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Speaking of Mexico. Radio television the University of Texas in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters presents speaking of Mexico. Dr Harold Benjamin is a distinguished professor of education and former dean of the School of Education University of Maryland. It is with great pleasure that we present Dr. Benjamin as he discusses Mexican education with Dr. George III songes professor of Latin American education the University of Texas. As you know Dr. Benjamin one of the things that interests me most about the development of education in Mexico. Are the things that were done by the Spaniards in the 16th century. Don't you
think that those those accomplishments were truly spectacular. Yes they were. Her sense is high. Agree with those people who say that Don Antonio Damon Dawes who was not only the first but also the greatest viceroy of the colonial regime in America. And I'm often wondered why in the 17th century colonial Spain dropped back from its great efforts in the 16th. That seems that seems a real puzzle doesn't it. Because here in the 16th century Spain was at the peak of its golden age. And then in the 17th century why the bottom apparently seems of dropped out in education in politics in almost everything. I think that one of the things that happened was that the that the great Humanists of the 16th century died out and were not replaced by the social
institutions that Izzy the Kings became reactionary fearful selfish instead of being generous as they had been. In the 16th century and before. Yes it certainly. I thought that's right that sounds to me like a very good explanation and of course they had the Spanish kings as they got more fearful and kept getting worried more and more about people having liberal ideas and new ideas. Sometimes seems is all Spain was deliberately preparing from the bob years 16:00 for eighteen hundred and ten for the Grito of the adult to go. That's right. The it seems like they they all their feet were left feet. He had her during that period because in the 16th century as we know they had some tremendous tremendously liberal fellows.
Well like you mentioned the first Viceroy andone of them in Dawson They had some clergy that were truly liberal bishops must be the key to all that for example who who put Thomas Moore Moore's Utopia into practice. And so one one could name a host of really distinguished liberal thinkers who were operating in Mexico. He has a Stern machine that there with the whole way through a long period of repression and still by the time of the revolution he was Don't hand some very great priests helping lead the revolution. Well Miguel you've got a week or so of course is the outstanding illustration of a great liberal who was influenced by the philosophy of the French philosophers. That's one of the reasons he got kicked out sent out to the sticks you know. Yes he was thought of the cause as an equal level of peaceful and highly educated man
a very very sound philosopher. And it's because he he had that liberal philosophy that he picked up from the French that he got demoted sent out to the sticks and there he started his revolution. It was men like him some of the other priests who were leaders in education who prepared a way for the liberal education of people like Benito Juarez and his associates. That's right. You know one of the interesting things is that today the oldest in my estimation the oldest institution of higher learning in the New World was founded by Bishop. The key to all this in 15 40 had what is now part squirrel and that institution has been the fountain head of liberalism in Mexico on up through the present time. And many of his lieutenants were
graduates of this institution. And it was. Father read that a little was president or at the door of that college when he was demoted. So some of those old 16 century schools that persisted in their humanism and in their liberalism produce the fellows had joined Whitey's in the reforms in the middle of the 19th century. Yes that's a very I'm glad they got that and an explanation I didn't know the details like you do Dr. Sanchez but in my recent work of the last two and a half years I have been visiting many Latin American countries in fact all of them. And I become more and more impressed by the obvious fact that since the revolution of 1910 11 started. Mexico has not turned back other countries every once in a while
turning back into an era of reaction but educationally in Mexico has moved right ahead. For now all I half century and I think a good deal of that is due to a basic liberalism that permeated the masses of the people from way back in the 16th century that was dormant and suppressed during the balance of the colonial period and even during the 19th century. But it was there nonetheless. And so when they had a revolution it was a truly popular revolution. It was a revolution of the masses. And therefore governments haven't dared regress. They have the been they know that these people will explode again. Well we have to give credit and I suppose most of us do do they.
Very different fact in Mexico that these people are much more Indian and they are in most other countries and they are descendants from very able Indian groups Indian groups that were intelligent and vigorous were courageous people and they haven't lost that fight. I have been an admirer of various of the Indian peoples of Mexico but my favorites have always been the my eyes and I have recently done a small book on the mathematics of the Maya is there tremendously advanced. They had a concept for zero. Long before Europeans had a concept for zero they predicted eclipses of the moon and so on. Yes the my the Toltec civilization the all of my civilization they were very advanced peoples and that may account just inconsiderable part for
this tenacity of the Mexican Indian and the misdeeds of family farms in large part for for reform for change for progress. What I am very glad to hear about that new book I have seen it but I'm going to read it now because I. Have been myself bothered by the fact that even in histories of mathematics and credit will be given to some unknown Hindu mathematician who discovered zero when it's very clear that long before the Hindus had zero The Mayans had developed the idea. That's right that's right and they had a symbol for it took that symbol and they used it. They use it as a place is that's right and one can dual very complex Well any kind of arithmetic with the Maya symbols that. That is the discovery that I set forth in this book. Well the ending however many people have made the mistake of thinking
that the revolution of 1910 in Mexico was an Indian revolution. In fact some of our friends authorities in the field have said that but I think we're all pretty well agreed no. But the revolution in Mexico in 1910 was a misty social revolution and Misty's revolution and it's this new people this blend of Europeans and Indians of various civilizations that brought about the 910 revolution. And I think that they're the ones who have inspired the direction in which education has taken since the end of the revolution which was approximately 19 20. Well I mean that certainly sounds very reasonable. Dr. Voss go on sale it was not an Indian.
