You are on page 1of 2

Article Review: Lessons in Patriotism and Good Citizenship: National Identity and Nationalism in Public Schools During the

Vargas Administration, 1937-1945 by Carmen Nava

Getlio Vargas was president of Brazil, his first regime lasting from 1930-1945. The Vargas regime was authoritarian and used nationalism to advance campaign platforms and consolidate support. The article Lessons in Patriotism and Good Citizenship: National Identity and Nationalism in Public Schools During the Vargas Administration, 1937-1945, written by Carmen Nava, documents educational policies created by Vargas between 1937 and 1945. Nava asserts that Vargas consolidated Brazils public schools into a structured system meant to solidify a national identity. Through textbooks issued at the time, roles were prescribed for different classes, sexes, and racial and ethnic groups. Ultimately, Nava argues the Vargas administrations message through its education policies was Brazilian unity despite diversity. This article examines two main topics. One is a section titled Federal Public Education Policy Under Vargas. The second section is titled Public School Texts from 1937-1945. This is an effective method of organization because education policy, which Nava examines under the broad scope of standardization, reflects how the Vargas regime wanted to instill civic pride into students. The most relevant sources used are textbooks from the period, which Nava pulls readings, songs, and illustrations from. Other sources Nava includes are Vargas public speeches and government documents, including excerpts from the 1937 Constitution. We do not really know though if people were inclined to believe or promote national identity the way Vargas wanted them to. Nava does not provide sources that offer perspectives from students, teachers, or the community. The Vargas regime felt that the reorganization of politics after the First Republic (1889-1930) provided an opportunity to reorganize public institutions. One of the most important agencies during Vargas Estado Novo (1937-1945) was the Ministry of Education and Public Health (MESP), which was responsible for standardizing public education throughout the entirety of Brazil. In schools, emphasis was placed on technical training, which was promoted as directly benefiting the working class. Nava quotes Vargas, who declared that under the new system, [the Brazilian] comes to constitute a moral, political, and economic unit, which helps advance the nation (42). People were seen as units that could unite and benefit the state when trained properly. Civic education was made mandatory by the Constitution of 1937. Military instruction was instituted for boys. Girls were trained in home economics. In 1940 under the Vargas administration, all public school books became subject to MESP approval. Nava illustrates how the values of the Vargas regime were reflected through Estado Novo regulated textbooks. Vargas was represented as a national hero who united Brazil. In the social

hierarchy, Vargas embodied a father figure second in command only after God. This reinforced themes of paternalism and authority. Two characters often used to represent the Estado Novo were the bandeirante, an explorer who symbolized supremacy over land and people, and the Jesuit who represented morality and faith. The concepts of domination and virtue were central to the Vargas regime. The flag was also symbolically used in texts. When shown with women, the flag illustrated love and warmth, when shown with men, the flag represented achievement. People in textbooks were primarily white, and whitening was promoted as a unifying goal of the nation. Nava clearly demonstrates how important the concept of establishing and clarifying national identity was to the first Vargas administration. Navas sources provide evidence that nationalism was central to the teachings of Brazilian students, which was enforced by the MESP. This work also provides us with a brief compilation of textbook material from the 1930s and 1940s, which could be further investigated for more insight into Brazilian social norms and hierarchy. This article holds value in that it offers both a glimpse into Brazilian history and evidence for the development of national pride as an ongoing key theme in Brazil. Jackie Pardue Scripps, Fall 2009 Nava, Carmen. "Lessons in Patriotism and Good Citizenship: National Identity and Nationalism in Public Schools During the Vargas Administration, 1937-1945." Luso-Brazilian Review. 35.1 (1998): 39-63.