Mediocrity Pact

An essay by Brazilian politician Dr. Cristovam Buarque on the mediocrity pact (pacto da mediocridadein education, etc.


“Brazil has a pact of excellence in soccer and in sports in general. But we are accustomed to mediocrity pacts in other areas: in the economy; in society; in culture. The best example is in education. As many have been saying for years, Brazilian education is administered by a pact of mediocrity.

The students pretend that they are studying; the governments, that they are paying; the teachers, that they are teaching; the families, that the students are learning. The opposition politicians ignore the problem while those in power commemorate insignificant advances.

The mediocrity becomes obvious when it is considered a great advance to have 95% of children enrolled in school, even though 5% remain out of school and, at the maximum, 18% receive a high-school education with a minimum of the quality the modern world demands. The mediocrity pact considers enrollment as more important than attendance, remaining in school, graduation and quality.

Other observations also make this clear: months-long strikes; constant teacher absences; student absenteeism; automatic advancement of students who only sign “present” on the roll sheet; the lack of supervision of student activities. Due to the pact of mediocrity, there is no perception that the country is falling behind in relation to the other countries, even those poorer than Brazil.

The greatest evidence of the mediocrity pact is the lack of will to replace it with a pact of excellence. Instead of each person closing his or her eyes to the faults of others, we must form a pact where, for example:

a. society demands that the governments pay the teachers very well;

b. the teachers are paid not to strike, not to request unnecessary leaves, and to be efficient in teaching;

c. the parents demand that the teachers fulfill their duties and the teachers demand that the parents supervise their children’s homework;

d. the students are assigned homework, given incentives and held accountable for accomplishing everything necessary for learning;

e. the politicians pay attention to education, acquiring, proposing and demanding quality in the school buildings, in the equipment, in respect for the teachers and employees, above all when it comes to salaries and preparation;

f. the university is supported in the resources it needs and held accountable for the results in knowledge that it must achieve.

With the changes that began at the end of the last century, the class struggle between capital and labor was quieting down, thanks to the pacts reached between the companies and the unions. Globalization and modernization permitted the qualified workers to succeed in increasing their share of the companies’ income.

Even though the inequality in patrimony continued, there was a reduction in the quality-of-life and income inequality between the bosses and the workers with advanced professional qualifications.

The world entered into a great pact among the classes participating in the globalization process. At the same time, the inequality increased – within each country and in the whole world – between those who are included in modernity and the excluded masses. A wall went up separating those included from those excluded.

This wall will be torn down only by the radical distribution of knowledge among everyone. The solution no longer lies in the old idea of nationalizing the means of production but rather the equalitarian distribution of the access to education; the political logic is no longer in the class struggle but in a pact of excellence to replace the pact of mediocrity.

In education first and, after that, in all sectors of society.” – Brazzil

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