Brazil is preparing for an alarming revision to the textbooks in its public schools.
President Jair Bolsonaro announced that information related to LGBTQ and feminist movements, which the recently elected far-right official called "Marxist rubbish," will be excised from the South American nation's curriculum, reports the Associated Press. Bolsonaro and top officials also plan to have more schools run by the military.
Bolsonaro announced his intentions in a tweet prior to his inauguration on January 1. He and officials have framed the erasure as a necessary move to improve education. “One of the goals to get Brazil out of the worst positions in international education rankings is to combat the Marxist rubbish that has spread in educational institutions,” Bolsonaro stated.
Brazil has a dismal ranking in the Program for International Student Assessment — a measure of students' reading, mathematics, and science literacy — placing 63 out of 72 countries and regions in 2015. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which runs this assessment, Brazil also has one of the highest percentages of adults who lack a high school education.
Critics point out that more resources to improve Brazil's schools and raise educator's wages — rather than revised texts — are necessary to rise in international rankings. For instance, many schools lack back necessities like running water, electricity, and sewage.
The administration “complains about indoctrination at school,” Claudia Costin, head of the Center for Excellence and Innovation in Education Policies in Brazil, told AP. “But it is not with laws that you solve these things.”
Regardless, Bolsonaro is citing to the education crisis as a reason to crack down on topics like LGBTQ history and violence against women. In a YouTube video, the president said he would strip questions related to these issues from the national high school exam, after seeing a question on a prior test related to Pajuba — a secret language used by Brazil's LGBTQ community.
“Don’t worry, there won’t be any more questions like this,” Bolsonaro said.
Bolsonaro, a former member of Brazil’s Congress, has a long history of homophobia, racism, and misogyny. One of his first acts as president was to remove LGBTQ concerns from the list of issues handled by the nation’s human rights ministry. He did not assign it to any other agency.
Bolsonaro has criticized what he calls “gender-based ideology,” saying it threatens Brazil’s Christian values. He has gone so far as to say that he would rather have a dead son than a gay one. He also has likened indigenous people to animals and said a female legislator was too ugly to be raped.
In his inauguration speech, Bolsonaro said he was freeing his country from socialism and would protect children from this “gender ideology." His appointees share his far-right stances. Brazil's new human rights minister, Damares Alves, said in her first address that “the state is lay, but this minister is terribly Christian." Indeed, she is an evangelical pastor.