Democracy and education as a right



Introduction of the recently released book “The demolition of the democratic construction of education in dark Brazil”

“Let's be realistic: let's ask for the impossible” (Student graffiti in 1968).


Surveys by CPDOC and ISER, carried out in 2018, sought to verify what the Brazilian population understands by citizen rights and which ones they consider to be the most fundamental. The results were alarming: 45% of respondents had no idea what a citizen's right was and tended to identify “right” and “what is correct” or “what is right”, giving a moral interpretation to a socio-political concept. political; of the remaining 55%, who understood, even vaguely, what a citizen's right is, practically all placed personal security as the first of the rights and only 11% considered education as a citizen's right; of these 11%, only 5% said that the right to education should be ensured by the State through free public schools.

Interestingly though, when asked about their aspirations and desires, 60% of respondents listed education, along with employment, among their top aspirations.

At the same time, another survey, this time limited to the state of São Paulo, carried out by the newspaper The state of Sao Paulo, asked the opinion of the population about the public elementary school. There were two types of responses: respondents belonging to the popular classes stated that the school had already been better, but that violence, on the one hand, and the automatic approval of students, on the other, had harmed the quality of teaching; in turn, respondents belonging to the middle class, who had either lost their jobs or had a salary reduction, explained that their children had always attended private schools and that only due to adverse circumstances were they being forced to attend public school and that this was a real punishment, a humiliation and a misfortune, as the quality of teaching is terrible and will make getting into college almost impossible.

The three surveys indicate that: few Brazilians understand that education is a right; those who understand it that way do not attribute to the State the duty to ensure this right; the desire for education is strong because it is often associated with the possibility of a better job; the popular classes regret the loss of teaching quality in public schools; the middle class abhors public schooling because it does not offer instruments for competition for university education and, consequently, for obtaining more qualified jobs.

If we cross data from these surveys, we obtain the following interpretation: education is not perceived as a right for three main reasons: (1) because the majority of the population ignores what a citizen's right is; (2) because education is not viewed from the perspective of training, but rather as an instrument for entering the labor market; (3) the public school is devalued because it is not an effective instrument for entering this market.

We are thus led to two questions: firstly, why is there ignorance of what citizenship rights are and, among them, the right to education? Second, why is the school immediately associated with the market?

These two questions lead us, on the one hand, to the need to understand what a democratic society is and, on the other hand, to the need to understand the effects of neoliberalism on education.


We are used to accepting the liberal definition of democracy as system of law and order to guarantee individual freedoms. Since liberal thought and practice identify freedom and competition, this definition of democracy means, first, that freedom boils down to economic competition of so-called “free enterprise” and political competition between parties contesting elections; second, that there is a reduction of the law to the judiciary power to limit political power, defending society against tyranny, since the law guarantees governments chosen by the will of the majority; third, that there is an identification between the order and the power of the executive and judicial powers to contain social conflicts, preventing their explicitness and development through repression; and, fourthly, that, although democracy appears justified as a “value” or as a “good”, it is, in fact, seen by the criterion of efficacy, measured, at the legislative level, by the action of representatives, understood as professional politicians, and, at the level of the executive branch, by the activity of an elite of competent technicians who are in charge of the direction of the State.

Democracy is thus reduced to an effective political regime, based on the idea of ​​organized citizenship in political parties, and manifests itself in the electoral process of choosing representatives, in the rotation of rulers and in technical solutions to economic and social problems.

