Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chile, Day 11: Work and Politics

I'm afraid you'll find today's post pretty dull unless you are tuned in to the drama and intrigue of curriculum development work. There was a bit of confusion about my ride to work this morning so I ended up walking the 3 km to the Institute, which was fine with me since it was an absolutely beautiful and WARM morning. Halfway along, I had to remove my outer jacket and stuff it into my briefcase.

I received some answers to my queries about the basis for the program from the folks at Niagara; answers which really helped to clarify the project. Using that information, I spent a good part of the afternoon updating the process document which will form part of my final report. This document will (I hope) lay out the steps that need to be followed in the curriculum development process; will identify which steps have been completed, which ones remain, and the timelines that should frame that completion. Then, on my way out the door at 5:15, I was stopped by one of the teachers who had spent his afternoon re-writing the entire semester plan for the new program. It was difficult for me to follow his diagram exactly (since he doesn't speak English) but it looks like he has moved some things around in order to create a clear exit option at the end of the first year. The lack of a vocational exit point at the end of the first year was, I think, a weakness in the original plan so his schedule makes good sense. I just don't know if Niagara is going to go for it at this stage of the game.

I had an interesting talk about politics earlier in the day, with one of the staff who had been to Canada to attend a conference. She had appreciated the luxuriant lifestyle and order of Canada; I told her how I was enjoying the sensibly scaled-down lifestyle and vibrancy of Chile. She didn't see Chile that way. She felt that in the 15 years or so since Chile had returned to democracy, things had gotten out of hand. When they lived under dictatorship, things were kept in tight check but since the dictatorship had ended there had been a rebound effect. Delinquency, drugs... lots of negative aspects had increased. Strange to say, but under the dictatorship some things were better. I can recall hearing similar opinions from people living in post-Communist East Germany and Russia. It seems that democracy is a system that takes some getting used to.

While I was waiting for my ride this morning, I was doing a little web-surfing, trying to find out what factors have helped to shape Chile into the unique country that it is. Part of the reason is sheer geography. Really, when you think of it... Chile is bounded on the north by the driest desert in the world, on the west by the largest ocean in the world, on the east by [almost] the highest mountain range in the world, and on the south by Antartica. It might as well be an island.

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