July 31, 2011

Making American teachers unions look good

From the LA Times, which in recent years has started to cover Mexico more, and more entertainingly:
By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Mexico City— The most powerful woman in Mexico carries $5,000 Hermes purses and can make or break a presidency. 
She's head of the nation's principal teachers union, the largest syndicate in Latin America, and once gave Hummers as gifts to loyal teachers. 
Elba Esther Gordillo commands the patronage of more than 1.5 million teachers, and in election years, that means more than 1.5 million votes. Almost every political party courts her. 
Yet scandal has forever dogged her, including accusations of illegal self-enrichment and even murder. No charges ever stuck, making her seem untouchable. Her union reportedly takes in millions in government money while she, once a humble teacher from Mexico's poorest south, lives much of the time in luxurious properties in Southern California. 
Gordillo's critics say her extravagances during 22 years as union president might not be so bothersome if the state of education in Mexico were not so abysmal. ...
Last year, slightly more than half of high school students flunked the math portion of standardized tests, while more than a third flunked Spanish. Mexican students scored the lowest reading levels of developed countries in the most recent survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Okay, but Mexico doesn't really belong in the OECD with Denmark, Canada, and Japan. It's more like Turkey or Brazil. And, its 2009 PISA scores were up over the previous PISA.

On the other hand, Mexicans in Mexico score a lot worse than Mexicans in the U.S. on the PISA. The thing that struck me the most about Mexico's lousy PISA scores was not the mediocre average but what a tiny percentage of Mexicans scored high. There are several times more students in Turkey who ace the PISA than in Mexico, which suggests that rich Mexicans, the ones who ought to be doing well on the test, are lazy, don't like reading and studying, and set a bad example for the Mexican masses.
Meanwhile, in 2010, 75% of teachers-in-training failed the exam that would have placed them in a job, and last year only 1% of working teachers passed a test that would have raised their salaries. ...
Gordillo is in the spotlight again because Mexico is in the throes of campaign fever, with a presidential election coming up next year. Her support was considered decisive in the 2006 narrow victory of Felipe Calderon and his conservative National Action Party; and today, she appears prepared to cast her lot, and her many votes, with the clear front-runner, the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

By the way, wouldn't the best thing for Mexico be a victory by a responsible leftist, like Lula in Brazil? It's not like the political climate in Mexico is so anti-business that nobody can get rich there (e.g., Carlos Slim). The left party has never won, having the 1988 election stolen and may have had the close 2006 election swiped, and wouldn't it be time for them to learn some responsibility by having to govern? However, that's just my gringo view and Mexican voters seem to want to go back to the old ruling party. Maybe there aren't responsible leftists in Mexico?
Gordillo, with her fondness for designer frocks, extreme jewelry and, apparently, abundant plastic surgery, was in fact a product of the PRI's old-style, autocratic type of rule, which lasted seven decades until 2000 and is poised now to return. The party controlled just about everything, including unions. Then-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari anointed Gordillo in 1989 as president of the National Syndicate of Education Workers, or SNTE, after she'd spent years as a tireless and fiercely loyal climber in the party and the union. 
In 2007, at a closed-door meeting protected by private guards, the union leadership purportedly made Gordillo "president for life." A dissident group of unionized teachers has been threatening ever since to denounce her to the International Labor Organization for abuse of office. ...
Gordillo, 66, calls herself and is widely known as La Maestra, The Teacher. In public speeches, however, she sometimes sounds more like a failing student than a polished educator, fumbling words and syntax.

My recollection is that some public school teaching jobs in Mexico have become a hereditary privilege. Talk about tenure: in Mexico, if you are a teacher and die, your heir gets your job. If your child doesn't want to teach, he or she can auction off the right to the job.

In general, Mexico is a pretty entertaining place to read about, but it doesn't get covered much in the U.S. in the English language media relative to, say, the Middle East. By the way, whatever happened to that whole Arab Spring thing? Did Summer happen to it?

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

Viva Mexico!

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing that this is our major source of immigration.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha. She looks like Chucky!

Anonymous said...

Why should Mexico have any responsible leftists. We don't seem to have any here. And personally, if I lived in Mexico, given how things have gone there since 2000, I'd be voting PRI

Anonymous said...

Teachers unions in the US support Democrats, which makes them a target for conservative attack, but I don't see what they do that makes them so bad.

I used to be skeptical of teachers unions until I heard Michelle Rhee give a speech. Teachers have the right organize, if anything, to defend themselves against flim flam artists like her who will come around and say "If you don't eliminate the achievement gap like I did at my school, you deserve to have your pay cut and your benefits slashed."

Education reformers have more or less succeeded in pushing through their agenda. It hasn't improved anything.

You of all people, Steve, should be wary of people claiming they have a proven technique that will close the achievement gap and fix inner city schools, but it's those damn cushy unionized teachers who are standing in the way.

Anonymous said...

If Palin becomes president, maybe she will move to... Canada(along with George Lopez).

