PUTTING THE "A" IN PROFESSORA:
"The [Interdisciplinary] Project is about pedagogic militancy," a friend of mine told me in response to my question about how he and his colleagues could maintain their enthusiasm despite a work schedule where 15-hour days were considered the norm.1 Although my friend clearly saw this Brazilian Project from this radical/activist perspective and derived enormous satisfaction from dedicating his energies in this direction, his clarity and the ease with which he tackled the challenges of his job were not always shared by other educators in similar positions.
For some teachers, their uneasiness about this combination of pedagogy and militancy stemmed from a disjuncture between personal philosophies about education and those espoused by the Interdisciplinary Project. For others, whose own philosophy aligned with the Interdisciplinary Project, the new curriculum development methods and pedagogy posed challenges that were often too great to overcome. For still others, the suspicion that this reform would probably, like others before it, expire within a short period diminished its appeal and the potential benefits that any extra effort required for implementation could have possibly offered.
By most accounts, however, resistance to the Interdisciplinary Project should have been minimized primarily because of the ways in which it was developed and designed. From the perspective of emerging policy debates in the United States about school reform and the optimal conditions for actually changing classroom practice,2 the Interdisciplinary Project offered, in many ways, an example of an educational reform whose inception reflected the recommendations of U.S. literature on such innovations. The Municipal Secretariat of Education (MSE) decentralized authority and gave control to the more responsive, local level of government (Elmore 1990) by placing budgets and curriculum development within the purview of school site councils and the teaching staff, respectively. Salary increases and additional compensation for planning and professional development signified important changes in the conditions of teachers' work (Lichtenstein, et al. 1991). Pluralization of the knowledge base occurred through the introduction of new curriculum development strategies and classroom instructional techniques (McNeil 1986). Deliberate opportunities to foster the growth of professional communities among school site staff were provided and compensated (McLauglin 1992). Finally, each of these changes occurred through a process that actively involved classroom educators and was supported by considerable donations of material (e.g., new books and equipment), and personnel (e.g., technical assistance) and resources from the central administration (McLaughlin 1990; Cohen and Ball 1990; Darling-Hammond 1990).
Nevertheless, resistance to this project's implementation was still evident among much of the teaching ranks. Although there are several perspectives on the reasons for this resistance, this chapter focuses on the interplay between the project's implementation and the teachers' gender. Combining a discussion of resistance to classroom changes and the teachers' gender is not meant to imply that female teachers are necessarily opposed to change and transformation. Rather, I use this focus as a way of pushing the policy field to a more complete and complex analysis of schools, teachers, and the conditions of policy implementation.
I begin first with a brief overview of the history of the teaching profession in Brazil, viewed through the lens of its increasing feminization. I then offer an analysis of the role of women in Brazilian society. Following this is a general overview of the different elements of the Interdisciplinary Project, in particular the demands it placed on teachers. Finally, I analyze the ways in which the teachers' gender shaped their responses to and work within this radical educational reform.
A Brief History of the Teaching Profession in Brazil
Similar to that of other countries, the teaching profession in Brazil today is dominated by women, with the highest concentration at the auxiliary and primary levels, and a smaller but still significant presence at the secondary and administrative levels. This "feminization" of the teaching profession has evolved over the last century, despite an initial domination by men in the profession. During the 1800s, female access to education was prohibited (except for religious education), and the vast majority of educators were men. Once Brazil achieved its independence from Portugal, legislation was passed allowing girls access to four years of primary schooling. For many years, however, girls' education occurred separately from that of boys, and, because of the mores of the time, it was considered improper for girls to be taught by other than female teachers. Through this combination of events, then, Brazilian women gained entry to the teaching profession.
Of course, the broadening of educational access and experience for girls, though representative of an important first step, was not without its problems. In practice, girls' education represented a system of co-education rather than integrated education. This co-education resulted in a segmented or "separate and unequal" education system that had significant implications for those who taught girls--female teachers. For example, girls studied a different curriculum and were permitted a maximum of four years of schooling. Where boys might study mathematics or accounting, girls studied lessons "useful" for homemaking such as embroidery or cooking. Such a restricted "girls' curriculum" also confined the subject areas that women teachers could explore and develop. Moreover, because salaries were determined by the courses that a teacher taught, with core subject areas more highly remunerated, women were systematically denied equal pay for their work (Saffioti 1969).
