The National Unified School in Allende's Chile: The Role of Education in the Destruction of a Revolution


268 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7748-0242-1




Reviewed by Kenrick E.A. Mose

Kenrick E.A. Mose is an associate professor of Spanish studies at the
University of



The author, a professor of adult education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, brings to his study of the National Unified School (proposed by the Chilean government of Salvador Allende in the early seventies) first-hand experience of work in education in Chile. Such direct involvement provides a feel for the reality which Farrell has researched over more than a decade, but has not biased his presentation in which events, documents, and actors are often allowed to speak for themselves.

Farrell first gives background on the modern political and educational system of Chile, moving to the critical period with a chapter on the elections of 1970 and the constraints put on the Allende regime before they could even accede to power. Among these were guarantees that education would be pluralistic and democratic. He then moves to the educational initiatives of the Popular Unity government. Such initiatives evolve in a ministry divided among the lines of diverse coalition parties. So uncontrolled was the situation that different high-ranking officials would make conflicting public statements on sensitive issues. The rhetoric used to present the fundamentally wholesome goal of the Unified School was so revolutionary that it came to be viewed as a totalitarian threat.

The central idea of the National Unified School was to develop a community-based education system coordinating all levels of education and removing the barrier between humanistic-scientific and technical-professional schooling. Not a novel idea, since pioneer schools of similar philosophy had been operative for some time. However, in a few years, intransigence both within the government and between the government and opposing forces broke down all possible dialogue. When finally the majority parties of the country came to a workable compromise, it was too late and the military coup killed Allende along with the proposal.

Farrell’s narrative is a lesson in the confusion, paralysis, and tragedy that can result from immature and rigid ideological positions and over-indulgence by power-hungry politicians. It is also a captivating account, well-balanced, well-structured, and thought-provoking, which succeeds in maintaining a clear focus on its central theme and keeping it in proper perspective.


Farrell, Joseph, “The National Unified School in Allende's Chile: The Role of Education in the Destruction of a Revolution,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 25, 2024,