Friday, December 23, 2016

Teachers’ Day in Cuba by Stephen Lendman

Teachers’ Day in Cuba

by Stephen Lendman

Each December 22, Cubans celebrate Teachers’ Day, commemorating Fidel’s Literacy Campaign - begun January 1, 1961, successfully completed less than a year later on December 22, an astonishing achievement.

Fidel called 1961 the “year of education” in a nation afflicted by mass illiteracy, most Cubans unable to read or write.

Literacy brigades deployed nationwide changed things, teaching Cuba’s largely agrarian population what they never before knew.

After less than 12 months, over 700,000 Cubans were literate, the nationwide literacy rate increased to around 96%, a remarkable achievement by any standard, unmatched anywhere in the world.

In America, one-fourth of children grow up illiterate. It’s the only developed country where current generation children, adolescents and youths are less educated than their earlier counterparts.

The overwhelming majority of children facing trial in juvenile courts are functionally illiterate. So are more than 60% of US prison inmates.

Free societies require an educated citizenry. America's founders believed it was insurance against loss of liberty.

Jefferson said “(e)very government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render them safe, their minds must be improved…”

Public education is vital because it serves the public interest - giving meaning to “we the people.” Father of American education Horace Mann called “(t)he common school...the greatest discovery ever made by man.” 

He meant public, not privatized schooling, prioritizing profits over teaching. He believed all students should be educated equally and responsibly.

In America today, they’re intimidated, persecuted and controlled, not taught the way children and youths were when I grew up in inner city Boston long ago. 

Higher education was affordable, extraordinarily cheap by today’s standards. America’s student loan racket didn’t exist - debt-entrapping millions of students repressively, some facing a lifetime of debt bondage.

Standards in those days stressed teaching. Children learned basics, letting them advance to higher education - important preparatory steps for life. Kids today across America have none of the advantages I had. Things today are deplorable by any standard.

US public schools don’t teach. They’re institutions of intimidation and control. They produce uneducated youths, many functionally illiterate, unprepared for the adult world they’re entering - most facing a working lifetime of rotten jobs with poverty wages along with few or no benefits.

No wonder many end up in prison, mostly poor, disadvantaged youths of color. US society is disintegrating and no one gives a damn.

Cuba prioritizes education, free to the highest levels. Fidel stressed its importance, achieving literacy throughout the island state, saying on December 22, 1961:

No moment is more solemn and exciting, no instant full of legitimate pride and glory than this, in which four and a half centuries of ignorance have been defeated.”

“When we said we would eradicate illiteracy in only one year, it seemed a reckless statement. It seemed impossible. Only a country in revolution would have been capable of deploying the effort and energy necessary to carry out such a gigantic mission.”

Literacy for all Cubans was one of his monumental achievements. Genuinely serving his country made him one of the true giants of his era.

He’s irreplaceable in the hearts and minds of his people, Cuba’s eternal comandante, his remarkable legacy to stand the test of time forever.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at