Brazil's Minister of Education is defying President Dilma

Brazil's Minister of Education, Fernando Haddad, continues to defy President Dilma insisting once again to introduce “Kit Gay2” into the curriculum of public schools. His claim that the material is directed to the laudable goal of reducing prejudice within the school system, however, has a hollow ring to it.

The fact is that if the true aim were to attack prejudice, why then did he not create a program that dealt with prejudice in all its various forms, discrimination based on color, race, religion, age and physical handicaps, but rather only homosexuality? The material itself is clearly not intended to reduce discrimination against lifestyle choices, but rather to promote homosexuality and alternative lifestyles as not only natural, but also desirable.

I am against prejudice in any form and am as offended by homophobia as anyone, but this material is yet more offensive to me as an educator. While I firmly believe that basic sex education is an absolutely necessary element in the educational system in order to help reduce teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases; it should not deal solely with the issues of sexuality or lifestyle choice! This is a subject that is not within the domain of the educational system, but one which is rightfully exclusive to parents. The same way that schools do not (or should not)  try to influence the religious beliefs of children out of respect to the parents' beliefs and their absolute right to instill those values in their children, it should likewise not deal with the issues of sexuality and alternative lifestyles as part of the curriculum – it is not the place of the school to usurp this parental authority. I believe that there is an underlying motive behind Haddad's insistence on introducing the material, one far more sinister and one that he is not admitting. Certainly, he cannot be defying the President of the Republic simply to prove he is more powerful or more important.

Also the material is not really all that necessary. Brazil is a country that, while some prejudice still exists, not only accepts but also celebrates alternative lifestyles. One need only think about the size of Gay Pride parades in every major city in Brazil and the fact that the mayors of each of those cities makes a point in participating in the event. Brazilian television portrays lifestyle choices as completely normal and also tends to celebrate them. If you watch Brazilian television you will already know that every variety show and reality show has at least one person participating who is gay, lesbian, cross-dresser or transsexual. Most of the novellas, in fact, usually have more than one character representing these groups. Oddly, they don't all see fit to include more individuals with physical or mental handicaps as frequently. Brazilian schoolchildren are thus exposed to alternative lifestyles on a daily basis, it is neither something new to them nor do they see it as something uncommon. This fact alone causes me to wonder why the Minister feels there is this burning need to deal with it in the schools especially when the vast majority of Brazilian parents strongly oppose its inclusion.

If Haddad had developed a program that attacked all forms of prejudice and lifestyle choice was simply a small part of that program (and less explicit than the current material) it would probably have been less objectionable. It is also clear that if would probably be much more beneficial. Personally, I think there is a much more urgent need for courses that deal with anger management, violence, bullying and sexual or physical abuse within the school system than there is for “Kit Gay2”.

Haddad would do better to expend more effort in avoiding the past controversies in which he has involved himself, to making sure that textbooks are more error-free and to improving the security measures surrounding the ENEM which has been a source of problems since its inception with continual leaks of test questions prior to the application of the test every year. And this is the man who wants to be the next mayor of São Paulo? God help us all!

Writer's note: This posting is based on my personal opinion and 24 years experience as an educator, also on my experience over many years of being a very participating father and primary caregiver to my 4 (now adult) children in Canada and an active participant in the life of my 4 year old Brazilian born son. I recognize the fact that everyone has the right to form and express their own opinions, even those that may be in complete opposition to those expressed here. You are invited to add to this posting to express your own opinions whatever they may be and to expand on the reasons why you hold them. Please do other posters the courtesy of allowing them to do the same without any attacks on their opinions or insults against their person. It is the intention of this posting to solicit an open dialog on the subject. Abusive remarks directed toward any individual adding to this posting will immediately be reported to the administration of Expat-Blog with a request to delete same and to take whatever further action they deem appropriate.

Hi James,

I agree that we need to address all problems, but see nothing wrong with taking them one at a time, rather than doing nothing.  As the world slips deeper into the realm of science-denial and increased fundamentalism, however, I think it is important to teach kids facts and rational thinking, even if it goes against the fundamentalist ideas of some parents.  We need our kids to learn to think, and the Brazilian educational system has been justifiably criticized for being based on rote memorization.  A number of foreign college professors have told me that incoming students do not know how to think, how to learn, how to solve problems.    If the Kit Gay2 shows the science that proves that all species looked at have gay individuals, then the kids can come to understand the issue based on solid science.  This may well come up against the beliefs of fundamentalist parents, but so what?  Fundamentalism has given us the Taliban, Al Queida, George Bush Jr., and recent research shows that some 40% of Americans believe that the world started 6,000 years ago (25% in the UK).  We must fight ignorance, and this program is a part.