Anonymous said...

Is this teacher's union or teacher's fiefdom?

Anonymous said...

Mexico needs an Amy Chuarez.

Anonymous said...

Tigre Madre than Y Tu Mama Tambien.

TH said...

There are several times more students in Turkey who ace the PISA than in Mexico, which suggests that rich Mexicans, the ones who ought to be doing well on the test, are lazy, don't like reading and studying, and set a bad example for the Mexican masses.

Could that be due to a sampling error, i.e. the kids of rich Mexicans attend private schools that did not participate in the PISA tests?

Anonymous said...

We say Mexicans are 'boring' but this is a great subject for a movie with elements of satire, morality play, tragedy, farce, etc.

Anonymous said...

There has to be a name for a woman like this who rises from the social bottom as a champion of the poor to the top and becomes a rich powerful woman... but still plays the "I'm a woman of the people" schtick. We had it in the US with guys like Huey Long, and it goes by the name of 'populism'. But the Latin variant--Eva Peron and this woman--just seems crazier.

On the one hand, maybe many poor Mexicans are disillusioned with her. Otoh, maybe they feel proud that 'one of us' made the big times and is playing with the big boys. Imelda Marcos played the same kind of game, but she was really good looking in her youth.

guest007 said...

I wonder if any the the leftist progressives, who keep claiming that if everyone was in an union things would be great, will ever read the article.

Steve Sailer said...

"There has to be a name for a woman like this who rises from the social bottom as a champion of the poor to the top and becomes a rich powerful woman," e.g., Eva Peron or Imelda Marcos.

Big Girl?

Anonymous said...

"responsible leftist, like Lula in Brazil?"

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight...Lula is the epitome of responsability. That is why he was drunk half the time and let his party pretty much use "emergency action" legislation to turn Brazil into a peroletarian dictatorship and kill all other political parties. In the case of Brazil, though, it doesen't really matter because you can't sink any further once you've reached rock bottom, and Brazil reached rock bottom decades ago.

Anonymous said...

Given the history of corruption in Mexico, it would be interesting to see the genetic profile of the top 10% vs the top 10% in some more functional countries like Chile or, uh, uh, ...

help me out here

Svigor said...

She's head of the nation's principal teachers union, the largest syndicate in Latin America, and once gave Hummers as gifts to loyal teachers.

That does sound pretty entertaining.

Anonymous said...

"Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight...Lula is the epitome of responsability. That is why he was drunk half the time and let his party pretty much use "emergency action" legislation to turn Brazil into a peroletarian dictatorship and kill all other political parties."


Wasn't Obama told by his doc to lay off the alcohol?

Ah, the parallels.

Svigor said...

Anon, I don't know about you, but I'd prefer government by nothing but drunks and drug addicts (real ones - none of this posing to get elected or appointed stuff). Once you realize what they have in mind you realize lower efficiency is better. In fact, can we look into cloning Hellen Keller?

Anonymous said...

Big Girl?

Chica Grande?

Chicaudillo?

Anonymous said...

"Teachers unions in the US support Democrats, which makes them a target for conservative attack, but I don't see what they do that makes them so bad."

They strongarm parents into paying them exorbitant wages to work 9 months a year doing something that has almost no effect on kids. Nature >>>>> nurture.

You still haven't figured this out?

Methinks we have a teachers' union concern troll...

Anonymous said...

This makes American Teacher's Union look good, but I'll bet this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrPPT8fN6u8&feature=player_embedded

makes Mexican schools look good.

Anonymous said...

The most powerful woman in Mexico carries $5,000 Hermes purses and can make or break a presidency.
She's head of the nation's principal teachers union, the largest syndicate in Latin America, and once gave Hummers as gifts to loyal teachers.
Elba Esther Gordillo commands the patronage of more than 1.5 million teachers, and in election years, that means more than 1.5 million votes. Almost every political party courts her.

now we see why the left is pro immigration.

Asher said...

I think I ate a Gordillo for lunch at the taco truck on Thursday. i thought it was pork, but I'm getting the sinking feeling it was tuna.

I would go to the Public Health clinic but everyone there only speaks Spanish.

Anonymous said...

Steve, ever think of a few posts on Mexico just to inform us ignorant Gringos?

For example, does Mexico have socialized medicine? How "left" is the Mexican left? How much of Mexico's prosperity is due to USA importing so many of Mexico's poor?

Did NAFTA destroy Mexico's Agriculture? What Happened to all those automobile plants that were going to be built there? And how rich is Mexico's middle class?

Trebonianus Gallus said...

My recollection is that some public school teaching jobs in Mexico have become a hereditary privilege. Talk about tenure: in Mexico, if you are a teacher and die, your heir gets your job. If your child doesn't want to teach, he or she can auction off the right to the job.

