Brazil Wants Its Own Common Core, sans Inconvenient History

By: Daniel Duarte - @dduart3 - Jan 8, 2016, 12:50 pm

EspañolStudents for Liberty Brazil has raised the alarm about the Education Ministry’s plan to scrap most of human history from its high-school curricula.

The Brazilian government is planning a major educational reform. (MEC)
The Brazilian government is planning a major educational reform. (MEC)

Ancient Greece, the Middle Ages, the Industrial Revolution, and even key revolts in Brazil are nowhere to be found in the draft of a nationwide educational reform. Instead, 9th to 12th graders would get classes on Brazilian, African, Latin American, and 20th-century history alone.

The highly controversial document is the first version of the National Common Curricular Base: the minimum themes that all schools, public and private, must teach students.

In a move to shift the teaching of history away from “eurocentrism,” the ministry’s commission of experts wanted Brazilian students to “analyze the plurality of historical and cosmological conceptions.”

Even though the reform does not forbid the teaching of subjects outside the mandatory themes, it deems anything else unnecessary.

The Brazilian daily Folha points out that many schools would still teach all epochs, because related questions regularly appear on the standardized tests required to get into universities.

However, a high-school student in Brazil could, in theory, graduate without attending a class on Mesopotamia, the Roman Empire, or the French Revolution. With cash-strapped schools, chronic absenteeism, and union strikes, this scenario is not at all unlikely.

Scholars of all stripes have criticized the document. Even the former Education minister has come out against it.

Historian Marco Antonio Vila labeled the reform the ruling party’s “Cultural Revolution,” the Workers’ Party attempt to purge history of facts undesirable to progressivism.

In its defense, the Education Ministry rejected the accusations of ideological bias, claiming that the current version is just a “proposal,” and that a period of consultation is open for anyone to suggest changes until March 15.

However, if what the government seeks is pluralism, why not allow each school to adopt its own curriculum? As Students for Liberty Brazil points out, “an administration that claims to defend diversity so much has decided to prevent it there where it is most important.”

Young minds need debate to be incentivized in the classroom, not covertly stifled.

Daniel Duarte Daniel Duarte

Daniel Duarte is an editor and translator with the PanAm Post. Based in Paraguay, he is currently finishing a bachelor's degree in philosophy, after moving back from France. Follow @dduart3.

Papers, Please! Buenos Aires Police Get Free Rein to Stop and Question

By: Adam Dubove - @dubdam - Jan 8, 2016, 12:34 pm

EspañolOn the afternoon of April 14, 2014, Lucas Abel Vera found himself roaming the Constitution metro station in Buenos Aires. At 3:20 p.m., police officers walked up to him and asked him to produce identification. Nervous, Vera told them he was armed — a loaded gun sat at his waist, and he didn't have a permit. The police promptly arrested him. During trial, Vera's lawyer questioned the procedure. "It amounts to a violation of the freedom of transit," he argued. The police can stop individuals for an interrogation "only when there is a suspicion, which was not the case." While the appellate court first sided with the defense, the Buenos Aires Supreme Court reversed the ruling. The justices decided that the officers had acted within the law. They resorted to a military-era decree that allowed the police to keep "a registry of the capital's inhabitants … to the extent necessary for preserving their safety." The obligation to produce the national identification card (DNI) was among the police officers' "implicit faculties," Justice Inés Weinberg reasoned. Does Security Trump Privacy? Disregarding constitutional guarantees, the ruling effectively does away with two basic individual rights: the right to privacy, and the freedom of movement. In other words, the court tramples on the presumption of innocence: the right to go about your business without having to provide an explanation to anyone, as long as you're not violating the law. Many might object that security is a paramount concern, and they would be right to be worried. Buenos Aires has the highest rate of theft in the Americas. Only those who have something to hide should worry, the argument goes, and law-abiding citizens shouldn't have a problem with showing their ID. But this reasoning is wrong. We all have something to hide, and not necessarily anything criminal. What if someone made up an excuse for why he couldn't show up to a tedious family gathering? A random arrest would foil his plan. Freedom of movement protects everyone, those who have something to hide, and those who do not. Edward Snowden, someone who knows a thing or two about privacy, put it best: "Arguing that you don't care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don't care about free speech because you have nothing to say." Of course, preventing crime is a fundamental task of the police. If someone tipped them off about a murder-for-hire plot, and they suspect a certain individual may be involved, waiting for the crime to occur would be absurd. Security is what police are there to ensure, after all. However, this ruling grants the police far more leeway than they need. Justice Ana María Conde wrote that "random identification checks in public spaces … are not a violation of any constitutional guarantee per se." It essentially subverts the criteria adopted by other courts. Standards such as "strong signs of culpability," a "state of suspicion," and "flagrancy" will no longer be needed. From now on, the police can demand that anyone — "at random" — show their papers. The court has replaced the presumption of innocence with the presumption of suspicion: we are all suspects until proven otherwise. If someone cannot prove his identity card, because he left home without his ID or whatever other reason, he will be in serious trouble. Buenos Aires police can detain a person who doesn't have his ID card, or refuses to show it, for up to 10 hours, in order to conduct a "background check." Without any reasonable cause, the police will arrest him — kidnap him, really — for disobeying an unconstitutional mandate. Consider Yourself Lucky The ruling replaces the aforementioned criteria to reasonably stop someone with random chance. In practice, this will lead to all sorts of abuse. [adrotate group="7"] "Random checks" for the police are never really that random: they are based on arbitrary measures, such as skin color, clothing, age, or place of residence. If we had problems with officers unfairly targeting people before, now it will be commonplace. For Buenos Aires residents who usually don't get stopped by the police, this probably won't change much, but it will be an intimidating environment for all those who fall under the police's arbitrary radar. Someone who has never committed a crime in his life may now potentially have to show his ID to police several times a week, restricting his freedom. With this decision, the Buenos Aires Supreme Court has stripped away the privacy rights and freedom of movement of an entire city. The police are the ones who have all the rights, and we're left relying on mere privileges, and a little luck. We're all suspects now. Translated by Daniel Duarte.

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