Several gays I know state that they cannot publicly show their sexual orientation or they would loose clients, loose their jobs, and otherwise suffer.   That there is openness in the press and media does not mean the problem is solved, and thus any official and well thought out program to address this injustice should be welcomed.

Ample research also shows that if we want to reduce violence, anger, bullying and sexual or physical abuse within the school system a reconnection with nature is the quickest and most reliable method to address these problems.  See the Children & Nature Network site and you can read the research that supports this.

Cheers, Douglas Trent

Hi Douglas,

How are you my friend? I'm still trying to find a NatGeo because I'm dying to see your photographs.

I agree with your comments, however the Kit Gay 2 material causes me a number of grave concerns as an educator and parent.

Fisrtly, the material was not produced by the Ministry of Education, but rather by a number of gay rights groups and I would suspect they have their own agenda.

Secondly, the Ministry of Education intends to introduce it to children from 5 - 10 years of age, establish quotas for gay teachers in the schools and also to prohibit any material that highlights "traditional" (father/mother/children) families - considering it homophobic.

The material is clearly inappropriate for children of this age group; they are just too impressionable and could thus be manipulated.

Secondly, the material really does not address the issue of prejudice as much as it promotes these alternative lifestyles as being not only natural and acceptable (which in my mind they are), but even goes so far as to portray them as being desirable. This is not a message we should be sending to impressionable young children who are too young to even understand their own sexuality. Sex Ed is one thing, but in my opinion this goes far beyond that mandate.

As I pointed out in my posting; I would find the issue much less objectionable if it were just part of a comprehensive program to combat prejudice and discrimination in ALL of its forms, which it is not. This is what worries me deeply about the whole sad issue.

As a teacher for many years I have had a great number of gay and lesbian students over the years. I have also counselled them from time-to-time. As a very active father I have also had to address the issue of sexuality with my own children (and step-children). I lived for many years in Vancouver, Canada which probably has the most liberal thinking on the issue in all of Canada and I have had a number of gay and lesbian friends.

Although I am a very religious person I neither think homosexuality abnormal nor sinful. I do not believe that the Bible was carved in stone, but rather view it with the same philosophy that Jewish people hold for the Talmud. They believe that the Talmud is not an absolute instrument, that it needs man as much as man needs the Talmud. I believe that the Bible, having been written and translated by mortal men, is therefore open to interpretation.

I am also enlightened enough to believe that people do not simply become gay, lesbian or transsexual. I believe they are born that way, so it is therefore completely natural for that individual. I truly believe that transsexuals are people that are born trapped in a body that they view as being the OPPOSITE sex and that they act only to correct what to them is a biological mistake.

I remember one time when my Brazilian ex-wife's son came home from school in tears. He was about twelve years old at the time. When I asked him what had happened at school to cause him to be so upset. He confided in me that his classmates were picking on him and calling him names, saying he was gay. (Here I must explain that until I came on the scene he had never had a male role model an was therefore far from being macho). Sensing that it was time to have a serious heart-to-heart talk with him about the facts of life, I took him aside.

I told him first of all that sexuality is an undeniably individual thing, a birthright that nobody has the right to judge, not even one's parents. I assured him that at his age it was almost impossible to be sure if he was gay or not, but that it really didn't matter. I also explained to him that children everywhere often do things or behave in ways that their parents do not necessarily like or agree with, but that does not mean that their parents love them any less. I assured him that as he grew older, my love for him would not diminish whether he was gay or not and I reinforced the idea that he was exactly what and who he was, to be proud of that and not to let anyone put him down for it. I separated from his mother and do not have much contact with him of late. I believe that he probably has experimented with homosexual relationships and because he is an extremely handsome young man now am quite sure that he has also had his share of heterosexual relationships by now. His orientation makes absolutely no difference to me, I love him unconditionally in any case. This is how ALL parents should be, unfortunately they are not always so.

I came away from this experience with the understanding that even at twelve he was not yet mature enough to understand the complex issues of sexuality and to make informed decisions. This is exactly why I am so deeply concerned about the age group that MEC is targetting with Kit Gay 2. Further, I firmly believe that while many families here in Brazil do not chose to deal with the issue of sexuality while their children are young, it remains their authority to do so or not do so, until they are sufficiently mature to deal with the issue. I think that it is arrogant in the extreme for the Minister of Education to make a unilateral decision to introduce the material to children between the ages of 5 - 10 years.