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Paulo Freire

Paulo Freire
Born September 19, 1921(1921-09-19)
Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil
Died May 2, 1997 (aged 75)
São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Nationality Brazilian
Occupation Educator, author
Known for Theories of education
Influenced by Jean-Paul Sartre, Erich Fromm, Louis Althusser, Herbert Marcuse, Karl Marx, Ivan Illich
Influenced Peter McLaren, Henry Giroux, Ivan Illich

Paulo Reglus Neves Freire (Recife, Pernambuco September 19, 1921 â São Paulo, São Paulo May 2, 1997) was a Brazilian educator and influential theorist of critical pedagogy.

Contents

[edit] Biography

Freire was born September 19, 1921 to a middle class family in Recife. Freire became familiar with poverty and hunger during the 1929 Great Depression. In 1931 the family moved to the less expensive city of Jaboatão dos Guararapes, and in 1933 his father died. In school he ended up four grades behind, and his social life revolved around playing pick up football with poorer kids, from whom he learned a great deal. These experiences would shape his concerns for the poor and would help to construct his particular educational viewpoint. Eventually his family's misfortunes turned around and their prospects improved.

Freire enrolled at Law School at the University of Recife in 1943. He also studied philosophy, more specifically phenomenology, and the psychology of language. Although admitted to the legal bar, he never actually practiced law but instead worked as a teacher in secondary schools teaching Portuguese. In 1944, he married Elza Maia Costa de Oliveira, a fellow teacher. The two worked together for the rest of their lives and had five children.

In 1946, Freire was appointed Director of the Department of Education and Culture of the Social Service in the State of Pernambuco. Working primarily among the illiterate poor, Freire began to embrace a non-orthodox form of what could be considered [1] liberation theology. In Brazil at that time, literacy was a requirement for voting in presidential elections.

In 1961, he was appointed director of the Department of Cultural Extension of Recife University, and in 1962 he had the first opportunity for significant application of his theories, when 300 sugarcane workers were taught to read and write in just 45 days. In response to this experiment, the Brazilian government approved the creation of thousands of cultural circles across the country.

In 1964, a military coup put an end to that effort. Freire was imprisoned as a traitor for 70 days. After a brief exile in Bolivia, Freire worked in Chile for five years for the Christian Democratic Agrarian Reform Movement and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 1967, Freire published his first book, Education as the Practice of Freedom. He followed this with his most famous book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, first published in Portuguese in 1968.

On the strength of reception of his work, Freire was offered a visiting professorship at Harvard University in 1969. The next year, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was published in both Spanish and English, vastly expanding its reach. Because of the political feud between Freire, a Christian socialist, and the successive authoritarian military dictatorships, it wasn't published in his own country of Brazil until 1974, when General Ernesto Geisel became the then dictator president beginning the process of a slow and controlled political liberalisation.

After a year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Freire moved to Geneva, Switzerland to work as a special education advisor to the World Council of Churches. During this time Freire acted as an advisor on education reform in former Portuguese colonies in Africa, particularly Guinea Bissau and Mozambique.

In 1979, he was able to return to Brazil, and moved back in 1980. Freire joined the Workers' Party (PT) in the city of São Paulo, and acted as a supervisor for its adult literacy project from 1980 to 1986. When the PT prevailed in the municipal elections in 1988, Freire was appointed Secretary of Education for São Paulo.

In 1986, his wife Elza died. Freire married Maria Araújo Freire, who continues with her own educational work.

Freire died of heart failure on May 2, 1997.

[edit] Recognition

[edit] Theoretical contributions

"There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the âpractice of freedomâ, the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world."
âJane Thompson, drawing on Paulo Freire, [2]

Paulo Freire contributed a philosophy of education that came not only from the more classical approaches stemming from Plato, but also from modern Marxist and anti-colonialist thinkers. In fact, in many ways his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) may be best read as an extension of, or reply to, Frantz Fanonâs The Wretched of the Earth (1961), which emphasized the need to provide native populations with an education which was simultaneously new and modern (rather than traditional) and anti-colonial (not simply an extension of the culture of the colonizer).

In Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), Freire differentiates between the two positions in an unjust society, the oppressor and the oppressed. He advocates that education allows the oppressed to regain their humanity and overcome their condition; however, he acknowledges that in order for this to take effect, the oppressed have to play a role in their own liberation. As he states:

No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption (Freire, 1970, p. 54).[3]

Likewise, the oppressors must also be willing to rethink their way of life and to examine their own role in the oppression if true liberation is to occur; âthose who authentically commit themselves to the people must re-examine themselves constantlyâ (Freire, 1970, p. 60).

