Brazil's Normalization of Poor Education, Violence, and Crime

This is Ellyn Beulke for your daily blog. I have really enjoyed my time in Brazil so far! We have had some very interesting speakers this last week and one common trend I have noticed is the normalization of a poor education system and how it affects almost every aspect of daily living and functionality of the country.


One of the main problems with Brazil's education system is that there are racial barriers that are weaved into social constructs that prevent education. This becomes problematic because structural pressures of society are making these educational resources hard to attain (Mauro). Education in Brazil is seen as a valuable game piece representing the possibility for social mobility. This is available to very few. Only 3% of the negro population in Brazil is going to college (Mauro). The reasoning for this is because prep school for the college entrance exam is very expensive and a vast majority of families can not afford the investment. This creates problems for many individuals, “the education system is based on institutions that both sustain and deepen the inequalities of access to primary and secondary educational services” (Montero, 79). There is limited opportunity financially for many families to provide higher education for their children. Even with public education available Brazil, it does not mean that it is a quality education. As stated by Montero, “The quality of education is another problem, as the system suffers from a large number of uncertified and underqualified teachers and obsolete learning materials” (Montero, 79). Education in Brazil is considered a luxury item. There is a recognized cycle of poverty; “No money means no education, no education means no job, no job means no money. And the cause of this cycle is the legacy of slavery and a function of the lingering remnants of anti-black racism” (Gates, 53).


After Isabel Adelaide, a public prosecutor, spoke with our class earlier this week, some light was shed on the fact that there is a lack of formal education of police officers as well. This mirrors the structural lack of education in Brazil's society all together. Due to the current education system in Brazil, the majority of the general population is not well educated nor do they want to become well educated because it's effects are centralized to the individual (Adelaide). The same can be said for people who are educated and hold power. For example, if financially able, many Brazilians pursue degrees in law because it is one of the fastest ways to climb the social hierarchy. This results in selfish social climbing for monetary aspects resulting in many of these law professionals not understanding their own moral and ethical decisions because of this underlying crave for power and monetary gain (Adelaide).


In order to become a police officer in Brazil, one needs to pass a written and physical exam. There legally cannot be a psychological exam unlike the United States (Adelaide). This psychological exam is used to evaluate the individual's response to stress and overall mental wellness and stability. Because of the lack of this test in Brazil it can be questioned if these officers are capable of doing well and being rational in their field. This creates a problem because the state of Brazil could be sending people who are ill trained and those who are possibly not psychologically qualified to handle the stress and power that a police officer holds. There is a heightened level of police violence in Brazil, which is probably reflective of the lack of psychological exam to some extent. “Police violence is a major cause of domestic insecurity and human rights violations. Without reform, official violence will continue to undermine democratic citizenship and reinforce a culture of impunity among elites” (Montero, 28). Regarding this and the culture of police hostility in Brazil it is mentioned that “official institutions interact with social misery to produce a tragic outcome that is all too common throughout Brazil” (Montero, 83). Many of the students on the trip have witnessed some sort of police violence or hostility to the general citizen. In my own experience I thought people would be more hostile towards tourists just based on the general things that I had heard about Brazil and it’s level of danger. As a tourist I can say I never felt targeted. If anything was the case one is probably much safer as a tourist than a general citizen in most of the cities we visited. At least that is my own personal opinion while traveling.


Slavery has had an immense effect on the normalization of violence and crime in Brazil. Brazil never had a formal civil rights movement so therefore there is not a base layer of what civil rights actually consist of. In Brazil it is much like in the United States where lower classes are targeted in areas with high population. There are different ways of making policies in Brazil that target the poor and the rich in very different ways (Adelaide). There is a social construction all over the world that the idea of a criminal is a black man usually living in some sort of large city (Adelaide).


The normalization of homicide in Brazil can be seen in statistics. The homicide rate in Brazil is 25.7/100,000 per year (Mauro). This may not seem significant, but it is one of the highest in the world. Lets put these numbers into a context we might be more familiar with. From the years 2004-2007 there were 76,000 homicides in Iraq, in Brazil there were 126,000. When broken down into racial categories negros (black and brown) are twice as likely to be victim of homicide than any other category (Mauro). With this many homicides happening Brazil can be a very dangerous place to the people who live there. Within Brazilian police departments there is no process of psychological follow ups when violence/homicide happens while on duty. Also there is not a forced absence (Adelaide). This goes back to education and psychological strain that may be a factor or flaw in the system. These people who are officers may or may not be equipped to psychologically handle the stress of the job, and yet when put in high stress situations, there is no down time. This leads to an increase in violence and police brutality among civilians.


Another main problem is the lack of investment in the system. There is a lack of resources and investment because if the public sectors of the departments start to succeed, there is no need for private sectors which is where the higher ups make their money (Adelaide). Within the allotted budget, 97% goes towards wages, 2% goes towards maintenance, and less than 1% is investment back into the system (Adelaide). If this doesn't describe a fundamental error in developing education within police departments in the country I don't know what does. Think about it, the police departments are something that is governmentally funded to serve as a safety purpose for the civilians and visitors of the cities, and less than 1% of its budget is invested into its own entity. This is a problem for education, development, and the push back for equality among the public.


Mauro, José. Racial Inequality, lecture. Rio de Janeiro, January 12, 2017

Adelaide, Isabel. Complexities of police violence and public safety lecture. Salvador, January 19, 2017.

Gates, Henry L. Black in Latin America. New York: New York University Press, 2011. 12-58.

Montero, Alfred P. Brazilian Politics. Malden, MA: Polity Press.


The group with Isabel Adelaide