School — neither company nor barracks



In Brazil, the “technique-without-ideology” panacea goes hand in hand with the discourse that aims to justify the massive cuts in the already tiny funds allocated to Education and Research

“The coup was not reduced to a mere political-military operation, with the purpose of expelling the President of the Republic. It also consisted of a broad and prolonged campaign to convince the Brazilian population, above all its middle class” (Evaldo Vieira).

“[…] compared to other professions, the military would represent a sociological limit case, contributing to a great internal cohesion or homogeneity (“esprit de corps”), even if often at the price of a distance between the military and the civilian world” (Celso Castro)


The support of supposedly new mentalities and practices is an old cliché reproduced from top to bottom in these Bruzundangas. It is symptomatic that the curriculum of the so-called new High School discontinues activities and subjects that stimulate creativity and reflection, replacing them with instructions to better undertake and innovate, under the auspices of a dignified and useful existence, when the student leaves the school.

István Mészáros taught that “Limiting a radical educational change to the self-interested corrective margins of capital means abandoning all at once, consciously or not, the objective of a quantitative social transformation”.[I]

More recently, Christian Laval showed that “Liberal reforms in education are doubly guided by the growing role of knowledge in economic activity and by the restrictions imposed by systematic competition between economies”.[ii] Luiz Carlos de Freitas highlights that the business reform of education “dates back to the birth of a 'new right' that seeks to combine economic liberalism (neoliberal, in the sense of being a resumption of the classical liberalism of the 19th century) with social authoritarianism”.[iii]

Numerous historians, sociologists and philosophers (Perry Anderson, Noam Chomsky, Mark Fisher, Grégoire Chamayou, Florestan Fernandes, Marilena Chaui, Rubens Casara, etc.) have already shown that neoliberalism defends the “non-intervention” of the market; which does not imply the absence of the State, but rather its decisive action to reduce damage, deregulate rights and ensure the maintenance of social order – essential factors for the smooth running of business.

In Brazil, at least since the 1990s, basic (and higher) education institutions began to adopt the language and mannerisms of the market, discouraging any reasoning that does not teach students to (de)train themselves in the art of bargaining for grades, internships and other “professional growth opportunities”. As we know, the terminology used in the new Enterprise, Finance and Marketing manuals is full of allusions to the military jargon of the post-war world: “digging trenches”, “promoting aggressive campaigns”, “niching” products, “facing the competition” etc.

In our country, the “technique-without-ideology” panacea (improved with the MEC/USAID agreements in the 1970s) goes hand in hand with the discourse that seeks to justify the massive cuts in the already tiny funds allocated to Education and Research. However, as unruly students and teachers still proliferate, from time to time the State applies new repressive methods, reminding “good citizens” that teaching is an act of vocation: although despised as a professional with specialized training, the educator must feel satisfied , because he receives little, but he loves what he does.


Since the longest Brazilian dictatorship (1964-1985), broad and vague concepts such as “modernity”, “freedom”, “democracy” and “patriotism” have been hijacked by the voices of command to be echoed, with a changed signal, by radio announcers and television news, talk show hosts, international correspondents, exclusive reporters, specialized columnists and editors of news vehicles, openly aligned with the generals under the tutelage of the CIA, linked to industrialists, bankers, television pastors and other charlatans.

Crystallized as words of discipline and order, these “categories” became incorporated into common sense. Being modern, free, democratic and patriotic implied combating, torturing, and eliminating communist sympathizers, embodied in the figure of the subversive teacher, the militant student, the mad scientist, the stray trade unionist, the intellectual who denied family values, etc.

Since the 1964 coup – reflected in the Family March with God for Freedom (in a series of events widely disseminated by the reactionary and surrendering press) – there have been rare legislators, mayors and governors whose program was not exclusionary and aligned with the interests of the dominant classes. .

In this regard, the São Paulo native can be proud. Epicenter of Integralism and spokesperson for anti-communism, since the 1930s, a significant part of neo-bandeirantes continues to celebrate acts of cowardice and sadism, in the name of “order”, the “right to come and go” and agendas controversial issues that are only of interest to mega-entrepreneurs, speculators and rentiers.

The abundant distribution of batons to students and teachers who protested in Alesp on May 21st against civic-military schools repeats dark but recurring episodes, carried out according to the logic of war in the “Casa do Povo”. These sad scenes do not constitute an isolated or natural fact; remember that approximately half of our countrymen (many of them, colleagues in the same profession) persist in depositing passports for the physical (and symbolic) clash at the polls.

Although I suspect the effective reach of these lines, I do not shy away from recommending two decisive works that teach how to locate the roots of anger by transforming the classroom into a barracks stronghold, replacing the apron with the uniform. I refer to State and social misery in Brazil, by Evaldo Vieira (my former teacher, during my degree), published in 1982; It is The military spirit, by Celso Castro, published in 1990. It is for no other reason that they sign the epigraphs.

*Jean Pierre Chauvin Professor of Brazilian Culture and Literature at the School of Communication and Arts at USP. Author, among other books by Seven Speeches: essays on discursive typologies. []


[I] Education beyond the capital. 2nd ed. 3rd reprint. Trans. Isa Tavares. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2008, p. 27). []

[ii] The School is not a company: neoliberalism in attack on public education. Trans. Mariana Echalar, 2019, p. 18. []

[iii] The business reform of education: new right, old ideas. São Paulo: Expressão Popular, p. 13. []

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