El Fomentador

Alive and well in Mexico…

Posts Tagged ‘education

“The Pearl” by John Steinbeck

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Hi. Welcome to the first installment of the Book Nook. (Ok, I know the “Book Nook” is kind of a lame name–hey! that rhymes too–I just wanted someplace to write about books. I am willing to change it if somone comes up with a better name.) I just finished re-reading “The Pearl”, a short novel or a long short-story by John Steinbeck. Of course, Steinbeck is known as a great American author. One of my favorite books is his novel about the westward migration of Americans from the mid-west dust bowl of the 1930’s to California, “The Grapes of Wrath”. The Grapes of Wrath will be a future topic in the Book Nook. I recently saw the movie version dubbed into Spanish and it was just as moving and inspiring as any of the dozen times I’ve watched it in English; maybe even more so, as I recognized parallels between the “Okies” and the current wave of Mexican immigrants. More on that later, now on to “The Pearl”. //www.gemdiamond.com/department/images/home/Pearls.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

I’m tempted to do a book report type post, but I am just going to use a few excerpts from the story to look at some enduring concepts that Steinbeck translates into wonderfully meaningful prose. The premise of the story is that “Kino”, a poor pearl diver finds a valuable pearl one day. The story follows the trail of events precipitated by his discovery of the pearl and the changes that occur in him, his family and his village because of it.

In the following passage the villagers are crowding around the door of Kino’s brush hut wondering what he will do with his sudden good fortune. Coyotito is the infant son of Kino and his wife Juana. “In the pearl he saw Coyotito sitting at a little desk in a school, just as Kino had once seen through an open door. And Coyotito was dressed in a jacket, and he had on a white collar and a broad silken tie. Moreover Coyotito was writing on a big piece of paper. Kino looked at his neighbors fiercely. ‘My son will go to school,’ he said, and the neighbors were hushed. Juana caught her breath sharply. Her eyes were bright as she watched him, and she looked quickly down at Coyotito in her arms to see whether this might be possible.

“But Kino’s face shown with prophecy. ‘My son will read and open the books, and my son will write and will know writing. And my son will know numbers, and these things will make us free–he will know and through him we will know.’ And in the pearl Kino saw himself and Juana squatting by the little fire in the brush hut while Coyotito read from a great book. ‘This is what the pearl will do,’ said Kino. And he had never said so many words together in his life. And suddenly he was afraid of his talking. His hand closed down over the pearl and cut the light away from it. Kino was afraid as a man is afraid who says ‘I will,’ without knowing.”
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Las Escuelas Patitos

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https://i0.wp.com/www.saynotocrack.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/duck.gif In Spanish, “patitos” means “little ducks”, in the vernacular in Latin America it means “phony”. So, for example, there is the reference to a “Patito Republic”, a nation under the rule of the military or a dictator that attempts to be seen as a modern Republic. A friend explained it to me once as being similar to the “Acme” brand name in the old Road Runner cartoons. Every time the coyote would open a crate with a rocket sled or jet-powered roller skates it would be marked as coming from Acme Corporation. Although there are companies called Acme, and in fact, there is a brand of household bleach called “los Patitos” my friend explained that it is not a brand name that inspires confidence. It is a joke in Mexico.

Las escuelas patitos translates as “the schools of the little ducks” but it refers to the “phony” low-quality private schools that have appeared all around the big urban centers of Mexico. They have them in the States, too. There, they are designed to steal people’s student loan money, leaving them with a big debt and a generally, as well as, a genuinely, worthless education. Here, they just steal the money right out of your (or your parent’s) pockets. It is all part of what has become known as the “Edu-business”.

It is my opinion that these “phony” schools are a cruel joke, not only on their students but on the state of education in Mexico. These schemes come in different subjects, for example, computer schools are all over the place now. Beauty schools, tourism, cooking and auto repair training are also examples. But the ones I am most familiar with are “las escuelas patitos” of English. I’ll be honest, it is embarrassing to see these “schools” proliferating while the country’s educational establishment simply watches from the sidelines. I call them the burger king schools, because if you have enough money you can either buy a restaurant franchise or an English school franchise. (And you don’t even need to speak English yourself!)

My experience has been that every Mexican in the big industrial cities knows about las escuelas patitos, but no one ever talks about them! It took me six months to figure out what was going on. I don’t doubt that some of the founders of these schools began with the purest of intentions–to provide quality instruction to students of English that simply can’t get what they need from a public university system mired in a bureaucracy that is, frankly, designed to not work. As the multi-national manufacturers became established in Mexico, language schools became a fast buck bonanza for the unscrupulous. Competition increased with schools popping up on every other block. Increasingly low-quality programs drove down the level of instruction and the expectations of both teachers and students. Businesses shopped around for the lowest price. Schools became businesses. Education became a victim. In the mean time the patitos continue to cheat their students, abuse their teachers and suck resources away from legitimate educational opportunity.
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Written by El Fomentador

February 18, 2008 at 10:45 pm