High on Numbers: Part II (Education Overdosed)

This is the second (and last) part of the previous article, this time exemplifying some of the consequences of the “Chilean number addiction” in Education public policies.

Education and the youth provide a good example. After all, the biggest Chilean riots during democracy before these ones, took place because of students demands in Santiago. Higher Education (and education in general) is also an area where decision-making is extremely “numeralized”. Of this I have some experience, since I had the pleasure to be invited to help with some of the numeric and data series research of a book published by my university and authored by professor PhD Hugo Lavados and Ramon Berrios, titled “Policies for University Development: Principles and Evidences”. I had a great time and I learned a lot working with the data series in this book. Made me look at all of the numbers and figures available about Higher Education in Chile. And I must admit, almost all of them were cosy and nice and made us feel really good. For example, in 1990 less than 13% of the population (18-24 years old) attended higher education. In 2013 it was already over 35% and probably today it’s already over 40%.

We can measure many things. We can measure how many people are studying, how much they are earning, how much are they buying… But could it be possible that there are some things we just cannot measure?

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High on Numbers: Part I (Worship Numbers)

I studied “Commercial Engineer” in Chile, a nice mixture between Economics and Business Administration, a professional degree that taking psychological theory, mathematics, economical theory, operations research, marketing, law principles, among other sciences, studies and disciplines, is designed to turn you into a professional manager in a market based economy. I was trained to constantly check for some figures to note the state of the art in an organisation or in the society as a hole.

Like a pilot certain of the instruments in an airplane, I was trained to follow goals and deal with situations and decisions that could be translated into numbers and figures. After all, mathematics is like a shower in pure, warm, perfumed waters: a revitalising bath, a lullaby of pureness when it comes to ideas. Saying something in the beautiful, mythical, pure language of mathematicians brings immediately the illusion of pureness and undoubted truth.

Like that, since I was 18 years old, I was introduced into the concept of, for example, Economic Equilibrium under the interpretation of classical economists like Smith and Ricardo, but going even further with the application of this kind of concepts to every imaginable economic problem, either in a macro or micro level. Notions of equilibrium levels, surplus, prices, income or production were quickly set into the true lighthouses to follow in my head along my undergraduate studies. But I was not the only one.

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Drawing the Flag of our Country with more Colours

All the images on the gallery are pictures of recent protests in Chile. Probably you’ve even seen some in the media. Put your attention on the flags people wave. What do you see? The Chilean flag, of course. Do you see another one? Look closer again. There is one other flag that you can recursively observe in almost every Chilean protest. Let me now zoom into this other flag.

“Symbols of Chile: the coat of arms, the national anthem and the flag”. This is one of the first things I learned in the school when I was 6 years old. I shaped and coloured our national flag in a million different ways: with painting, plasticine, crayons, macaroni, I learned and experienced the shapes and colours of the Chilean flag.

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Neoliberalism Kicked out Beethoven from FM in Chile

I must admit, I never was a loyal listener of Radio Beethoven. Probably most Chileans weren’t, but nevertheless we were all very aware of its existence. Radio Beethoven was not only the most important sponsor for music arts activities among youth in Chile. Radio Beethoven was, really, a true shining star in the Chilean FM spectrum. If you were a FM listener in Chile, you were aware about Radio Beethoven. Surfing the FM spectrum in Chile was a monotonous and often boring thing to do. A lot of pop music radios, lots of talk shows, news radios, reggaeton and tropical stuff for the youth. The menu was always kind of similar. But when you went with the tuner over 96.5 MHz of the modulated frequency in your device… it sounded different. Even if you didn’t like it, Radio Beethoven shone with the strength of its own light in the dial.
You knew that it was the door to another universe, to the which you always had the possibility to escape, even for just a moment. A universe inhabited not by the boring voice of a radio speaker sending greetings to someone’s neighbour, and not by the tropical beats of a youth program. Dialling 96.5 MHz in your radio was letting the strength of Beethoven, the magic of Strauss or the inexplicable beauty of Mozart breaking into your house.

It is with great grief that I must end the story of Radio Beethoven telling you that today, 30th of November of 2019, in approximately 10 more hours (24:00 in Chile), Radio Beethoven will end broadcasting on the air. The controlling group, after facing several problems funding the radio, decided to sell the radio frequency. Because of the intensity of the masterpiece, as well as because of the style of the radio, Radio Beethoven had decided to say goodbye this night with the 9th Symphony of Beethoven performed by a Chilean orchestra.
More than thirty years of Neoliberal policies governing agreements among Chileans not only caused the current social uprising, demanding a new “social agreement” which now is pushing forward the project of a new Constitution, but also penetrated deeply in Chilean culture and “way of being”. There is no place for permanent funding of a well conducted long term policy for art and culture development in a neoliberal conception of state.
Instead of beginning an extensive thesis of why and how neoliberal conception of society impacts Chilean culture, let me just tell you the history about an icon of culture broadcasting in Chile:  Radio Beethoven.

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