“Any institutional act that threatens the dignity of professor Paulo Freire, as Patron of Brazilian Education”, by the federal government, will be in breach of the law. This is what the Federal Court of Rio de Janeiro determined in an injunction that responded to a request from the National Human Rights Movement (MNDH). It is still possible to appeal by the Attorney General of the Union (AGU).
Judge Geraldine Vital’s decision was issued as a matter of urgency a few days before the date on which educator Paulo Freire, if he were alive, would complete a century of age. If it fails to comply with the measure, the Union must pay a fine of R$ 50 thousand per day.
According to the magistrate, freedom of expression is a fundamental principle, but this constitutional guarantee is disfigured and violated when there is “abuse of rights by expression that threatens dignity.”
“Nobody is forced to like Paulo Freire, not even to follow his proposals and agree with his ideas”, argues Paulo César Carbonari, a member of the National Coordination of the National Human Rights Movement. “But each and every one of us must respect his legacy and his memory,” he says.
The conservative crusade against Paulo Freire
The lawsuit filed by the MNDH is one of the many reactions of civil society to the constant attacks of President Jair Bolsonaro and his followers against Paulo Freire, considered one of the greatest intellectuals, philosophers and educators in the world.
Still in the presidential campaign, Jair Bolsonaro presented, in his government plan, the proposal to expunge “Paulo Freire’s ideology” from education. In a lecture given at the time to businessmen in Espírito Santo, he stated that it was necessary “to enter the MEC with a flamethrower [Ministério da Educação] to get Paulo Freire out of there”.
On another occasion, Bolonsaro, already president, commented on a decision by his then Minister of Education, Abraham Weintraub, to deactivate TV Escola. The president, then, described Paulo Freire as an “idol of the left” and “an energetic”.
READ MORE: Teachers debate Paulo Freire’s legacy
Having died in 1997, Freire did not experience the pocketbook and the recent growth of totalitarian ideals that elected him as one of the targets. He knew well, however, what it is to be politically persecuted.
The educator became well-known in the 1960s, when he developed and implemented an innovative literacy method for 400 adults in Rio Grande do Norte, based precisely on the context and knowledge of the students.
Plans to implement the program nationwide, under the government of João Goulart, were interrupted with the military coup of 1964. Freire was arrested and then lived in exile for 15 years.
Currently, his most important book, Pedagagia do oprimido, is among the 100 most cited works in academic articles in the English language. Paulo Freire, entitled Patron of Brazilian Education by the National Congress since 2012, holds an honorary doctorate degree in at least 35 universities around the world.
Perhaps the obsession with which Freire’s propositions are pursued in the cyclical waves of intensification of conservatism in Brazil is explained in one of his powerful ideas, which appears in the quote from the document with which the MNDH filed for justice. “Education doesn’t change the world. Education changes people. People change the world.”
::Saudade de casa: after years in exile, Paulo Freire’s dream was to return to Recife ::
Edition: Vinícius Segalla