Once upon a time there was a president who won the elections through the spread of misinformation, hate speech and a war, mainly, fought on social media. During his government, the lack of commitment to education and science became evident. The priority was to arm the population and not to educate. It was four years of committing improprieties and leading the country to chaos, setbacks and slaughter. In science, we have talked extensively, including on this blog, about the degree of criminal denialism and destruction it left behind, especially during the hardest moments of the Covid-19 pandemic.
And once upon a time there was a Minister of Education in this government. Coming from the financial market, interest in education and the public sector, no one had heard of it. But he was nominated. That government really didn’t have good names to name, it had five ministers, one more disastrous than the other, one until he didn’t take office due to the discovery of fraud in his own CV, another who left in handcuffs after negotiating gold bars, and This one, which we are dealing with, left for the United States for fear of being arrested. Among all, our character became unanimous in education as the worst minister in history, simply because his main action was to attack education, students, teachers, universities, researchers and rectors.
This minister often made caricatures of himself, happenings, standups, you speak more than just polemic and prejudiced. He cursed, threatened, “trolled”, in the worst “Olavista” style of cultural war. But, behind these pantomimes and impostures, there was a very concrete mission. Our character was part of a group of ministers focused on destroying institutions, rights and public policies, such as the environment, health (in the midst of a brutal pandemic!), women and human rights. In the name of anything goes, deregulation, and predatory private businesses, which were represented by the grotesque phrase “let’s take advantage (in the midst of the pandemic) to pass the herd”. Which led us to talk, in an Opinião na Folha article, about “Boiada da Educação”.
In the case of higher education and for the aforementioned minister, the herd would pass through two gates: 1) the rigging of MEC bodies and councils with representatives of the private sector opening the gate to their new predatory business model: distance learning – the which also corresponded to a concentration of capital in the sector, collapse of small institutions, mass dismissal of teachers and conflicts with professional councils dissatisfied with the low quality of online training (SoU_Ciência prepared a report on the dizzying expansion of distance learning); 2) the introduction of financial logic in the management, support and definition of priorities in public universities, including the creation of investment funds, real estate funds, naming rights, attack on statutory public careers and other forms of entrepreneurship in institutions – it was the gatekeeper of Future yourselfwhich was rejected by the vast majority of universities and their representative bodies (subject explained in a book published by Giolo, Leher and Sguissardi).
The rejection came not only because of the blatantly neoliberal nature of the initiatives, but because of the direct attack on the universities themselves and their autonomy, which made him dislike unreasonable provocations and interference. On the one hand, the ideological war attacking universities of excellence as places of “riot”, “marijuana plantation” and “synthetic drug production”, and calling their professors “fat zebras”; on the other, disrespecting internal autonomy, in management and representation, contradicting the internal elections of leaders. Finally, the biggest impact came from the continued cuts in university budgets, funding and investment, in addition to the freezing of places and courses – see the article in G1 with our data and the financing panel we produced. During this period, federal universities lost 100,000 enrollments.
His clash was direct with the students and their entities, UBES, UNE and ANPG. His background at the University already indicated hatred towards students and violent persecution, to the point of calling employers to harass students. It was the students, on the streets, who held the two biggest demonstrations against the Bolsonaro government, instigated by the minister’s attacks. The answer came with the proposal of a “new card” for students, to take it away from the entities. The scandal grew when reports from career INEP employees revealed that the MEC was trying to access students’ confidential data, contrary to the General Data Protection Law. The minister also undermined the survival of university students with widespread cuts in scholarships, especially in the humanities, saying that “I don’t want any more sociologists, anthropologists and philosophers with my money”.
On the teachers’ side, the minister encouraged them to be filmed in the classroom, even against their will, to be denounced for ideological indoctrination, as a panoptic and digital expansion of the dictatorship’s old censorship. The pressure and threats suffered by higher education sharply lowered Brazil’s Academic Freedom Index (AFI). The AFI is monitored by the V-Dem Institute of the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität in Germany together with the Scholars at Risk Network, with advice from 2,200 experts. Before the Bolsonaro Government, in the 30 years of Brazilian redemocratization, Brazil’s AFI index was 0.95 (1.0 being the maximum), one of the highest in the world, equivalent or superior to Western democracies. With Bolsonaro our AFI collapsed to 0.41, similar to countries with democracies under attack or established tyrannies, such as Hungary, Venezuela, Sudan, India, among others.
In relation to basic education, in addition to not implementing the goals of the National Education Plan, delaying and putting at risk the renewal of Fundeb (which was saved by national mobilization and voting in Congress despite the government), the lack of dialogue with educational networks, the chaos at ENEM affecting 6 thousand students, the most emblematic case of his contempt for education was throwing out the window 1 billion reais of resources recovered from Operation Lava-Jato intended for basic education throughout Brazil.
The figure fell not because of his misdeeds, but because of the leak of audios at a ministerial meeting in June 2020, when he called the STF ministers “bums” and that he “put them in jail”, in addition to attacking indigenous peoples by denying their rights of existence. He was asked to leave the government and take refuge in the USA, taking a position at the World Bank, since returning to university was not a desire, given his dislike for education.
In fact, many wonder how a prestigious Federal University approved a figure without any academic merit, who was accused of plagiarism and lack of scientific production, in the competition. He was the only candidate for an open position in an area with few doctors, approved with a minimum score and subject to criticism. If they did not enter, the students would remain without classes in that subject. An institutional choice was made, but history showed that he would not be up to being a professor.
When he finished his period at the World Bank, he didn’t want to return to university banks, he wanted the State Government or Congress. He was blocked as a candidate for governor, he ran for federal deputy and received only 4,000 votes, when he projected, in several posts on social media, to reach 1 million votes. With the election over, a new opportunity to regain your position at the university. He preferred not to return and after his absences and non-attendance were confirmed, that is, he abandoned his position, he was dismissed from the university and prevented from working in the federal public sector for eight years. Coincidentally, the same period as his former boss’s ineligibility.
Thus ends his career as a teacher and former Minister of Education. He will also have to answer for several legal proceedings in which he is a defendant and for the disaster he caused in Brazilian education. It’s up to us not to forget, that’s why we revisit this terrible history. Yes, we must turn the page and move forward, but with clarity and awareness of what caused it, so that it never happens again. Education is the fundamental weapon of citizenship, a well-educated population is more prepared to face misinformation, hatred and injustice.