Guilty of Indoctrination?

Well, school is out here in PA as of a few days ago and I had an awesome year.  I taught some really great students this year in all levels.

But the reason I am reflecting is because at some point in each level, I get the chance to teach at least a little about Cuba.   In my level 4 class, which is an honors course, I have students who are Ivy League college-bound, so they are very apt to share their opinions and engage in debate, in Spanish.  This was the first year that I had so many questions about the situation in Cuba. Usually, kids don’t care.  

It’s hard for me not to get on my soapbox but I have to restrain myself because one year a parent emailed me that I was “indoctrinating” her child by discussing anti-communism in my class.  I recall responding that if by anti-communism indoctrination I was telling the students about how little Cubans are “given” to eat and describing the lack of freedoms Cubans have due to the government, then I was, indeed, guilty.  I offered for her to have her son excuse himself from any further discussion that he thought was indoctrination.  

But I digress.  I tried not to put my emotions into what I told them about Cuba and its suffering.  I tried not to color their decision about whether Castro has been “good” (gag) for the people or not. I just gave them the facts, including the literacy rate (and also informed them that they could only read what was not forbidden).  I explained the difference between an exile and an immigrant and how Cubans were and are perceived here in the states.  I even taught them a few Cuban words like San Guibin and picó. I did what I could within the confines of the curriculum.  

And you know what?  In spite of me just sticking to just statistics and facts I could back up and not being subjective, these kids got it.  They nodded in agreement and expressed shock at certain things. Nobody, like last year, chimed in that in the US we, too, have been opressed and “denied rights like privacy thanks to the Patriot Act.” It was genuine disbelief that people could be so oppressed just 90 miles away.  I showed them photos from therealcuba.com and I showed them Dr. Biscet’s photo. I explained to them why he was considered a dangerous man.  And I described his jail cell. Mouths dropped open.  The freshmen in one class peppered me with questions about Dr. Biscet.   I told them I did not have all the answers.   One of my freshmen asked me “When will Cubans be free?”  “Soon, I hope.” I told her.  “But when?” her friend asked.  “I don’t know exactly,” was all I could say.

So, in terms of my contribution to “indoctrinating” 123 teenagers this year about the evils of Castro, Inc, I guess some pinkos might say that I did exactly what I was saying that Castro does to his pioneers.  But as I see it, I gave my students something to think about, a reality check that not far from Florida, there is an entire population that cannot get internet in their houses, let alone their IPhones, that cannot afford a basic cell phone, that don’t have a closet full of Abercrombie and Fitch clothes.  I asked them to think about how lucky they are to live here and have the freedom to do things they take for granted. 

So, if what I did means I will be tried for indoctrination, get me a lawyer and make me a deal. I’m guilty as charged.

Below- my Freedom bulletin board with pictures of Marti, Biscet and as well as my Cambio poster. libertad

8 thoughts on “Guilty of Indoctrination?”

  1. Great job Claudia-and to the dingbat emailing parent as well as the teachers’ union: “Up your nose with a rubber hose!”

  2. Thanks everyone, I am proud to be among YOU.
    Omar- Shades of Vinnie Babarino! ROFL!!

    Mr. Mojito, three years ago, after already completing our unit on Cuba, (and we talked about Che AND the shirts) a kid came in with a Che shirt. I couldn’t believe it. I asked him why he was wearing it and he said “I dunno. Rage Against the Machine wears it.” I gave him my mom’s patented Sicilian stink eye but did not say anything and he quietly zipped up his sweatjacket over the shirt. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the report, Claudia! I’m a high school Spanish teacher, too, and frequently worry about teachers crossing the line and committing “indoctrination” versus “education.” However, my situation is such that I’m surrounded by “Che was a great man” liberals — including the Spanish level 5 colleague of mine. I wish she could hear my Cuban college professor tell of her escape during the era of the Mariel boat lifts. She had to leave because she is a Lesbian … one of Che’s “undesirables” for whom he created his concentration camps.

    What a great reply to that parent! Bravo!!!! ¡¡¡Bravísimo!!!! You are a teacher who does not indoctrinate her students, but rather it sounds like you invite open and frank discussion of all sides of an issue. THAT is one of our primary responsibilities as educators: to teach our students to research an issue from all angles and then independently form one’s own opinion. Sadly, too many of our profession in both primary and secondary schools are just as guilty of indoctrination as our college-level peers.

    Keep up the good work! Enjoy your well-deserved vacation!

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