Monday, October 28, 2013

The dilemma of raising children in Brazil

Write on the board the word MORALS
They stole the chalk, teacher!

I'm a little behind, but this article was circulating Facebook a while back:

http://veja.abril.com.br/noticia/educacao/o-dilema-da-criacao-dos-filhos-a-etica-compensa

Now I can't say I've "studied" the article, nor that my quick scan of it has allowed me to fully understand the depth of the issue.  But I can say that I think I get the main idea, which is that Brazilian parents face a significant challenge while trying to raise their children.  Parents want to (and have the responsibility to) teach their children values, but they are doing so within a country where the "Lei de Gerson" (take advantage of everything and everyone whenever you can).  Essentially, those of us living in Brazil know that you really have to be looking out for number one here, because it really is a dog-eat-dog world.  The expectation is that others will take advantage of you.  They will take your son's stuffed animal one minute after it falls out of his bedroom window (true story, unfortunately).  Salespeople will over charge you for inferior products.  Those trying to buy a car will try to falsify documents (hence, the elaborate laws around verification and the existence of Cartorios).   They will throw trash in front of your apartment.  Elected officials steal money without shame.  Now, I realize that I'm speaking in generalizations, and there are exceptions, and there are many, many Brazilian citizens who are making the hard choices to be think of others before thinking of themselves.  But the article interviews parents who are afraid that if they teach their children morals, if they teach their children to obey laws, to follow the rules, to be honest, that their children will fall behind.  Parents fear that their children will be taken advantage of if they don't learn how to operate within the reality of the society.  So which is better, to uphold a higher morality, or to teach your children to be shrewd and successful within a culture of corruption?

As a foreigner with children, and as a teacher working in a school, I find this a particularly interesting challenge, and a cultural issue.  I'm not trying to make a value judgement here (I could, but I will avoid).  But I think that we face a difficult situation.  I want my children to grow up to be honest, responsible citizens who care for those around them.  And yet, we live in a culture where we are daily faced with a multitude of examples of dishonesty, irresponsibility, and a total lack of respect for others. How do I reconcile this?

And apparently the "levar vantagem" (take advantage of) came from this:

6 comments:

  1. This dilemma is my least favorite thing about living here. It pops up everywhere and with all kinds of people. I am often dismissed as a stupid gringo for following rules or for expecting others to follow rules. You have a tough job - raising children in this environment. It would seem the best you can do is lead by example and explain as you go. The world is complicated (Brazil is complicated) and there is no way around it. Good luck!

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  2. because i don't have kids, i think the thing that bothers me about the "Lei de Gerson" attitude (thanks for educating me about the term) is how often people are rude on a day to day basis. after almost 2 years, it still bugs me how often people cut lines, try to get special treatment and no one seems to care.

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  3. This is a very well thought out site with very good content, I enjoyed reading it very much indeed. I’m certainly going to check out the sites you recommend.  Online Travel Agencies

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  4. As an American with children living in Brazil I am constantly amazed at how often I am given preference in line, how I am taken care of first when accompanied by my kids, how many exceptions are made for me. Taxi drivers, doormen, shop keepers are so friendly and loving to my children. My Brazilian friends have months of paid maternity leave. Children are welcome nearly everywhere and no one will look at you as a "breeder" here if you show up with your kids. I dread going back to the U.S. where I have no help and everyone believes in equality but not justice. If you think being a mother in Brazil has it's issues, then try raising them in the U.S. where they are taught the capitalistic laws of the jungle: each one to himself. Every parent is on their own. I have to figure out how to stay in this loving country forever!

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    1. I think that the reason the article you read in a Brazilian magazine was so negative is because Brazilians are hyper critical of their country and themselves, unlike many people in the U.S. who think that it is perfect. When I went back to Dallas during break, my passports, money, camera and other things were taken right out of my purse.

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  5. As an American with children living in Brazil I am constantly amazed at how often I am given preference in line, how I am taken care of first when accompanied by my kids, how many exceptions are made for me. Taxi drivers, doormen, shop keepers are so friendly and loving to my children. My Brazilian friends have months of paid maternity leave. Children are welcome nearly everywhere and no one will look at you as a "breeder" here if you show up with your kids. I dread going back to the U.S. where I have no help and everyone believes in equality but not justice. If you think being a mother in Brazil has it's issues, then try raising them in the U.S. where they are taught the capitalistic laws of the jungle: each one to himself. Every parent is on their own. I have to figure out how to stay in this loving country forever!

    ReplyDelete