However, democracy goes beyond the idea of ​​a political regime, as it defines the shape of society itself. In other words, it does not just refer to the form of government, but to the general form of a society, the democratic society. In this respect, the main features of democracy could be summarized as follows:

(1) socio-political form defined by the principle of isonomy (equality of citizens before the law) and isegoria (right of everyone to expose their opinions in public, to see them discussed, accepted or rejected in public), based on affirmation that everyone is equal because they are free, that is, no one is under the power of another because everyone obeys the same laws of which everyone is the author (authors directly, in a participatory democracy; indirectly, in a representative democracy). Hence the biggest problem of democracy in a class society is the maintenance of its principles – equality and freedom – under the effects of real inequality;

(2) political form in which, unlike all others, the conflict is considered legitimate and necessary, seeking institutional mediations so that it can be expressed. Democracy is not the regime of consensus, but the work of and on conflicts. Hence another democratic difficulty in class societies: how to deal with conflicts when they take the form of contradiction and not mere opposition?

(3) socio-political form that seeks to face the difficulties mentioned above, reconciling the principle of equality and freedom and the real existence of inequalities, as well as the principle of the legitimacy of the conflict and the existence of material contradictions, introducing, for this, the idea of the rights (economic, social, political and cultural). Thanks to rights, unequals gain equality, entering the political space to claim participation in existing rights and, above all, to create new rights. These are new not simply because they did not exist before, but because they are different from those that exist, since they give rise, as citizens, to new political subjects who affirmed them and made them be recognized by the whole of society;

(4) through the creation of rights, democracy emerges as the only political regime really open to temporal changes, since it makes the new emerge as part of its existence and, consequently, temporality is constitutive of its way of being;

(5) the only socio-political form in which the popular character of power and struggle tends to become evident in class societies, insofar as rights only expand their scope or only emerge as new through the action of the popular classes against the juridical-political crystallization that favors the ruling class. In other words, the hallmark of modern democracy, allowing its passage from liberal democracy to social democracy, is found in the fact that only the popular classes and the excluded (the “minorities”) feel the need to claim rights and create new ones. ;

(6) political form in which the distinction between power and ruler is guaranteed not only by the presence of laws and the division of various spheres of authority, but also by the existence of elections, as these (contrary to what political science claims) they do not mean mere “alternation in power”, but point out that power is always empty, that its holder is society and that the ruler only occupies it because he has received a temporary mandate to do so. In other words, political subjects are not simply voters, but voters. To elect means not only to exercise power, but to manifest the origin of power, reinforcing the principle affirmed by the Romans when they invented politics: to elect is “to give someone what one has, because no one can give what he does not have”, that is, to elect is to assert oneself sovereign in order to choose temporary occupants of the government.

(7) a society – and not a simple regime of government – ​​is democratic when, in addition to elections, political parties, division of the three powers of the republic, respect for the will of the majority and minorities, it institutes something deeper, which is a condition of political regime itself, that is, when it institutes rights and this institution is a social creation, in such a way that social democratic activity takes place as a social counter-power that determines, directs, controls and modifies state action and the power of rulers.

The heart of democracy is the creation and conservation of rights

What is a right? One right differs from one need ou lack and from one interest. In fact, a need or want is something particular and specific. Someone may need water, another needs food. One social group may lack transport, another may lack hospitals. There are as many needs as there are individuals, as many needs as there are social groups. An interest is also something particular and specific, depending on the group or social class. Needs or shortages, as well as interests tend to be conflicting because they express the specificities of different groups and social classes.

A right, however, unlike needs, needs and interests, is not particular and specific, but general and universal, valid for all individuals, groups and social classes either because it is the same and valid for all individuals, groups and classes social rights, or because, although differentiated, it is recognized by all (as is the case of so-called minority rights). Thus, for example, the lack of water and food manifests something deeper: the right to life. The lack of housing or transportation also manifests something deeper: the right to good living conditions. In the same way, the interest, for example, of students expresses something deeper: the right to education and knowledge. In other words, if we consider the different needs and different interests, we will see that under them are right assumptions, not explicitly formulated.

A right differs from needs, needs and interests, but it is intrinsically distinguished from privilege, as the latter is always particular, excluding and can never be universalized and become a right without ceasing to be a privilege. While needs, needs and interests presuppose rights to be won, privileges to be oppose to rights.

