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Marist Bulletin - Number 99

 

Brother Dario Bortolini introduces us to the FTD Publishing House
28.10.2003

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EDUCATION IS THE KEY TO A COUNTRY’S FUTURE

Br. Lluís Serra

Brother Dario Bortolini, 64, was born in Jaraguá do Sul, Santa Catarina, Brazil. He has a Licentiate in Natural History (Biology) from the Catholic University of Paraná in Curitiba, and has studied curriculum development at CELAM in Santiago de Chile and catechetics at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Rio de Janeiro. He has dedicated his life to teaching, formation, and pastoral care, and was Provincial of São Paulo and later Provincial Econome. At the present time Brother Dario is coordinating legal services in the Marist Province of Brazil Centro Sul and is Vice President of FTD Publishing, headquartered in São Paulo.

Last year The Marist Brothers’ FTD Publishing Company celebrated its One Hundredth Anniversary. Please give us a few facts and figures...
It’s my great pleasure to introduce you to our Editorial FTD, S.A.
- Founded: 23 March 1902.
- Location: São Paulo, in the State of São Paulo, Brazil.
- Present facilities: administrative center, state-of-the-art printing complex, 9 subsidiaries, and 19 sales offices spread throughout the country. There are 850 employees and technicians, and each year they turn out about 35 million textbooks and other classroom materials.

Your slogan is Fazendo o amanhã, “Building tomorrow” – Why this phrase?
To help celebrate its first hundred years, the company chose “Building tomorrow” because we are ever mindful of the daring approach, feisty spirit, and reputation for trustworthiness that we have inherited from our pioneers of 1902.
Human endeavors succeed to the degree that people look to the future and do what’s necessary to bring it about with today’s latest technology.

Everything has a beginning. How did Editorial FTD get started, and what do its initials stand for?
The Marist Brothers arrived in Brazil in October 1897. Shortly after that, at the outset of the 20th Century, seeing the absence of teaching materials necessary to help their students progress, the superior at that time, Brother Andronicus, still a beginner in the Portuguese language, put together the first textbook, Calculus and Problem Solving, Book One. Since there were very few publishing companies in the country, he had the book printed in France.
As a tribute to Brother Theophane Durand (in French, Frère Théophane Durand), the Superior General of the time who gave his backing to this initiative, the book became the first in a series entitled The FTD Textbook Collection. That was in 1902. From then on many more texts were published, covering the widest array of academic disciplines: Portuguese, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Natural History, World History, Geography, Religion, etc.
It’s interesting to note that up until the 1930s, all our books were printed at the “Emmanuel Vitte” Publishing House in Lyon, France and shipped to Brazil, always labeled with the initials FTD.
Thanks to the determined efforts of Brother Isidore Dumont, who had earned a Licentiate in Mathematics in France, FTD facilities were constructed in Brazil. He was strongly supported in this endeavor by Brother Epiphanius Mary. Br. Isidore passed away in 1941.

What sense does it make for a religious congregation like the Marist brothers to own a publishing house of this magnitude?
We’re continually weighing this issue. Since the Company’s main aim has always been to serve the educational needs of children and young people, and its products – books – have always been directly associated with Marist educational programs, we decided to continue our original way of doing things, in spite of setbacks, especially in 1968.
In point of fact, from being the only textbook company in Brazil until 1930, FTD expanded its operations and today is one of the premier companies in the country.
With the advent of competition from other publishers, FTD didn’t rest on its laurels but continued to develop its assets, all the while contributing to the finances of the Province.
Brother Charles Howard, Superior General, and his Council authorized further expansion of our publishing facilities in 1988. Today FTD remains one of the foremost printing plants in the country.

Who are your main buyers?
These days our main buyer is the Government itself, through the Ministry of Education and Culture. The Ministry purchases and distributes the books free of charge throughout its national school system.
Public school teachers at the federal, state, and municipal levels select from among texts made available by the various publishing companies. FTD ranks first in the number of orders received. This Government program has been in effect continuously for more than 20 years. But we also target the private school market, schools run by religious as well as the laity.
To give you some idea of our output, in the last three years FTD has sold 75 million books to the Government and 18 million to the other sectors of the market.

In terms of the format and content of your books, as a publisher what guidelines do you follow?
Brother Théophane Durand wanted Marist books to “fit in well with local cultures and customs.” Down through the years FTD has earnestly attempted to be adaptable, progressive, and up-to-date. Our modern printing complex guarantees publications of the highest quality.
Nowadays, one of our main concerns is to adhere to the directives (curricular content) of the Ministry of Education and Culture.
In regard to literature books, the Company is dedicated to marketing books with a Christian orientation, ones that promote peace, citizenship, and solidarity.
Our religion books adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

Why do your products enjoy such a wide acceptance, in public as well as in private schools?
Without a doubt the main reason is the Company’s reputation for sincerity in the academic world of both public and private schools; for honesty and high moral standards in doing business.
In addition to our good name, the authors we select, our quality products and prompt delivery service are also responsible for our being well received.
The Ministry of Education and Culture is aware of all that, so much so that the previous Minister, Paulo Renato de Souza, honored us with his presence at the celebrations commemorating FTD’s One Hundredth Anniversary in 2002. He gave personal testimony to the high regard in which the Company is held throughout the country.
The current Minister, a Marist alumnus, Cristovam Buarque, has expressed similar esteem.

Today there are other educational supplies unrelated to the printed word, like computer programs and videotaped documentaries. What’s your position in dealing with these advances?
Quite a while ago FTD started producing videos and computer programs to assist teachers and students. But those products are in decline as impressive gains are being made in the availability of Internet services. The Company is carefully monitoring this situation.

What are your plans for the future?
As far as the future goes, FTD is paying close attention to the progress and evolution of the latest technologies for printing and editing books. We’re striving to provide books with the best possible content and appearance, in accordance with the very slogan we adopted for our Hundredth Anniversary: “FTD! Essential for teaching.”
We also work in partnership with Edelvives, the Marist Publishing House in Spain, especially in publishing supplementary educational materials, and with the Champagnat Publishing Company headquartered at the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná, in Curitiba, Brazil.

Does FTD have a social agenda for bringing its products within reach of people with minimal economic resources?
The books of FTD, purchased by the Ministry of Education and Culture at very economical prices, reach the most remote areas and poorest children in the country. Besides that, for several years now, FTD has been distributing books at no cost to all the tuition-free schools run by the former Marist Province of São Paulo. Currently, as decided by the Board of Directors, it furnishes books free of charge to all the social ministries of the Marist Provinces in Brazil and to our Marist Schools in Angola and Mozambique.
So far in 2003, in round numbers, we have distributed for free more than 15,000 textbooks and accompanying materials to needy children from pre-school to 4th grade of elementary school.
FTD is always conscious of its responsibilities to society.

Thanks to your books, teachers have educated millions of children for the past hundred years, but all of you in the company – what have you learned?
At least three things: that education is key to a country’s future, that FTD is a priceless intellectual and cultural inheritance, and that managing an enterprise like this one in such a competitive business is a great challenge.
Through it all, the Province continues to support our efforts with boldness and determination.
Our job is to praise and thank God for the work that our predecessors began and now, shoulder-to-shoulder with highly qualified lay people, to continue working to make Editorial FTD a company with a very bright future.

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