Entrance exam and reading

Image: Lisa Photoios


We fight for universal and free access to high-quality education, and something like this will not be achieved by changing the university entrance exam curriculum, but rather by abolishing its existence once and for all.

There are certain occasions when a debate, delving into some points that may initially seem interesting, ends up moving beyond the central point of criticism, and, therefore, enveloped by a “diaphanous cloak of fantasy” – to use Eça’s words from Queiroz. This seems to have been precisely the already infamous case of the list of mandatory reading works selected by the foundation responsible for preparing the entrance exam for the largest university in Latin America, the University of São Paulo.

Since the foundation's announcement of the change of this list to one that consisted exclusively of texts by female authors, some productions have circulated here and there and a series of arguments that sought, each in its own way, to develop defenses, criticisms and surveys that questioned the literary legitimacy of the collection.

With its value, this debate, however, seems to have ignored two issues that may be earlier, then placed in the background or even ignored by some. Such issues would be: (i) access to books in Brazil; and (ii) the complete absurdity of the very existence of an entrance exam. If one looks at these two points, perhaps one will come to the conclusion that it would be necessary to move this debate to another place and in another direction, while efforts are concentrated on eliminating completely and once and for all a barrier that prevents subjects to study.

So start by stating the obvious: it is not easy to access books in Brazil. In fact, it never was. In colonial times there was a virtual impossibility due to the impediment of the Portuguese crown, at the same time that the scarcity of paper and ink to publish made it difficult to circulate any kind of text – see, for example, the way in which newspapers circulated. poems attributed to Gregório de Matos.

During the 19th century, the number of booksellers was too few, so that even a respected writer like Machado de Assis had to serve as a publisher from yourself[I]. More recently, despite the considerable number of publishers and the ubiquity of the internet for some social classes and in some urban centers, factors involving social inequality (whether financial or otherwise) make material access to books difficult.

Of course, in the face of such difficulties, it would not be a question of abolishing the book; on the contrary, it would be a case of expanding and spreading its use in a more significant way, considering precisely this reality of pauperization, thus taking the book object especially to communities most in need of its presence. Today, we must remember what material conditions exist that impede access to books – data such as the number of schools that have a library, the number of books per student, the precarious state of the materials and the location; Do not forget also hunger, exhausting work, inadequate sanitary conditions, the situation of constant fear in the face of police and domestic violence, data that, without a doubt, affect the possibility of a subject taking the time to sit and read with concentration a romance like The girls by Lygia Fagundes Telles.

As an educational, research and extension institution, there is no lack of data or even people who not only have the willingness but also the knowledge to push society towards expanding access to books, as well as the literary formation of communities that may be within reach. of the fields of our institutes and departments that deal with such matters.

In another aspect of the problem, it would be worth remembering that, far from the curricular choice of one entrance exam or another, the true absurdity is the existence of a device whose real functioning is preventing hundreds of people from studying: what can we do , in fact, is to prohibit someone from studying. Let's see carefully: these people are not seeking organized crime, the systematic exploitation of people in a state of vulnerability, the rent-seeking of those who want to extract riches from other people's hides and environmental destruction to launch themselves into space or explore the bottom of the ocean in a classic trait of megalomania.

These people just want to study. They want access to laboratories, student housing (however precarious it may be), food and… libraries. Right there where you will find the exhausted Humanitarian Booklet by Nísia Floresta; Furthermore, it will be in this place where they will be able to learn French to read the texts of Olympe de Gouges, or English to read Mary Woolstonecraft and Margareth Cavendish. Many of the opportunities that the public university offers and that a large part of basic education students (including those more affluent from the characteristically mediocre upper classes in Brazil) do not even know exist.

All of this is prevented by this suffering-producing device called vestibular – if etymologically the term designates an entrance, it would be interesting to observe what the word hides and what it materially is: a lock, a chain; an impediment.

For those still absorbed by capitalist realism, I would like to remember three factors. The first of them is that this inhuman device is not a result of nature and, therefore, does not exist everywhere. There are examples in Western and Eastern countries, rich and exploited, formerly colonized and former colonizers of access to higher education without any kind of barrier such as the entrance exam – the bad example, as is common to education in general at all levels, comes from the USA; a place where education, especially higher education, becomes a source of virtually infinite debt.

A second point would be to remember that the annual budget of the University of São Paulo (the largest university in Latin America, which has around 97 thousand students, five thousand teachers and thirteen thousand technical-administrative employees), is around R$8,6 .126,69 billion; Meanwhile, the money committed to support the Armed Forces in Brazil, which carried out an attempted coup d'état for the umpteenth time since the founding of the Republic, through the Ministry of Defense, is R$14 billion. In other words, it would be possible to support XNUMX universities like USP with such a budget.

Finally, I would like to state that faced with the failure of our dreams, the left has even lost the ability to articulate our proposals for the construction of an egalitarian form of life with popular power (as Vladimir Safatle has been reaffirming in recent years and, in special, recently on the occasion of the launch of his new book). In this sense, it is necessary to point out at all times that what we need is not a private college that vampirizes its employees and delivers an education of very low quality, with few resources and practically no space for research and extension, to just train more people who will be brutalized. in the business market.

We truly fight for universal and free access to high-quality education, with good resources, good workers and good teachers (taking into account the legion of unemployed or underemployed doctors in Brazil, it is not difficult to find people to take on such positions). Something like this will not be achieved by changing the entrance exam curriculum, but rather by abolishing its existence once and for all.

* Guilherme Rodrigues He holds a PhD in Literary Theory from Unicamp's IEL.


[I] Read Lúcia Granja's latest investigations in this sense.

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