El Fomentador

Alive and well in Mexico…

Posts Tagged ‘mexico

Ingles Muy Rapido, Sin el Esfuerzo: Welcome to “Quit Learning”, Patito of the Month

with 2 comments

You know, el Fomentador was prepared to take a year off from complaining about English education in Mexico. By now it should be clear that I don’t like seeing desperate people being ripped off by corrupt businesses and institutions–but enough about Wall Street and the US Congress! (That is supposed to be kind of a joke, ja,ja.) But seriously, I was walking home from a friend’s house and came across a brochure from the new kid in town, which I like to call: the “Quit Learning” school of English. This joke is just the latest patito to crawl out of the duck pond.

https://i1.wp.com/katiejeffreys.com/ducky/ducky28.gif
I found the brochure (really it was like a twelve page magazine, I’ve seen thinner copies of Time Magazine, Latin American edition),  printed in full color on glossy paper, right where I should have expected–trampled underfoot by the edge of a vacant lot. Oh, I have a lot to say about this outfit, but I was ready to start taking it easy, ready to write about things that don’t get me angry. I was ready to give the patito business a pass until the country can get control of internal security. But there it was, half covered in dirt, a few holes poked in the cover by countless footsteps crushing it against the small rocks in the litter-filled lot. It’s like it was waiting for me to walk by, as if it was calling out to me: “Hey, there is a new school here with one of the dumbest concepts ever.”
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by El Fomentador

January 21, 2009 at 5:54 am

“Star trek” Languages Inc.

leave a comment »

You know, after visiting hundreds of really bad schools of English in half a dozen cities in Mexico, I thought I had seen it all. What a fool I was. Tonight as I was walking past our local branch of the https://i2.wp.com/blogs.amctv.com/scifi-scanner/2star_trek_csg_031.jpgUniversity of Bugtussle (well, it actually has absolutely no connection with any university in Bugtussle, they just use the name “Bugtussle” because, well, I guess they use it because it sounds better than calling it the “University of Screw You”. This outfit has several buildings downtown and they are making money hand over fist by, frankly, cheating every poor SOB that walks through the door expecting a useful education. The main thing that students learn at this place is that there is no end to the number of ways that scam artists will try to steal your money.                 https://i2.wp.com/www.freeimageslive.com/galleries/buildings/london/pics/bigben01958.jpg

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by El Fomentador

November 13, 2008 at 6:54 am

Secretary of Education, Teachers Union and Normalistas Leave Students Out of the Equation

leave a comment »

The ongoing battle between the Mexican Secretary of Public Education, the national teachers union and the Normal School teachers is nothing new. The built-in deficits in the public education system have been evident for generations. The new initiative “Alliance for Quality in Education” is just the latest in a line of half-hearted, politically-motivated reform proposals to come down the pike.

Of course the idea of “reform” usually rings hollow when it is tossed around by politicos anywhere in the world. Protectors of the status quo aren’t interested in change that threatens to rock the boat. (For an example, just compare John McCains campaign speeches with his voting record for the last thirty years).

As I have said before, I like teachers. They are good people usually working under poor conditions. Those working in the worst conditions, rural districts and poor, urban neighborhoods, are often the first to be forgotten by petty bureaucrats.
Read the rest of this entry »

Las Escuelas Normales en Mexico, Official Patitos?

leave a comment »

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7d/Geek_rubber_duck.jpg

One-hundred years ago the state university in my home-town was called a State Normal School. It’s purpose was to train teachers that would supply schools in small towns across the region with well-trained teachers. It worked. Today the school is a part of the University system but it still provides teachers for thousands of public schools in hundreds of communities, large and small, across the country. Those teachers and their professors are justifiably proud of the contribution they have made to the education of tens of thousands of students. Students that have gone on to become teachers, administrators, researchers, community and business leaders.

