This article explores how the Base Nacional Comum Curricular (National Learning Standards), entered the policy debate in Brazil and became the most important reform initiative of the Ministry of Education between 2015 and 2017. We argue that this accelerated policy process was contingent upon the practice of philanthropizing consent: foundations’ use of material resources, knowledge production, media power, and informal and formal networks to garner the consent of multiple social and institutional actors to support a public policy. In other words, these foundations do not impose policies on governments; rather, they ‘render technical’ high-stakes political debates on pressing issues of educational equity and then influence state officials’ consensus about which policies to adopt. We argue that this philanthropic influence is not simply a neoliberal, profit-maximizing scheme; rather, it is an attempt by foundation and corporate leaders to garner power and influence on different scales, and re-make public education in their own image. Although this educational policy game is in many ways participatory and widely accepted, foundations are only able to play this role due to their tremendous economic power, a direct product of the unequal global political economy, and the systematic defunding of the public sphere.
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