Thank God that I was in Dallas rather than Mexico City last Friday. The teachers' union decided to destroy whatever little reputation they have left. They blocked the major avenues to the airport making everybody angry, as reported in The NY Times:
"A radical teachers' group mobilized thousands of members in Mexico City last week, chasing lawmakers from their chambers, occupying the city's historic central square, blocking access to hotels and the international airport, and threatening to bring an already congested city to a halt in the coming days."
It was so interesting to watch the reaction of citizens on Mexico City TV. There was no sympathy from the people in the streets. Merchants were furious! Even a bride all dressed up for her wedding got caught up in the traffic jam.
One lady said "this is too much. I no longer respect the teachers."
Another man said: "They don't own the streets. They belong to all of us".
What are the teachers complaining about? The answer is reforms, not too different from the reforms that many of us would like to see in public education in the US.
President Pena-Nieto, a man who could teach President Obama a thing or two about leadership, wants to reform public education in Mexico:
"Mr. Peña Nieto had focused on the public education system because he and analysts have called it vital to moving more people into the middle class. Mexico ranks last in standardized test scores among the countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Teachers buy, sell or inherit positions as though they were family heirlooms. Removing poorly performing teachers is virtually impossible, even over allegations of sexual or substance abuse."
As everybody knows, Mexicans have a two-tier education system. The rich, middle class and anyone who can get a scholarship sends their children to private or religious schools. The rest, specially the lower middle classes, are forced to attend schools incapable of preparing them for the international economy that Mexico competes in.
As a Mexican friend told me: "The private schools are in the business of educating kids. The public schools are about guaranteeing lifetime jobs"!
President Pena-Nieto understands that Mexico will always be a 3rd world country as long as the state is managing energy and the unions are running education.
Let's congratulate President Pena-Nieto for taking on "sacred cows", such as public teachers' union and the energy monopoly.
It will be difficult, as we saw in the aforementioned spectacle at the airport on Friday. However, leadership is about making tough decisions, such as tackling one of your party's favorite groups.
What a contrast.
In Mexico, President Pena Nieto puts the kids over the teachers' union that contributed to his campaign.
In the US, President Obama puts the teachers' union that contributed to his campaign over the kids.