The Penguin Revolution in Chile: Exploring Intergenerational Learning in Social Movements

Donna M. Chovanec, Alexandra Benitez


In this paper, we introduce the Penguin Revolution, a social movement of high school students in Chile who are protesting the neo-liberalization of education in their country. This new activism surprised many because of the marked decline in political mobilization witnessed over the past 18 years since the Pinochet dictatorship. Findings from an earlier study of the women’s movement in Arica, Chile bear important clues to understanding the re-emergence of social action in the current generation, particularly the role of intergenerational learning (Chovanec, 2006a, 2006b). First, previous generations of women had developed a strong critical social consciousness that did not disappear during the years of retreat from direct political engagement. Second, although social movements may be quiescent, there are mechanisms for quiet continuity that engage all three generations of women in the community. We argue for providing a deliberate political education to the younger generations by drawing on the radical educational potential of parents as organic intellectuals and the historical promise of political parties as political educators.

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