Corruption Among Teachers and Students in a Mexican High School

I learned an unfortunate truth in July. It appears that some Mexican high schools train their students in corruption.

I recently attended the high school graduation of one of my acquaintances here in Cuernavaca. I was sitting next to her mother and was quite surprised by the commentary that she made to me quietly as we watched the proceedings. The ceremony was punctuated by exclamations on a topic I previously would never have connected with high school graduations, corruption.

She mentioned how this student had to pay 200 pesos to a certain teacher to keep her “A” average. How that one, who was receiving academic honors had flunked physics, and habitually skipped classes, but was the grand daughter of the Vice-principle.

It got really hard for me to sit still when she explained how the teacher who was making a speech full of words like “integrity,” “honor,” and “morals” had asked for 150 pesos from her daughter to pass a class for which she had done all of the homework and attended all of the classes. She went on to explain that the Vice-principle had told them to “save their money,” she herself would “erase the grade and put in a good one.” There was no talk of suspension or firing.

I looked at the folding chairs packed with young people clad in the traditional black robes and mortar boards of graduations and felt like her education was made a joke. All those young people were sitting there, looking at the podium, listening to hypocritical effluent. What were they thinking? At the very least, they were getting the message that corruption is normal operating procedure for life.

Something that had previously confused me began to make sense. When she had come over to our house to do the homework that involved the internet, I had been surprised at the simplicity of the assignments. All that had been required was to get on the internet, print out something, and turn it in. No wonder. Her teachers have no idea what an education is.

Not only were some of her classmates buying their grades, but the whole level of her education had been compromised by low expectations. Why would a teacher bother to create good, thought-provoking assignments if all he or she wanted was to charge money at the end of the semester for good grades?

It made me think back on my own graduation from high school. Sure, I felt nervous about the college years that were ahead of me, but I definitely felt that I and my fellow students had actually finished high school. I would have been shocked to hear that one of my classmates had paid to pass a class. More importantly, I had actually applied myself, done research, worked out trigonometry problems, and written chemistry reports. The work I did in high school that earned me the right to sit on the gymnasium floor in a folding chair, dressed in a black gown and mortar board with tassel did prepare me for college.

This young woman, on the other hand, is not prepared. She plans to move to the U.S. but I seriously doubt that she has the skills required to make it. If she can stick out the necessary English classes, I’ll be surprised. If she does start community college, how will she formulate and report her own opinions on a research project? How will she find answers to questions when certain concepts don’t become clear during class?

Certainly the majority of teachers and students with whom I have worked as an English as a foreign language teacher in Mexico are honest, but as I watched I became deeply disturbed. I felt like walking out of the ceremony in disgust. Is this the future that Mexico is preparing for itself? A set of young people who accept corruption at all levels, who believe that they have benefited from it, and have no idea how deeply it has handicapped them. – jt

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