To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

“In spite of the way the world is”: What United States educators can learn from their counterparts in Cuba

Timothy G. Cashman (Department of Teacher Education, College of Education, The University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas, USA)

International Journal of Comparative Education and Development

ISSN: 2396-7404

Article publication date: 4 September 2019

Issue publication date: 15 January 2020



The purpose of this paper is to provide comparative perspectives on how educators teach issues that affect two countries with a history of governmental tensions. The investigation examines how teachers in Cuban classrooms engage in discourses on the recent developments in Cuban and US relations, including the teaching of historical and territorial issues. This research considers border pedagogy, critical border dialogism and critical border praxis as approaches for those who educate on the effects of US international policies. Ultimately, pragmatic hope offers the possibilities for an emergent third space for Cuban and US relations, including educational exchanges.


The research took place in Cuba during an educational exchange to Cuban secondary and university educational sites. Cuban educators of pedagogy and social education engaged in dialogue and shared information on how they address US international policies during their classroom discussions. The researcher employed methodologies that followed Stake’s (2000) model for a substantive case study. Impressions, data, records and salient elements at the observed site were recorded. Transcriptions were documented for face-to-face interviews and hour-long focus group sessions. Participants also logged responses to written survey questions. The study focused on how Cuban educators taught, discussed and addressed the US international policies in classrooms.


Heteroglossia, meliorism, critical cosmopolitanism, nepantla, dialogic feminism and pragmatic hope were components of the data analysis. Heteroglossia was an essential consideration throughout the study as multiple interpretations of Cuban and US interconnectedness emerged. Meliorism factored into Cuban educators’ commitments to their professions. Critical cosmopolitanism developed as educators put forth different conceptualizations of human rights and democracy. Nepantla emerged as a key aspect as indigenous and self-determined viewpoints emerged. Dialogic feminism was preeminent as patriarchy continues to exist, despite a new awareness of gender roles and gender violence. Pragmatic hope offers possibilities for a transnational community of inquiry and collaboration.

Research limitations/implications

The most obvious limitation to this study is, as a case study, the limited scope of perception.

Practical implications

If future relations between Cuban and the US are deemed uncertain, critical border praxis has an essential role in addressing new sets of uncertainties. This study recommends that educational communities engage in discourses addressing ongoing issues facing the dynamic, fluid border environs. Critical border praxis provides conditions in which we, as educators and members of diverse communities of learners, become cross-borders and broaden the possibilities to achieve what had been considered the unattainable. Resources need to be prioritized and redirected toward educational efforts on national, state and local levels so critical border praxis becomes a reality.

Social implications

Through transnational and transborder engagements, such as educational exchanges, both US and Cuban educators are provided opportunities to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of their own educational systems. The role of education, formal and informal, then serves to transform perceptions one-by-one, school-by-school, community-by-community and to influence policy makers to reconstruct education country-by-country as part of pragmatic hope for an enduring Pax Universalis. Pax Universalis serves as a third space where transborder students and educators alike are positioned as co-creators of knowledge and agents of change.


This study proposes a new emergent third space resulting from critical border dialogism that utilizes border pedagogy and critical pedagogies of place to seek new zones of mutual respect and cooperation among educators. Common educational understandings are the key starting point for a critical border praxis that facilitates ongoing dialogue between the two countries and offers pragmatic hope for the futures of both nations and opportunities to ameliorate relationships. An emergent third space is possible through sustained critical border praxis, a praxis that seeks to address points of contention and the bridges that need crossing between the two neighboring countries.



Cashman, T.G. (2020), "“In spite of the way the world is”: What United States educators can learn from their counterparts in Cuba", International Journal of Comparative Education and Development, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 16-29.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited