The Issue of Inequality, Education and Voting

The State of the Union address that President Obama read this week before both U.S. legislative chambers was a piece of political mastery designed to convert the defeat his party experienced in November at the hands of the electorate into a banner of social programs that he will brandish for the two years he has left in office.

Obama’s message contained just the right ingredients to achieve his goal. He spoke of the economy’s slow but steady growth rate and rate of employment in lower-level jobs. The number of higher-level jobs has fallen to some extent. He alluded to the fact that control of macroeconomic parameters had been maintained.

The United States is far from a 3.5 percent growth rate. It has not recovered from the recession that began in 2007 and the gross national product per capita is $53,888, which is only slightly more than the $53,440 at the onset of the recession.

A key element of Barack Obama’s speech was marked by the attention he gave to higher education. Millions of Americans require a certain level of practical instruction, albeit a low one.

Obama promised to create legislation that would strengthen community colleges, which currently have 6 million students, offering diplomas in mid-level professions. Part of the program involves reducing or even eliminating community college tuition fees.

By 2020, he promised to inject a further $5 million into community colleges — a sector that must connect with businesses in the same way as in Germany’s “school-industry” system. The aim is to create a workforce that will put the country in a leading position on an international level by 2020.

The world shares Obama’s worries, but here in Mexico, we are concerned about the growing economic inequality from which we are suffering. We have found no solution to the serious fallacies in our education system, which we all know are at the root of the problem.

Outraged, we reject the criminal loss of schooling caused by the disorder into which the entire Mexican education system has fallen, and the consequent waste of decades of schooling that cannot be recovered due to the institutionalized political corruption that has rendered the teaching profession useless.

Private schools and universities, with their international tuition fees, offer cold financing systems that are simply financial “products” offered to students, or their parents, with the same commercial financing criteria used to promote the sale of cars.

The problem with the education system is partly inseparable with the social gaps that crop up in almost every country, lining the streets with individuals that have no chance of gaining employment with a decent standard of living. The youth of the world are reacting with violent and destructive vengeance.

Our electoral season is nearing. Each of us is part of an electorate of more than 83 million people. Its dimension locates us between the biggest electoral democracies in the world, but we must realize the task before us of creating effective and participative democracy. And the first phase of this — the polling — has only just begun. Those who hold public positions in any of the branches of government, be it legislative or executive, essentially do so thanks to the votes that we cast during the elections which, aside from the odd exception, are generally respected.

Over the last two years, have we, the registered voters, not accumulated enough experience and awareness, as well as a realistic outlook or simply self-interest, to finally use our right to vote responsibly and wisely? Will we be able to optimistically await the united national development at all levels that will come from the responsible use of our vote this coming June 7?

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