In my opinion, all government schooling involves a certain amount of indoctrination and whitewashing. Not surprisingly, Venezuela is taking this to the extreme. According to a Reuters story, the government has provided 42 million copies of a free textbook for elementary age students. The textbook was originally going to be mandatory in public schools, but the government backed off after a huge backlash ensued. Still, their price tag means that they’ve reached “an estimated 6 million kids at 80 percent of the country’s schools.”
So why is the opposition so mad about the book? Here are some nuggets:
1. The first page of each [book] starts with the words “Hugo Chavez: Supreme Commander of the Bolivarian Revolution.”
2. They describe Chavez as the man who liberated Venezuela from tyranny, at times making him appear more important than 19th century founding father Simon Bolivar.
3. The books present a 2002 coup that briefly toppled Chavez as an insurrection planned by Washington while playing down the role of massive opposition protests in this deeply divided country.
4. They also frequently refer to social programs started under Chavez. Here is a great example:
“Through the ‘My well-equipped House’ program, Juanita bought a 32-inch television and 12 kg washing machine for a total of 3,555 bolivars,” reads a math book for nine-year-olds. “Had she had bought these goods in a store, she would have paid 25 percent more for the TV and a third more for the washing machine. What conclusions can we make by comparing the prices of one place with the other?”
I bet my conclusion is quite a bit different from the one the authors intended. What does the former education minister have to say about the books? She argues that “the Juanita-type examples are ‘simple and seek to foment free thinking, emancipation.'”
How does a math question foment free thinking and emancipation? Emancipation from what? logic and economic common sense?