From the Classroom to the Streets: A Fight for Education in Contradictions



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Can education transform into a social movement? A simple enough question, but one that I asked while researching alternative schools in Buenos Aires. Specifically known as Bachilleratos Populares (Popular Mini-Bachelors (secondary schools)), these schools were designed to promote flexibility for unconventional students while developing closer relations to their teachers. These bachilleratos populares, derivative of popular education, strive to deconstruct educational hierarchies mainly seen within private and public systems. While historically the Argentine State has provided good services for public education, 1990s neoliberal policies eliminated such services. Outraged teachers and students were encouraged to fight and create a new and “better” education. However without State support, bachilleratos populares faced opposition joining together into a social movement. By utilizing participant-observation, I researched these bachilleratos populares and their social movement. In this thesis I will describe the bachilleratos populares as processes that are not static, but negotiated. Furthermore, I will argue that these processes are sometimes contradictory referring them henceforth as contradictory negotiated processes. This thesis will explore such an argument through three areas. In the first chapter, after describing the historical significance in the introduction, I will examine the structures of the social movement through analyzing State-bachillerato relations. In the second chapter, I will explore how the social movement is implemented in the classroom specifically looking at the unconventionality of popular education. Lastly, in the third chapter, I will examine modes of solidarity questioning how teachers and students transcended beyond their hierarchical educational positions. Overall, I will argue that the bachilleratos populares, as a social movement, maintain a fluid identity often confronted with contradictions. In the conclusion, I will further argue that the social movement becomes never-ending, theoretically comparing the bachilleratos populares to a Marxist “permanent revolution.”


Although the focus of this thesis is on an education system, it mainly pertains to the political, philosophical, and social mobilization aspects more than educational pedadgogy.


Social Movements, Latin America, Argentina, Education, Marxism