During this initial period of admitting girls into primary schools and women into the teaching profession, the majority of schooling and teaching opportunities existed in private homes (e.g., ranchers or farmers who lived far from urban centers but needed teachers for their children) or in private schools operated by the Catholic Church. In the mid nineteeth century, federal legislation opened the first professional teaching schools (normal schools) which offered entrance to both men and women. Quickly, however, a hierarchy developed where the dwindling numbers of men concentrated their training in secondary grades with their emphasis on subject area specialties, while women were relegated to the primary grades. Such segmentation arose principally through the tight control over education exercised by the Catholic Church whose ideology emphasized the necessity of "cloistering" women in a female-only environment where they could best develop their "biologically" determined traits of caring for and nurturing children.
Such views and practices predominated through the end of the eigheenth century until the mid 1930s when legislation was passed that created a well-defined teaching certification course (o magisterio) that applied equally to men and women and, more importantly, required the completion of all eight grades of primary schooling for entrance. This change immediately affected women's educational opportunities by providing a formal justification for their perseverance in school through higher levels of primary and secondary education. Actual access to different courses and majors at the post-secondary level, however, came much later--in the early 1950s (Bruschini and Amado 1988).
Since the 1950s, although the teaching profession remains a predominantly feminized occupation, changes in the broader society have opened other opportunities (and necessities) for women professionals. Nevertheless, a quick look at recent census data reveals the extent to which women constitute a presence in Brazilian public education.
As the 1970 and 1980 census figures reveal, teaching, particularly in the early primary grades, remains an overwhelmingly female occupation. Although similar census data is not available for 1990,3 a recent international survey found that 87 percent of the total elementary and secondary school teaching force in Brazil is female. These statistics make it important to consider the "real" implications of this labor market segmentation. It is no secret that women worldwide have been engaged in a struggle for economic equality regardless of their profession. For teachers in Brazil, this struggle is especially intense.
Figures for 1980 teachers' salaries show a huge differential between women's and men's salaries. For example, in the state of São Paulo median average salary for male teachers was 5.3 minimum salaries whereas the same figure for female teachers was 1.9 minimum salaries; nationwide, studies have shown that in 1980, 84.9 percent of the female teaching force earned less than 5 minimum salaries while only 47.8 percent of male teachers were in this salary category (Barroso 1987).4 In 1990 a study of income characteristics revealed that 60 percent of all women (10 years and older) in Brazil did not report earning an income; of the 40 percent that did, 97 percent earned 3 minimum salaries or less. For men, however, of those that reported earning an income, only 56 percent earned 3 minimum salaries or less (Anuario Estadístico do Brasil 1992, 272).
With these gender differentials in mind, we can turn to other recent statistics. In 1991, 4.6 percent of the Brazilian GNP was spent on education, with the bulk of this going to the federal universities which do not charge tuition or fees.5 In 1987, a beginning primary school teacher earned an average monthly salary of US$179 (this figure was US$223 for teachers in São Paulo). A domestic worker made US$130, a secretary earned US$197, and a mechanic received US$290 (Ministerio do Trabalho 1987). At the same time, the educational and training requirements for each of these four professions (domestic worker, secretary, mechanic, and teacher) were vastly different, with educators required to invest considerably more time in their professional training and credentials than the other professions that were similarly compensated (da Silva 1993).
The cause of such glaring wage inequalities between women and men has not been clearly explained. In some cases it is possible that female teachers' salaries are lower than men's because they participate more frequently in part-time work and their salary represents a supplement to the family income. However, studies have also shown that a high percentage of female teachers are not married (i.e., either single or divorced) and of those that are married, many earn salaries equal to or higher than those of their husbands, when they are employed. Thus, the wage differential seems to occur from a number of factors--with the net effect being a inequitable situation for women.
In addition to this dismal compensation, teaching conditions observed throughout my study were disturbingly difficult. First, a teaching shift in São Paulo four hours long. Based on the wages cited above, it is inconceivable that any adult could survive on the wages garnered through one shift at a school. As a result, many teachers work two shifts per day, usually at two different schools. Such a schedule barely provides the minimum salary necessary to make ends meet, and it does so at tremendous cost to teachers and classrooms. Second, teaching double shifts each day can mean that teachers prepare for a possible total of ten classes per day and over 350 students daily. Even in the best of circumstances (e.g., plentiful resources, classroom aides, parental involvement, etc.), teaching under such conditions can only compromise the quality of instruction. Divided attentions of the teaching force can negatively impact some of the important effective domains of the school such as the creation of professional communities and school spirit and regular professional, intellectual, and social exchanges, and so on (McLaughlin 1992).
