Creating Local Democracy, Nurturing Global Alternatives

The Case of the Citizen School Project in Porto Alegre, Brazil

Authored by: Luis Armando Gandin

Handbook of Social Justice in Education

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  June  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805859270
eBook ISBN: 9780203887745
Adobe ISBN: 9781135596149


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When talking about the experiences of participatory democracy in the city of Porto Alegre, and more specifically about the World Social Forum and the World Education Forum held in that city for some years, the Portuguese sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos would say that the Forum and the Porto Alegre experiences were not antiglobalization initiatives but rather a form of “globalization from below” (Santos, 1995). This chapter will show an educational reform that did not have the intention of becoming a global experience but rather a local progressive alternative to market-based educational policies. Nevertheless, because of its innovations in terms of access to schools, curriculum, and educational governance, it has achieved (together with other local participatory democracy initiatives) a high degree of global interest. According to Michael Apple, in a lecture at the 2004 World Education Forum, Porto Alegre, being the “city of the Citizen School and the Participatory Budgeting,” can “teach the world how to stop neoliberalism and neoconservativism” (World Education Forum, 2004). The World Social Forum and the World Education Forum (spaces created to think about alternatives to neo-liberalism in economy, culture, social life, and education) started in the city of Porto Alegre exactly because of the policies implemented by the local government.

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