Sun, May 05, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Bolsonaro calls on students to film teachers

The Guardian

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has encouraged students to film teachers during class if they suspect them of pushing leftist ideas, reigniting a battle in one of the most contested arenas of the nation’s culture wars.

“Teachers need to teach and not indoctrinate,” Bolsonaro tweeted this week as he shared a video shot in class by a student who accused her teacher of criticizing the far-right president.

Bolsonaro’s son Carlos also retweeted a student-made video with the comment: “Filming/recording in schools is an act of legitimate defense against ideological predators who are disguised as teachers.”

The call to film teachers originated with a movement called Schools Without Party (ESP), a fringe right-wing movement founded in 2004 that gained influence as Bolsonaro rose to power.

The movement’s founder Miguel Nagib, said that Brazil’s education system is dominated by left-wingers who shape their lessons to win votes for progressive parties.

Bolsonaro’s endorsement of that message comes amid a growing battle over education in Brazil.

This week the government abruptly cut the budget for three major public universities by 30 percent in a move partly motivated by alleged complaints about partisan activities on campus.

Meanwhile, a federal deputy from Bolsonaro’s party introduced a bill to strip a revered left-wing educational theorist of his ceremonial title as the “patron of Brazilian education.”

ESP supporters have collected anecdotal evidence of teachers wearing T-shirts supporting leftist candidates, a public university event to protest “against fascism and in favor of democracy” and a teacher who shouted at students about Bolsonaro.

There has been no scientific study documenting systemic leftist bias in Brazilian education.

Critics allege that ESP’s real agenda is to censor teachers and rid lessons of critical thinking.

“These recordings destroy classrooms as a place for debate,” said Fernando Penna, an education professor at Federal Fluminense University, who is a leader of a group called Teachers Against ESP.

ESP has created an environment of fear for teachers who self-censor discussions of potentially controversial subjects, Penna said.

Several educators have lost their jobs for assigning materials that discuss sex, gender or politics.

History is an especially contested subject — all the more so, because Bolsonaro has himself been accused of attempting to rewrite the nation’s past, denying that Brazil’s 21 years of military rule constituted a dictatorship and arguing that Africans — not Brazil’s Portuguese colonizers — were responsible for slavery.

Bolsonaro has also frequently attacked Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educationalist who gained worldwide recognition for his literacy programs.

This week the president supported a move to strip Freire of his posthumous title of “patron” of the nation’s education system.

Earlier this month a popular YouTube comedy channel, Porta dos Fundos, satirized the mood in Brazilian classrooms with a skit showing a teacher trying to teach a history class.

“Today we are going to talk about the supposed slavery that there was in Brazil,” the teacher says.

“Wasn’t slavery very cruel?” a student asks, as one by one his classmates raise their phones to record.

“Many would say yes,” the teacher replies. “But I’m not here to indoctrinate anyone ... and actually I’m required by law to say that thanks to slavery, Brazil experienced growth like never before.”

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