Thursday, December 22, 2005

The right to choose home education in Brazil

The Right to Choose
Home Education in Brazil

Julio Severo

Jornal Hoje, a news program from Globo Television Network in Brazil, reported:

A disappointing and perturbing performance. Brazilians revealed the worst results in a test that evaluated students of public and private schools from 32 countries. The results reveal that reading is not really the Brazilian adolescents’ strong point. In a private school in São Paulo, most of the students read by obligation. Even so, some try to escape the task. There is a justification for so much disinterest. “I prefer to practice a sport”. They are an example of what happens to the most of the Brazilian students. Four thousand and eight hundred students from 15 public and private schools participated in the International Program of Evaluation, responding to Sciences, Mathematics and Interpretation of Text matters. The Brazilian performance was very bad. The reading test was the most important in the general evaluation. The results revealed that more than 40% of the Brazilian students who participated in the tests were not able to understand what they were reading. [1]

The principal reason for the existence of a school institution is its ability to educate. In that ability, as the Jornal Hoje report says, Brazilian public schools — and even private schools, that are usually much better than public institutions — are failing — losing the reason for their existence. But, as if that were not enough, there are also other serious issues. Violence in the Brazilian schools has increased so much that it has drawn attention from the United Nations, that prepared the book Violência nas Escolas (Violence in the Schools), a paper written by UNESCO in 2002 to address exclusively the serious problems in the schools of Brazil. The book addresses everything that is happening at the Brazilian schools: violence against children, fights, sexual violence, use of weapons, robberies and thefts, assaults and other kinds of crimes. The study included public schools in several states of Brazil.

However, the threats to the children in the public education are not limited only to serious violent acts. Other factors indicating dangerous signs for the children’s emotional and psychological health are an environment saturated with anti-Christian teachings and practices and wantonness in the public schools.

That negative tendency in the educational institutions is becoming general in many places in the world. Concerned parents seek alternatives. In the USA, Australia, England, Mexico, Japan and other countries, many evangelical parents decided to take the personal responsibility to educate their own children, becoming members of the respected homeschooling movement.

Those parents have the freedom and right to educate their children at home, for the national laws of their countries protect their natural right to choose in the education area. The public and private schools are also options, but only parents can make the final decision.

However, even if public schools were able to produce satisfactory results in the educational performance of the students, such results could not be used as an excuse to remove from the parents their right to decide the best education for their own children.

If the government really had a genuine interest in the children’s education, its interest would be properly demonstrated through the unmistakable attitude of supporting and defending families in their natural and legitimate right to choose the best education for their children. If the government were in reality worried with the children’s well-being, its main reaction would not be to defend its right to decide the children’s education, even to the point of pursuing, oppressing, humiliating and imprisoning innocent families.

Actually, behind the argument defending supposed democratic principles of the children rights is the reality: a properly camouflaged language defending the state interests and monopoly on the children’s educational formation. With that argument, the government defends intransigently the children’s best interests — that is nothing more than defend the state interests!

However, home education was not, in the past, a strange experience in Brazil. The constitutions of Brazil protected and respected the parents’ priority role in the children’s education, without removing from them their right to choose where and how to educate. Following are some excerpts of past Brazilian constitutions:

Constitution of 1937:
Article 125. The integral education of the children is the most important duty and natural right of parents. The State will get involved in that duty, collaborating, in a main or subsidiary way, to facilitate its execution or supply the deficiencies and gaps in the private education.

That constitution recognized that the function of the State is to collaborate with parents in their educational choices for their children, instead of trying to substitute them or usurp their right to choose.

Constitution of 1946:
Article 166. The education is right of all and it will be given at home and in the school. It should be inspired by the principles of freedom and in the ideals of human solidarity.

LDB (National Education Guidelines and Bases Law) revoked, of December 20, 1961:
Article. 30. The family man or the guardian cannot exercise public function, nor occupy employment in society of mixed economy or company concessionary of public service if he has presented no proof that his child is enrolled in a school, or that the child is being supplied home education.

Dr. Rodrigo Pedroso, a Brazilian jurist, comments: “This attests that the article 166 of the Constitution of that time was interpreted as allowing the education so much in the school as exclusively at home. Therefore, home education is, strictly speaking, a Brazilian juridical tradition that, for some unknown reason, was abandoned without anyone expressing a protest in the National Assembly for the elaboration of the new constitution in 1987”.

Constitution of 1967:
Article 168. The education is a right of all and it will be given at home and in the school; being guaranteed opportunity-equality, the education should be inspired on the principle of the national unit and on the ideals of freedom and human solidarity.

Then, it is evident that the constitutions before the Constitution of 1988 guaranteed freedom for the parents to choose the education at home or in the school. The Constitution of 1988 came, allegedly, as a better, more democratic document, but only very later is that Brazilians woke up for the fact that that modern constitution, elaborated with the help of many leftist parliamentarians, instead of expanding the parents’ rights quietly turned off the home education option. Parents’ right and freedom were usurped by an assumed “right” and “obligation” of the State. The State literally swallowed the rights of the families.

