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News > Brazil

Bolsonaro To Erase Paulo Freire And Feminism From Textbooks

  • Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2019.

    Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 February 2019

The Brazilian government under Jair Bolsonaro says it will get rid of references to LGBTQ and feminist theory, along with famed socialist educator, Paulo Freire.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his administration have announced the desire to revise school textbooks, eliminating any references to feminism, homosexuality and violence against women, and even the works of Brazilian liberation theologist and internationally renowned educator Paulo Freire.

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“One of the goals to get Brazil out of the worst positions in international education rankings is to combat the Marxist rubbish that has spread in educational institutions,” Bolsonaro tweeted just before he was sworn in.

The changes might not immediately be evident for students, but they are coming soon.

“We are still waiting to see how, in practice, all this is going to turn out,” said Nilton Brandao, president of one of Brazil’s largest teachers’ unions, PROIFES Federacao. “Right now, it does not make any sense,” he told the Associated Press.

First on the government’s agenda is the removal of Freire’s groundbreaking critical pedagogy within the education system. Bolsonaro and other right-wing conservatives fear this ethos that questions authority turns pupils into “political militants.”

Freire died in 1997 but he was a socialist who was both imprisoned in Brazil and exiled from the country during the 1964-1988 military dictatorship. Even after his death, Freire’s legacy lives on across the world as an ardent advocate for peace and equal access to education across all classes. One of his books, ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’, went on to become one of the most widely referenced publications of the 20th century.

Conservatives say the educator’s methods encourage students to challenge traditional values from the family and Catholic church that dominates Brazil and the region.

On the campaign trail, Bolsonaro said he wanted to “enter the Education Ministry with a flamethrower to remove Paulo Freire.”

The Brazilian president and his cabinet may be replacing Freire with Olavo de Carvalho right-wing Brazilian who lives in the U.S. known for his anti-globalism and anti-socialist stance. De Carvalho contends that the state should reduce state funding for education and that students should attend private or religious (paid) schools, both of which remain economically out of the reach of millions of impoverished or lower middle class families.

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Last year, 39.5 million students attended a public school, while private institutions, which can cost several thousand dollars a month, served 9 million.

“The government does not have to educate anyone; it is the society that has to educate itself,” de Carvalho said last year during a talk.

Bolsonaro has threatened to rid the country’s national scholastic test of any reference to gender or LGBTQ movements or policies. Bolsonaro has criticized what he calls “gender-based ideology,” saying it threatens Brazil’s Christian values. During the campaign trail the president said he would rather have a dead son than a gay one.

After taking on his post Jan. 1, Education Minister Ricardo Velez Rodriguez told a local newspaper his department would enable interested municipalities to their schools be run by the military or police.

However, opponents say the military selective admission process would inevitably discriminate against the impoverished.

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