AMLO’s Latest Ballistic Missile Is Aimed at Education
By ALEJANDRO ENVILA FISHER
After a resounding failure to pass his controversial electricity reform bill in the April 17 vote at the Chamber of Deputies, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his leftist, in-power National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party have set their aim on yet another target: the opposition. That campaign is gaining traction by Morena further polarizing the country and turning all public discussions into a dispute between so-called patriots and traitors.
The electrical reform and the electoral reform proposals were the first two political missiles launched by AMLO and Morena, both knowing full well that these bills were doomed from the get-go. But for AMLO and Morena, these unpassable initiatives served a greater purpose by sharpening their distinction from those they deemed “traitors to the homeland.”
Now, the next polarizing bullet coming out of the National Palace has been aimed at public education. There, the terrain for success is more propitious for Morena because it will not need qualified (two thirds), legislative majorities to modify study plans , academic programs, pedagogical models or the structure of the institutions responsible for these matter. The General Law of Education and the Organic Law of the Federal Public Administration can be reformed with a simple majority, which, supported by its allies, the Labor Party (PT) and Green Party (PVEM), Morena has in spades.
The first signs of the polarizing barrage that have awakened the pretext of educational transformation are already here: on the one hand, the projects to reorganize basic education, with the abstract justification of placing schools at the center of the community, and on the other, calls from López Obrador to university students to take into their hands the transformation and government of their educational institutions. In other words, the president is promoting student walkouts and strikes.
Education serves to improve people’s living conditions. In the world, beyond ideological conceptions or models of government, authoritarian or democratic, the greatest responsibilities and the best job positions are for the most qualified people, with the greatest cognitive tools, because these allow them to make the best decisions in their professional activity.
China, a single-party dictatorship, in addition to being the only state with a centrally planned economy that has been able to generate enough growth to become a power, is a regime that conditions the advancement of people on their economic and social scales, their knowledge and productivity. At the other extreme, liberal democracies, consolidated or emerging, have in education the main lever for social mobility, increased quality of life and economic growth.
Education is a training process for social life in its different aspects: social coexistence, individual behavior within the family and professional performance in the economic sphere, since finally the individual works, in whatever political model, to earn a living by efficiently fulfilling a productive role. That is his personal contribution to the advancement and transformation of his society.
Without adequate training, without quality education, the contribution of any individual to society is limited, since the lack of training will not allow them to assume greater responsibilities, or if they do, to exercise them adequately.
The phrase of “10 percent talent and 90 percent loyalty” that is attributed to the president to explain the selection of his collaborators is pure demagoguery, and the current results of companies that are so important for national development, such as the state-run (or better said, run-into-the-ground) Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), prove this.
Pemex is not losing money by leaps and bounds, charged to the national treasury, because the neoliberals opened the energy sector to private investment. The state’s unproductive enterprise has turned into a bottomless pit of debt because it is run by a character with a cut-short career as an agricultural engineer, named Octavio Romero Oropeza, who knows absolutely nothing about the oil business model in the world today, and perhaps does not even understand what a business model is.
On a professional level, this vast lack of knowledge is not compensated by loyalty to a project, a person or a country. The most loyal woman or man (it doesn’t matter to what or to whom) will not be able to play an efficient role in managing the energy wealth of a nation — be it communist, capitalist, populist or democratic — if they do not have a solid professional training complemented with ample experience, demonstrated by a successful career, in the respective industrial branch.
Romero Oropeza and Energy Secretary Rocio Nahle are two examples of how loyalty is not a substitute for talent, much less academic formation. They have no experience at the managerial level of a large company, public or private, and their loyalty to the president has only served to lead Pemex into its worst results in its history, with over $116 billion in debt, the highest of any oil venture worldwide.
Education is training to face and assume responsibilities. Universities are not indoctrination centers. They are spaces for the technical training demanded by the knowledge needed to compete for a job.
A good education prepares a person to be competent and efficient in their career. It serves to train professionals capable of making efficient decisions that generate individual or collective benefits, since those capable of solving problems are the professionals who must assume increasing responsibilities in the public or private sectors.
Within any society genuinely seeking to prosper, more responsibility demands more training. But it also means higher pay and a better quality of life. There is no dogma or ideological position that can replace that reality, because just as anyone knows that heart surgery should only be performed by a specialist, we should all admit that profitably extracting oil from the earth requires petroleum engineers, but also administrators who control production costs, economists who project the behavior of the market and financiers who know how to place it, in the best conditions, among clients in the world. All of this must be coordinated by an efficient administrator, who understands all areas and knows where to take the company. These skills are learned in universities and other professional institutions, not in work stoppages and strikes to promote political agendas with ideas of self-government that have never worked and never will.
Those skills are also honed in day-to-day professional development. When choosing employees, the labor market does not stop at ideological considerations or personal or group loyalties. If it were to do so, the disaster that exists today in Pemex would be found in all the companies in Mexico.
Fortunately, the private sector has focused on hiring people who are trained and skilled, rather than loyal to a particular dogma. If Morena has long-term aspirations of success for itself and the nation, it should learn from this private-sector example.