Undeniably, the most important allegation for the elaboration of the Constitution of 1988 was the supposed need to create a national document giving more freedom and rights than the past constitutions. Since the family is the foundation of the society, it was hoped that the family would be more protected in their natural rights. But it was not what happened. By pure irony or tragedy, the hardest measures against the families who want to exercise their right of educational choice did not happen in the past, not even in the military period: they happened in the Constitution of 1988. With the elaboration of that constitution — in which a number totalitarian leftists took part — parents’ rights in the education were weakened in favor of the interests of the State. That new constitution declares what no Brazilian constitution had ever considered, “The Government has the power to take a census of elementary school students, call them for enrollment and ensure that parents or guardians see to their children’s attendance to school”. (Art. 208, paragraph 3.)

Strangely, that paragraph places the State as the exclusive responsible for the children’s educational choice, demanding that all of them to attend an institutional school, if their parents want or not. Concerning that imposition, Dr. Pedroso comments: “As far as I know, ours is the only Constitution in the world dealing with call for school enrollment”.

Later, some senators tried to introduce again in the Constitution the freedom in the education. In February 1996, there was an effort to recover that right, and the Federal Senate itself approved the following text in the National Education Guidelines and Bases Law:

Article. 7 — Parents’ and guardians’ rights are:
I — to enroll their children in the obligatory education and the children and adolescents under their guard, seeing to their school attendance and efficiency, or to assure a satisfactory alternative.

However, cunning minds were able later to suppress the term “or to assure a satisfactory alternative”, eliminating an important freedom that the Brazilian families always had in the past. It is not known how liberals were able to eliminate that alternative, and it is hard to understand the reasons for such a radical attitude, because the practice of home education is not new nor unknown in the Brazilian history, but what is totally new is the radicalism of the tendency that is systematically mutilating and suppressing that natural right of the parents.

Parents have the right to choose the kind of education that they want for their children: public school, private school, religious school or home education. Public schools are, as reported in the Jornal Hoje, failing and leading children to a failed school performance. But even if that serious deficiency were not reality in the public education, families still deserve to be respected in their natural right to choose in the area of the education. In fact, if such deficiency existed in the home education movement, certainly the government would demand the complete elimination of that educational option. However, its attitude toward its own failures — because public schools are the government’s direct responsibility —is always indulgent! The failure of the public education is the failure of the State itself.

The essential purpose of the education has always been the training of the children’s mind in the basic academic disciplines. However, the humanists are increasingly twisting the essential purpose of the education. They affirm that the institutional schools are important because they are the place where the children learn — they learn from humanists a hedonist sex education; they learn from humanists that the man's origin is ape, not God; they learn from humanists that aberrant abnormalities as homosexuality are normal sexual preferences. Now that it is proven that Brazilian children have had less ability to read thanks to those schools, humanists created a strategic and purely imaginative excuse, properly introduced in the laws: the purpose of school is socialize! So, if your son is not able to learn how to read and write satisfactorily, do not worry: At least, he will learn many “things” from his schoolmates!

If then public school is failing in the academic area, at least will it produce results in the area of socialization? From the humanist educators’ point of view, yes, because grouped children receiving the same values eventually live according to their group values. So, for example, in a group of 60 students learning that homosexuality is just an alternative lifestyle, one or two children with biblical education contrary to homosexuality are isolated or eventually they conform to the values of most, transmitted by the teacher.

From the parents’ point of view, the socialization in the school environment puts innocent children in contact with children with problems of drugs and violence. However, the greatest effect of the school socialization is that the parents’ values are explicit or implicitly rejected by the new values from the classroom. Students tend much more, in the group assimilation of the values absorbed in the school environment, to retain what they learned at the school than what they learned at home. So, the new discards the “old”.

From the humanists’ point of view, the greatest benefit of the public school socialization is that that social contact unavoidably distances the students from the sphere of their parents’ values to put them under the sphere of values of the school group, that in a way or another is under school authority, that on the other hand is under state guidance.

If the government really recognized that socialization is important, then it would respect the children’s social contact in the mini-society that is the family. No socialization is as important as the family union. No system of values is more important for the child’s well-being than the family itself. The system of values of the family is more than enough to educate the child in the essential bases. Differently from what state humanists preach, home-educated children will not go without a future.

