The Professional and Political Attitudes
of Chilean University Students 1
The need in developing societies for highly trained professionals is well documented by economists, sociologists, and other social scientists. Recent writings on a number of developing countries emphasize the importance of expanding the educational recruitment base, building new professional groups, improving the quality of teaching, and staffing rural positions. The writers generally assert, furthermore, that professional commitment is of prime importance in developing areas, for the assumption is made that this commitment will result in motivation to spur economic and social development, and the consequences of this commitment, then, will be positive in meeting and solving the most pressing problems facing these countries. 2
It has been stated, moreover, that student involvement in other activities, especially political ones, can only draw student energies away from their trainee role and undermine their professional identification. Such criticism has often been leveled, especially against students in Latin American countries. 3
It was to investigate the validity of such broad assumptions that I conducted a research project in one developing country, Chile. 4 This chapter will be directed toward an analysis of the extent and nature of professional commitment among Chilean university students, the positive and negative effects of political involvement on such commitment, and its consequences for the process of modernization.
Several criteria were considered before selecting Chile as the country in which to conduct the empirical research. Chile has long been in the process of economic development, beset by many problems, and torn by contro