An Open Letter to the Students of Spain

Dear Spanish Students,

Today, for the third day in a row, you won’t be at school because you’re on strike.

Now, when I applied to teach in Spain, I thought surely there won’t be any strikes at elementary or high schools in Spain because I sure had enough of that while I was in Chile.  Well, you have proven me wrong (or more likely, ill-informed).

You are on strike because you want “educación pública de todos para todos” –public education from all, for all.  I fully support you in your quest for better-funded, more equal public education.  I love learning and I love school and I want it for everyone- just as much or more than you do.

But you can’t just stay home from school for three days because that’s what your friends or teachers are doing, or because you want to sleep in, or stroll around town with your boyfriend (yeah, I saw you on Tuesday).  Sorry, but I don’t think that’s going to change anything.

To the sparky thirteen year old boy who told me, “This is what I’m doing tomorrow.  First hour, Playstation 3.  Second hour, Playstation 3.  Recess.  Third hour, Playstation 3…” – you really don’t get it, do you?!?

This whole public education debacle is a REALLY BIG DEAL for your country.  There was a dictatorship here in the 1940s.  And it deeply affected the public education system.  There was censorship in the classroom and marked inequality between the poor and rich, educated and uneducated.  This is what your teachers are fighting against.  They want for you to be able to pursue a college education- even if your family doesn’t have the money to pay for it.  They want a Spanish education system that reduces the effects of socioeconomic inequality instead of exacerbating them.  They want the local communities to have a voice in the school system.

What I’m trying to tell you is this:

If you’re going to go on strike, please know why you are striking.

It’s not because “I have physics test today, so I need to rest tomorrow.”

“I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer (neither is a shrug or blank stare).

I think being political active is really commendable.  In the United States, we often take our freedoms for granted, so we don’t always utilize them to their full advantage.  I want to be able to go home and tell everyone how awesome you are.  I want to be able to tell my friends about the students in Spain who are making positive changes to the education system.

So I encourage you to think about why you’re on strike today.  Really think about it.  Read a little bit about what school was like under Franco.  Go to a protest.   Ask your parents some tough questions.  And strike on.

See you in class tomorrow.

– Tessa



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