Killed for Being a Teacher – Mexico’s Corporate Education Reform


In Mexico, you can be killed for being a teacher.

Correction: you can be killed for being a teacher who opens her mouth and speaks her mind.

You can be killed, kidnapped, imprisoned – disappeared.

That’s what happened to approximately six people a week ago at a protest conducted by a teachers union in the southern state of Oaxaca.

The six (some of whom were teachers) were gunned down by police and as many as 100 more people were injured near the town of Nochixtlan, about 50 miles northwest of Oaxaca City.

Conflict between teachers and governments has become commonplace across the globe as austerity and neoliberalism have become the policies du jour. Tax cuts for the rich lead to shrinking public services. And investment in the next generation through public education becomes a thing of the past.

Even here in the United States, educators are taking to the streets to protest a system that refuses to help students – especially poor and minority students – while blaming all deficiencies on one of the only groups that actually show up to help: teachers.

Though in America educators have been ignored, unjustly fired and even arrested for such protests, the Mexican government has resorted to all out murder.

How did it come to this? Follow the trail backwards to its source.

The activists in Oaxaca were protesting because several union officials had been kidnapped by the government and unjustly imprisoned the previous weekend.

Those union officials were asking questions about the 2014 disappearance and alleged murder of 43 protesting student teachers by agents of the government.

These student teachers, in turn, were fighting incoming President Enrique Peña Nieto’s education reforms.

Specifically, Nieto threatened to fire tens of thousands of teachers by using their impoverished, neglected and under-resourced students’ test scores against them.

The government provides next to nothing to educate these kids. And just like officials in the U.S., Nieto wants to blame a situation he created on the people who volunteered to help fix it. It’s like an arsonist blaming a blaze on the fire department.

Why’s he doing it? Power. Pure power.

Poverty in Mexico is more widespread than it is even in its northern neighbor. This is because the most populace Spanish-speaking country in the world also has one of the most corrupt governments on the face of the Earth: A government in bed with the drug cartels. A government that has no interest in serving the people whom it pretends are its constituents.

Since before the Mexican Revolution in 1810, teachers have been the center of communities in impoverished neighborhoods empowering citizens to fight for their rights. These teachers learned how to fight for social justice at national teacher training schools, which Nieto proposes to shut down and allow anyone with a college degree in any subject to be a teacher.

Not only would this drastically reduce the quality of the nation’s educators, it would effectively silence the single largest political force against the President.

In short, this has nothing to do with fixing Mexico’s defunct public education system. It’s all about destroying a political foe.

The government does not have the best interests of the citizens at heart – especially the poor. The teachers do.

Though more violent than the conflict in the United States, the battle in Mexico is emblematic of the same fight teachers face here.

It remains to be seen how this southern conflict will affect us up north.

People have died – literally died – fighting against standardized testing, value added measures, school privatization and the deprofessionalization of teaching. Will this make Bill Gates, John King, Campbell Brown and other U.S. corporate education reformers more squeamish about pushing their own education agenda? After all, they are trying to sell stratagems that look almost exactly alike to Nieto’s. How long can they advocate for clearly fascist practices without acknowledging the blood on their own hands, too?

For our part, U.S. teachers, parents, students, and activists see the similarities. We see them here, in Puerto Rico, in Britain, in much of Europe, in Africa and throughout the world.

We see the violence in Mexico, and we stand with you. From sea to shinning sea, we’re calling for an end to the bloodshed.

The Network for Public Education has issued an urgent appeal to the Mexican government to stop the violence. Members of the Chicago Teachers Union have taken to the streets to protest in solidarity with their brothers and sisters south of the border.


We stand with you, Mexico.

We fight with you.

We bleed with you.

We are the same.

Peace and solidarity.

14 thoughts on “Killed for Being a Teacher – Mexico’s Corporate Education Reform

  1. Actually the legislation was about having the teachers take tests to see if they were qualified to teach. It has nothing to do with students taking tests.

    Apparently teaching positions in Mexico are often purchased or inherited. This is a step in the direction of having qualified teachers in the classroom, a goal that I am sure the readers of this blog support even though it will require the dismissal or training of unqualified teachers who are currently teaching.