One of the most important practices of democratic politics is precisely to provide actions capable of unifying the dispersion and particularity of needs in common interests and, thanks to this generality, make them reach the universal sphere of rights. In other words, privileges and needs determine economic, social and political inequality, going against the democratic principle of equality: the transition from scattered needs to common interests and from these to rights is the fight for equality. We measure the political capacity and strength of citizenship not only when it performs this passage, but also when it has the strength to undo privileges, making them lose legitimacy in the face of rights.

This is why the practice of to declare rights (See C. Lefort the democratic invention). Why declare them? This practice reveals, firstly, that it is not an obvious fact for all humans that they are holders of rights and, secondly, that it is not an obvious fact that such rights should be recognized by everyone. In other words, the existence of the social division of classes allows us to assume that some have rights and others do not. In contrast, the bill of rights asserts exactly the opposite by inscribing rights in the social and political, affirming their social and political origin and as something that calls for the reconhecimento of all, demanding the consent socially and politically. This recognition and this consent give rights the condition and dimension of rights. universals.

Now, Brazilian society is polarized between the needs of the popular classes and the privileges of the ruling and ruling class. This polarization is a sign of the absence of real democracy or, at least, of the enormous difficulty in establishing it and indicates that, structurally, we are an authoritarian society.


Preserving traces of the slave-owning, patriarchal and patrimonialist colonial society, Brazilian society is marked by the predominance of the private space over the public and, having the family hierarchy at the center, it is strongly hierarchical in all its aspects: in it, social and intersubjective relations are always carried out as a relationship between a superior, who commands, and an inferior, who obeys. This explains the fascination with signs of prestige and power, which appears, for example, in the maintenance of domestic servants whose number indicates an increase in status, or in the use of honorary titles without any relation to the possible relevance of their attribution, the most current being the use of “Doctor” when, in the social relationship, the other feels or is seen as superior, so that “doctor” is the imaginary substitute for the old titles of nobility.

In Brazilian society, differences and asymmetries are always transformed into inequalities and these into natural inferiority (in the case of women, workers, blacks, indigenous peoples, migrants, the elderly) or as a monstrosity (in the case of lgbt+), reinforcing the relationship of command and obedience. The other is never recognized as a subject or as a subject of rights, he is never recognized as subjectivity or alterity. Relations between those who consider themselves equal are those of “kinship”, that is, of complicity; and, among those who are seen as unequal, the relationship takes the form of favour, clientele, guardianship or co-option, and, when inequality is very marked, it takes the form of oppression.

In short, micro-powers spread throughout society in such a way that the authoritarianism of and in the family spreads to the school, to love relationships, work, social behavior on the streets, the treatment given to citizens by the state bureaucracy, and it expresses itself, for example, in the market's contempt for consumer rights (the heart of capitalist ideology) and in the naturalness of police violence. It is understandable, then, why in our society there is a tacit (and sometimes explicit) refusal to admit formal equality or the mere liberal principle of legal equality: for the great, the law is a privilege; for the popular strata, repression. The law does not express the public pole of power and conflict regulation, it never expresses citizens' rights and duties because the task of the law is the conservation of privileges and the exercise of repression. For this reason, laws appear as innocuous, useless or incomprehensible, made to be transgressed and not to be transformed. The judiciary is clearly perceived as distant, secret, representing the privileges of the oligarchies and not the rights of the social generality;

The absence of recognition of rights leads to conceiving citizenship as a class privilege, a concession from the ruling class to other social classes, which can be withdrawn when the dominant so decide and therefore, in the case of the popular classes, the rights, instead of appearing as achievements of organized social movements, they are always presented as concessions and grants made by the State, depending on the personal will or discretion of the ruler to maintain or withdraw them through “labor reforms”.

Social conflicts are considered synonymous with danger and disorder, receiving three responses: police repression and private militias for the popular layers, military repression for political protest movements, and, in the institutional space, the condescending contempt for opponents as well as the use of the judiciary power to prevent them from acting or discredit them, thanks to the media, which not only monopolize information, but also spread the idea that consensus is unanimity and that disagreement is ignorance, delay, conspiracy and danger.

