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  • In an attack on education and critical thinking, Jair Bolsonaro plans to cut fund for philosophy and sociology.

    In an attack on education and critical thinking, Jair Bolsonaro plans to cut fund for philosophy and sociology. | Photo: Reuters

Published 29 April 2019

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro wants universities to stop teaching philosophy and sociology and replace them with job skills.

Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro said his minister of education is considering defunding philosophy and sociology programs from universities.

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“The Minister of Education, Abraham Weintraub, is studying how to decentralize investment in philosophy and sociology at universities. Students who have already enrolled will not be affected. The objective is to focus on areas that generate an immediate return to the taxpayer, such as: veterinary, engineering, and medicine,” the president wrote on Twitter Friday.

He also said the role of the government is to respect taxpayer’s money and the way to do is to teach them job skills “that generate income for the person and well-being of the family, which improves the society around them.”

The move is seen as an attack on critical thinking and criticized by academia.

Jason Stanley, a professor of Philosophy at Yale University and author of the book “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them” wrote on Twitter, “This is the culmination of a campaign that has focused on a supposed leftist takeover of the education system.”

Another netizen tweeted that maths and philosophy are interconnected.

“Have you read Plato's book? You have much to learn from him. Ahh he was a philosopher. Ahhh Did you know that the great mathematicians of antiquity were also philosophers? And what philosophy means love of wisdom?”

Graham Denyer Willis, professor of politics and development studies at Cambridge University wrote that Brazilian philosophers and sociologists are welcome in Cambridge and the fight will be continued, together.

The Brazilian Logic Society (SBL) issued a statement against Bolosanaro’s announcement. “Together, the President and the Minister both restate the most superficial prejudices, a short-sighted utilitarianism, and a ruthless elitism,” the statement read.

They also raised the questions that if philosophy and sociology are actually deemed useless by the president, then why is he targetting the discourses. They also said defunding the courses would not mean the non-existence of critical thoughts and questions.

“Anyone who thinks also philosophizes, even though one may not know it. Anyone who ponders upon the practical conditions of his or her professional activity in the context of his or her community is always thinking sociologically as well,” they wrote adding that questioning results is “shaking the foundations of uncritically held beliefs.”

“The mighty and powerful of all times and places usually do not tolerate questions of such a nature. And it is our responsibility as citizens and members of the Brazilian academic-scientific community to keep this question alive,” SBL concluded.

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