Following is a list of famous people who were taught at home[6]:

Leonardo da Vinci
Claude Monet
John Singleton Copley
Andrew Wyeth
Jamie Wyeth

Irving Berlin
Anton Bruckner
Felix Mendelssohn
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Francis Poulenc

Fred Terman (Stanford University President)
William Samuel Johnson (Columbia University President)
Frank Vandiver (Texas A&M University President)
John Witherspoon (Princeton University President)

Stonewall Jackson
Robert E. Lee
Douglas MacArthur
George Patton

Alexander Graham Bell
Thomas Edison
Cyrus McCormick
Orville Wright
Wilbur Wright

John Quincy Adams
William Henry Harrison
Thomas Jefferson
Abraham Lincoln
James Madison
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
John Tyler
George Washington
Woodrow Wilson

John the Baptist
William Cary
Jonathan Edwards
Phillip Melanchthon
Dwight L. Moody
John Newton
John Owen
Charles Wesley
John Wesley
Brigham Young

George Washington Carver
Pierre Curie
Albert Einstein
Blaise Pascal
Booker T. Washington

Konrad Adenauer
Winston Churchill
Benjamin Franklin
Patrick Henry
William Penn
Henry Clay

John Jay
John Marshall
John Rutledge

Hans Christian Andersen
Pearl S. Buck
Agatha Christie
Charles Dickens
Bret Harte
C.S. Lewis
Sean O'Casey
George Bernard Shaw
Mark Twain
Mercy Warren
Daniel Webster
Phillis Wheatley

Richard Basset (Governor of Delaware)
William Blount (U.S. Senator)
George Clymer (U.S. Representative)
William Few (U.S. Senator)
Benjamin Franklin (Inventor and Statesman)
William Houston (Lawyer)
William S. Johnson (President of Columbia C.)
William Livingston (Governor of New Jersey)
James Madison (4th President of the U.S.)
George Mason
John Francis Mercer (U.S. Representative)
Charles Pickney III (Governor of S. Carolina)
John Rutledge (Chief Justice U.S. Supreme Court)
Richard D. Spaight (Governor of N. Carolina)
George Washington (1st President of the U.S.)
John Witherspoon (President of Princeton U.)
George Wythe (Justice of Virginia High Court)

Abigail Adams (Wife of John Adams)
Ansel Adams (Photographer)
Clara Barton (Started the Red Cross)
John Burroughs (Naturalist)
Andrew Carnegie (Industrialist)
Charles Chaplin (Actor)
George Rogers Clark (Explorer)
Noel Coward (Playwright)
John Paul Jones (Father of the American Navy)
Sandra Day O'Connor
Tamara McKinney (World Cup Skier)
John Stuart Mill (Economist)
Charles Louis Montesquieu (Philosopher)
Florence Nightingale (Nurse)
Sally Ride (Astronaut)
Bill Ridell (Newspaperman)
George Rogers Clark (Explorer)
Will Rogers (Humorist)
Jim Ryan (World Runner)
Albert Schweitzer (Physician)
Leo Tolstoy
Martha Washington (Wife of George Washington)

Knowing then that home education has produced great leaders and knowing that home education was always an experience and right existing in the history of Brazil, what to do then to recover that right? Firstly, to modify some articles of the current constitution. The article 205 should receive the following composition:

Article 205. Education is the right of all and it will be ministered at home or at school, with a view to the full development of the person, his preparation for the exercise of citizenship and his qualification for work. Sole paragraph. The integral education of the children is the first duty and a fundamental right of the parents. The State will get involved in that duty, collaborating, in a main or subsidiary way, to facilitate its execution or supply the deficiencies and gaps in the domestic education.

Secondly, to replace the ridiculous paragraph 3 of the article 208, which declares, “The Government has the power to take a census of elementary school students, call them for enrollment and ensure that parents or guardians see to their children’s attendance to school”.

The new text should integrally protect the freedom in the education:

“Article 208, paragraph 3. The obligatory fundamental education can be supplied at home by parents themselves, or by teachers contracted by the parents. The law will just define the annual proof of the educational performance, giving freedom for the choice of curriculum or its elaboration, without any political or ideological imposition”.

And as a measure to respect the efforts of those who studied a lot, at home or not, add a sole paragraph to the article 207:

“Art. 207. (…) Sole paragraph. Higher education will be accessible to all, with base in the performance, independently of a previous education at school or not”.

Therefore, all those who were educated will be treated in a same way before the law, independently of the place where they received their education. After all, the important and indispensable thing is education, not the institution.

Acknowledge: I should thank Dr. Rodrigo Pedroso publicly, of São Paulo city, for his disposition to help researching for me the past constitutions of Brazil in the issues regarding home education and offering valuable suggestions for a new text for the current constitution.

© Julio Severo 2005.


Other articles by Julio Severo

Abortion: Is the solution not only abuse, but kill?

Targeted By Bias: Evangelicals Who Voted for Bush

The Great Gaffe of Lula Against Israel

The Mark of the Beast: The Tomorrow’s Education

Helping Take Care of the Social Health

Message to President Lula on Israel

Message to President Lula on homosexuality

Growth of divorce among Christians: a biblical perspective

What every Christian should know about Israel

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