Eighty years ago a series of Normal schools was established in Mexico. Their purpose was the same: to provide teachers for the schools that were slowly being established in rural areas. In my opinion, it hasn’t worked. For example, in the southern State of Guerrero, there is a shortage of more than one-thousand teachers in the rural schools. The truth is no one wants to teach in rural areas. There is very little infrastructure, limited resources and a general underlying sense that an adequate education is of no use to people living in the countryside. (The old: “Education is necessary, but the masses aren’t ready for it.”) The answer to the teacher shortage has been to provide instruction via video. That might work as a stop gap measure but it cannot and does not replace classroom teachers.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by El Fomentador

March 26, 2008 at 10:27 pm

Nationalistic Pride and Prejudice

leave a comment »

//www.latinamericanstudies.org/mexico/lazaro-cardenas.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Lazaro Cardenas, Mexican President from 1934 to 1940, revered for nationalizing the railroad and oil industries

I read a recent column by a Mexican author talking about “Urban Legends” in Mexico. He cited examples ranging from a paternalistic political system designed to maintain the status quo to the reform of Pemex. I agree with much of what the columnist says. For example, that the political process in Mexico remains sort of a veiled mystery that “reflects [Mexico’s] particular idiosyncrasies” and the political class has convinced themselves and many of the people that “therefore [Mexico] can never be governed under modern democratic institutions”. He refers to Mexico’s “outdated worldviews” and says that “development has stagnated because certain sectors of the political class still manage to use urban legends successfully.”

All of this is, sadly, true, but I believe the author is confusing the idea of urban legends with the nationalistic propaganda that citizens have been force-fed for decades. A citizenry that has been left purposely undereducated and misled for centuries by the ruling class, be they Aztec kings, Spanish conquistadors or self-serving, modern-era Mexican politicians.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by El Fomentador

March 4, 2008 at 9:53 pm

Las Escuelas Patitos

with 2 comments

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.
Read the rest of this entry »

Written by El Fomentador

February 18, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Is there any better hero than Santo?

leave a comment »

https://i1.wp.com/holamun2.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/03/hijo-del-santo.jpg

Most people in Mexico, when they hear the name of Santo, will laugh. Then, they will think for a moment about all of the Santo movies they have seen, their friends, the theaters, the times that el Santo may have been wrestling in their city, the fun of watching a Santo re-run on Mexican cable TV.A friend of mine, Angel, from San Miguel, chuckled when I asked him about Santo. Then he slowly began remembering stories. His older sister gathering a group of kids from the neighborhood and shuffling (more like shepherding, I imagine) them all down to the old movie theater off the Jardin.

Ahh. The Saturday Matinee. Masses of maniacs crowding in to see the King of Luche Libre, Santo El Enmascarado de Plata. Undoubtedly it was a double feature. And a scene repeated in towns and cities across the world with different movie heroes and different maniacs.

Angel said each kid would have a torta tucked into a pocket for a snack during the movie. Of course, the basic formula for a Santo movie is some 40 minutes of wrestling sequences with some 20 minutes of story built around them. Angel said when the “King was in the ring” the dark, old theater became a room full of little upturned faces reflecting back the light of the big screen in rapt attention.

If it looked like the big guy was in trouble, you know, if say, for instance, Santo happened to be fighting an invisible time traveler from the 16th century running around with a huge hatchet, or a mechanical clone created by some diabolically mad Mexican scientist, all the kids in the audience would begin rhythmically clapping and chanting in unison: “Santo, Santo, Santo”. Usually in chorus with the audience on the screen.

Many of the wrestling clips appear to have been shot live, including plenty of crowd response, which only goes to show that some things are constant across time and cultural boundaries, for example: wrestling fans!

Invariably the encouragement worked its magic and Santo recovered his bearings and pulled out a decisive victory, to the cheers of the, by now, decidely, enthusiastic crowd.

I’ve seen Santo driving everything from a dune buggy to a space ship. But he has used a variety of snazzy sports cars ( I think they made, like, ninety movies over a forty year period). Angel remembered that whatever Santo was driving in his latest movie was the car that everyone wanted to have. In Mexico, Santo masks were as popular with kids as Daniel Boone ‘coonskin caps in the U.S.

In his career Santo fought everyone (the titles were always “Santo contra someone or something”) from space aliens and ghosts to neo-nazis and crooked art dealers. (There’s even a Santo vs Capulina, for those that know their Mexican film icons. I don’t want to give away the story, but it turns out to be a clone of Capulina, made by some evil guy; rest assured that Santo would never do anything to hurt the real Capulina).

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by El Fomentador

January 8, 2008 at 6:15 am