That song at the end of The Wizard of Oz, "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" is what went through my mind the day I woke up to find 10 text messages from friends back in Mexico with the news that Elba Esther Gordillo, otherwise known as 'La Maestra,' had been arrested.
For the last 23 years she served as the infamous leader of the Mexican Teacher's Union (SNTE). Despite the country's familiarity with corruption and graft the breadth of Gordillo's corruption was still a shock. Of course everyone (absolutely everyone make no mistake) knew all about her agenda but seeing how Gordillo was so entrenched in local politics and with the Teacher's Union being such a strong entity there was no political party that could get rid of her.
That is, until now.
For a president who can't remember the last three books he has read, I must admit Peña Nieto just came through for Mexico and I might start believing in his education reform.
Now the second biggest problem will be getting the rest of the country to open their eyes. Those who still don't equate our future with education are living in the past, the very distant past. An educated population is critical in order for Mexico to tackle its myriad of problems. Public education is a fundamental right and if we are going to live up to our Western Democratic ideals, we must do everything to support the reform of our educational system.
Last year Claudio X. González Guajardo from 'Mexicanos Primero' addressed the 300 most influential Mexican leaders on this matter with these words: "Education is freedom, education is growth, education, it's security, education is equality and democracy. Education is well-being and yet we have not taken good care of our educational system"
He was right then and he is right now.
The Public Education Secretary and the Teachers Union were never able to reach an agreement regarding the Universal Evaluation for teachers. 'La Maestra' refused to accept it, leaving no room to actually making sure that our children were getting a good education. Many of these kids were never in the presence of actual teachers and that is a real tragedy.
The Teacher's Union (SNTE) in its present form should be dismantled starting with the corrupt teachers in Oaxaca and Michoacán (the two states with lower education indicator results). Think about it, for every teacher in 'La Maestra's' close circle who used federal money to pay for their extravagant lifestyle instead of doing their actual job meant a classroom full of children who were denied a chance in life.
Let's be clear: a citizen is not an active participant in society if he or she can't read.
Recently, The New York Times ran an editorial by David Toscana titled "The Country That Stopped Reading". The editorial posed the basic question regarding the Mexican Educational System: "How is it possible that I hand over a child six hours a day, five days a week and you give me back someone who is basically illiterate?"
When I was just starting out on the lower rungs of the advertising world I worked on an account that required me to travel around the United States and interview graduates from a technical school (with nationwide campuses). During this trip I met young men and women of all backgrounds who had changed the course of their lives and those of their families thanks to their education.
This confirmed my belief in the power of education and that is why I applaud the work of all men and women who are trying to make a real change for Mexico.
Peña Nieto's Educational Reform makes it obligatory for all teachers to get evaluated in order to continue performing within the educational system and to be eligible for promotions. He also grants complete autonomy to the National Institute for Educational Evaluation (INEE) to conduct these evaluations. Furthermore he has called for a thorough census of all the schools and teachers in the nation in order to have more transparency in the Mexican educational system.
This is a great start.
Mexico is still a long way from an ideal model. A good place to start is to actually punish those who would steal from our pockets and jeopardize our future generations only to line their own. This first step of attempting to reform a moribund and corrupt system gives us cause for hope.
We have waited for many years, but it seems as if a president is finally looking to do right by our children.