban regime, the American business groups, so eager to subsidize this dictatorship, held multiple press conferences this week with their Congressional allies promoting legislation to send American tourists to Cuba. According to Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism, lifting U.S. restrictions on tourist travel to Cuba would net the Castro government $5 billion annually. Wouldn’t that be convenient?

    Never mind that Cuba’s travel and tourism industry is owned and operated by the Cuban Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, which keeps and spends the money. Try to forget, too, that Cuban nationals are denied access to those isolated resorts — including the hotels, beaches, clinics, restaurants and stores — where foreign tourists only vacation.

    Curiously, the American business group’s letter to Obama never uses the words freedom, democracy or human rights; nor does it mention the most popular word in America today — change — in any context that might help the Cuban people. Perhaps its authors were unaware that Cuba’s nascent civil society was struggling for ”change” even before it became the Obama campaign’s mantra. Change translates into the Spanish word cambio. When young Cubans began wearing white wristbands last year — á la Lance Armstrong’s yellow wristbands — imprinted with the word cambio, the Cuban government’s repressive response was sweeping arrests and prison sentences.

    Obama correctly promised, while campaigning, to keep the embargo on the Cuban dictatorship and use it as leverage to negotiate civil liberties and political freedom. Cubans admire the United States as much for its democratic ideals and personal freedoms as for its prosperity. Change cannot be achieved by bailing out Cuba’s longtime oppressors. For Cuba to become a credit-worthy nation, it must first become a multi-party democracy that respects its citizens.

  4. NO, Yaru, not for her “bosses in Miami” — obviously you have failed to notice and understand what a free person is — someone like Yoani — they do not dance to the tunes of ‘bosses’ and dictators.

    No, Yoani’s blog is translated into 15 languages by people who have volunteered from around the world, to help bring the truth of the failed Cuban revolution to their own countries… so perhaps these horrors and miseries will not be repeated elsewhere?

    And who is your boss Yaru?

  5. I guess it is too hard for someone like yaru to understand how a free person thinks. Not everything they say is calculated to please someone higher in status. It is their own moral compass that directs their actions. Unjust rulers see this as a threat and therefore try their upmost to punish those who would step outside of their authority. Too bad the people of Cuba have been reduced to the point where they will betray their neighbors or friends for such measley crumbs as the rulers will drop off their tables to them.

    As for the embargo, unconditional lifting it will just reinforce the regime. How about letting American companies, like say wal-mart, come in and set up shop. Keep those American dollars people send to their starving relatives out of the hands of the despots Send our goods, food, medicines directly to the people and prevent the dictators from stealing via credit like they have done to everyone who has ever traded with them on anything but a cash first basis.

  6. I say let’s keep the embargo for leverage, – i.e. no credits, no imports from the island; and let all Americans, both cubans and non-cubans travel there freely. I think it’s time to be smart and make a change in tactics. Keeping people separate and then observing the lack from a distance, the lack of results has not worked in fifty years. It will be the responsibility of the people who travel there to interact and exchange information.

  7. #9 Well I understand what you’re saying but WalMart wouldn’t come to mind as the ideal first invader of Cuba!

  8. It is certain that you might as well drop your money down the nearest drain as give it to the Castros. As I’ve pointed out here before, the US Marshall Plan after WWII saved hundreds of millions of people from starvation and set half (the non-Soviet half) of a continent on the road to liberty and prosperity. The Russians spent at least five times as much keeping perhaps 5% of that number in penury and slavery in Cuba. What the Cuban people need is to be released from their oppressors. They made their island prosperous once and, unshackled, could certainly do it again.
    As for the embargo: it’s true that no regime has ever been brought down by such a flimsy and, in this case, porous instrument but it’s worth keeping as long as the Stalinists whinge about it. It is the least but also, sadly, the most we can do for the Ladies in White.

  9. #10 Seems to me that we don’t want to roll over like a floor mat and accede to everything the regime wants. We’ll need to set some rules. After that, everyone who travels there should be encouraged to help in freeing up the country through our behavior. Everyone who travels there will play a role, rather than leave it to up to the politicians to decide how to deal with the dictators.

    Overtime, or even before the dictators move on to jon Lenin and Stalin in proletarian heaven, the government will loosen up the chains, one link at a time.

  10. Yoani, thanks for the revelation about education in the island.

    Believe it or not, we have a shadow school system in the U.S. called private and/or charter schools. They keep a check on the under-performance of public schools by diverting many students away from public to private schools. The fault is not entirely of the teachers – although there are plenty of incompetent, disinterested teachers here as well. The problem comes primarily from children being raised by no parent, one parent or the grand-parents. In either of those cases, there is no strong role model at home, no one to enforce rules, and/or they don’t have the energy to control these children or adolescents. These “students” (and there are many of them) then go out in the streets or schools and make life miserable for the rest of the serious student population.

    However, the difference here is that in a free society, thanks to private/charter schools, parents are able to pull their children out of that negative environment, and put them in a more rigorous curriculum, which guarantee a much better education. Of course, in Cuba as you explain, there are no such possibilities or alternatives for parents and/or children. The big bad bearded wolves take the children as they wish assembly line style, and train them in their own image. They then brag to the rest of the world that everyone there knows how to read and write, as if this in and of itself were such a grandiose accomplishment. Big deal, everyone in Cuba can read and write!! In some places where the local population is just one step above hunting and gathering, the dictator then gets his kudos making himself out to be some kind of grotesque hero.