Added to these conditions is the reality of an alarming lack of resources. In interviews with teachers who were participating in the Interdisciplinary Project, an improvement that they noted consistently was the regular and timely provision of basic materials such as chalk, paper, and books (texts as well as books for the library). During previous administrations, supplying chalk and paper had often been the personal burden of teachers and other school personnel. Few schools had the requisite textbooks, broken desks and chairs were the norm, and teachers paychecks often didn't come on time.
This brief glimpse into the realities of the teaching profession in Brazil raises the question of why these conditions exist and persist. Many explanations have been offered, but the most persuasive appear to focus on four perspectives. The first centers on the dominant ideology that views teaching as a natural extension of women's work as mothers and care-providers for children. To this end, maternal qualities such as sensitivity, attention to emotional needs, dedication, and patience are also viewed as preferred traits for teachers. Fitting into this characterization is the belief that teaching is really more vocation than occupation; that is, teachers have naturally inherent qualities that arise from biology rather than training (Bruschini and Amado 1988; see also Carvalho, this volume).
A second perspective condones the predominantly female teaching force because it allows for working women to mingle easily the two rather distinct spheres of their lives--their home life and responsibilities and their professional life and responsibilities. For women who are married with children, having a teaching job enables them to keep the same schedule as their children (e.g., they can be home when children return from school). Moreover, because of the teachers' schedule, women teachers can work and still have enough free time in the day to complete household responsibilities such as cleaning and cooking before their husbands return home from work (Mello 1981; Miranda 1975). In addition to these scheduling benefits, the household income increases, albeit only marginally because of low teacher salaries.
Third, the patriarchal ideology that permeates Brazilian society allows for a rationalization of women's low salaries based on the fact that their work almost always constitutes the second income in households. This, of course, presupposes that female teachers are married and assumes that their husbands are employed and working in professions where they earn more than their wives.
Finally, also common to a patriarchal society is a dynamic in which women frequently have access only to those jobs not selected by men--whether because of low status, low pay, poor working conditions, etc. (Strober 1984).
This brief overview of the teaching profession in Brazil leads to a discussion of the role of women in Brazilian society which is the focus of the next section.
The Role of Women in Brazilian Society
With the teaching profession as but one example of the ways in which women articulate their professional and economic position in a capitalist society, it is evident that tremendous discrimination and oppression of women exists in Brazilian society. Such challenges are not so different from those in many other countries where women of many classes and races struggle to obtain the rights promised to them by law. In Brazil, federal legislation is, in some areas, surprisingly progressive, particularly regarding maternity rights and salary policies. Nevertheless, compliance with the law is unevenly pursued, contributing to persisting inequalities between men and women.
The situation of women in Brazil varies greatly depending on the focus of the discussion: poor women face tremendous discrimination relative to middle class and wealthy women, who are often their employers; women of color, who are predominantly poor as well, face even harsher conditions; finally, women in urban areas enjoy much greater opportunities in a range of situations than do women living in rural areas where more traditional mores and values prevail. Regardless of their geographic location, their socio-economic status, or their ethnic heritage, women in Brazil tend to face many similar obstacles, though to different degrees. Primary among these challenges is the social devaluation of the household and family responsibilities that typically fall within the domain of women. These responsibilities include the general upkeep of the home (cleaning, cooking, washing clothing, etc.). More important than these tasks is the child-rearing responsibilities that tend to fall disproportionately on the shoulders of women. These responsibilities and obligations are accepted unquestioningly as being within the purview of women and are rarely considered tasks that can be shared among all members of the household. In addition, rarely, if ever, are these types of work included in a discussion of the Awork" that women do who are not professionally oriented.
In a patriarchal and machista society, such as one finds in Brazil, while legislation exists that guarantees maternity leave, requires equal pay for equal work, and extends civil rights to all citizens, regardless of race, gender, class, or age, women still face tremendous battles. Such struggles are played out on battlefields that are both private and public. More commonly, discourse around women's rights and the ways in which men and women can collaborate, work, and cooperate together in an equitable environment occurs in the workplace or other public settings where local, federal, and international legislation mandates such discussion and negotiation. But women and men must also work to negotiate and articulate their separate roles in households and families, so that these dynamics also support the progress pursued in the public arena.
