In “We Don’t Need No Education,” Erasmo Calzadilla expresses his dissatisfaction with several pervasive ideas: the lack of intellectual creativity and the absence of libertarian pedagogy within the Cuban education system. There is immense value in affording students the opportunity to think outside of the prescribed orthodox curriculum; however, the argument could be made stronger by acknowledging the longstanding educational accomplishments that Cuba has achieved since the 1959 Revolution.
The revolutionary government’s longstanding commitment to literacy is evident in its above average statistics. According to United Nations statistics, Cuba’s current literacy rate of 92 percent surpasses the global literacy rate of 84 percent, by eight points. This dominance is grounded in the 1961 Cuban Literacy Campaign that mobilized upwards of 250,000 youth and adult volunteers who traveled throughout Cuba to teach literacy skills in local neighborhoods. Nearly 700 thousand people were taught to read by the end of that year. The Cuban education system carried on with the same tenacity in its medical diplomacy program by training medical personnel who would later provide aid to numerous medically deficient countries including including Argentina, Chile, and Jamaica. To contest these achievements, the only evidence that the author provides to prove that the system is the product of negativity is the Cuban Pledge of Allegiance, which requires that students pledge to become pioneers for Communism and follow in the footsteps of Che Guevara. Furthermore, canonizing mortals and creating a dominant narrative through education is not necessarily specific to Cuba. The article presents readers with the question of whether Cuba’s educational advancements are undermined by the country’s repressive curriculum. One cannot, however, ever rely upon the state to truly educate anyone; it can only provide the resources that will equip students with the tools to learn independently. Calzadilla himself offers a highly politicized assessment; however, any discussion of Cuban education must not fail to juxtapose the country’s contentious shortcomings with its demonstrated successes.
Angela Crumdy, Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs
In response to the Havana Times article: “We Don’t Need No Education”
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