  11. #12 I an 100% for the U.S. ending the travel restrictions for everyone — and I am 100% (ok 97%) for ending the embargo… not on any idealogical basis but simply because it’s been a complete failure so let’s try something else.

    That said… I think it’s important to remember that the future of Cuba needs to be in Cuban hands. Or it is no future at all. We are all helping, supporting, forming a cheering section… but they must create their own future.

    Yes — what we do when we travel there should support freedom rather than tyranny — but these are not our choices… ultimately they are the choices of Cubans. Of those who decide to follow Yoani’s example… and the examples of so many others who live in Cuba as free people — and pay sometimes with their lives, always with something — rather than to buy into the repression of the dictators. Rather than snitching, spying, lying, applauding, nad just going along.

  12. #14 — I am the product of public schools… my child is the product of a single parent home and public schools. I’ll let the people on this blog decide… do I seem poorly educated?

    These problems are more complex than simply public schools and single parent homes. Much more complex.

  13. Unfortunately reading and writing in Cuba is limited to singing the praises of the dictatorship; the young man has seen through the lies fed to him daily at school and sees no future for himself on the island. So why bother memorizing the nonsense. He understands that any advanced education cannot be applied due to a lack of opportunity and the miserly pay. His only chance of prosperity lies within the black market, or hustling tourists in the city.

  14. Queridos hermanos, he estado desde hace unos dias debatiendo a ratos y a ratos conversando en un blog llamado “Club de los amigos malos” cuya direccion es…..hp?cat=476
    Alli frecuentan integrantes de la organizacion Gobierno Constitucional Cubano (GCC) con los cuales intercambie criterios y acopie experiencia. Esta organizacion aspira a lograr el apoyo de otras organizaciones del exilio y la isla para poder presentar al interlocutor internacional un frente unido de todos los cubanos junto a un gobierno en rebeldia que compita y trate de lograr el rechazo mundial a la dictadura y el reconocimiento a la lucha de los cubanos.
    La enseñanza principal que extraje del intercambio en este blog fue la desesperanzadora realidad que representa la desunion de los cubanos del exilio por una parte, los de la isla por la otra y la desunion general que solo favorece a la tirania.
    Recuerdo la visita de Paya a Miami y las reacciones de rechazo que levantaron las ideas de Paya, recuerdo las ronchas que levanto en el exilio el esfuerzo de Calatayud de realizar elecciones en el exilio que llevaran a la union, recuerdo y aun oigo voces que al referirse al GCC solo atinan a preguntar “Y quien los eligio como gobierno?”. Todo intento de union dentro y fuera de Cuba ha sido destruido por el afan de los dirigentes de algunas organizaciones que se empeñan en ser “Cabeza de Raton” y por tanto rechazar todo intento que no les de protagonismo. Podria yo mencionar uno por uno a los que asi se comportan pero eso seria contribuir a la desunion.
    Quisiera exortar a todos los participantes de este espacio a que alcen sus voces de la forma que puedan y exijan a las organizaciones del exilio a que se unan sin aspirar a protagonismo alguno. Si se lograra que aunque sea dos de estas organizaciones se unieran seria tremendo paso de avance. La unidad dentro de Cuba es muy dificil lograrla pues la tirania enseguida aplasta todos los esfuerzos encarcelando a los miembros. En el exilio sin embargo no tenemos ese problema y aun asi no hay unidad.
    Les pido que visitemos las web de las organizaciones del exilio y dejemos alli constancia de nuestros deseos. Somos una tonga, hagamosno sentir, declaremos nuestra repulsa a la desunion. Somos el pueblo de Cuba y nuestros dirigentes que se llaman democraticos deben provar que lo son y aceptar nuestras exigencias.
    Despues de la votacion en los 100 del Time en que estamos enfrascados ahora, trataremos de organizar una campaña de emails para ver si despertamos al dormido exilio y sus anquilosadas organizaciones.
    Por favor, algun buen samaritano que me traduzca este comentario…..gracias.
    El Loquero Oficial del Sitio en Español.

  15. #15
    If you end the embargo completely, then we have no hope of having any influence whatsoever over the regime or it’s successors. The only influence we should be after is that the regime allow the people some freedom. I’m 100% with you on letting the cuban people choose. The problem as you know is that they can’t. Ninety percent of the information they get is bogus.

    Also, don’t forget that there is a diaspora of about 2 million cubans, most living in the U.S. Since both Cuba and the U.S. allow dual citizenship, they are still at least half cuban citizens. They have the moral and legal right to have some say in whatever direction Cuba takes.

  16. #16 on Public Schools

    Andy, I also went to public schools. In fact went to two different public school systems. One functional, the other inner city and dysfunctional. As I explained, it is not the fault necessarily of the teachers, it is a social issue that granted, is complex, but boils down to an absence of guidance by parents in one way or another brought on by social conditions which we are not going to go into.

    I see you raised your children by yourself, and you deserve all the credit in the world, you know and I also, that it’s not easy. You have to stick your nose in deep into much of what they do, so they don’t jump the tracks.

    What I’m trying to illustrate for the Cuban readers is that there are alternatives to their system, and with some competition most government institutions that provide services can by incentivized to provide quality as well.

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