Although this section has considered the realm of the teaching profession separately from the role of women in society, the reality is that they are closely intertwined and interdependent. In the next section, I will describe an educational reform effort launched by the Municipal Secretariat of Education in São Paulo between 1989 and 1992. In discussing this reform and the ways in which teachers worked to implement it, I take the opportunity to highlight the ways in which personal realms and professional realities intersect and impinge on each other.
The Interdisciplinary Project
In 1989, Luiza Erundina of Brazil's Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores; PT) became the mayor of São Paulo. In her mayoral campaign, Erundina targeted the improvement of the city's public education system6 as a central issue. Upon her election as mayor, she appointed internationally renowned philosopher and educator, Paulo Freire, as Municipal Secretary of Education.7
Under Freire's leadership, the Municipal Secretariat of Education (MSE) committed itself to the construction of a popular8 public education system. Recognizing that children from working and poor (popular) communities comprise almost 100 percent of total student enrollment (Gadotti 1989) in the São Paulo public school system, this administration took a "preferential option" for the service of the majority of its clients and constituents: the popular classes. As Freire eloquently stated,
The PT administration hoped that this joyful, democratic, and popular school would emerge through the pursuit of four broad objectives identified by Freire's administration: (1) increased access to schooling, (2) increased retention of students in the public school system, (3) increased efforts to provide education to working youths and adults, and (4) democratization of all aspects of the education process. The MSE developed a number of programs and projects around these four objectives which aimed at redefining fundamentally school governance, curriculum, pedagogy, and school links to the community. Some of these programs included the Interdisciplinary Project, the Genesis Project (computers), reinstitution of school site councils, and MOVA (the Movement for Adult and Youth Literacy).
This section concentrates on the Interdisciplinary Project which the MSE designed as one avenue through which to address the first, second, and fourth objectives listed above. Briefly, the Interdisciplinary Project was a voluntary curriculum reform effort offered to interested elementary (first through eighth grades) schools. The project began with 10 pilot schools in 1991 and expanded to nearly 100 schools by the end of the PT administration in November of 1992. This project provided a four-phased framework for the interdisciplinary and democratic development of curriculum via the generative theme. The first phase involved school staff engaging in a deliberate and informed process through which they considered participation in the Interdisciplinary Project. An affirmative decision (from at least 80 percent of the staff) then required the submission of a proposal detailing the work they expected to do as participants in the Project.
The second phase involved a "Study of the Reality" (a profile of various aspects of the school community), a product of which was the school's generative theme. In the third phase, teachers organized the content of their various disciplines around the generative theme; this was called the "Organization of Knowledge." In the fourth phase, teachers designed exercises, activities, and projects through which students applied their knowledge (known as the "Application of Knowledge").
The Interdisciplinary Project also required the reformulation of classroom pedagogy to fully incorporate a student-centered instructional practice that built on students' experiences. The ultimate goal was a student-centered and democratic classroom where teachers and students engaged in a collective construction of new knowledge drawn from both popular and more formal sources.
Reaction, both positive and negative, to the Interdisciplinary Project tended to focus on three project features: instructional content, instructional strategies, and instructional outcomes. Different teachers and staff reacted in varying degrees to each of these in such a way that it was not clear that one particular feature of the project was more agreeable or disagreeable than the other. More than the somewhat formulaic steps for developing curriculum and reorienting instructional styles, the Interdisciplinary Project required educational professionals to reflect deeply on their own beliefs, attitudes, and values with regard to their students and their profession. Furthermore, the Interdisciplinary Project required this transformation in attitudes and beliefs on many different levels.
First, in terms of instructional content, project participation required teachers to reconsider and reexamine their beliefs and ideas about what knowledge is and knowledge production. The Interdisciplinary Project pluralized the basis for curriculum development by including formal sources as well as popular sources brought in by the school community (including students). Even in a North American and first-world context, such a redefinition of what knowledge is appropriate for the school setting would meet with considerable confusion and opposition.9 The reaction could only have been more intense in Brazil where 25 years of a military dictatorship in hot pursuit of "modernity" had sharply legitimized Western and elitist values and conceptions of knowledge.
Second, the transformation of classrooms into student-centered spaces also required many teachers to critically reflect on their pedagogy (i.e., instructional strategies) as well as their opinions and views of students. For many teachers, this shift in authority relations proved a daunting task. In addition to requiring an entirely new instructional strategy--where the teacher acted more as a facilitator of learning rather than the sole distributor of knowledge--a student-centered classroom meant that teachers must enter into discourse with their students, remain flexible about daily lesson plans, explore new ideas, and learn alongside their students.