Struggles over land ownership trigger the criminalization of their leaders, whose murder remains unpunished; Agribusiness workers are known as “boias-frias” because, starting their workday at dawn, their meal (when they have anything to eat) is reduced to a handful of cold rice and eggs. Work accidents, both in the countryside and in the city, are attributed to the incompetence and ignorance of the workers and not to the terrible working conditions. The population of large cities is divided between a “center” and a “periphery”, remote neighborhoods in which all basic services are absent (electricity, water, sewage, paving, transport, school, medical care), making the journey of work lasts up to 15 hours. In the case of the “center”, the opposition between the so-called “noble neighborhoods” and pockets of poverty, tenements and slums is naturalized.

Racism is not perceived as such and ensures the naturalness of social and cultural exclusions as well as wage inequality, as blacks are considered childish, ignorant, naughty, indolent, an inferior and dangerous race; and the indigenous, in the final phase of extermination, are considered irresponsible (that is, incapable of citizenship), lazy (that is, ill-adaptable to the capitalist labor market), dangerous, and should be exterminated or, then, “civilized” ( that is, delivered to the fury of the market for the purchase and sale of labor, but without labor guarantees because they are “irresponsible”).

Machismo is not perceived as such, whether in the oppressive domestic life of women or in the workplace, where wage inequality between men and women is considered natural; and women who work (if they are not teachers, nurses, social workers or domestic servants) are considered potential prostitutes and prostitutes, degenerates whose retinue increases with the arrival of the dangerous multitude of other sexual perverts, who must be promptly eliminated – the lgbtqi+.

Inequality in wages between men and women, between whites and blacks, exploitation of child labor and the elderly are considered normal. The existence of the landless, the homeless, the unemployed is attributed to the ignorance, laziness and incompetence of the “miserable”. The existence of children without a childhood is seen as “a natural tendency of the poor towards criminality”. Accidents at work are attributed to the incompetence and ignorance of workers. Working women (if they are not teachers, nurses or social workers) are considered potential prostitutes and prostitutes, degenerate, perverse and criminal, although, unfortunately, indispensable to preserve the sanctity of the family.

This authoritarianism makes neoliberalism fit us like a glove.


What we call neoliberalism was born from a group of economists, political scientists and philosophers, who, in 1947, met in Mont Saint Pélérin, Switzerland to oppose the emergence of the Social Welfare State, in which the State it regulates the economy and the market and directs public funds towards the social rights of workers (unemployment wages, family wages, vacations, housing, health and education). This group elaborated a detailed economic and political project in which it attacked the Social Welfare State, stating that this type of State destroyed citizens' freedom and competition, without which there is no prosperity.

These ideas remained a dead letter until the capitalist crisis of the early 1970s, when capitalism experienced, for the first time, a type of unpredictable situation, that is, low rates of economic growth and high rates of inflation: the famous stagflation. The group of neoliberals began to be heard with respect because they offered the supposed explanation for the crisis: this, they said, was caused by the excessive power of the unions and labor movements that had pressed for wage increases and demanded an increase in the social charges of the State. In this way, they would have destroyed the levels of profit required by companies and unleashed uncontrollable inflationary processes.

Once the diagnosis was made, the group proposed the remedies: (1) a strong State to break the power of unions and workers' movements, to control public money and drastically cut social charges and investments in the economy; (2) a state whose main goal should be monetary stability, containing social spending and restoring the unemployment rate necessary to form an industrial reserve army to break the power of unions; (3) a State that carried out a fiscal reform to encourage private investment and, therefore, that reduced taxes on capital and wealth, increasing taxes on individual income and, therefore, on work, consumption and trade ; (4) a State that distanced itself from the regulation of the economy, letting the market itself, with its own rationality, operate the deregulation; in other words, abolition of state investment in production, abolition of state control over financial flows, drastic anti-strike legislation, and vast privatization program (See David Harvey, The postmodern condition).

