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Building Teacher Solidarity

An interview with Larry Kuehn

Home > Archives > Volume 22 No.3 - Spring 2008

Bob Peterson: The Trinational Education Coalition started the same year as NAFTA. How has NAFTA affected teachers in these countries?

Larry Kuehn: For Mexico I'd say two things: corn and testing. The corn is important because NAFTA opened Mexican borders to corn exports from the United States. Initially it was a partial opening, but now it's a full opening. The impact has been devastating.

During our conference in Oaxaca we divided into groups and went into indigenous communities and schools to get a better idea of what the reality of life was for people. One teacher in my group from Los Angeles said that several students in her classroom were from Oaxaca and that people from these indigenous communities were being forced off the land because NAFTA meant that cheaper corn was coming in from the United States and flooding the market. People couldn't afford to stay on the land and survive. Many decided to head north.

Paradoxically, another of NAFTA's results has been to send corn south but to push people north. More and more people from Mexico are trying to get into the United States. So NAFTA has had a huge social effect for both Mexico and the United States.

Peterson: You mentioned testing as well. What does that have to do NAFTA?

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