Pedagogía Política: Un análisis de la enseñanza de la dictadura de Pinochet y los derechos humanos en Chile/Political Pedagogy: An Analysis of the Teaching of the Pinochet Dictatorship and Human Rights in Chile

May 5, 2020   /  

Student: Emily Beuter
Majors: History, Spanish
Minor: Education
Advisors: Dr. Katie Holt, Dr. Cynthia Palmer

As Chileans continue to struggle with reconciling with their past in post-dictatorial Chile, this same struggle plays out in the classroom with the teaching of the dictatorship and human rights. While there is a vast corpus on memory historiography and pedagogy literature, researchers have overlooked the role of teaching in memory formation and the perspectives of those actively forming student memory. This study analyzes how various spheres of education on the dictatorship and human rights reflect larger societal tensions and are themselves spheres of contested memory. Further, I argue for complexity as there are numerous educational spheres who are in dialogue with one another that contribute to the creation of a collective memory. This study builds on existing scholarship through nine, first-hand interviews with Chileans who are involved in the education of the dictatorship and human rights. The interviews fit into three categories which shape the format of my study: the secondary school classroom, the world of academia and university teacher training, and other experiential spheres of memory formation. This study goes beyond just looking at curriculum and instead provides valuable qualitative research and the perspectives of educators who are actively forming memory. As Chile continues to construct a memory, educators face real challenges from the changing political environment but also have the opportunity in shaping the memory for the next generation. Memory education can be transformative, creating active participants in society who demand for change.

Emily will be online to field comments on May 8:
10am-noon EDT (Asia: late evening, PST 6am-8am, Africa/Europe: late afternoon)

59 thoughts on “Pedagogía Política: Un análisis de la enseñanza de la dictadura de Pinochet y los derechos humanos en Chile/Political Pedagogy: An Analysis of the Teaching of the Pinochet Dictatorship and Human Rights in Chile”

  1. A worthy study on an important issue ! Bravo !

  2. Hi, Emily:
    Congratulations on a very good, and very important, project. Given that Chileans can be quite reticent to discuss politics, you must have established some degree of “confianza” in order to obtain your interviews. Nicely presented and enjoyable. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation!

    1. Thank you, Professor Uber! All of the interviewees spoke with me “con confianza” so I was happy about that!

  3. Emily,
    This is really interesting work, thank you for sharing. Did any of your study participants talk about barriers (big or small) to educating students or the public about human rights? Thank you!

    1. Thank you for the question! With the truth commissions and as more time passes, there is less denial of the human rights violations committed under the dictatorship. The teachers and professors make it clear to their students that there are indisputable facts, like human rights violations, that cannot be denied or debated in the classroom. Still, participants spoke about barriers. For example, students are highly influenced by their family background so they may bring prejudices or a limited perspective regarding the topic of the dictatorship to the classroom. Factors that affect this are economic status, type of school (private, public, etc), and personal family history or ties with the dictatorship. There’s also generational differences, censorship from families or school administration, a priority of standardized tests, and a lack of training on how to teach controversial and sensitive history in the classroom. However, all participants spoke about the importance of human rights education.

  4. Emily,
    Congratulations on a really excellent and ambitious project! You’ve certainly hit upon how critical it is to examine the ways in which we memorialize, remember, and ultimately teach histories of suffering. I was especially struck by the distinction you made between content and process at the end of your presentation – could you say a bit more about any specific difficulties and/or insights you gained in trying to study processes of education rather than content? Thanks!

    1. Thank you for the comments and question! I believe that I gained a much more personal viewpoint by studying processes of education. While there can be variation with content, there is a national curriculum that all teachers are to follow. However, how the curriculum is implanted in the classroom greatly varies. This also presents a difficulty as there is a lot of variation since each educator has a different background, hold bias, and implements curriculum differently. I also learned that there are a lot of factors and “behind the scenes work” that goes into processes of education whereas content is an end product of many conversations and collaborations.