As we can see, neoliberalism is the decision to invest public funds in capital and privatize social rights, so that we can define neoliberalism as expanding the private space of market interests and shrinking the public space of rights. Its basic ideological assumption is the statement that all the country's economic, social and political problems and harms stem from the presence of the State not only in the Production Sector for the market, but also in the Social Programs, from which it is concluded that all solutions and all the economic, social and political benefits come from the presence of private companies in the Production Sector and in the Social Services Sector.

In other words, the market is the bearer of socio-political rationality and the main agent of the welfare of the republic. This is clearly evident in the replacement of the concept of social rights hair of services, which leads to placing social rights in the private services. In other words, neoliberal privatization refers to the transformation of rights into private services sold and bought in the market.

Neoliberalism is the new form of totalitarianism. To understand it, we need to consider its core, that is, the idea of ​​social and political action as administration or management.

As we know, the movement of capital has the peculiarity of transforming each and every reality into an object of and for capital, converting everything into merchandise and, for this very reason, producing a universal system of equivalences, typical of a social formation based on the exchange of equivalents or in the exchange of commodities through the mediation of an abstract universal commodity, money as a universal equivalent. To this corresponds the emergence of a practice, that of administration, analyzed by Adorno, Horkeimer and Marcuse (See Adorno and Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment; Max Horkheimer, critical theory; Herbert Marcuse, one-dimensional man).

This practice is based on two assumptions: that every dimension of social reality is equivalent to any other and for that reason is manageable in fact and in law, and that administrative principles are the same everywhere because all social manifestations , being equivalent, are governed by the same rules. In other words, administration is perceived and practiced according to a set of general norms devoid of particular content and which, due to their formalism, are applicable to all social manifestations. In this way, as Michel Freitag observes (See The shipwreck of the university), turns a institution social in a organization.

A social institution is an action or a social practice founded on the public recognition of its legitimacy and attributions, on a principle of differentiation, which gives it autonomy from other social institutions, and structured by orders, rules, norms and values ​​of recognition and legitimacy. internal to her. Its action takes place in an open temporality because its practice transforms it according to the circumstances and its relations with other institutions – it is historical. On the other hand, an organization is defined by another social practice, namely that of its instrumentality, based on the two assumptions of equivalence and generality of all social spheres, which, as we have seen, define administration. It is perceived and practiced according to a set of general norms devoid of particular content which, due to their formalism, are applicable to all social manifestations. It refers to the set of particular means to obtain a particular objective, that is, it does not refer to actions articulated with the ideas of external and internal recognition, internal and external legitimacy, but the operations, that is, strategies guided by the ideas of effectiveness and success in the use of certain means to achieve the particular objective that defines it. It is governed by the ideas of management, planning, forecasting, control, competition and success.

Why designate neoliberalism as a new form of totalitarianism?

Totalitarianism: because, at its core is the fundamental principle of the totalitarian social formation, that is, the refusal of the specificity of the different social and political institutions that are considered homogeneous and undifferentiated because conceived as organizations. Totalitarianism (at any time) is the refusal of social heterogeneity, of the existence of contrary social classes (contradictory and conflicting), of the plurality of ways of life, behaviors, beliefs and opinions, customs, tastes, putting in their place ideas to offer the image of a homogeneous society, one, undivided, in agreement and in consonance with itself.

New: why, instead of the form of the State absorbing society (or society as the mirror that reflects the State), we see the opposite occur, that is, the form of society absorbs the State (the State is the mirror that reflects society ). In fact, previous totalitarianisms instituted the nationalization of society. The great neoliberal novelty lies in defining all social and political spheres not only as organizations, but, having the market as their central core, it defines them as a specific type of organization that runs through society from end to end and from top to bottom: and empresa – the school is a company, the hospital is a company, the church is a company, the cultural center is a company and the State itself is conceived as a company, being therefore a mirror of society and not the other way around, as in the old totalitarianisms. It goes further: it defines the individual not as a member of a social class, but as an enterprise, an individual company or “human capital”, or as a businessman of himself, destined for deadly competition in all organizations, dominated by the universal principle of competition disguised under the name of meritocracy.