    • Teaching economist, I’ll admit this is a very complex situation – perhaps more complex than I explained in this brief article. However, Mexican teachers already take tests in teaching training academies called The Normals in order to become teachers. Nieto’s legislation would stop that. Less qualified people would become teachers – not more qualified teachers. However, he wants people who are already teachers to prove they can stay in that position with a complex value added system including student test scores and teachers taking new exams. This will only increase turnover and destabilize the profession. As to inherited teaching positions, this is part of the government slander of the teacher’s union. They’re willing to murder protesters and you’re buying their propaganda. Their blood is on the streets. I find it hard to doubt their sincerity.


      • Steven,

        I don’t think that selling and inheriting teaching positions is part of government slander. It is a charge that has also been made on a post made by Dr. Ravitch, written by an independent researcher from Mexico currently have visiting scholar at NYU. Let me quote from the post:

        “At the heart of the Education Reform was the intention to disentangle old and opaque—sometimes very opaque—ways to hire and promote teachers. For decades teachers were hired and promoted with written and unwritten arrangements between the SNTE and the federal and local governments. It was part of the political reciprocal favors leaders in government (many of them politicians) and SNTE granted each other, for their own sake. Over the years, teachers learned and earned the right to sell or inherit their own “plazas” (teaching tenures.) This became almost a culture. There were some efforts, but limited to some states only, to change this “opaque” system for a new open and merit-based system. It was “ok” since many people benefited from it. Teachers were only accountable to leaders, SNTE and governmental (political-driven). One of the intentions of the Education Reform was to change that.”

        I think it is a great mistake to view public school systems around the world as always being devoted to teaching students. In many places, the public schools are a system of patronage used to funnel resources to political supporters.

        Link for the quote:


      • Teaching economist, there are so many conflicting reports and disinformation from Mexico it is hard to tell what is the truth. But I’ll take your point that the union is probably not perfect. I don’t see how they could be and still be so effective fighting the deeply corrupt Mexican government. However, I hope we can both agree that killing nonviolent protesters is unacceptable and I hope you will join me in asking for the government to stop the violence.


      • Steven,

        The union was not fighting the deeply corrupt government, the union was a pillar of support for the deeply corrupt government.

        We can certainly agree that violence is not the answer, but I would hold both sides to that standard.

        You might want to allow others to read my post. Otherwise they might not understand your post.


      • Teaching economist, all your comments are showing. I haven’t deleted any. Secondly, how can you possibly say that the union was supporting the Mexican government? Why would Nieto attack people who are supporting him? What was the union protesting in the first place if not the Nieto regime? You’re not making any sense. Yes, some members of the crowd became violent after they were attacked, but if you don’t allow peaceful revolution, you ensure violence. Didn’t JFK say something like that? Moreover, there is a big difference between the resources available to those protesters and armed police with riot gear.


    • Steven,

      Perhaps it is my browser, but this is what I see when I load you blog:

      “Your comment is awaiting moderation.


      Here is a report by NPR about a Mexican teacher strike in 2013 which states “It’s common practice for teachers in Mexico to buy and sell tenured positions.”


      The union is certainly protesting against the loss of power. After all, according to Dr. Ravitch’s post, the head of the teachers union, “…the most powerful of all of them, the leader of the SNTE, was some times dubbed as the “Mexican vice-president”.


      • Steven,

        I have checked it on multiple devices and my comment with the links to the NPR story and the Houston Chronicle story still says awaiting moderation. A flaw in WordPress perhaps?


  2. The corporate war against teachers’ unions in the U.S. has the same goal, to silence an organized and loud voice against the corruption that is at the center of the autocratic, opaque, and often fraudulent corporate war against community based, democratic, transparent, non-profit public education.

    For instance, the right to work laws that now exist in 26 states and are still spreading like a terminal cancer to other states is one of the weapons of the billionaire oligarchs to destroy any voice that speaks out against their greed based agendas.

    Right to work states end up with lower wages but voters who have been fooled with misleading propaganda keep supporting them against their own interests. The US republic is being hijacked with lies with help from the autocratic corporate media.


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