Over the past decade, those working to prevent genocide and mass atrocities have observed the growth of risk factors related to global trends of democratic backsliding and the rise of identity-based violence. This comes as a result of strengthened populist movements that threaten democratic institutionality and culture, attacks on historically discriminated groups, increased social polarization, hate speech, and hate crimes fueled by conspiracies and fake news on social media.
The urgency of today’s reality inspired the Warren Educational Policies Program (WEPP) to reflect on how education should be (re)imagined to serve as a tool for reinforcing a democratic culture and preventing violence. As part of this effort, in 2020, the WEPP partnered with the British organization Protection Approaches to create the Democratic Education Requires Imagination (DENI) initiative, bringing together academics, policymakers, and education professionals from around the world to reflect on these issues.
Continuing this work in the Brazilian context, on November 10, the WEPP team organized the Education and Democracy in Brazil event at the Cervantes Institute in São Paulo, which brought together specialists to debate the challenges of democratic education in the current Brazilian context of political renewal. During the discussion, Anna Helena Altenfelder (CENPEC), Crislei Custódio (Vladimir Herzog Institute), João Marcelo Borges (Unibanco Institute), Michael França (Insper), and the WEPP Director, Dr. Clara Ramírez Barat, reflected on challenges and opportunities for strengthening democratic education.
The panelists analyzed past and present structural and contextual issues of the Brazilian education system, such as educational inequalities, the education professionals devaluation, the public education privatization, and homeschooling, among other essential topics. Panelists further speculated on the future of Brazilian Basic Education, especially within public education, discussing Issues such as resuming educational and curricular policies that reduce inequalities, combating racism, and how education and school practices can help combat violence and enhance dialogue.
In conjunction with the WEPP team’s efforts to strengthen dialogue on education and democracy in Brazil, carried out since 2020 in partnership with the Secretary of Education and with the support of the Federal Public Ministry in Paraíba, the team developed an initiative in the State Education System of Paraíba to support teachers to develop pertinent educational topics during the Brazilian elections. Topics include social polarization, hate speech, misinformation, fake news, and the right to vote. These topics are present in the pedagogical material launched in July 2022 by AIPG, entitled Democracy is a good for all of us: kit of educational activities for the 2022 elections, which contextualizes part of the discussions investigated at the DENI project to the Brazilian context.
Art Festival: Democracy and Political Participation
On December 7, AIPG held a final event, entitled Art Festival: Democracy and Political Participation, with representatives from the Secretary of Education, the Federal Public Ministry in Paraíba, and teachers and students involved in the initiative.
The program also launched a website that gathers the students’ artistic productions (graffiti, paintings, drawings, collages, texts, poetry, experience reports, among others) to present the students’ work to the school community and partners.
These actions illustrate the integrated work that WEPP has developed in 2022 through research, the strengthening of regional dialogues, and the effort with its community of educators to create effective responses to movements of democratic backsliding under the Citizenship and Democracy in School project.