Culture Shock: High School Edition

October 6, 2011

The Paraguayan pastor (who, by the way, is married, has a kid and a regular preaching schedule, and is a few months younger than me…) at Mi Esperanza goes into high schools to give presentations on Christian ethics. He invited me to tag along to one session this week probably with some hope that I will assist him with these workshops in the future. Right.

After waiting outside for thirty minutes, we were finally allowed entrance into the small classroom of about twenty, maybe less, twelfth graders. Also, enter: the biggest culture shock I have experienced since arriving in Asuncion.

Allow me to set the scene. *clears throat*

The area is limited and desks scattered every which way certainly don’t contribute to efficient space management. Students sit in big noisy clusters, and many have their backs to the whiteboard save for the jagged row of guys in dark sunglasses in the back. One girl is on her pink laptop chatting furiously on Facebook and literally laughing out loud. Almost everyone has a fancy smartphone–some even have several–on their desk and are blatantly texting away. I watch as another girl hands the teacher, who is mid-sentence, her cell phone charger to plug into the wall for her. A phone rings at max volume and someone answers without making any attempt to mask their voice and proceeds to carry on a conversation for the entire class period. Students come and go, in and out of the room as they please. The noise level, as you can imagine, is absolutely obscene.

I tried to keep my jaw hinged as I observed this scene in utmost incredulity. This would never fly in America. Never! Meanwhile, R is walking around the classroom trying to get the students to keep it down, trying to ask questions, trying to get the students to keep it down, trying to pass out a survey, trying to get the students to keep it down, trying to get the students to listen, trying to get the students to keep it down, trying to get them to complete the survey, trying to get the students to keep it down…

Most were completely disregarding the worksheet in front of them. I asked the guy nearest my station why he was just sitting there, after all, the survey required only ten yes or no answers.

“I don’t have a pen.”

“Why don’t you have a pen?”

“No one has lent me one.”

“You don’t bring a pen to school with you?”

He shrugged.

“I’m sitting one foot away from you. Why didn’t you just ask to borrow one?”

He sneered and shrugged. “I don’t have any use for girls except sex.”

“… Your loss, f*@&*%.”

Fine, I didn’t say that out loud but mostly because at that moment, I noticed a couple rolling around on the floor, petting each other, oblivious to R’s demands that they get up and sit down at their desks. Yeah.

In short, it was PANDEMONIUM CHAOS TOTAL LAWLESS ANARCHY. The teacher commanded absolutely no respect and therefore obviously exercised no control. School here is half-day every day for everyone. Oh yeah. This was also a private school for middle to upper-class families.

I was baffled as to how anybody learns anything in this country considering I was informed later that all this is more or less “normal.” WTF. How has no one stepped up to say “something is wrong with this picture”?

And people wonder why so many developing countries are stuck in economic stagnancy and extreme poverty, saddled forever with corrupt governments, and perpetuating backwards cultural traditions like reproducing like the wind (um, whatever that means) clueless to phenomenon like family planning, birth control, resource assessment…

Got education reform?

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2 Responses to “Culture Shock: High School Edition”

  1. Si Says:

    OH MY GOSH. Get me in there, I will make those reforms!!! But seriously, that’s crazy.

  2. caseyucsd Says:

    I just threw up a little.


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