The challenges of education

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By CARLOS ENRIQUE RUIZ FERREIRA*

Education is the tip of the scales in a democratic and class-conscious society

education and democracy

If there is a place that needs to be recognized as the embryo and support of a democratic society and, at the same time, the dynamo of national and sustainable development, this place is the school.

There is no democracy without education. But not just any education, one with a capital letter, public, of quality, anchored in scientific precepts and committed to human rights and, from the outset, to the Federal Constitution and the international legal instruments issued by the United Nations.

First, the question is: is our society fully democratic? It never hurts to remember that the country is among the 10 most unequal countries in the world: according to the Gini index obtained by the World Bank, 2020, we are the 9th most unequal country (among 164 selected countries).

On the other hand, it will be worth thinking about our political culture and the process of alienation. Jair Bolsonaro's victory and the parliamentary coup d'état that instituted Michel Temer's government are clear examples that we do not live in a society with a democratic conscience. There is no democracy when a good part of the population (especially young people out of high school) vote for a candidate who is clearly opposed to the Constitution, sexist, patriarchal, racist, xenophobic, colonial.

Democracy means a government regime in which there is broad popular participation in politics, fundamentally through voting, and the existence of multiple forms of world views, ways of interpreting social relations and proposing political programs and projects for society and government. But Democracy does not fit the appeal and naturalization of violence, such as the persecution of indigenous peoples, the LGBTQI+ population, quilombola communities, women, peasants, and so on.

The practice of violence (physical and verbal) constitutes a criminal act and does not mean an exercise of freedom of expression. The country, society and institutions seem to be ignoring this simple fact and we are thus submerged in a serious and dangerous process of social alienation, democratic alienation. tertius non datur: either one understands this simple political mathematics, that fascism does not find shelter in Democracy, or our society is going very badly.

And the only way to fight fascism effectively, creating a society with a democratic conscience, is through Education and Culture. Laws and public policies to combat structural inequalities are fundamental, but without a political program that places citizenship and democracy education as a zero priority, we will not change the country. What do we mean by that? That even with the greatest agrarian reform that can be implemented, with the greatest income redistribution program in this country, with the best policy to combat hunger, even with the democratization of education, with a fair tax reform, even if all this is achieved in four or eight years, it will be of no use if we do not have a people aware of their rights and duties, of their citizenship.

Simply put, what needs to be understood is that Bolsonarist culture and the risk of electing a fascist will remain alive and possible, even with a drastic economic and political change. We know that the significant social and economic transformation that the country underwent under the PT governments, Lula and Dilma Rousseff, did not take long for it to melt into thin air. Everything that was "solid" melted into thin air. For perhaps true solidity is not in the material field, but in the political consciousness of a people. Fascism cannot be fought and eliminated only with laws, it is only through the teaching-learning process that a democratic society can be built.

After all, we need to consider that we are failing to comply with one of the fundamental principles of the Federal Constitution (1988) and the Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education (1996): to train citizens. It is necessary to remember Article 2 of the LDB: “Art. 2 Education, a duty of the family and the State, inspired by the principles of freedom and the ideals of human solidarity, aims at the full development of the student, his preparation for the exercise of citizenship and his qualification for work” (Law 9.394, 1996).

 

Democracy, class and education

Since the 2015-2016 coup d'état, the federal government has granted exclusivity, in the field of education, to qualification for work. This is not necessarily the problem, as work is one of the fundamental rights and, we believe, underpins the very existence of man in society. The problem is when education becomes detached from its duty towards citizenship and critical education, producing a technical education in which the poorest are trained for less valued professions on the salary scale and without social critical awareness. It is, as I like to call it, the logic of Education at Casa Grande (which even laid the foundations for the creation of the University of São Paulo based on the influence of the Mesquita family).

The Education of the Casa-Grande is a kind of amalgamation in national history. More recently, it was represented by the federal government of Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro (each with their own idiosyncrasies). But also, let it be said, this colonial mentality was represented in many leftist state governments. The great national and international business foundations of education wasted no time in spreading everywhere, under the banners of the “life project”, “new teaching methodologies”, “entrepreneurship” and “meritocracy”.

These economic-political forces separated knowledge and learning in education into “knowing how to do” and “knowing how to think” to perpetuate the process of domination and subjection of the poorest and most oppressed. nothing new in front, the alienation that materialized in the relations between classes (workers and bosses) in the process of capitalist production, found shelter in national education.

From this separation, in which some learn to do/think and others just to do/reproduce, the possibility of building complex knowledge and a citizen and reflective culture was distorted and practically eliminated. “Thinking”, “reflecting”, “criticizing” has become a rarity in high schools, public and private (with the due exceptions of elite schools). For the poor and most of the population, the emphasis is on technical, uncritical teaching, forming, as Michel Foucault would say, “docile bodies” for the brutally unequal and unfair capitalist system.

 

Final considerations

Education is the tip of the scales in a democratic and class-conscious society. The elite understands this well. The time has come for left-wing governments to take this task seriously.

The federal government and progressive state governments need to put Education in its rightful place: as a fundamental priority for achieving a free and democratic society. It is, mainly, in schools, in the classrooms, that full citizens are formed, conscientious and defenders of democracy and human rights. These are the great pillars of the social order, enshrined in national and international legal instruments, and which need to have their place in the sun in the new society we want to build.

*Carlos Enrique Ruiz Ferreira Professor of International Relations at the State University of Paraíba.

 

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