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The massive political and economic changes that have shaken the world require an equally profound transformation in the field of education, Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari told a Stanford audience Sept. 30 at the second of three centennial convocations.
In an appearance that drew about 40 protesters, Salinas also reiterated his support for the controversial Free Trade Negotiations currently under way among Mexico, Canada and the United States. "We need trade, not aid, to generate more employment. Free trade," said the Harvard-educated economist.
Addressing the topic "Beyond Schools: Teaching and Learning Together," Salinas said that far-reaching world change presents a great challenge: how to reconcile a world in which international economies are becoming increasingly interdependent while political and military relationships remain at odds.
"The potential of a world open to trade, to the flow of ideas, resources and technology, is today an avenue with more possibilities than ever before in our history," he told a crowd of about 7,000 in Frost Amphitheater.
But he warned that we "are also experiencing blind reactions expressed in new forms of protectionism that will dwarf the tensions of the Cold War. . . . We face the risk of the integration of economies but the balkanization of politics."
Salinas, who spoke at first in Spanish, switched to English to outline some of the "risks, threats and uncertainties" that he said lie ahead because of the shifting world order:
Referring specifically to Mexico, Salinas said that domestic growth is urgently needed, "but not growth at any cost, certainly not at the cost of damaging the environment. We are convinced that development of the economy and protection of the environment can come together." (Mexico's policies have been criticized by environmental groups.)
He said his government also hopes to intensify the war on drugs, though not at the expense of human rights, and to improve democratic participation.
Reform in education is one of the keys to handling such changes, he said, and "modernizing education in Mexico is a true national crusade."
Acknowledging that the current system remains flawed, he said that "Mexico's modernization and its entry into the 21st century will depend on a revolution in the quality of education."
Quoting Stanford's first president, David Starr Jordan, Salinas said that "we hope to give (our fellow citizens) the priceless legacy of the educated man, the power of knowing."
Worldwide, he said, new approaches must be taken to education, because "it is education that recognizes the facts of change and prepares individuals who are free and committed to a new form of civilization."
Salinas' call for new forms of education was echoed by Richard Lyman, president emeritus of Stanford and founder of the Institute for International Studies, who introduced the Mexican president to the crowd, many of whom waved small Mexican flags in greeting.
But before Salinas' speech, about 40 demonstrators gathered outside the amphitheater, alleging massive election fraud, government corruption and human rights abuses during his tenure, which began in 1988.
They demanded "free elections, not free trade," and said the president has consistently misinformed the Mexican people about the potential effects of a free trade agreement.
During Salinas' speech, about half a dozen protesters inside the amphitheater held aloft signs, and a handful shouted at the president, who ignored them. Others chanted outside the gates.
In addition to the Salinas address, centennial congratulations were offered to Stanford in speeches by the presidents of Cornell, MIT, Johns Hopkins and the University of California.
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