Education, civil society, and social change: A case study of a Brazilian social movement
Klees, Steven J.
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For the last twenty-five years, the Landless Worker's Movement (MST) has organized some 1.5 million landless rural workers to claim and occupy unutilized cultivable land to which they are legally entitled under the 1988 Constitution. The movement has been instrumental in the redistribution of unused cultivable land to thousands of landless rural families and the creation of a new positive identity for rural people that values their culture, knowledge, and autonomy. In doing so, the movement has become a global exemplar for a more equitable, just, and sustainable approach to development. A philosophy and practice of education that is democratic and responsive to the social and economic contexts of rural learners has played a key role in the expansion and longevity of this popular movement. My dissertation looks at the ways in which the MST has contributed to improving the quality of education policy and programming for rural children, youth, and adults. My dissertation begins with an examination of the ideologies and institutional arrangements that have historically shaped the formulation and implementation of policies for rural basic education in Brazil. I discuss relationships between the state, market, and society and, in particular, the construction of alternative policy arenas and discourses by organized civil society that have shaped current efforts by the federal government to develop a national rural education policy. I go on to examine the micro-interactions between the state and the MST in the context of literacy programs for rural youth and adults in the state of Rio de Janeiro. In this context, I discuss the possibilities for expanded participation in policy formulation and implementation for basic education for a) organized civil society, b) rural communities, c) educators, and d) learners. This study has implications for the ways in which we understand and theorize about the role of progressive social movements in opening up new educational, political, and social possibilities for a democratic society.