Salary is not perceived as such, but as individual income, and education is considered an investment for children and young people to learn to perform competitive behaviors. In this way, from birth to entering the job market, the individual is trained to be a successful investment and to internalize guilt when he does not win the competition, triggering hatred, resentment and violence of all kinds, particularly against immigrants, migrants , blacks, Indians, the elderly, beggars, mentally ill, lgbtq+, shattering the perception of oneself as a member or part of a social class, destroying forms of solidarity and triggering extermination practices.

What are the consequences of this new totalitarianism?

Socially and economically, by introducing structural unemployment and the fragmentation/dispersion of productive work, it gives rise to a new working class, called by some scholars the name of precariat to indicate a new worker without a stable job, without a work contract, without unionization, without social security, and who is not simply the poor worker, since his social identity is not given by work or occupation and who, for not being a full citizen , has a mind fed and motivated by fear, by the loss of self-esteem and dignity, by insecurity and above all by the meritocratic illusion of winning competition with others and feeling guilty if they fail.

Politically, it puts an end to the two existing democratic forms in the capitalist mode of production: (1) it puts an end to social democracy with the privatization of social rights governed by the logic of the market, bringing about an increase in inequality and exclusion; (2) puts an end to representative liberal democracy, with politics defined as management and no longer as public discussion and decision of the will of those represented by their elected representatives; managers create the image that they are representatives of the true people, of the silent majority with which they relate uninterruptedly and directly through twitter, blogs and social networks – that is, through the digital party –, operating without institutional mediation, questioning the validity of congresses or political parliaments and legal institutions and promoting demonstrations against these institutions; (3) introduces the judicialization of politics, since in a company and between companies, conflicts are resolved by legal means and not by political means (since the State is a company, conflicts are not treated as a public issue, but as a legal issue) ; (4) so-called political managers operate like mafia gangsters who institutionalize corruption, feed clientelism and force loyalties. How do they do it? Ruling through fear. Mafia management operates by threat and offers protection to those threatened in exchange for allegiances to keep everyone in mutual dependence. Like mafia bosses, rulers have the councilors, advisors, that is, supposed intellectuals, who ideologically guide the decisions and speeches of the rulers; (5) they transform all political opponents into corrupt ones: the corrupt are the others, although mafia corruption is practically the only rule of government; (6) they now have total control over the judiciary, as the operation of the mafia makes them have dossiers on personal, family and professional problems of magistrates to whom they offer “protection” in exchange for complete loyalty and when the magistrate does not accept the deal, you know what happens to him.

Ideologically, (a) it stimulates hatred of the other, of the different, of the socially vulnerable (immigrants, migrants, refugees, lagbtq+, mentally ill, black people, poor people, women, the elderly) and this ideological stimulus becomes a justification for extermination practices; (b) with the expression “cultural Marxism”, he pursues all forms and expressions of critical thinking, inventing the division of society between the “good people”, who support them, and the “diabolical ones”, who contest them. OThe governors/managers intend to make a cleaning ideological, social and political and for that they develop a communist conspiracy theory, which would be led by leftist intellectuals and artists. The advisers are self-taught who were educated reading manuals and hate scientists, intellectuals and artists, taking advantage of the resentment that the middle class and the extreme right have towards these figures of thought and creation, resentment produced by liberals, who have always said that the people do not know how to think or vote.

