The militarization of schools

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By ERIK CHICONELLI GOMES*

The implementation of civic-military schools is inserted in a specific political context, marked by a conservative agenda that seeks to reinforce traditional and hierarchical values

As a historian, I cannot help but reflect on the historical and social implications of civic-military schools in Brazil, especially in a context of increasing militarization of education.

The history of militarization in Brazilian education is not a recent phenomenon. Since the military dictatorship (1964-1985), we have seen attempts to insert military values ​​into the educational training of young people. The 1988 Constitution, in its democratic spirit, does not mention the role of the military in educational policy, a deliberate choice to eliminate authoritarian remnants. However, recent political movements seek to revive practices that should be relegated to the past.

The National Education Plan and the Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education, which are landmarks of democratic education in Brazil, also do not include this military approach. This shows that the inclusion of civic-military schools is an anomaly, an attempt to insert an outdated and authoritarian model into a system that should value freedom and critical thinking.

High costs and inefficiency

Civic-military schools have a cost per student three times higher than conventional public schools. To support the claim that civic-military schools have a significantly higher cost per student than conventional public schools, we can cite some official sources.

According to information presented by the Ministry of Education (MEC),[I] the cost of civic-military schools is, in fact, high. The program that establishes these schools, called the National Program for Civic-Military Schools (Pecim), was detailed in several documents and reports. For example, the report by Agência Brasília[ii] highlights that the investment necessary to maintain these schools is considerably greater due to the need to pay for the additional services of reserve soldiers, in addition to the common costs of regular schools.

Furthermore, the survey carried out by the Federal District Education Department shows that the civic-military model involves additional costs with the infrastructure necessary to accommodate military activities and the payment of bonuses to the military personnel who work in these institutions.

In a country with enormous social and educational inequalities, this choice seems more like a waste of resources than an effective investment in education. According to deputy Andrea Werner (PSOL), “The civic military school costs twice as much per student as regular schools and does not deliver twice as many positive results”.[iii]

In addition to the cost, the efficiency of these schools is questionable. The military education model is not necessarily suitable for the comprehensive training of students. Rigid discipline and a focus on obedience can stifle creativity and critical thinking, essential skills for the personal and professional development of young people in a democratic society.

Ideologization of teaching

The expansion of civic-military schools is also an ideological movement. Jair Bolsonaro's government, by establishing the National Program for Civic-Military Schools, promoted a worldview that privileges military order and discipline to the detriment of diversity and freedom of thought. This movement can be interpreted as an attempt at indoctrination, seeking to form citizens who passively accept authority and do not question power structures.

Historically, authoritarian regimes have always sought to control education to shape the minds of future generations. Civic-military schools represent a step backwards in this sense, going against the democratic principles that should guide public education in Brazil.

The impact on the quality of education

Analysis of the quality of education in different countries reveals significant disparities in investment and educational outcomes. Countries such as Luxembourg, Switzerland and Norway, which occupy prominent positions on the global educational scene, have robust and inclusive educational systems. In these countries, the focus is on the student's integral development, promoting an environment that values ​​diversity, creativity and critical thinking.

These investments are directed towards the continuous training of teachers, the improvement of school infrastructures and the development of curricula that encourage inclusion and pedagogical innovation.

In Luxembourg, investment per student in basic education exceeds 26.370 dollars, while in Switzerland and Norway the values ​​are 17.333 and 16.008 dollars, respectively.[iv] These investments result in educational systems that prioritize holistic student development, addressing not only academic performance but also students' emotional and social well-being.[v]

Countries such as Finland, Canada and New Zealand are notable examples of inclusive education systems that prioritize student well-being and integral development. In Finland, the education system is widely recognized for its student-centered approach, where the focus is on personalizing learning and individualized support. Highly qualified and continually trained teachers are the cornerstone of this system, which also values ​​equal opportunities and inclusion for all students.

In Canada, cultural diversity is celebrated within classrooms, and the curriculum is designed to reflect the various communities that make up the country. The inclusion of educational technologies is a common practice, allowing students to develop skills for the 21st century. Furthermore, the active participation of the school community is encouraged, creating a collaborative environment that supports students' academic and personal growth.

New Zealand also stands out for its inclusive approach. The New Zealand education system is known for its commitment to equity and social justice, providing additional support to students from minority groups and with special needs. Education in New Zealand promotes students' active participation in making decisions about their own learning, fostering a sense of responsibility and autonomy.

The choice for a militarized model worsens inequalities in the Brazilian educational system. Instead of promoting equal opportunities, this model tends to create dual education, where resources are diverted to a specific segment, leaving the vast majority of public schools in a vulnerable situation. The lack of adequate investments in teacher training, infrastructure and inclusive curricula prevents the Brazilian educational system from moving towards a more equitable and quality model.

Challenges of militarization policy

The implementation of civic-military schools is inserted in a specific political context, marked by a conservative agenda that seeks to reinforce traditional and hierarchical values. However, this approach clashes with the democratic principles established by the Education Guidelines and Bases Law (LDB) and the 1988 Federal Constitution itself, which promote education focused on citizenship, plurality and respect for human rights.

