Sunday, August 5, 2012

7/26-  The Penguin Revolution and Student Movements
Macarena Pena y Lillo
Author "El Mayo de los Pinguinos"
MA in Communication (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

We learned from Macarena’s presentation that the Penguin Revolution in 2006 was a student movement created by students, for students.  Along with the information from Donna M. Chovanec’s paper on The Penguin Revolution in Chile: Exploring Intergenerational Learning in Social Movements (2008), our class gathered that many of the student protests were for logistical improvements in the beginning.  Only after they had protested for a while did ideological demands begin to surface and become a part of the public discourse over the inadequate educational system.  Students were frustrated by LOCE, the laws that governed the educational system that were set in place directly before Pinochet left office.  The students wanted this revoked and replaced with a set of laws that would help students of all socio-economic backgrounds succeed in school, despite the huge financial burden that it requires in the current form.  The students occupied many schools for weeks on end and organized their demands.  They utilized the media, government and citizens to help them make their demands public discourse.  Michelle Bachelet eventually agreed to hear them out, open a round table discussion with a few key students present to talk about their issues.  The students were not happy with this proposal and declined.  Eventually the protests died down because students wanted to get back to their academic responsibilities, they were tired and little had been accomplished ideologically- though certain logistical concessions were made to them, such as reduced transportation fare. 

The media was a salient part of the visibility of this movement.  In the beginning, they treated the students as a nuisance and didn’t take them seriously.  However, as time went on, the media began to pick up on the seriousness of the students and began to listen when they spoke.  They wrote articles about their position, about the individuals involved and the fantastic organization that was occurring. 

There were a few significant events that took place that were landmark moments in the movement.  The first one was Lota on April 1st.  The students had classes on the streets and called the TV to show it.  This demonstration was not initially connected to the Penguin Revolution but eventually they came together.  The next one was Instituto Nacional- the students occupied the schools and created Fotologs on the Internet to share and communicate information.  The Fotologs were important to the students and were visited 200,000 or more times per day. 

The third event was the Colegio Altamira- where the private and exclusive schools joined the movement.  This was interesting because the privileged students didn’t have anything to complain about personally since they could afford the best schools.  However, they wanted to show solidarity with the other students that were not able to afford such a privileged education.  This was a significant milestone for the movement because it made the movement cover a broad spectrum of students instead of just the underserved. 

In conclusion, Macarena Pena found that the students felt powerless by the end.  They had fears of losing that school year and decided to stop.  However, this movement set the tone for future movements in 2011 with university students and helped spur government reform.  This movement acted as a catalyst for educational change in Chile and is an important lesson for other students to stand up for social change when it is needed. 

The visual and video footage of the Penguin Revolution stand out to me as salient pieces of this movement.  Because audiences were able to visually connect with the students, their message was carried further to reach the president.  Because there were audio and written words to challenge readers to empathize with the problems in the educational system, they were taken seriously and were listened to.  Creative and journalistic portrayals of events can have an impressive impact on public opinion, and therefore instigate politicians to act accordingly.  

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