Friday, October 5, 2007

Updating Curriculum, Chavez Style

Venezuelan President vows to develop new mandatory curriculum for all schools

By Dan Lips

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recently announced plans for a new curriculum for all Venezuela schools. Criticizing the old school model as "colonial, capitalist, and soul-destroying," Chavez promised a new model: "We want to create our own ideology collectively." Private schools will also be forced to embrace the new curriculum and those that don't comply will be closed or nationalized.

Exactly what the new curriculum will contain remains unclear, but one can guess it will closely follow Chavez's ideology. The Associated Press recently obtained a copy of a Venezuelan university curriculum; it consisted of required readings from Karl Marx and Fidel Castro and history lessons praising Ernesto "Che" Guevara.

Americans witnessing Venezuela's drift toward totalitarianism should consider how fortunate we are to live in a free society. Yet we should also take a moment to evaluate our own public education system and consider the role that government plays in educating the next generation. For most American children, important decisions about how they will be educated are largely decided by government officials, not their parents.

Consider the problems that government control of education can cause. Reasonable people often disagree on how to handle controversial curriculum decisions, such as sex education, American history, or evolution. Many parents are helplessly left to send their child to a school that teaches values at odds with their own.

Universal school choice would address the problems of government-run education. We can only begin to imagine what types of innovative schools and learning models could be possible if all parents had the power to decide how their children are educated.

Dan Lips is education analyst at the Heritage Foundation and a senior fellow with the Goldwater Institute. A longer version of this article was featured in the Heritage Foundation's Education Notebook.

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