Third, the ultimate objective and the instructional outcomes of the Interdisciplinary Project--to create critical and responsible citizens--deviated quite broadly from a typical educational objective (e.g., higher test scores, lower retention rates, etc.), not to mention the philosophical, intellectual, and political questions that it posed for project participants. For many teachers and other people in Brazil, 25 years of military dictatorship had made the concept of citizenry and an understanding of a democratic civil society rather fuzzy. Some teachers viewed democracy in the classroom as tantamount to anarchy. Others doled democracy out to students, rewarding them for good behavior with the chance to work on an assignment in groups. Still others felt eminently comfortable with their new relationship with students. The range of interpretations of citizenship and opinions of democracy was quite wide and ultimately affected the reception given to the Interdisciplinary Project.
Aware of the tremendous challenges for policy implementation, the MSE under Freire's leadership provided impressive institutional support for participants in the project, particularly in the way of technical assistance. The MSE published and distributed a series of documents that were user-friendly and explained the many facets of each portion of the Interdisciplinary Project. In addition, participants in the project received an initial training session of approximately one week prior to their implementation of the project that included theoretical overviews as well as practical pre-service workshops. Following up on this initial training session were weekly visits to the participating schools by regional administrators (from the Nucleo de Acao Educativa; NAE) who offered technical assistance to the teachers implementing the project. This assistance came in various forms, and admittedly was applied unevenly across participating schools sites.10 Nevertheless, these regional administrators assisted teachers with planning and understanding various phases of the project, led discussions of the various readings included in the MSE publications, and often facilitated the process of understanding the primary theoretical tenet of the project (e.g., social constructivist theory). Finally, project participants were compensated for an extra ten hours of meeting time per week to deepen their understanding of the project (e.g., through discussion of the readings or reflections on classroom work) and to plan the different phases of the project, interdisciplinary units, and other activities.
While this support was impressive, given the comprehensive and radical nature of the project, perhaps such technical assistance was only marginally sufficient. In my visits and observations at school sites, I often had conversations with teachers who pointed out an oversight or deficiency in the overall plan for project implementation: the absence of a deliberate problematization of gender in the conception of the project in practice.
As we saw earlier, educators in public schools are disproportionately female. During the course of my field research, I conducted observations in 7 schools. Out of 66 teachers, only 5 were male; only 1 of the 12 administrators at these schools was male. While in comparison with schools not participating in the Interdisciplinary Project these schools may have been unique, I believe that in terms of other schools participating in the Interdisciplinary Project the composition of their staff was fairly representative.11 Nevertheless, in a quick analysis of the various documents published by the MSE, one will note that the syntax is overwhelmingly presented in the male gender. That is, "professor" is typically used rather than "professor/a" and "aluno" is used rather than "aluno/a." The former usage, when read literally, implies male teachers and male students. Although it is customary in most romance languages to use the masculine form of a word, even when referring to groups that include men and women, this custom has been increasingly challenged over the last decade. Of the MSE's 30,000 teachers, well over 50 percent were women. Moreover, many of the high-ranking officials in the MSE were women--including the head of the division responsible for the Interdisciplinary Project--thus making even more peculiar this apparent neutrality in the language used in MSE documents.
But more important than monitoring syntax and counting heads, it is essential to ask, why would gender make a difference in whether or not teachers implemented the Interdisciplinary Project; in the adequacy of the institutional supports provided by the MSE; in the realization of the Project's goals to create a new citizenry? Recalling the earlier discussion of the feminization of teaching, we saw that for all practical purposes teaching was one of a very few professions open to women; moreover, it was probably unique in that it required (and provided the opportunity for) women to have some kind of educational formation. In addition, research has shown that professional women have two demanding sets of work responsibilities--those of their profession and those related to maintaining their household, e.g., providing childcare, managing household duties, etc. (Bruschini 1990; Besse 1983).
In fact, in my sample of teachers approximately half stated that attending a normal college (o magisterio) had been a backup plan that for various reasons they had to use. The other half had enthusiastically chosen the teaching profession. In general, regardless of their initial situations, most of the teachers expressed satisfaction with teaching and being a part of the education system. Nevertheless, the different trends and patterns documented in the research on the teaching profession at large is evident even within this small and selectively chosen group of teachers. An overall conclusion is that teachers did not view their occupation with a united vision.
