September 18, 2007 in Nation/World

Chavez targets classrooms

Sandra Sierra Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Students participate during a January math class at a Bolivarian school in Caracas. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez threatened Monday to take over any private schools refusing to submit to the oversight of his socialist government, a move some Venezuelans fear will impose leftist ideology in the classroom.

All Venezuelan schools, both public and private, must submit to state inspectors enforcing the new educational system. Those that refuse will be closed and nationalized, Chavez said.

A new curriculum will be phased in during this school year, and new textbooks are being developed to help educate “the new citizen,” added Chavez’s brother and education minister, Adan Chavez, in their televised ceremony on the first day of classes.

One college-level syllabus shows some premedical students already have a recommended reading list including Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” and Fidel Castro’s speeches, alongside traditional subjects like biology and chemistry.

The syllabus also includes quotations from Chavez and urges students to learn about slain revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Colombian rebel chief Manuel Marulanda, whose leftist guerrillas are considered a terrorist group by Colombia, the U.S. and European Union.

Critics worry that primary and secondary schoolchildren will be indoctrinated as well.

Chavez’s efforts to spread ideology throughout society is “typical of communist regimes at the beginning” in Russia, China and Cuba – and is aimed at “imposing a sole, singular vision,” sociologist Antonio Cova said.

But Adan Chavez said the goal is to develop “critical thinking,” not to impose a philosophy.

Chavez said previous Venezuelan educational systems carried their own ideology. Leafing through old texts from the 1970s during his speech, he pointed out how they referred to Venezuela’s “discovery” by Europeans.

“They taught us to admire Christopher Columbus and Superman,” Chavez said.

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