As these advisors are devoid of scientific, philosophical and artistic knowledge, they use the word “communist” without any precise meaning – it is a slogan: communist means all thought and all action that calls into question the status quo and common sense (that the earth is flat; that there is no evolution of the species; that the defense of the environment is a communist conspiracy; that the theory of relativity is baseless, etc.). It is these advisors who offer racist, misogynistic, homophobic, sexist, religious, etc. arguments to government officials, that is, they transform fears, resentments and silent social hatreds into discourse of power and justification for practices of censorship and extermination; (c) manipulating the feeling of the fleetingness of the present, the absence of ties with the objective past and hope for an emancipating future, they provoke the reappearance of an imaginary of religious transcendence in the form of religious fundamentalisms. In this way, the figure of the entrepreneur of himself is sustained and reinforced by the so-called “prosperity theology”, developed by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IUDRD) and, more than that, this fundamentalism leads to the cult of the so-called decisionist political authority , that is, to unconditional support for the ruler as an uncontested strong authority (a small earthly God - a myth).

Psychologically, it leads to the emergence of a new form of subjectivity, marked by two apparently contrary traits, but actually complementary – on the one hand, a depressive subjectivity, because it is marked by the need to win any and all competitions and by guilt if you fail; and, on the other hand, a narcissistic subjectivity, produced by the practices of electronic communication technologies. It operates, therefore, with a subjectivity that is no longer defined by the body's relations with the space and time of the world or of life, but with the complexity of sparse and fragmented reticular relations.

The new technologies operate with obedience and seduction in the mental field, but disguised in an alleged freedom – that of choosing to obey –, since studies in neurology reveal that, in users, there is a decrease in the capacities of the frontal lobe of the brain, where they carry out thinking and judgments, and there is great development of the part of the brain responsible for desire. One thinks less and desires a lot and, consequently, is frustrated a lot. Liking has become an obligation, the selfie, the like and the meme they became the definition of each one's being, because now, to exist is to be seen. Only in appearance do these two forms of subjectivity seem contrary, since, a century ago, Freud's studies revealed that depression and narcissism are two sides of the same coin.

This brief picture means that we are ready to understand the emergence, in Brazil, of the “school without a party” ideology.

With this ideology, education (from elementary school to university) ceases to be a social institution to become a managed organization according to market rules, leading to the disqualification and demoralization of the public school and the incentive to privatization or to the school as a business.

But not only that. under the power of councilors, it loses its double nucleus. On the one hand, it loses the idea of formation, that is, the exercise of thought, criticism, reflection and the creation of knowledge, replaced by the rapid transmission of unsubstantiated information, the inculcation of prejudices and the dissemination of stupidity against knowledge, a training aimed at qualification for the market of work. On the other hand, it loses the status of citizenship right, asserting itself as a privilege and, as such, an instrument of socio-political and cultural exclusion, of deadly competition, stimulus to hatred, fear, resentment and guilt. In a word, instrument of terror.

If, on the contrary, we consider education as a right of citizenship, we cannot think of it simply as the transmission of information or as a quick qualification of young people who need to quickly enter a job market from which they will be expelled in a few years, as they become , in a short time, obsolete and disposable young people; nor can we take it as training to obtain skills imposed by market interests, that is, knowledge as a productive force of capital. If education is a right, we need to take it in the profound sense that it originally had, that is, as training for and of citizenship, therefore as a universal right of access to knowledge and knowledge creation. It is an exercise of freedom and not an instrument of terror.

The formation of and for citizenship is a civilizing action that takes the free exercise of thought and imagination as a right because it launches us into questioning, asks us to confront what has been instituted so that there is discovery, invention and creation. The training education of and for citizenship takes place as a work of thought to think and say what has not yet been thought or said, bringing a comprehensive view of totalities and open syntheses that lead to the discovery of the new and to the historical transformation as a conscious action of the human beings under materially determined conditions.

Marilena Chaui is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of In defense of public, free and democratic education (Authentic).


Idalice Ribeiro Silva Lima & Régia Cristina Oliveira. The demolition of the democratic construction of education in dark Brazil. Porto Alegre, Zouk, 2021, 524 pages.


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