Higher Education in Latin America

Earlier today I was thinking about information of importance to our PFP Global Chile group as we prepare for our visit. Before we depart we should gather knowledge of the Latin American landscape for higher education with a focus on Chile. We will visit three universities and gain specific knowledge of each but we must understand these in the context of the country and continent.

In searching for materials, I came across a book written in 2005 about Higher Education in Latin America. It is available online via The World Bank here. The book includes country specific information as well as general trends and challenges for Latin America. I recommend chapters 1, 2, 5 and 11. In preparation for our gathering on October 20, please review the chapters.

Pre-Trip Reading

Historic Image From "Tao of Travel"
Image courtesy of “Tao of Travel” by way of Henry Shukman’s NY Times review of the text. Click image to be redirected to the Shukman article.

During my daily perusal of all things Chile, I came upon this excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Chile & Easter Island guide. Relying upon images and captions the excerpt is quite brief, but still covers a good selection of pre-travel literature. Even a quick skim of a few pages will help perk your interest and bring your cultural/historical/political lens into better focus.

While I cannot speak to the literary quality narrative intrigue of each text, I am willing to personally vouch for Chatwin’s In Patagonia, any and all of Neruda’s poetry, and Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries (I must [somewhat sheepishly] admit this recommendation is based on my analysis of the film adaptation of the text [but it was a film that I taught in one of my classes;  to demonstrate my literary and academic credentials - given my review of other Guevara texts, I'm willing to help contextualize the flim/text a bit more]). In addition to the Lonely Planet list, I encourage you to hunt down a copy of Neruda’s Memoirs, Theroux’s Old Patagonia Express and The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road (not specifically focused on Chile, but a great read for travel enthusiasts, students of cultural mindfulness, or anyone planning/hoping to travel), as well as a dual-authored text from Chatwin and Theroux – Patagonia Revisited.

My first blog

So far blogging does not seem that hard.  It is almost like a journal or a diary where I get to share my thoughts with countless unknown people.  Why am I blogging?  Well, I have been give the opportunity to study higher education and research in Chile for a week in January 2012.  It is very exciting.  As I prepare for this adventure, I have been asked to blog.

My goal for this week was to search for faculty that are doing research similar to me.  We are going to spend a majority of time at Austral University.  Unfortunately, their website does not list the faculty and their research interests.  I have had to be creative in finding possible contacts.  I tried Endnote, narrowing my search with Chilean published journals.  I found some potentials for the University of Chile and the Catholic University, but I struck out on Austral.  I then tried google scholar and found an article co-authored by a VT graduate student.  I am going to contact her next to see if she can give me some good ideas.

I guess what I hope to gain from these faculty meetings is an opportunity to see how research is conducted in Chile and how it is similar and different to how we conduct research here.  I would also like to understand what topics are most relevant in research compared to the US.  For instance, obesity is a huge focus in the United States.  Would it be the same for Chile?  Lastly, I would like to learn more about their teaching load, funding requirements and service to the University.  How does it compare to the US?

My outcomes for the trip are to broaden my horizons and how I view higher education.  I want to experience a new culture and become a more global citizen in my professional and personal life.  –Angela

The Movement is Learning

After reading about about the most recent round of talks between government officials and the students in Chile who have been boycotting both high schools and universities for over five months . . .


. . . something impressive struck me:

It appears the global movement against neoliberal policies at all levels is learning from its previous mistakes.  What I am referring to here is largely based on my own experience of being deeply involved in the protests at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in 2008 (yep, the Obama year) and our experience in both Denver and Minneapolis (where the conventions were held) of promises being broken by the government.

The formula is in fact rather simple:  First, establish an event/movement that has the potential of pulling a diverse and motivated group of individuals who will be willing to commit for an indefinite period of time.  Second, stage an event of some sort with clear objectives beforehand that has as its goal putting the power structure in a position where it is forced to negotiate.  Third, execute and extract promises from individuals licensed to make a binding federal promise.

The problem is that for the past two decades (and one could argue, much longer) that has been the end of the formula and that this formula often ends in complete neglect of the promise.  The thought process of the State seems to be “diffuse the situation of thousands of motivated and organized people by promising them something a few weeks or months out, let them all go back to their lives, and then ignore the promise as there is no chance that the media, which is on “our” side, will call us out on our plain-faced lie.”

It appears, however–based not purely upon Chile but also upon the “Occupy Wall Street” campaign that is entering its third week in New York City, for example–that the movement is learning that a forth step is necessary.   In the article on Chile it is defined as “concrete action”–meaning that the movement itself will not stop its disruptions until AFTER the promise has been IMPLEMENTED.  Assuming that a movement has the momentum to sustain such an endeavor, this seems absolutely brilliant.

One other thoughts:

The “Occupy Wall Street” campaign has done something interesting that most people are just confused by but that I find strategically brilliant so long as the movement maintains its commitment to this stance.  When asked by the media “what are your goals” (this question is the first and last question that is ALWAYS asked of mobilized people) the movement has been replying in a unified voice “we are working on that, we will get back to you.”

You see, this question may just be the simple lever which often disarms otherwise well organized movements.  The reason for this is that once the answer to this question is “officially” given by the movement, the media is then enabled to mount its own full frontal assault on the “absurdity” of the movements objectives by sifting in through the lens of neoliberal rationality.

The point here is that the goal for movements in the twenty-first century is the disruption itself.  The systems which are being mobilized against (the entire educational system in Chile, the New York Stock Exchange/Wall Street institution in the USA) are literally impossible to unsettle via a concession here or a concession there.  In order to have the potential to bring about systemic change, which is what all post-Seattle movements are ultimately attempting to do, these institutions need to be disrupted over time and with changing tactics of disruption so that the State apparatus is unable to “fix in” on any particular mode of operation.

Movements of the twenty-first century need to add a forth step (at least).  It appears this might be happening on a global scale, which is heartening.