“Mexico’s enemy”… on Claudio X. González
For my U.S. readers, who, if they have heard of Claudio X. González at all, have only heard of him as a “educational reformr” (he’s guaranteed a quote in any foreign media report on Mexican education) it needs to be explained that he is the scion of one of the most powerful business families in Mexico. His father (Claudio X. González Laporte) was CEO of Kimberly-Clark, as well as the president of the Consejo Mexicano de Negocios (Mexican Business Council) , the main lobbying group for the largest Mexican corporations. He was, until October 2014, on the Board of Directors of Televisa. The younger Claudio (González Guajardo) also sits on the Televisa board, although his father’s retirement was in part due to an appearance of a conflict of interest, because another of the sons of González Laporte had a significant interest in America Movil (where the elder González was also on the board of directors).
Claudio X. González Guajardo, the alleged education expert, served in a number of high-level federal positions during the Zedillo Administration (1994 – 2000), none of which had anything to do with public education. In addition to other business interests, he was a founder and president of Fundación Televisa. The television giant’s foundation has been repeatedly criticized for what appears to be a naked attempt to turn public welfare programs into private charities, making small service providers “compete” for funding, and ignoring those in most need for the most “photogenic” of charity cases.
Like Texas billionaire James R. Leininger, Claudio X. González Guajardo seeks to impose a new model of education, one that appears to favor learning for employment over learning for life. While it is unclear that Gonzaléz has immediate financial interest in a “reformed” educational system, nor does he — as does Leininger — have an overtly religious or nationalist agenda, both are seen as seeking to discredit public education as a way of creating the foundation for imposing neo-liberal “reforms”… privatizing many of the state functions now performed by state educational systems, and — especially in Mexico — of discrediting unions, the better to “reform” laws that allow workers to collectively bargain for rights and benefits. After translating, and just before I posted this, I found an article from May 2015 in the Chihuahua-based Ahoramismo (which is the source of my photo of Claudio X, Jr.) in which that state’s Secretary of Education calls González “irresponsible” in his campaign to “reform” public education, and notes that the would-be reformer is a product of the most expensive private schools in the country (and in the United States) with absolutely no understanding of the issues involved in public education in the state of Chihuahua.
What follows is a translation from a blog post, El Enemigo de México by Erick Arturo González Garza, a Mexican teacher who writes regularly on education topics. Because I needed to footnote a few items that would be unclear to readers outside Mexico, I incorporated the original footnotes into the text, and, in the few places I had to add detail to clarify the original, I used brackets [ ] to insert information that might also be confusing to foreign readers. And, in a few places, I changed the verb tense to follow standard English language practice.
Media reports on the Mexican teachers’ movement say little about him. He comes out of the shadows only when it is strictly necesssary. When he speaks, he sounds at times as if he is saying the Federal Government has lost its role in society, especially in the field of education. He has been the represenative of private educational interests in Mexico for the last six years. The head of a related to educational issues in Mexico over the last 6 years. It is the head of a “business-social organization” — what in the U.S. would be called an “astoturf movement” or a business-supported citizen’s lobbying group — “concerned” about the direction of our nation. His name is Claudio X. Gonzalez Guajardo, president of Mexicanos Primero, an organization that says it promotes quality education in our country.
Claudio X. Gonzalez Guajardo, linked to the most powerful business groups in the country, also maintains close relationship with the de facto political powers. The scion of a major industrial fortune, his ideology is money. Since its inception, Mexicanos Primero has been on the attack to discredit public education: in 2012 they sold the new president, Peña Nieto, on a plan based on what employers wanted from education. To give the scheme social impact, companies, including television broadcasts, highlighted a documentary, De panzazo, said to expose the “reality” of the Mexican public educational system, meant to justify an urgent need for dramatic and rapid changes to “solve” the problems in the schools.