Thus, the lack of a deliberate acknowledgment of the feminine nature of the teaching force in the school district is not simply a matter of semantics and words. The very elaborate system of technical assistance itself seemed to be ignorant of the basic realities of most of the teaching force in the district. That is, the MSE laid down a challenge to the teachers of São Paulo, a challenge that provided a strong moral imperative to make radical changes in education.
The gist of the challenge was to transform teachers into a highly mobilized professional force that would then work to create critical and responsible citizens. Yet, in many ways, the MSE appeared to not understand its audience or know how to inspire them, move them, and call them to action. In general, the MSE worked from the assumption that this was what teachers knew they wanted. Specifically, technical assistance from the NAE facilitators, though impressive in its relative scope and consistency, pushed teachers only to a critical reflection on their classroom practice and its contribution to the reproduction of economic patterns of domination and oppression. Similar attention was not given to the reproduction of other forms of oppression and injustice such as sexism and racism. In this way, the NAE facilitators were not fully modeling the pedagogical style that they hoped to instill in teachers--that is, they were not making the subject matter relevant to their students (i.e., the teachers) and they did not bring important, perhaps essential, aspects of teachers' lives into the discussion and formulation of their own practice. In addition, some of the more practical aspects of project participation, e.g., childcare, women's additional time commitments, etc., did not enter into discussions that I observed.
Three brief stories illustrate the nature of this situation. At one school, located far in the eastern periphery of the city, I had the opportunity to work with Sonia, who taught fourth grade. Sonia was a somewhat reluctant participant in the project for several reasons. She admitted that initially she had been skeptical about the project because the way that it approached the curriculum. She was not sure that students would be given enough "content" in their daily instruction, but she was willing to experiment with some of the things her colleagues were planning and was encouraged by their and her own successes with this new method. But while Sonia grew increasingly comfortable with and convinced of the validity and benefits of working from a constructivist base of education, she still had reservations about the project. These reservations stemmed mostly from the extra time that the project required. Even though it was true that participating in the project improved certain aspects of her professional life (e.g., increased professional community, considerable professional development, and increased student performance), she still wondered if she did so at somewhat of a financial loss. Sometimes she was not sure whether the additional professional benefits were worth the increased effort. This was a particularly important issue for Sonia because she was a single mother with two children, so financial issues were constantly at the top of her priority list.12 She also wasn't completely convinced that she wanted to spend so much of her time reading, in meetings, and preparing new lessons and units; she admitted to being a little nostalgic for the old state-mandated curriculum that left very little room for ambiguity and made few demands on her precious free time.
In a second case, I spoke with a group of regional administrators about some of the more common reasons for resistance towards the project that they had noted in their interactions with the school staff. Their answers included some of the same doubts and skepticism offered by Sonia above, but they also noted that many female teachers were actually prevented from project participation because of situations in their private lives. In some instances, these teachers' husbands actually forbade their participation in the after school meetings;13 in other situations, they limited themselves because they couldn't find appropriate ways to fulfill their household duties and participate fully in the project.
Finally, a teacher at a school in the southern periphery of the city, Silvandira, shared the impact that her work in the Interdisciplinary Project had on other dimensions of her life. She wrote:
A serious consideration of gender on the part of the MSE or other organizations involved in developing and implementing educational policy is essential because of the nature of the different challenges and dilemmas that teachers face because they are women. In the case of Silvandira, the various formal supports provided by the MSE were certainly sufficient in helping and encouraging her entry into a new democratic space in her school and classroom. Supplementing these formal mechanisms was a coherence in her personal situation that allowed her to seamlessly buttress increased democratization in her professional life with similar processes in other spheres of her environment. It is not completely clear what aspects of her personal life enabled such a coherent and interrelated transformation. Perhaps it was because she was older than Sonia (by about 15 years), perhaps it was because her children, though living with her, were old enough to be fairly independent, or perhaps it was because she was more educated than Sonia (a master's degree while Sonia had a teaching certificate).
