Cuba: Being Educated So As Not To Be Free
March 23, 2015
HAVANA TIMES — A recent debate among friends stirred up something of a
thorny issue: did the crusade against illiteracy and the founding of
free schools and hospitals justify the sacrifices involved in the Cuban
Was an educational system that dished out "culture" for the masses,
omitting much of our national and universal heritage, a system that told
(and tells) us what to think and what to say worth our efforts?
I would love to be able to say that, at school, no sooner than we had
become politically mature, they told us and stressed that the fact of
having been born in the "first free country in the Americas" granted us:
- The right to life, liberty and personal integrity
- The right to travel freely around Cuba and choose our place of
residence anywhere in the country
- The right to leave this or any other country and return, without being
arbitrarily deprived of our nationality
- The right to be spared inhumane or degrading treatment
- The right not to be arbitrarily detained, imprisoned or banished
- The right to be free from attacks on our integrity or reputation
- The right to individual and collective property
- The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion
- The right to assembly and to form peaceful associations
- The right not to be harassed over our opinions
- The right to seek and receive information and opinions, and to divulge
these without any restrictions and through any form of communication.
But I can only attest to the fact they would repeat that we had to be
good students, loyal to the revolution and grateful to the socialist
Three decades later, when my son started going to school, his school was
repaired, like many others in the neighborhood of Alamar, and a large
sign reading "Thank you, Fidel!" was inscribed on all of their
This kind of forced gratefulness and collectivism, characterized by
unchanging (and sometimes aggressive) adjectives and slogans, moved by
an underlying paranoia and made up of half-truths, full-fledged lies and
whispered criticisms, was the world of my childhood.
When, in 2011, I walked by the offices of Paris' Le Monde journal, I
felt the kind of ease and freedom I have never felt at home, whenever I
pass by the offices of Granma newspaper, where guards in olive-green
uniforms keep watch over the entrance.
That what we are taught should be called "culture" is something quite
debatable. That the knowledge we received was worth giving up our right
to question and demand answers is also questionable. The price of free
education for all was a people able to read and write but illiterate
when it comes to the law, vastly unaware of its civil rights and afraid
to demand these.
Personally, I am unable to blot out the bad and see the good on its own.
I believe the intention behind an action determines its result in the
long run. Awakening, tearing the gag from our mouths (be it in public or
in the privacy of our homes), has been far too long and painful a
process, and it has disemboweled the country.
When I converse with young university students, I am surprised at their
lack of commitment towards Cuba. Trained in the art of the double
standard, they can justify their apathy with sophisticated arguments,
barely able to cover up their indifference towards the society they live
in and do not identify with. Their maxim is to get the most out of the
educational options at hand, in order to practice their profession
abroad. Many of those who chose careers such as medicine (having a
calling for it or not) aspire only to go work abroad and leave the country.
Like previous generations, who, thanks to the education received, became
professionals in the field of survival, they have only learned one thing
well: that, in the world where culture and health are offered us free of
charge, freedom tends to be the most expensive thing.
Source: Cuba: Being Educated So As Not To Be Free - Havana Times.org -