Historically, authoritarian regimes have used education as a tool for social control and indoctrination. The militarization of schools, in addition to increasing costs, represents an attempt to shape the thinking of new generations according to a specific ideology, which favors blind obedience and conformity to the detriment of autonomy and critical thinking. This movement is worrying, as it could result in the formation of citizens who are less prepared to deal with the complexities of a plural and democratic society.

While successful countries adopt practices that promote inclusion, diversity and critical thinking, Brazil appears to go backwards by implementing a model that emphasizes strict discipline and obedience.

Resistance to this model does not only come from progressive sectors of civil society, but also from education experts, who defend the appreciation of education professionals and the adoption of public policies that strengthen inclusive and quality education. The exclusion of military personnel from education, defended by several researchers and entities, is based on the understanding that citizenship training must be guided by freedom, diversity and respect for human rights.

International experiences demonstrate that the most successful educational systems are those that invest in the ongoing training of teachers, the inclusion of educational technologies and the active participation of the school community in the management of institutions. Therefore, the adoption of a militarized model in Brazil goes against the best educational practices observed around the world.

Educators such as Sueli Carneiro and bell hooks have postulated the importance of inclusive education that values ​​diversity and equity. Sueli Carneiro,[vi] a renowned Brazilian intellectual and activist, highlights the need for anti-racist and inclusive education that recognizes and values ​​differences. She argues that education should be a space of emancipation and social transformation, where all students, regardless of their origin, have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

bell hooks,[vii] in turn, it emphasizes the pedagogy of love and inclusion, arguing that education should be a practice of freedom that empowers students to think critically and question oppressive structures. For bell hooks, education must be a participatory and democratic process, where the voice of each student is heard and respected.

These perspectives are fundamental to understanding the challenges and opportunities of the Brazilian educational system. The militarization of schools not only ignores these principles, but also perpetuates an authoritarian model that stifles creativity and critical thinking. To move forward, Brazil needs to adopt educational policies that promote inclusion, diversity and equality, following the successful examples of other countries and the lessons of visionary educators.

Conclusion

Given the facts presented, it is imperative to question the real need and effectiveness of civic-military schools. This model not only burdens public coffers, but also threatens the democratic principles that should guide Brazilian education. As a historian, I reiterate the importance of an education that promotes freedom of thought and prepares citizens to actively participate in a democratic and plural society. History shows us that education is a powerful instrument of social transformation, and we must ensure that it is used to promote inclusion, equality and social justice.

The militarization of Brazilian education represents a return to authoritarian practices that contradict the democratic advances achieved in recent decades. When observing successful international examples, such as the educational systems of Finland, Canada and New Zealand, we realize that the quality of education is intrinsically linked to the promotion of inclusive environments and continuous investment in teacher training. These countries demonstrate that quality education is achieved through valuing diversity and implementing educational policies that meet the needs of all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Furthermore, it is crucial to consider the perspective of educators like Sueli Carneiro and Bell Hooks, who advocate anti-racist and inclusive education. Sueli Carneiro highlights the importance of an education that recognizes and values ​​Brazil's cultural and ethnic diversity, promoting equity and combating structural inequalities. Bell Hooks, in turn, emphasizes the pedagogy of love and inclusion, proposing an education that enables students to think critically and actively engage in building a more just society. These visions are fundamental to redefining education in Brazil, moving away from authoritarian models and adopting practices that promote freedom, creativity and equality.

Therefore, the adoption of an educational model that values ​​inclusion, diversity and critical thinking is essential for the development of quality education in Brazil. By directing resources to training teachers, improving school infrastructure and developing inclusive curricula, Brazil can move towards an educational system that truly prepares its students to face the challenges of a democratic and plural society.

*Erik Chiconelli Gomes is a postdoctoral fellow at the Faculty of Law at USP.

Notes


[I] Ministry of Education. 'Handbook of Civic-Military Schools'. Available in: https://www.gov.br/mec/pt-br/assuntos/noticias/mec-apresenta-os-resultados-do-programa-nacional-das-escolas-civico-militares.

[ii] Brasília Agency. 'DF has 15 civic-military schools, find out how the model works'. Available in:

(https://www.agenciabrasilia.df.gov.br/2022/04/17/df-tem-15-escolas-civico-militares-saiba-como-funciona-o-modelo.

[iii] WERNECK, Andrea. “The civic-military school costs twice as much per student as regular schools and does not deliver twice as many positive results.” PM attacks students in voting at civic-military schools. ICL News. Available in: https://iclnoticias.com.br/pm-agride-estudantes-votacao-escolas-militares/.

[iv] Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Education at a Glance 2023: OECD Indicators. OECD iLibrary, 2023. Available at: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/education/education-at-a-glance-2023_69096873-en

[v] OECD. Education at a Glance 2023. Available at: https://www.oecd.org/education/education-at-a-glance/

[vi] CARNEIRO, Sueli. Racism, sexism and inequality in Brazil. São Paulo: Selo Negro, 2011.

[vii] hooks, bell. Teaching to transgress: education as a practice of freedom. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2013.


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