No more. And other great names did you notify it I made it. Yes I did love me a wonderful man is a wonderful man and he and I were delegates to the nineteen thirty four injure American education conference in Santiago Chile is that cell. He was a really great man and really the really the the founder of her present day rural education in Mexico he says science of course you know there are mirrors was an Indian wasn't a very nice diesel you know very very Indian mystique. Yes yes very much soul and a very seemingly moral individual that Indian characteristic of seeming. Seeming to be morose but he wasn't he was a delightful chap.
Yes I know that but he didn't have any of those Latin characteristics of billions. That's right that's right. Well the way the program in rural education which those fellows started back in 19 or 21 really has grown enormously hasn't it. Yes and it's the most impressive rural education program in the world today I would say is this Do what you say is the most impressive. I would say they Mexican education program is the most is the most impressive one in the world because everywhere else in the world they have a certain amount of ambivalence in their rural education programs there. They're trying to make it rural in one hand and the other hand trying to copy imitate the urban school system. Yes that's what has happened in several Latin American countries where they have actually have destroyed rural education that is right of that.
But in Mexico no. At least as far as I've observed since 1921 it's never been ambivalent. It's not in the rural education bread right straight down the line. Yes and I think that one of the institutions most responsible for that of course is the cultural mission. And as we know if I me this was the first head of a cultural mission in Mexico all those cultural missions to me are fascinating. They had a great influence in their own right and then they influenced the whole teacher training program of the country so that the normal schools all over the country are in effect. Stationary cultural missions. Yes. And they they are multiplying the normal schools. Well I would hand over fist so to speak because now trying to keep up. First of all try to make up for the deficiencies of the past and then trying to catch up with a rapidly growing population and
a rapidly increasing need for more schools. I was reading some statistics the other day. Excuse me these statistics showed that Mexico Mexico's population of 1950 would be doubled by nineteen eighty one having a population explosion there that is very very serious. Not as great as that of Venezuela but still a very very high rate of population increase. That's true along with that is an even greater increase in university in Rome. And when you see a country that is relatively poor and is held down economically by a tremendous population explosion and see them at the same time putting a larger and larger percentage of very young people of university age into university use then you see a country that's on its way up intellectually.
One of the big problems I think that Mexico faces today is. Technical Education at the lower levels because at the university level technical education in Mexico is very good. The National Technical Technological Institute the Technological Institute at Monterey and so on those and the various technical faculties of the universities are turning out really outstanding experts for the top level positions where their weakness seems to be is in the production of the corporals and sergeants and second lieutenants to operate in industry. Well I think that's right but there are a number of these new state universities and I'm sure you know Dr. Sanchez that do have technical institutes of secondary school grade with them.
And there is one development in development in Venezuela that you're familiar with I know where they are setting up university faculty and then technical school of secondary school grade along with the fact of a so they get the two of them working together. Mexico is doing something of that sort and some of its new state universities. I think that if they had started that that program sooner Mexico would be in a far better position economically now to meet these increasing demands if the demands of industry and the demands for more schools are what and one of the fascinating jobs in education now is the in-service program the institute the Nasi and I have the capacity to see on that in my case this deal is an extension university or an extension Normal School of one wants to call it. And they have
thousands of people enrolled in summer classes in the week and extension classes and in correspondence courses improving the level of the teaching profession all over the nation. This is the kind of development that happens in a country only when it gets WAY beyond a first second and third levels. Countries that begin to develop that kind of extension program are almost all was moving right up on the fourth level of development. It doesn't happen in most parts of the world and in Mexico they're doing more of that than any other country in Latin America. And we have to remember the tool that Mexico is fundamentally a very poor country right very poor. And the national product is about one tenth what
it is in the United States per capita and still it is making this phenomenal progress with these very limited resources. Let's see 22 percent of the national budget is appropriated for public education. That's not counting the appropriations by the states. That's a very heavy heavy appropriates one of the heaviest. It's one of the heaviest in the world. And I think it is the heaviest in the Western Hemisphere probably and I believe that's right. They and the Mexicans I believe have discovered a principle which advanced countries always come to discover more or less and that is that the only resource that needs to be developed in order to have a great economic development is the resource of your people.
