Jaime Escalante Speaks

Name a famous Bolivian, clinic who is not a sports figure or past/present President. If luck is on your side, doctor you may scramble to come up with Jaime Escalante. He was made famous in the U.S. as a result of the movie Stand and Deliver starring Edward James Olmos. The teacher spent much of his professional career in the U.S., but he also has spent time in Bolivia, as I would frequently spot him at one of the salteñarias along El Prado in Cochabamba.

The debate over educational reform has been considered a failure, not only because of the failed conference, in which Education Minister Felix Patzi has sent mixed messages about religious education, but also because of a perceived lack of focus. Valuing native languages and requiring students and teachers to learn quechua, aymara or guarani is much different. Escalante was recently asked about the current educational debate, and he believes that this emphasis on native language could take away much needed time to teach the students to compete on a global level.

OH! What should the new reform accomplish?

The reform should improve, not reverse it 500 years. Studying languages or talking too much about indigenous groups will not get us anywhere. We must be up-to-date with current global technology. We must instruct the students how to study in order to advance to the next grade level. Currently, they are not ready and it is evident when they take university entrance exams. When they don’t pass, they end up crucifying themselves or enter a hunger strike. There is no quality education.

It is obvious that professors do not know how to evaluate the students’ capabilities. There are no bad students, but they are traumatized into thinking that they cannot pass. That’s why they run to the psychologists.

The adminstration must also be concerned with keeping the professors up to date. I’m worried that they continue to teach Baldor, which came out 50 years ago. If they don’t change all that, the new reform will also be a failure.

What's the Deal with this Blog?

Blogging has taken a backseat to my real job. Caught in the middle of my busiest time of year, check in addition to my first summer in my new position, I decided that this would be a good break in action. For two years, I have maintained this blog fairly continuously and it has been a good experience. I continue to write the weekly entry at Global Voices Online and over this summer break I have definitely read a lot more than I have written. With very little free time, I have also neglected the project that I am co-founding, which will be launched soon. However, I doubt that this is the end of the blogging, rather the end of this blog in this form. Soon I will move my blog to another WordPress site and will be launched next month, which will coincide with another return trip to Bolivia. At this new site, which will most likely retain the name Barrio Flores, I have yet to decide whether to put politics aside. One idea that I have is to review my journals and memory bank over the past six years, which contain many, many experiences in Bolivia, which I wish to preserve. It might be good for me to also write about my experiences as a hyphenated Bolivian (Bolivian-American). However, I would also like to think that there is still room for my opinion about politics in Bolivia and that there needs to be some more balance, because events in Bolivia are not so black and white, not saying that I am any authority or have it all figured out. This is part of the challenge.