Regardless of Sonia's profile in relation to Silvandira's, the reality for someone like Sonia, and possibly for some of the women described in the second example, was that the support offered by MSE was not adequate. Sonia experienced a mild dissonance between what she was being asked to do in her workplace and her own understanding of the teaching profession. Some of the women described by regional administrators must also have been challenged by a mismatch between demands for greater participation in school life and authoritative and patriarchal structures and relationships in other areas of their lives. On the other hand, for Silvandira, the Interdisciplinary Project served as a vehicle for an integrated articulation of her professional and personal worlds along these new democratic and pluralist dimensions. In Silvandira's case, these new democratic forms were present not only in formal macro settings (such as her work place) but also were introduced into the micro settings of her family and other relationships and endeavors (Stromquist 1993).
Thus, for some of the women described by participants in this study, the formalized democracy they experienced at their workplace through participation in the Interdisciplinary Project, while compelling and challenging, did not provide them with the impetus, encouragement or confidence to introduce similar practices into their family environments or other "micro" settings. For these women, the MSE's call to action on behalf of a more democratic society and on behalf of the future citizenship of their students represented an almost insurmountable challenge because it required new practices, new thinking, and new understandings that spilled over from their professional lives into other areas. For these reasons, then, a problematization of gender was essential in the implementation of this Project.
The deliberate incorporation of gender into the overall framework of the Project would certainly have strengthened its implementation and, therefore, the fulfillment of its main objectives. First, a central objective of the project was to foster in students critical and responsible attitudes and behaviors towards participatory citizenship in a democratic society. This was certainly a laudable and timely goal, given the particular historical moment (e.g., the re-introduction of free elections at the national level). However, the MSE did not truly provide a space for teachers to consider and construct their own understanding of citizenship, responsible or otherwise. That is, on the one hand, the Interdisciplinary Project encouraged teachers (male and female alike) to use the social constructivist approach to curriculum development and pedagogy. A central tenet of this theory involves the dialectic interaction between the student's existing knowledge and experience and new learning experiences, both combining to create new forms of knowledge. On the other hand, a social constructivist model was not truly utilized for teachers' professional development. For example, while the MSE deliberately problematized various class issues related to the education system, it did not privilege similar discussion around questions such as: what does it mean to be a woman in a democratic society; how have women exercised their citizenship in the past; what obstacles might exist to women exercising their citizenship in this democratizing society; what changes would be necessary to allow women to fully become critical and responsible citizens in a democratic society? In considering these questions, with the full range of discussion and reading material that was available for some of the other important discussions held during meeting times, female teachers might have had a pedagogical experience that was more coherent with the actual pedagogical goals of the project. With this experience, they might have (i) deepened their understanding of their own ideas, and values towards citizenship and (ii) developed a greater experiential understanding of social constructivism--both would have enhanced their ability to use a social constructivist approach to develop students' ideas about citizenship and democracy.
More importantly, exploring their own ideas about citizenship and democracy might have also opened the door for these female teachers to have broached other important issues such as their "citizenship" or participation in other areas of their lives. Fully understanding what they were engaged in with respect to their professional lives might have led to a greater awareness of particular relationships and structures in the "micro" spaces of their lives (e.g., their families, community organizations, churches, etc.). Such an awareness coupled with careful guidance at the school site might have enabled some of these female teachers to redefine or restructure aspects outside of their school lives to make their efforts in all realms more coherent and consistent.
Finally, efforts to empower teachers as "whole" people rather than as developers and/or deliverers of a socially constructed curriculum might have resulted in greater ownership of the project's goals, philosophy, and implementation process. For example, a problematization of gender within the scope of the Interdisciplinary Project might have brought to the surface some of the issues grappled with by women like Sonia and those described by the NAE administrators. In bringing to the surface issues related to the obstacles faced by the women participating in the project, such as conflicts between extra meeting times and other household-related responsibilities or reluctance of husbands to allow participation, some of the challenges could have been addressed in a collective manner, or at least in a supportive manner for the women experiencing them, rather than allowing them to fester and hamper the project's progress.
Overcoming some of these obstacles, which may have been mistakenly diagnosed as resistance, through a process that included the acknowledgement and problematization of gender issues inherent in the Interdisciplinary Project would have resulted in greater commitment to and ultimately a deeper understanding of the Project and its goals.
