Academic Fraud through the Lens of Cuba’s Official Press

Erasmo Calzadilla

Cuban students taking a university entrance exam. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Alina Perera, a columnist for the Cuban newspaper Juventud Rebelde, has attempted to go beyond the surface and get to the root causes of the recent case of fraud at the University of Havana.

Her article, Falsedad, mala hierba (“The Weeds of Dishonesty”), almost acknowledges the systemic and generalized nature of the phenomenon, seeing it as a “matter that goes beyond the circumstantial, (…) that goes beyond the context of the educational system.” Below is an analysis of her analysis.

Beyond the surface, beyond the circumstantial, Perera stumbles upon the “monster with a thousand tentacles.” Each tentacle is an ism or social problem of the many that contributes to the practice of fraud. The journalist emphasizes the opportunism with which people move up the ladder, simplism, inflexibility, paternalism (the thin skin of higher-ups prevents journalists from calling a spade a spade), voluntarism and, for the main course, in the best eighties style, commercialism.

If these are the tentacles of the monster and inspecting each one separately leads us nowhere, then we have to get to the monster’s body, the thing that makes everything else possible. Of course, taunting the animal is a more delicate matter. Alina Perera avoids rocking the boat too much or simply gets confused along the way, and the reasons behind academic fraud become diluted and chalked up to Cuba’s eleven million inhabitants.

Following her own line of questioning, the journalist should have asked such things as: who made the terrible decisions that resulted in such opportunism? Was it the teachers? Who gave rise to paternalism as the prevalent relationship between those above and those below? What is the root cause of bureaucratic unwieldiness and inflexibility?

Likewise, who came up with and immediately implemented the idea of making up for teacher shortages through video-lessons and instant-teachers? Why weren’t the resources invested into those initiatives used to improve the lives of teachers, so that these didn’t have to resort to teaching private lessons as a means of making money? Who delayed the closure of countryside boarding schools if everyone had known these were a genuine disaster for decades? And the most important of all: how can such crazy ideas prevail over common sense?

As to the answers to these questions, shouldn’t an avowedly communist newspaper suspect that a class confrontation hides behind pressing social problems? When those who write for the paper tackle the issue of education, shouldn’t their point of departure be Marx’s critique of State schooling?

But, if attempting to dilute the “issue” in a sea of isms is suspect, so is laying all of the blame on the Castros and thinking that a capitalist Spring will flourish after their fall.


One thought on “Academic Fraud through the Lens of Cuba’s Official Press

  • As long as we have hierarchical governments and systems ( Marxism) and not bottom-up democratic systems, the state will always determine what is best for those under its authority.
    What is taught in state-run schools will always support the state and a state-run newspaper will always support the state
    I would not expect any state/ government to surrender the authority to say what will be taught in their schools.
    Cooperatives and other bottom-up democratic educational systems and media are the cure .
    As you said, capitalism is no answer but rather something that will exacerbate educational opportunities in Cuba.

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