Triumph of the state over the family: Brazilian Congress reinforces ban on homeschooling
by Julio Severo
The Education and Culture Committee of the Chamber of Representatives in Brazil has unanimously rejected, October 19, a bill that would have authorized, under state supervision, parents to homeschool their children. The homeschool bill had been introduced in 2008 by Evangelical representative Henrique Afonso and Catholic Representative Miguel Martini.
In their rejection, the committee expressed its view that homeschooling “disrespects the Constitution, the Penal Code, the National Education Guidelines and Basic Law and the Child and Adolescent Statute.”
However, home education was not, in the past, a strange experience in Brazil. The constitutions of Brazil had protection and respect for the parents’ primary role in the children’s education, without removing from them their right to choose where and how to educate.
The Brazilian Constitution of 1937 said,
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 implementation or supply the deficiencies and gaps in the private education.
That constitution recognized the function of the State as an assistant to parents in their educational choices for their children, instead of trying to substitute them or usurp their right to choose.
The Brazilian Constitution of 1946 said,
Article 166: The education is a 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.
Dr. Rodrigo Pedroso, a Brazilian jurist, comments: “This confirms that the article 166 of the Constitution of that time was interpreted as allowing the education in the school or 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 that drafted the new constitution in 1987”.
The National Education Guidelines and Basic Law, in its Article 30 of December 20, 1961, said,
“A married man with children or a guardian cannot work public office, nor occupy employment in a company of society of mixed economy or a company concessionary of public service if he has presented no proof that his child is enrolled in a school, or that his child is being supplied home education”.
Yet, Brazilian socialist government officials were able to repeal this article in the 1990s.
The Brazilian Constitution of 1967 said,
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.
So it is very clear that the Brazilian constitutions before the Constitution of 1988 guaranteed freedom for the parents to choose home education or institutional school. The Constitution of 1988 came, allegedly, as a better, more democratic document, but only later Brazilians woke up for the fact that that their modern constitution, drafted 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.
Other serious threat to the families’ rights in the education of their children has been the Child and Adolescent Statute (CAS), which is a direct product of the United Nations Children’s Rights Convention. CAS imposes many state interferences in the Brazilian families and their children, especially in the educational and health issues. CAS has been used by the Child Protective Services of Brazil to enforce the state ban on homeschooling, harass families and their children and put them under legal hardships.
Although homeschooling is common in many developed countries and is associated with higher levels of academic achievement, the increasingly-intrusive and socialist government in Brazil has not only abolished its constitutional tradition of home education, but has also repealed several homeschool bills in the Brazilian Congress since the 1990s.
Control over people requires quality and freedom to be discarded and sacrificed on behalf of compulsory indoctrination. For a State possessed by socialism, it does not matter if schoolchildren are not learning to read and write satisfactorily. What matters is to turn away children from parental sphere, authority and values in order to indoctrinate them directly into the state interests.
This indoctrination is a proven reality throughout Brazil. In a long story on the Brazilian schools, Veja magazine (the Brazilian counterpart of Time magazine) made the following revelations:
* A prevalent trend among Brazilian teachers of imposing leftism in the minds of children.
* Leftist indoctrination is predominant in private schools. It is something teachers take more seriously than classroom subjects, as a CNT/Sensus poll, ordered by Veja, found.
* It is embarrassing that Marxism has stayed alive only in Cuba, North Korea and in the Brazilian classrooms.
* CNT/Sensus poll interviewed 3,000 people from 24 Brazilian states, among students and teachers in public and private schools. Its conclusion in this issue was astonishing. Parents (61%) are aware that teachers make political discourses in the classroom and they find it normal. Most teachers recognize that they really indoctrinate children and they think this is their main mission — something more important than teaching how to interpret a text or excel in math. For 78% of teachers, political discourse makes sense, considering that they ascribe to school, above all, the function of “forming citizens” — above of “teaching subjects”.
* Many Brazilian teachers are fascinated by characters that in the classroom deserve a more critical approach, as the Argentinian guerilla Che Guevara, who in the poll appears with 86% of positive mentions, 14% neutral, and no negative comment.
This reality of Brazilian schools is in perfect harmony with the government policies, whose interest is not quality and freedom, but exclusively state control over children. This reality makes Brazil to look more like communist China, where four-year-old children are obliged to attend school just to receive state indoctrination. In fact, according to Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil and China announced the “the creation of a quinquennial plan of targets, as the plans adopted by the Chinese communist government, to create a joint education model”.
Homeschool is illegal, according to the latest Brazilian Constitution and the Brazilian legal version of the United Nations Children’s Rights Convention, but it is not illegal to amend the Constitution for less honorable, state purposes. In its last days, the socialist Lula administration was able to change the Constitution to give 4-year-old children the “right to attend school”, which in China and Brazil means to force parents to deliver their 4-year-old children to the State for “education”.
The few homeschool families in Brazil in public legal battles have been put under educational surveillance and strict tests tailored to make their children fail. Even so, they have incredibly reached high scores. One wonders what the institutionalized schoolchildren would do if submitted to such harshness. But they are spared this shame, receiving graciously tests tailored to make any student easily successful. But even with such state condescension, success is hard for them to grasp.
On international tests, Brazilian students have been found to produce extremely low scores.
The 2007 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which compares student performance in 57 countries, gave Brazil well below-average scores in mathematics, reading, and science.
Domestically, more than 50% Brazilian students in the third year of the elementary school are unable to read the minimum required for math.
The rejected homeschool bill could have been an alternative to the educational chaos in Brazil. In 2005, I helped Dr. Paulo Fernando de Mello, a legislative consultant, to draft this federal homeschool bill. In that time, I was able to introduce in the bill the fundamental recommendations Dr. Brian Ray, the director of NHERI, had sent me. But I had always feared that if approved, the socialist government in Brazil would impose so much austerity, surveillance and intrusiveness that the Brazilian homeschool law eventually would turn home education into a state education at home!
So if approved, we parents would have very little to celebrate. If rejected, we would be “free” to remain illegal, ostracized, Catacomb-homeschoolers!
Now, we have only two choices: homeschool illegally and suffer the massive and violent state intervention in our parental, natural choice, or let our children suffer social, moral, psychological and spiritual violence in the public educational “jails”.
Physical and moral violence and functional illiteracy are rampant in the state education in Brazil. If homeschooling were commonplace in Brazil and produced the same results the state-controlled education has produced for years, it would deserve a complete ban and prosecution and punishment for the culprits.
Public schools make children abandon their intellectual potential. Even so, if a family homeschool their children, government officials in Brazil have a prepared legal charge: intellectual abandonment. Legally in Brazil, intellectual abandonment is not to keep children from education, but keep them from attending school institutions.
International tests have repeatedly proved the failure of the Brazilian public schools, but the government does not have the nerve to charge them of “intellectual abandonment”, under the risk of condemning itself.
If to force the presence of a child in a public school might make her educated, to force her to remain in a garage would turn her into a car!
In the Brazilian public schools, children can be whatever the State decides, not what their parents want. So, for the exclusive benefit of the state interests, the ban on homeschooling in Brazil has now been unanimously reinforced by the Brazilian Congress.
Portuguese version of this article: Triunfo estatal contra a família: Congresso Nacional reforça proibição à educação escolar em casa
Spanish version of this article: Triunfo estatal en contra de la familia: El Congreso de Brasil refuerza la prohibición de la educación en el hogar
German version of this article: Triumph des Staates über die Familie: Brasilianischer Nationalkongress bekräftigt Homeschooling-Verbot