Actually, this is a pretty common pattern for comparatively primitive bureaucratic states. For instance, in Imperial Rome, there was a fixed list of people eligible for the grain dole in the city itself, and these places came to be viewed as the property of the current holder, who could bequeath or sell it. In Roman law, you find discussion of wills that provided for the purchase of such places for favored freedmen as a sort of annuity. So there's nothing particularly remarkable about this, except perhaps for what it says about the comparative level of government in MX,

Anonymous said...

"They strongarm parents into paying them exorbitant wages to work 9 months a year doing something that has almost no effect on kids. Nature >>>>> nurture."

Child care for 8 hours a day is a hell of a lot more expensive than what public schools cost taxpayers.

I'm just not all that outraged at the idea that schoolteachers should earn middle class salaries.

Every now and then I'll run into someone from a wealthy town in New Jersey where the property taxes are sky high and teachers earn six figures. Of course there are outliers.

In my city in California, the starting salary for teachers is around $40k, and you max out at around $80k with enough years on the job and a masters. It doesn't seem exorbitant.

"Methinks we have a teachers' union concern troll..."

Do you know what a concern troll is? That is when you pretend to agree with someone and then troll them with concerns about their methods.

I stated up front I don't have an issue with teachers unions. I would like Steve to express what exact problem he has with them, since he doesn't buy into the Michelle Rhee view of the world.

Anonymous said...

Wow. This is really something.

ATBOTL said...

Here in America, bashing teachers is being used as a way of avoiding talking about racial differences.

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

There has to be a name for a woman like this who rises from the social bottom as a champion of the poor to the top and becomes a rich powerful woman... but still plays the "I'm a woman of the people" schtick.

Hmm, some variant of "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps"?

Heel-strapper? High-heel strapper?

I am Lugash.

James Burke said...

"Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight...Lula is the epitome of responsability. That is why he was drunk half the time and let his party pretty much use "emergency action" legislation to turn Brazil into a peroletarian dictatorship and kill all other political parties."

And that demonstrates you know nothing whatsoever about Brazilian politics. The opposition gave the government a run for its money in the presidential elections last year, and still controls the most important state governments (a majority of GDP and population, in fact). Not only are "all other political parties" alive and kicking, they are proliferating. And I imagine your mention of "emergency action legislation" refers to a provision in the constitution: the President can pass decrees with the force of law (under certain conditions), but they will lose effect - retroactively - if they are not approved by Congress in three months. This institution has been abused by Lula, as it was by all his predecessors.

Anonymous said...

"Wow. This is really something."

I think we solved the puzzle of the Chupacabra.

Anonymous said...

http://satiralirica.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/elbac.jpg

Yikes. Now you know what kind of people carried out those Aztec human sacrifices. They still do it but in the name of education pyramid.

Anonymous said...

http://de10.com.mx/opinion/img/chucky-elba-esther-gordillo.jpg

Yikes. Hey boss, the PLAN, the PLAN.

She could be Robert Blake's mother.

Anonymous said...

http://www.swotti.com/tmp/swotti/cacheZWXIYSBLC3ROZXIGZ29YZGLSBG8=/imgElba%20Esther%20Gordillo3.jpg

Gordillo, the Mexican godzilla gorilla. What a perfect name. "Gordillo" should be the female version of caudillo.

She aint just a wise latina but a tough one.

She reminds me of a short squat Filipino gym teacher I had back in elementary school.

Jews have chutzpah. Gordillos of the world chupacabra.

Anonymous said...

"Wow. This is really something."

Thanks. THis is tickling me to no end. I mean... you can't make this stuff up!!

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAcpqN39Uc4 (Even if you don't know much Spanish, this is pretty self-explanatory.)

Anonymous said...

Hehe

Zippy said...

Is this a quirk of translation, or is "Institutional Revolutionary Party" an oxymoron?

Does that name make any sense at all?

neil craig said...

Interesting to see the rich and powerful of poorer counrties want to live in developed countries.

In the same way many of the Bollywood stars of Indian movies choose to live in Britain. Maybe they like the weather.

stari_momak said...

Whatever happened to our air war against Libya. There's an old screwball comedy called "Suppose they gave a war and nobody came" -- now we have "Suppose they gave a war and everyone forgot about it".

If fact, a lot of stuff in the Obama era is like the old acronym YAFAT (Yet anothe Forgotten Apple Technology)...its like YAFOI (yet another forgotten Obama Initiative) . Regime change in Libya, Recovery Summer, Shovel Ready projects to get the stout American workingman back on the job, etc etc.

K(yle) said...

That does sound pretty entertaining.

Sure does.
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hummer

Anonymous said...

I love her look. Someone should get her up here and have her lecture the grey ponytailed old hippies in the American teaching caste. The sight of them checking her out and wondering if she's their future would be hilarious.

BTW, I love it when they break down grades by race. That way when we get the obligitory - "The US is falling behind other developed countries..." lecture, we can just point out the non-NAM numbers and shut the whole conversation up.

TGGP said...

Surprised nobody has linked to this video from a Mexican school yet.

CJ said...

"Hahaha. She looks like Chucky!"

You weren't the first person to think that.