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I read with concern about an investigation of the Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui, who has accused President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto of plagiarism: nearly 30% of his Law Degree’ thesis. The journalist Aristegui said in her website AristeguiNoticias that the President plagiarized at least ten authors who were not cited or quoted in his work.
In recent cases of plagiarism in dissertations, the appropriation of other people’s ideas has been sufficient reason for dismissal or resignation. The scandal caused by the academic’ theft ended the career of top office members even several years after its publication, as it has been the case of Annette Schavan, former minister of education in Germany; also for Pal Schmitt, president of Hungary. Other cases such as the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who was accused in 2006 of plagiarizing his PhD thesis on natural resources by researchers at the Brookings Institute in Washington, had by the way no impact at the time.
It is very worrying that these past days the news about Peña Nieto’ plagiarism which surely will not have political repercussions. In relation to these, I’ve read on Twitter and other social networks that nowadays it is possible to hire someone to develop by order a thesis at the Mexican university. Paying it, of course. I felt shivery about.
Today it is not only about plagiarism, which is a crime of course. It is not only about the academia, but on education in Mexico, and the controversial education reform which is taking many consequences on security and public order, as we have seen in the media. One of the measures, the compulsory teacher evaluation, has led to serious clashes between teachers and the security forces. Most of the opposition to the reform has come from the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE). For months they are holding a strike against the administration, especially in the states of Oaxaca and Michoacán, two of the poorest in the country.
The Education law enforcement finishes with the incredible patronage practice for teachers’ distribution, even with hereditary seats. It is the main obstacle for trade union forces which until now, have controlled the education in southern Mexico, and they see their power threatened. These violent groups have launched a fierce offensive: airports’ assault, blocking roads and burning of electoral offices. They have subsequently directed their attacks on opponents and teachers who aside from their slogans. These incidents have caused serious violent deaths.
Enrique Graue, Rector of the UNAM, the largest university in Latin America and Mexico’ illustrated icon, has considered it an insufficient reform, as it is focused in the administrative procedures for hiring and supervising teachers, being it very necessary. Graue calls for a comprehensive review of the educational model, including the courses and contents taught in the classroom. Mexico, with half of its population in poverty, has one of the largest inequality gaps in the region’ income. It is the country which less public investment by student spends within the OECD, and as a result, it has one of the lowest rates in the international PISA index.
Education is perhaps the most important pillar for a nation’s development. Without investment in education, the population will not progress, nor the democracy. And it will increase the inequality gap. Currently only the Mexican elites enjoy the possibility to receive a good education, both nationally and in the best American universities.
The lack of education leads among other things, to the ignorance of the values that make a state to progress and democracy. I cannot understand how these teachers are publicly supported by some populist leaders who defend the equality and portrait themselves as very progressive, like Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO. He seems to wish to keep in ignorance to the less fortunate Mexican population, denying them the knowledge and therefore their development. Or is it precisely what he and others like him desire to continue to thrive in politics?
Without education there is no proper development or democracy. It is precisely the Mexican elites who must to commit in order to change that, like many years ago the European elites did. They have to get out of their comfortable security bubble and make a real commitment to their country. They have to elect serious leaders, enlightened, who not commit plagiarism and willing to work for the development of a geopolitically privileged status country, with many natural resources which any EU nation would envy. Mexico is a country of indescribable beauty which deserves to be among the first in the world.