You develop your people sufficiently You can have very poor land and very poor resources and of course Mexico has some great material resources but her greatest resource are these people and she's developing these people with this tremendous emphasis on education. Yes and that and that is the amazing thing. In certain phases of the history of some of the Latin American countries that the founders of the modern republics of Latin America those fellows most of them recognized that they really believed that to have a truly democratic republican form of government that like Thomas Jefferson said the citizenry had to be educated and in Venezuela the simón bolívar out and resurvey you and the others stood for that. But their ideas were not applied in those countries. They were neglected even though later they had the resources
and in some of them some of the other countries they've never have been applied. I think it all harks back to that a fact that in some of those countries where they had the original idea they were led astray after the false notion. Which I think all professional educators recognize that education consists in giving facts to the people and just giving them information when actually in a country like Mexico all was recognized from the beginning that the first thing had to do was to change the key attitudes of the people and if you change their key attitudes then they get the facts they need they acquire the skills they need. But if you just starting giving them facts and skills about changing their attitudes you get all sorts of difficulties such we had such as we have in many Latin American countries today. If I have an amicus was fond of saying and he said it many times and in
writing and otherwise that the principal function of the Mexican school was to cultivate culture. That reading writing and arithmetic were useful instruments. But that the real purpose was the cultivation of culture and the Mexican school and more especially the Mexican rural school has has followed that social philosophy of education very very consistently and very successfully. That's right and that is I think one of the most important things that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization did was just that. It's a training center in Mexico in the very town where that you have mentioned here where it's about all great liberal
notions of again and you have stuck to this liberal notion of education as being a development of as Dr. Mary said the culture of the people the development of the people themselves. The current secretary of education in Mexico Jaime taught as well that as you know I was director of U.S. school for how many years several years I'm thinking eight eight years about reviews. He had been secretary of education in Mexico prior to being director of U.S. school. Yes sir and Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Secretary of Foreign Affairs. A tremendously able fellow writer and a humanist. That's right a real humanist a real fine person. The University of Texas joined the University of New Mexico back around 1940 tool in conferring honorary degrees on several Mexican intellectuals at the University of New Mexico all because
University of Texas does not confer honorary degrees. And one of the people honored was taught as well that when I heard he has an honorary doctorate from an American university very I mean we here at the University of Texas are of course understandably tremendously interested in Mexico and and in the Mexican education of course we have here as you know a truly outstanding Latin American collection in our library and we have certainly one of the best. Mexican collections in the entire United States and compares very favorably with what exists in Mexico rhino and in department after department at least the ones I know anything about. I would drink the University of Texas at the very top in comparative education I know that you're too modest to have me do more than
just mention the name of George sensors and history here you had under the leadership of the great Charles Wilson Hackett. If you had the development of this university as the top place for studying Latin American education and there are two or three other universities in the country like Harvard University of California that have strong Latin American program University of Michigan. But if a student is going to study education society's sociology history geography. Certainly have Mexico all this is the North American University to get his doctorate and thank you for saying so Ollie. We are proud of our resources here. We have a good many members on the staff who have specialized in various phases of life in Latin America and
particularly Mexico and a great deal of writing has emanated from this university. We are looking forward to a great deal of closer cooperation and a certain coordination of efforts with the Latin I mean Mexican institution especially we already have some cooperative projects with the Mexican institutions. It's very it's very interesting there's very stunning developments of education in Mexico all of that. And I'm not so sure of I noticed in the you know in Mexico City. When development of a four year college in Mexico City College which is a sort of an imitation of a North American College and I wondered what use that kind of institution was invented to go that well. You remember that that was the original American school. Yes and it was
intended to offer both to us American children and Mexican children a US American type of education. So and it started off as an elementary and secondary school then it eventually developed into a college. But it is serving the purpose which it set out to serve that is setting up to offer both Mexicans and us Americans a chance to get in Mexico City an American type education. It's a private institution. And I think Dr. Murray is director of the institution now and it draws a good many students from here. I want Texas to go down there because I don't have a thing. I just assumed that student in Mexico all. Should use the opportunity to study at the National Autonomous University of Mexico or the Technological Institute.
I would think so too. We have in the past week several summers we had cooperative faculty use in the summer session of the National Autonomy's University and co-operative into the Latin American studies would send some of us and we'd be members of the summarization faculty down there teaching alongside our Mexican colleagues in various fields and those summer sessions are almost exclusively for students from the United States. Ah yes. Well it really has been a pleasure conversing with you again Dr. Benjamin and this topic I know we could talk on for many many more minutes. Well it's a great honor to me to be invited again to the University of Texas. And I appreciate the hospitality and clothing the chance to talk with you on a subject that you know so much more about than anybody else. Oh thank you very guy for saying that. This has been Mexican education with Dr. Harold Benjamin a distinguished
Speaking of Mexico: English
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This series discusses issues related to Mexican life, government, and culture. This is the English-language version of Speaking Of Mexico.
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Chicago: “Speaking of Mexico: English ; 3,” 1962-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 5, 2021,
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APA: Speaking of Mexico: English ; 3. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from