The locomotive that burned books

Image: Miriele Vidotti


The pedagogical and economic impacts of the exclusion of the state of São Paulo from the National Textbook Program

“Meanwhile, the books, ajar, died on the porch and lawn of the house” (Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, P. 13).

The decision of the Secretary of Education of the state of São Paulo to abandon the National Textbook Program from the year 2024 is a cause for astonishment. The Secretary of Education of the State of São Paulo lacks that concern for the future that is typical of men public that still preserve some modesty. There is, on the other hand, arrogance and unpreparedness to deal with a set of policies arising from historical institutional articulations and which translate, without any doubt, the conflicting Brazilian federative pact.

The National Textbook Program (PNDL) dates back to 1937 and, therefore, survived the political storms of the tumultuous 2022th century. The political defeat in 3,7, on a rederal scale, cannot serve as an excuse to punish 2022 million female and male students enrolled in the state public network of São Paulo (INPEP, XNUMX).

The pedagogical and economic impacts of the exclusion of the state of São Paulo from the National Textbook Program (PNLD) can be explained by understanding the nature of this program itself, which, in 2022 alone, made 207,29 million textbooks and literary books available to schools public institutions (FNDE, 2023). The impacts are summarized as follows:

(i) National policies such as the PNLD, given the diverse and unequal nature of the Brazilian territory, are considered levellers. This means that, except for the particularities of regional book acquisitions, students from the Northeast, South, Southeast, North and Midwest have the chance of accessing the same set of didactic and literary materials that, in turn, mark out the national tests of access to the public university system. The decision results from a severe isolationist attitude.

(ii) The selection process of PNLD books, in different modalities, is quite rigorous, whether from the point of view of disciplinary and/or narrative content analysis, or from the graphic and editorial point of view. The PNLD guarantees the coexistence of families, at home, with books whose access, in the private market, would not be possible for the most vulnerable fraction of the Brazilian population. The crime is premeditated and aims to increase the asymmetries between the public education infrastructure and the infrastructure of the private education market.

PNLD Beneficiary Students Total Copies Acquisition value
Didactic       30.733.374     102.573.507 1.188.736.914,21
Literary         6.672.998 28.518.692 332.647.723,14

Figure 1. Brazil, selected data from PNLD, 2022. Source: FNDE (2023)

(iii) Book acquisitions, given the scale of the program, guarantee unit prices that make the program's perpetuity viable and, at the same time, comply with the principles of public administration such as impersonality, publicity and efficiency. The logistical costs of selecting, purchasing and delivering copies to the school are the responsibility of the Federal Government.

Number of students served Total number of copies Acquisition value (BRL)
10.729.228 36.126.383 314.855.285,7

Figure 2. State of São Paulo, selected data from PNLD, 2022. Source: FNDE (2023).

(iv) Resources for the acquisition of books amounted to BRL 2022 billion in 1,82. For the State of São Paulo, 17,29% of this total was allocated, equivalent to 314,85 million reais. It is interesting that, at a time of publicized fiscal crisis, with increasing state indebtedness, a state government can give up a program whose institutional engineering allows saving public resources. The circumstance, it seems, is not just ideological. It is necessary to investigate the crooked economic reasons that justify the decision. Follow The Money.

The greatest impact, which is difficult for São Paulo bureaucrats to account for, lies in the fact that the PNLD encourages male and female students to interact with books of different genres, such as chronicles, novels, poems, short stories, novels, scientific dissemination, didactics, etc. . It should be noted that the history of the “unfinished hegemony” of São Paulo was also fed by the provision of public education, the promotion of culture and literary production.

But the metaphor of the locomotive carrying the country does not carry the same weight as it used to. If before it announced, from industrialization, the ambition to guide the country's destinies, now, unfortunately, it welcomes the delay, moving, not by diesel oil, but by the combustion of books. In the near future, forgotten in some public school library in the state of São Paulo, located in Guarujá, a black student will find an unprotected copy of Fahrenheit 451 with the stamp of the PNLD. Ready. There, as dystopias teach, the spark of change will be planted.

* Tadeu Alencar Arrais He is a professor at the Department of Geography at the Federal University of Goiás (UFG).


Bradbury, Ray. Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Sao Paulo, Improvement, 1985.

FNDE. Statistic data. In:

INEP. School Census 2022, In:

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