Although many women teachers had impressive successes with the Interdisciplinary Project, it is unfortunate that the other women described in this chapter may have confronted obstacles to project implementation because (among other issues) gender was not deliberately considered by the MSE. Selected feminist literature and studies of various women's organizations reveal a primary focus on understanding women's lives in the context of their multiple roles in a male-dominated world; without such critical reflection, women often reproduce the very relationships and structures that limit their opportunities. A central aim, then, of the feminist sensitization process has been to support a concerted struggle by women to dismantle hierarchical power structures that stress competition and individualism. Women's organizations and groups have often worked to create new organizational structures and inter-personal dynamics that encourage and celebrate collaboration, cooperation, active participation, and partnerships (Howe 1975; Weiler 1988; Kali, 1992; Projeto 1983). These types of objectives are certainly in keeping with many of the MSE's overall goals for the Interdisciplinary Project. By not explicitly recognizing teachers' gender as an issue in the implementation of the Interdisciplinary Project and, consequently, by not providing support regarding gender in the context of policy implementation and broader societal relationships, the MSE missed an important opportunity to strengthen the pursuit of its overall objectives.
*Pia L. Wong is a recent graduate of the Stanford University School of Education where she earned her doctorate in international development education. She currently works as a professor at California State University, Sacramento. Her research has focused on issues of policy implementation and she has conducted research on educational and community/economic development policy both in the United States and Brazil.
1. Research for this chapter was conducted from September-October 1991 and from August-December 1992, and included classroom and meeting observations, a series of semi-structured interviews (with teachers, site administrators, regional administrators, and members of the Secretary's cabinet), and the administration of a teacher questionnaire at seven municipal schools implementing the Interdisciplinary Project.
2. Current policy in the U.S. centers around issues of school district decentralization and site-based management as the means for improving teachers' effectiveness and student achievement. Elmore (1990), McLaughlin (1990), Lichtenstein et al. (1991), McNeil (1986), Giroux (1989), and Sarason (1971) all provide frameworks from which to evaluate these trends.
3. Because of political and economic turmoil, primarily during Collor's administration, the Instituto Brasileiro de Estatistica e Geografia, which is responsible for the Brazilian census, has experienced several setbacks in compiling and producing the 1990 census. At this time, only basic population data is available.
4. The minimum salary is established by the federal government and constitutes a basic unit of measurement for salaries nationwide. A similar mechanism in the United States is the minimum wage. Officially, income of 3 minimum salaries or less qualifies as poor; 3-5 minimum salaries is working class and lower class; 5-20 minimum salaries is middle class and above 20 minimum salaries is upper middle class (SEADE 1990).
5. Although tuition-free federal universities give the impression of a public higher education system, in reality the students that are persistent and studious enough to merit acceptance into these universities often come from the most elite private high schools in the country. Thus, the public university serves mostly the already well-served children of economic elites.
6. In Brazil, municipalities are responsible for providing primary and adult education. State governments provide secondary education and some cities, such as Sao Paulo, share with municipalities responsibility for primary education. The federal government's primary public education responsibility is higher education.
7. As Secretary of Education, Paulo Freire had jurisdiction over a system that included 650 primary schools, 33,000 teachers, and almost 700,000 students and covered a geographical area of approximately 1,509 square kilometers.
8. "Popular" is used in this text to refer to the working class and poor communities.
9. The current debate over the California Learning Assessment System, which covers literature written by women authors of color such as Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Maxine Hong Kingston, illustrates just how strong resistance is to pluralization of knowledge.
10. In my field research, I observed schools that were located in three different regional jurisdictions. Meeting schedules varied from weekly meetings with technical assistants in one region, sporadic and unscheduled meetings with technical assistants in another, and initially no contact with regional technical assistants in the third.
11. I selected these seven schools from a broader group of sixteen schools. Over 85 percent of the teachers in this group of sixteen schools were women.
12. My understanding of the salary structure for those involved in the Interdisciplinary Project is that the additional compensation for those who participated in the full ten hours of weekly meetings was equal to the amount of money that participants would have earned had they worked a full four hour shift at two different schools and not participated in the project. However, my observations confirm that participation in the Project required more than attendance at the 10 hours of weekly meetings; such that working at two different schools, while resulting in similar compensation, really required fewer hours of work than teaching at one school that was involved in the demanding Interdisciplinary Project.
13. The MSE required Interdisciplinary Project participants to meet together for ten hours each week in study/planning groups. Most schools I observed scheduled these meetings in two and a half hour blocks, Monday through Thursday. Schools developed various meeting schedules, depending on the times of the teaching shifts. In three schools, teachers that taught during the 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. shift had their meetings from 11:00 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. In another school, teachers taught from 3:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. They alternated their meetings between a 1:45 p.m. until 3:15 p.m. schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a 7:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. schedule on Mondays and Wednesdays.
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