To Mexicanos Primero, Mexican public school teachers are poorly prepared; they are lazy, apathetic, indifferent to students and uncommitted to their work. In addition, they suggest that the Mexican teacher enjoys undeserved privileges; enjoying the workers’ benefits employers would sooner deny its employees. His speeches are peppered with examples and comparisons to foreign education systems; clearly, countries with a very different history and culture. Of course, in his ignorance on the subjecct of education, González ignores those factors. His training prevents a broader perspective of the educational phenomenon. A sample of his intellectual limitations, shows up in one of his ossified texts where using a comparison to food. “Teachers from other countries have the table set, while ours have to kill the chicken, pluck it, cook it, and then set the table. That’s why good Mexican teachers are still better than the good Finnish, Korean or Canadian teachers“1 .
Claudio X. Gonzalez is the visible hand slapping around public education in Mexico. He personifies the type of Mexican businessman who profits from our poverty-stricken state, a shadowy figure that claim to generate jobs, but pays poverty wages under the worst conditions, often denying the workers any rights or benefits. He is of the class of Mexican businessmen who corrupt governments to benefit themselves economically, hogging public works. or seeking tax exemptions; predators that destroy ecosystems to build shopping centers, businesses or stadiums, without the slightest interest in ecological destruction they cause. Polluters.
Mexican businessmen work through Claudio X. Gonzalez to try to derail from the “legality” of reform, the rights and achievements of the teaching profession. For this they leave the dirty work to the Mexican government. As an example, consider Gonzalez’ meeting with n Enrique Peña Nieto on 21 June, two days after National Gendarmerie’s murders in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca. The topics of the meeting were twofold: to stop the “Ley 3de3” initiative by which employers [holding government contracts] would be forced to report their financial interest in the contract [and potential conflicts of interest] and the teachers’ conflict. Peña Nieto assured Gonzalez and other business leaders that the “Ley 3de3” would not pass, but that educational reforms would continue2.
For the elites of Mexican business, what was important was the reassurance that the Mexican government would not bow to the demands of Mexican teachers nor reverse labor rights reforms disguised as educational reform. Implementing the latter depends on the still nebulous reasons to intervene in public schools. It appears business seeks a monopoly over school construction and maintenance, as well as the human resources of the educational system… effectively becoming patrones, the teachers mere workers. To accomplish this, the government is needed to wipe out labor resistance, by repression or outright dismissal: entrepreneurs do not like that workers have rights.
Mexican business are the hand that pulls the strings of [Education Secretary] Aurelio Nuño, [Secretary of Governnance, “Home Secretary”]Osorio Chong and Peña Nieto. They are the true enemy of the Mexican teachers. Nothing could be clearer given González’ attack on the puppet Secretary of Public Education on 5 March this year. The Mexicanos Primero president claimed the Secretary had done nothing against the [wishes of the teachers’ union, SNTE, in order to further his own political ambition]3. Claudio X. Gonzalez apparently could not stand the announcement that the assessment tests of basic and secondary school teachers rated only 8% of the teachers as less than qualified. 92 percent had adequate or outstanding results… something they had already demonstrated on the job: facing a group of students in a classroom!
The Mexican teacher is a dedicated worker in the classroom. She or he takes work home to review and to evaluate their students. Mexican teachers study at the post-graduate level and attend continuing education classes every year. The Mexican teacher meets with parents and is called on to resolve conflicts unrelated tothe school.
Claudio X. Gonzalez has no idea what is is to stand in front of students in a public school, and shows his ignorance. Economic neoliberalism seeks to end the few remaining public aspects of national life. The business community should reconsider its approach, because it must understand that the educational community has awoken, and will not go back to sleep. The people understand that Mexican businessmen are not going after only teachers, but against the entire nation, and the rights painfully gained throughout our troubled history.
1Gonzales’ point is that Mexican teachers are often responsible not just for the classroom instruction, but for other duties, sometimes to the point of having to perform the maintenance on school buildings themselves. While the nuance doesn’t come through in the translation, the author is saying that while Gonzales is claiming SOME rare teachers are better than those in countries like Finland, most are, at best, fitted only for the more “menial” tasks needed in an educational system.
3Secretary Nuñez was accused of “emasculating” the reforms, having allegedly bowed to some demand by the union regarding standarized tests in return for support by the mostly teacher-supported Nuevo Alianza party, which is allied with Peña Nieto’s PRI.