In terms of actual pedagogy, Freire is best-known for his attack on what he called the âbankingâ concept of education, in which the student was viewed as an empty account to be filled by the teacher. He notes that, âit transforms students into receiving objects. It attempts to control thinking and action, leads men and women to adjust to the world, and inhibits their creative powerâ (Freire, 1970, p. 77). The basic critique was not new â Rousseauâs conception of the child as an active learner was already a step away from tabula rasa (which is basically the same as the âbanking conceptâ). In addition, thinkers like John Dewey were strongly critical of the transmission of mere facts as the goal of education. Dewey often described education as a mechanism for social change, explaining that âeducation is a regulation of the process of coming to share in the social consciousness; and that the adjustment of individual activity on the basis of this social consciousness is the only sure method of social reconstructionâ (1897, p.16).[4] Freireâs work, however, updated the concept and placed it in context with current theories and practices of education, laying the foundation for what is now called critical pedagogy.

More challenging is Freireâs strong aversion to the teacher-student dichotomy. This dichotomy is admitted in Rousseau and constrained in Dewey, but Freire comes close to insisting that it should be completely abolished. This is hard to imagine in absolute terms, since there must be some enactment of the teacher-student relationship in the parent-child relationship, but what Freire suggests is that a deep reciprocity be inserted into our notions of teacher and student. He goes so far as to say that âEducation must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously students and teachersâ (Freire, 1970, p. 72). Freire wants us to think in terms of teacher-student and student-teacher â that is, a teacher who learns and a learner who teaches â as the basic roles of classroom participation. Freire however insists that educator and student, though sharing democratic social relations of education, are not on an equal footing, but the educator must be humble enough to be disposed to relearn that which he/she already thinks she knows, through interaction with the learner. The authority which the educator enjoys must not be allowed to degenerate into authoritarianism; teachers must recognize that âtheir fundamental objective is to fight alongside the people for the recovery of the peopleâs stolen humanity, not to âwin the people overâ to their side (Freire, 1970, p. 95).

[edit] Global impact

Freire's major exponents in North America are Peter McLaren, Donaldo Macedo, Joe L. Kincheloe, Ira Shor, and Henry Giroux. One of McLaren's edited texts, Paulo Freire: A Critical Encounter, expounds upon Freire's impact in the field of critical education. McLaren has also provided a comparative study concerning Paulo Freire and the Argentinian revolutionary icon, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, a book which has recently also been translated into Italian.

In 1991, the Paulo Freire Institute was established in São Paulo to extend and elaborate upon his theories of popular education. The Institute now has projects in many countries and is currently headquartered at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies where it actively maintains the Freire archives. The director is Dr. Carlos Torres, a UCLA professor and author of Freirean books including La praxis educativa de Paulo Freire (1978).

Since the publication of the English edition in 1970, Pedagogy of the Oppressed has achieved near-iconic status in Americaâs teacher-training programs, according to Sol Stern, a social commentator critical of the entry of Freire's Marxist-inspired teachings into the mainstream curriculum.

The Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference is held each spring and is guided by the theory and practice of these two liberatory practitioners. The Conference networks a wide variety of people with interests in Freire and Augusto Boalâliberatory education and theatre, community organizing, community-based analysis, TIE, race/gender/class/sexual orientation/geography analysis, performance/performance art, comparative education models, etc.

The Paulo and Nita Freire Project for International Critical Pedagogy has been founded at McGill University. Here Joe L. Kincheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg have worked to create a dialogical forum for critical scholars around the world to promote research and re-create a Freirean pedagogy in a multinational domain.

Paulo Freire's work also had a profound impact on Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa.

At his death, Freire was working on a book of Ecopedagogy, a platform of work carried on by many of the Freire Institutes and Freirean Associations around the world today. It has been influential in helping to develop planetary education projects such as the Earth Charter as well as countless international grassroots campaigns per the spirit of Freirean popular education generally.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Peter Lownd, "Freire's Life and Work", Paulo Freire Institute.
  2. ^ Gramsci, Freire, and Adult Education: Possibilities for Transformative Action, by Peter Mayo, Macmillan, 1999, ISBN 1856496147, pg 5
  3. ^ Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
  4. ^ Dewey, J. (1897). My pedagogic creed. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] Further reading

[edit] Paulo Freire Institutes around the world

[edit] External links




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