Tolerance of corruption rises with lack of education
Source: O Estado de S. Paulo, 26/08/2007
The lower the education, the greater the Brazilian tolerance for corruption, which does not exist, therefore, through the exclusive fault of a perverse political elite, but is accepted by broad segments of society. The explanation is in the book The Brazilian's head, by sociologist Alberto Carlos Almeida, written from a survey that captured the 'core values' (rooted values) of Brazilian society.
The book shows that education is the great social and ethical cut in Brazil: the 57% of Brazilians who have even elementary school are more authoritarian, more statist and reveal less democratic values; as schooling increases, values improve - which proves, according to the author, that education is the main matrix to transmit republican values to people.
Almeida found that the tolerance for corruption is confused with the acceptance of the 'way': 'The' way 'is the anteroom of corruption', he says. The diagnosis is that, in order to expand its values, have more democracy and become a more liberal country (not in the ideological sense, but in republican values), Brazil must invest massively in education to change its social pyramid: 'A middle class majority will be the biggest barrier against corruption ', says Almeida.
PYRAMID OF VALUES
These findings explain, for example, why President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was re-elected, despite being buffeted by scandals in election year. Almeida, however, decouples research from conjunctural situations and says that it diagnoses a structural problem that explains the Brazils of the past, the present and the future.
Research shows that in all issues involving civic values, the most modern positions are found at the top of the pyramid (those with higher education) and gradually deteriorate, until reaching the worrying indexes collected among the illiterate.
The 'archaic Brazil', which Almeida finds in his low schooling, has peculiarities that reveal his distance from republican values: he supports the way; it is hierarchical, patrimonial and fatalistic; does not trust friends; it has no public spirit; defends the law of the talion; it is against sexual liberalism; supports state interventionism in the economy; is in favor of censorship; and, finally, it is tolerant of corruption. The great inflection in values occurs in the transition from elementary to high school - in which values are already close to those with higher education -, which makes Almeida suggest that the country bet all the cards in the universalization of high school.
With this model of values, Almeida agrees, there are no surprises when the Brazilian electorate ignores allegations of corruption against a president or a party: 'It is not that voters forget the allegations. It is that, for them, they are not important ', he observes.
The great Brazilian solution, he says, is to invest heavily in education to favor the aggregation of republican values: "With a crowd that respects the law, abhors the way and does not tolerate corruption, there will be fewer people to punish," he says.
The quality of democracy, Almeida notes, increases when the population is more educated: 'Democracy is only possible with high levels of education.' American economist Clifford Young, who helped Almeida set up the research, says the book diagnoses that Brazil should invest in education as a human value and also as a democratic value. Almeida believes that the radiography of Brazilian society will improve as schooling increases, but this is a process that, although continuous, is very slow. 'It is education that commands the mentality,' he says.
Tolerance of corruption reveals another deviation: the Brazilian is patrimonialist and naturally accepts that politicians take ownership of public goods: 30% of Brazilians define a 'favor', and not as corruption, as a public official receiving a gift from a company, after helping her win a government contract - which is already surprising. But among the illiterate, this percentage rises to 57% (at the top level, only 5% think so).
Likewise, 17% of Brazilians agree that someone elected to a public office can use it for their own benefit, as if it were their property; but among the illiterate, the agreement reached 40% and among those who have up to the 4th grade, it was 31% (among those who have higher education, only 3%).
Another value that pervades low-educated Brazilians is an uncompromising tendency to support State intervention in the economy and in the lives of individuals, despite recognizing that the State is more inefficient than private companies and in spite of granting a better assessment to private institutions than governmental ones.
Almeida explains: 'Low level of education results in lower income, which, in turn, leads to a feeling of incapacity and helplessness that makes these people consider the State to be a kind of great protective father.' This blocks, for example, accepting the privatization of basic services; on the other hand, low-educated Brazilians naturally admit censorship (56%, among the illiterate).
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