      1. Thanks for the thoughtful answer! Again, congrats on this and on your graduation!

  5. Emily, I’m so impressed by your thoughtful analysis of this complicated area of public history. Thank you for sharing your research and for letting me learn from your project this year! If you had more time in Chile, what other sites of memory/education/public history would you have liked to include in your research?

    1. Thank you Lynette for all your help! If I had more time, I may have dedicated a whole chapter to sites of memory. It’s an expansive area and I am fortunate to have included one, el Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos. I would have liked to include in my research sites like Villa Grimaldi, Londres 38, Estado Nacional, and Patio 29 to name a few. It is interesting to see how schools and universities interact with sites of memory and the role sites have in education.

  6. This is such a wonderful interdisciplinary project, drawing on your strengths in History, Spanish, and Education. Your excellent research and analysis skills really come through.

    1. Thank you, Professor Holt! I couldn’t have done it with you and Professor Palmer!

      1. Thank you, Professor Holt! I couldn’t have done it without you and Professor Palmer!

  7. What a powerful project — thank you for sharing it with us! It’s also great to see how Copeland funds allowed you to travel to Chile as you conducted such innovative research. What do you feel was the biggest impact on your project of being able to speak with educators in person?

    1. Thank you for your comments and question! The biggest impact on my project of being able to speak with educators in person was building personal connections and trust. It is a sensitive topic, so I believe that by being in-person allowed them to open up more to me than just responding to a stranger via email. Many of them invited me to their workspaces or homes to be interviewed, so I think being in an environment they were comfortable in helped and showed their trust in me by welcoming me into their personal spaces. Further, I was able to make personal connections and several people I interviewed requested to read my final I.S. The personal connections were very rewarding, especially when one interviewee told me that she was happy to talk with me and see young people working on important topics of education and Human Rights.

  8. Felicidades en tu graduación Emily👩🏻‍🎓🎓📚✨💫 La tesis que realizaste es muy impresionante y nos muestra puntos muy interesantes acerca de lo qué pasó en Chile.

  9. Emily –

    Thank you for sharing this work with us. Your thoughtful and cross-disciplinary approach brings to light such an interesting topic of learning – memory – education/change and coming to term with one’s past.


  10. Congratulations Emily! This was a really well done presentation on a complex topic. The topic of collective memory and education of this period has been interesting to me since I studied abroad in Chile and only grew while teaching there last semester. In the future it would be interesting to see how the protests that started in October and the changes in the secondary school curriculum impact the way the dictatorship is taught.

    1. Thank you, Larissa! I agree, it will be super interesting to see the impacts of the protests on the changes in the curriculum and the way the dictatorship is taught!

  11. Very interesting! It’s fascinating to hear how the passage of time changes some parts of the education process, such as a willingness to recognize human rights violations, but is not able to overcome some barriers, such as prejudices or perspective.

    During your research and interviews, was there ever a discussion of a collective trauma, or how the presence of trauma impacted a willingness to discuss history openly?

    1. Thank you for the comments and questions! There was some discussion of collective trauma among those with family members or friends who disappeared or were killed under the dictatorship. Sometimes families may not want to remember these painful memories and not discuss this history, while other times it pulls them to human rights activism and to vocalize their collective trauma for change. The latter happened with one of my interviewees who was in her early twenties when Pinochet took power. In the classroom, a unique situation is when the teacher was directly impacted by the human rights violations that took place under the dictatorship and how that impacts their teaching.

  12. Really interesting, Emily. I have traveled to Chile several times and conducted my sabbatical research there several years ago, and it’s such a fascinating place to explore the twists of history, politics, and present-day culture. It’s also interesting to see how all of that plays out in the present with their handling (quite poor, to judge by the daily updates) of the COVID crisis. I wonder, have you had a chance to follow the COVID news from Chile and do you see any echoes of the legacies of the dictatorship in their response to it?

