Thus Catholic education policies in Mexico had a double goal. The first policy was only temporary. It aimed to educate the Catholic children as well as possible within the revolutionary framework. If necessary, the Catholics would operate their schools according to Mexican law. They would constantly strive to undermine the law, however, ignoring it, if possible, reforming it by legal means, if the government would permit. But the long-range policy, consonant with the Catholic policy of education, was more exclusive, demanding nothing less than clerical domination of all education in Mexico. The Catholics, then, under Obregón and later under Calles, blew both hot and cold, demanding religious tolerance and freedom of education for themselves against the exclusive educational activities of the Revolution, and, at the same time, working toward the final goal of Catholicism – an education that would be entirely Christian, entirely controlled by the Church, with no tolerance for secular or non-Catholic schools. The second policy represented the true aim of the Church. It would be uncompromising in its attitude toward the Revolution: it was basically antagonistic to the Revolution’s aspirations and was entirely incompatible with the revolutionary demands for an actively secular, antireligious educational system. It was at once apparent that there could be no conciliation, no compromise between these two extremes. The revolutionary and Catholic goals were inevitably and eternally exclusive.
– pgs. 120, 121, THE MEXICAN REVOLUTION AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH 1910-1929, by Robert E. Quirk, Indiana University Press, 1973
When this newspaper became the leading newspaper in Belize in 1981, against many odds, my personal power at #3304 Partridge Street was unchallenged. There was no radio station, no television station, no library on Partridge. All my children were in school. Today, my children run things back here.
All my children went to religious schools, mostly Roman Catholic, but also Anglican, Methodist, and some Grace Primary. That is with the exception of some four years Mose spent finishing high school and doing Sixth Form at Belize Technical College.
I did not try to steer any of my children into my personal perspectives and philosophies, the reason being that I did not want any of them to experience the punishments in adult life which I did. There were years in the 1970s when Belize battered and humiliated me.
I would say that my opinions today are pretty similar to what my opinions were in 1969. I understand that a few centuries ago the Europeans, in Belizeans’ case those Europeans were British and Spanish, sailed out from Europe into Africa and America. They encountered Africans and Maya, and they conquered these native peoples with murderous violence. Having subjected native peoples with force, the Europeans imposed on our ancestors their various Christian religions – Anglican, Roman Catholic, and so on and so forth.
Essentially, the status quo which was established more than five centuries ago when Europe invaded Africa and America, that status quo has not changed. Europeans still hold the advantage of military firepower over Africans and Native Americans, and we African and Maya people practice the Christian religions which the Europeans had said that we needed in order to “civilize” us.
In 2015, almost every single Belizean child will enter a school at 3 or 4 wherein he will be instructed in Christian precepts. That is because the schools in Belize, overall, are controlled by the same churches in whose name the European conquerors had come centuries ago.
Although most human beings today believe that human beings should not be subjects of other human beings, that all human beings should be free, and that all human beings have the right to fight for liberation when they are being oppressed, the schools in which our children spend most of their days when they are being molded intellectually, are not dedicated to liberation and human justice, but are focused on the salvation of the eternal soul.
When I declared publicly in 1969 that the church schools in Belize must be mandated by the people of Belize to teach Belizean children the history of our African and Maya ancestors, I knew that this was a very, very difficult mission. Any educational mandate had to come from the elected leaders of Belize, but the vast majority of the voters of Belize had been schooled in an education system constructed and controlled, ultimately, by Europeans. No Belizean could be elected to office who did not submit to the church-state status quo in education, because the voters who elected such leaders were faithful products of that church-state status quo.
I remember that when I was growing up in Belize, Belizean parents were almost obsessed with having their children get a better education so that those children could reach a higher socio-economic level than they, the parents, had. The educators in Belize, and, to repeat, they were Christian educators, had awesome power. If a child ran into any kind of problem with those educators, his or her parents would invariably support the educators. That was how it was when I was growing up in Belize.
Those children with whom I went to school who were able to reach high school and Sixth Form and university level, generally achieved personal success, both in Belize and abroad. I did not expect any of them to support my 1969 call for African and Maya history. Their loyalty to their educators was absolute. I did expect, however, that as the years went along, they would grow to understand that call.
Well now, here we are in 2015 and not that much has changed. There have been attempts at change, spearheaded by the Said Musa PUP government in 1998, and recently endorsed by the same St. John’s College I had believed to be the most hostile institution back in 1969. But, by and large, the mission of African and Maya history has not been accomplished.
A part of the problem is how far would we go with such history. When European education was first offered to native Africans and Americans, it involved a makeover of the native children insofar as their clothing, language, culture, and values were concerned. The children were to become African and American versions of Europeans. It was accepted that Europe was the fountainhead of all things superior, and that our African and Maya civilizations were inferior. Because we were inferior, we apparently deserved to have been conquered. For us to achieve, then, we needed to make a change. We had to become European.
I think that many Belizeans of my generation believe that how it was, was how it had to be. There is evidence, it seems to me, which indicates that our education system, while producing some winners, has produced too many losers. In the last quarter century, the many losers are murdered and incarcerated in the evening news on an almost daily basis. There are Belizeans of my generation who have turned their heads and have pretended that they did not see.
The problem is deeper that just selfishness or greed. It must be that successful Belizeans believe that the masses of us Belizeans are inferior in some way. They refuse to recognize that there is a process of willful, malicious degradation taking place which is orchestrated. It must be that they believe that the fault lies in our Belizean selves, that we are underlings.
The power of the imperialist reality is terrifying. I can’t judge you if you submit to that imperialist reality. Myself, I was not brave enough to fight this to the bitter end. Perhaps I was waiting for you to come on board. Perhaps I hoped that you would see the light. It must be that we Belizeans will have to be baptized with fire.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.