Brazil News and Views

In Limbo: An Update on the Brazilian Homeschooling Movement

A few months ago I published an article about the nascent Brazilian homeschooling movement. Since then many have asked for an update. There has been much movement, but no definite resolution. I will try to summarize what is going on.

First off, some took umbrage to my use of the word “ban” in the title of my previous post. Perhaps a more accurate term would be “decided parents have no inherent constitutional right to homeschool their children”. Look at it this way: if the US Supreme Court decided tomorrow there was no inherent constitutional right to abortion, the effect would be to ban abortions. Hence, I stand by my original usage of the term – especially in the light of the statements made by judges in the case.

If, however, by “ban” one understands “end of the line, game over”, then it is an inadequate term. Here in Brazil – especially when dealing with the justice system – things are seldom over. And several things have happened since then that have homeschoolers hopeful their cause will ultimately succeed.

First and foremost, Jair Bolsonaro was elected president.

The significance of this can hardly be understated. Before the election he had declared himself in favor of homeschooling, as the video in this tweet from his son Eduardo, taken during the campaign, demonstrates.

The right-wing politician soundly defeated an array of leftist candidates, and has wasted no time in aggressively overturning decades of Marxist domination in Brazilian academia. The people he has appointed – specifically the new minister of family, woman’s issues, and human rights, the committed evangelical Damares Alves – are friendly to the homeschooling movement.

A Congressional Homeschooling Caucus

The Supreme Court ruling left an opening: Homeschooling was not a constitutional right because there was no legislation regulating it. Setting aside for a moment the fundamental misunderstanding of the term “right”, this gave Brazilian homeschoolers a new target: getting legislation approved that will specifically make homeschooling legal. It also gave them a reprieve. While this legislative process is working its way through the labyrinth of Brazilian bureaucracy, families have a cover – of sorts – to continue homeschooling their children.

With that in mind, the Brazilian homeschooling advocacy group ANED has organized a group of Brazilian congressmen into a Homeschooling Caucus. Here is a (rather long) video showing the inaugural meeting of the caucus:

One of the first activities of the caucus has been – with the help of education minister Damares Alves – the creation of a provisional law that will give homeschoolers temporary legal coverage while the official legislation is being worked on.

In February Ms. Alves tweeted:

Translation: About homeschooling, I must thank the partnership with the Ministry of Education, commanded by the Ricardo Valez. We worked together to make a wide-ranging project that will bring judicial security to this very important area of public policy.

This provisional stop-gap is very important, because as things stand there are all kinds of grey areas, subject to interpretation by local officials. We are personally aware of one family who is going through serious legal difficulties due to the activities of some particularly zealous truant officers.

Overall, while there is still a long road ahead, at the moment things look optimistic for homeschoolers in Brazil. We will do our best to keep you updated as the situation progresses.

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