    1. Thank you for the comments and question, Professor Mariola! I agree, it certainly is a fascinating place to explore for the reasons you mentioned! I have followed some of the COVID news from Chile, but I will say that Brazil seems to be dominating Latin American news with the COVID pandemic. Even before the pandemic, during the protests that began in October, there were calls by some citizens for the current president to be removed and echoes of the legacies of the dictatorship. The pandemic further highlights the high inequality in Chile with regards to healthcare and facilities, and this inequality goes back to the dictatorship and privatization.

  13. ¡Enhorabuena, Emily! Un proyecto impresionante. I love the way you’ve brought together your interests in pedagogy, collective memory, and the tumultuous history of Chile. Excellent work!

  14. Emily,
    I am fascinated by your research and its implications for how history is taught and learned, both in the U.S. and abroad. Thank you for sharing your work with us. Congratulations on your graduation!

  15. Congratulations Emily! Your topic is fascinating-the construction of official memory. It is pretty impressive how you combine your two majors, bibliography in your second language, field research and methodology located in the Humanities. My question: you said that your key primary sources are interviews and also lesson plans and textbooks. Do public schools use a mandatory (official) textbook? Do they include authors and literary texts that represent the dictatorship in some official fashion?

    1. Thank you, Professor Medina! I learned a lot about textbooks during my interviews. Yes, typically the public schools use the free textbook from the government. It is not mandatory that schools use this textbook, but many public schools do as it’s free. The textbooks include excerpts from various scholars who are on both sides of the political alignment regarding the dictatorship, especially the economic impact. The curriculum developer I spoke with said that there’s always debate as to which viewpoints and perspectives to include in the national curriculum, so I imagine it is the same with the textbook. Many teachers I spoke with said that they often use additional resources outside of the textbook to show different perspectives. Additionally, many private schools may opt to use a different textbook, ones they must pay for, that presents history in a way that they think best fits their beliefs or perspective. One interviewee I spoke with was very knowledgable on the topic of textbooks and mentioned various textbook companies who produce different versions of textbooks catered for different audiences.

  16. Very interesting! I’ve only recently begun learning about a lot of the history of Venezula and other South/Central American countries that experienced the repercussions of predominantly U.S. intervention – the cruelty and brutality that happened so relatively recently is still jaw-dropping. I was so surprised to learn about the specific events and regimes, and was even more surprised at how generally glossed over they were in my formal history education. Your project has shed so much light on how these events can be preserved through memory so that maybe one day we will not be doomed to repeat them. Amazing work!

    1. Thank you, Tim! I experienced the same where many of these horrific histories were glossed over or not even mentioned in school. I’m hoping more awareness is brought to Latin American history in US schools.

  17. Congratulations, Emily! I just watched your presentation and am now curious to learn more! As a teacher myself, I am especially interested in the role of educators in cultural identity, national memory, and the impact schools have on shaping students’ perceptions and understanding.

    What a great opportunity to go to Chile and interview so many people for your project! Did you find that people were eager to share, cautious or hesitant? Do you feel the people you interviewed offered different or similar perspectives?

    If you ever go to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, you should visit El Museo Para la Identidad Nacioanal. The key word is “para” because one of the goals of the museum is to help Hondurans claim a balanced and truthful identity, one that is often at odds with political party lines.


    1. Thank you for the comments and question! I will definitely keep that museum in mind if I have the opportunity to visit Honduras. I found that the people were eager to share and very welcoming. They invited me to their homes or workspaces to be interviewed and one woman expressed how happy she was to talk with me and see young people working on important topics of education and human rights. I had contacts in Chile from when I studied abroad which helped because I had people to advocate for me on my behalf and I believe this helped gain the interviewees’ trust in me. While each of them had unique perspectives regarding their own field or job, many of them offered similar perspectives with a desire to educate the public more on the human rights violations that took place and that society has yet to reconcile with how to remember their past.

  18. This project is so fascinating! I think you did a great job in showing how struggles over memory exist in the education system, as well as how the narrative surrounding Pinochet and human rights in Chile is a complex issue. Great job!

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