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'Politics in the School': Assessing a Brazilian Service Learning Experience Since 2005
Unformatted Document Text:  professor’s work is defined as a seamless commitment to research, teaching, and extension. On the other, in practice, service work tends to come last among faculty priorities everywhere and the Institute of Political Science is not much different: “Politics in the School” is currently its only continuous action project. “Politics in the School” and Political Education in Brazil In the case of Brazil (even in the supposed affluence of the nation’s capital), the active social function of the university becomes crucial. On the one hand, there are areas like the South Lake of Brasília exhibiting one of the highest indexes of human development in the world; on the other, there are large pockets of poverty like Varjão (a squatters community) resembling Africa. This is why some Political Science students decided not to wait for their professors. Civic engagement with the community and is being brought back to the classroom. Origins and Evolution of the Project The project Cidadania na Escola (“Citizenship in the School”) was initiated originally in late 2002/early 2003 by an undergraduate working group, the Special Training Program in Political Science (PET-POL), a federally-funded honors program. Within PET-POL, “Citizenship ...” competed with other activities and objectives of the group. Discussion of the project broadened and the initiative came to be driven by members of Academic Center of Political Science (CAPOL; an undergraduate “student union” in U.S. terms) in 2003. However, in order to make this objective an ongoing activity, the students involved felt that a series of methodological, administrative and structural changes was necessary. “Politics in the School” reflected a desire on the part of the students to directly confront the worn image that the word “politics” evokes for the majority of the Brazilian population. They felt that by pushing “politics” up front they, too, would be forced to confront and deconstruct the concept of politics in an unequal society. Thus, they chose to work initially with children in the early phases of the formation of their political identities. With a new name and some new management, the project aimed at integrating primary education with the university. The project sprang from the idea that greater integration between the university and surrounding community is possible and necessary. The underlying belief is that such integration could produce relevant results for university students and faculty as well as students and teachers at the elementary level. The fundamental desired result is to stimulate a political culture in which citizenship and participation might be reconsidered and deepened. Such is the major focus of the project: to make possible by means of discussions and simulations a wider debate on the meaning of participatory citizenship, not only in the affected communities but inside the university as well. The spirit of the endeavor was to turn political education “inside out” (O’Leary 2002) with elementary school students teaching the university community about politics. Thus, the students were committed not only to bringing academic knowledge and experience to the community, but to build new knowledge based on the interaction between the university and society. with the conception of Paulo Freire.

Authors: Groth, Terrie.
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professor’s work is defined as a seamless commitment to research, teaching, and extension. On
the other, in practice, service work tends to come last among faculty priorities everywhere and
the Institute of Political Science is not much different: “Politics in the School” is currently its
only continuous action project.
“Politics in the School” and Political Education in Brazil
In the case of Brazil (even in the supposed affluence of the nation’s capital), the active
social function of the university becomes crucial. On the one hand, there are areas like the South
Lake of Brasília exhibiting one of the highest indexes of human development in the world; on the
other, there are large pockets of poverty like Varjão (a squatters community) resembling Africa.
This is why some Political Science students decided not to wait for their professors. Civic
engagement with the community and is being brought back to the classroom.
Origins and Evolution of the Project
The project Cidadania na Escola (“Citizenship in the School”) was initiated originally in
late 2002/early 2003 by an undergraduate working group, the Special Training Program in
Political Science (PET-POL), a federally-funded honors program. Within PET-POL,
“Citizenship ...” competed with other activities and objectives of the group. Discussion of the
project broadened and the initiative came to be driven by members of Academic Center of
Political Science (CAPOL; an undergraduate “student union” in U.S. terms) in 2003.
However, in order to make this objective an ongoing activity, the students involved felt
that a series of methodological, administrative and structural changes was necessary. “Politics in
the School” reflected a desire on the part of the students to directly confront the worn image that
the word “politics” evokes for the majority of the Brazilian population. They felt that by pushing
“politics” up front they, too, would be forced to confront and deconstruct the concept of politics
in an unequal society. Thus, they chose to work initially with children in the early phases of the
formation of their political identities.
With a new name and some new management, the project aimed at integrating primary
education with the university. The project sprang from the idea that greater integration between
the university and surrounding community is possible and necessary. The underlying belief is
that such integration could produce relevant results for university students and faculty as well as
students and teachers at the elementary level. The fundamental desired result is to stimulate a
political culture in which citizenship and participation might be reconsidered and deepened.
Such is the major focus of the project: to make possible by means of discussions and simulations
a wider debate on the meaning of participatory citizenship, not only in the affected communities
but inside the university as well. The spirit of the endeavor was to turn political education
“inside out” (O’Leary 2002) with elementary school students teaching the university community
about politics. Thus, the students were committed not only to bringing academic knowledge and
experience to the community, but to build new knowledge based on the interaction between the
university and society.
with the conception of Paulo Freire.


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