Academic journal article Journal of Thought

Afterward: Ten Short Years-Acting on Freire's Requests

Academic journal article Journal of Thought

Afterward: Ten Short Years-Acting on Freire's Requests

Article excerpt

It's been a short ten years since Paulo Freire died--a ten years that has witnessed 9-11 and George W. Bush's use (with the assistance of his neo-conservative puppet masters) of the tragedy to justify a plethora of fascist oriented changes in U.S. geo-political ambitions, domestic policies, civil and human rights legislation, and, of course, public and private education and curriculum development. It not hard to deduct that Paulo would have hated to witness these regressive changes. Indeed, his unrelenting, transgressive hope would have been challenged. The authors included in this volume have touched on these issues and many more. In this afterward I'd like to think about Paulo's request to always study his work in the context of the new times that would face us and to constantly reinvent his work in our own historical moments. Before getting to that task, I would like to briefly place Freire in historical context.

Paulo Freire (1921-1997)

With Paulo Freire the notion of critical pedagogy as we understand it today emerged. Born in Recife, Brazil, in 1921, Freire learned about poverty and oppression through the lives of the impoverished peasants around whom he lived. Such experiences helped construct a devotion to work that would improve the lives of these marginalized people. Beginning his educational work in Recife, Freire became the most well known educator in the world by the 1970s. Peter McLaren (2000) has called Freire the "inaugural philosopher of critical pedagogy" (p. 1). Indeed, all work in critical pedagogy after him has to reference his work. His work with the Brazilian poor was viewed as dangerous and subversive by wealthy landowners and the Brazilian military. When the military overthrew the reform government of the country in April of 1964, progressive activities were shut down and Freire was jailed for his insurgent teaching. After serving a 70-day jail term Freire was deported. He continued his pedagogical work in Chile and later under the umbrella of the World Council of Churches throughout the world.

Not only have scholars in education employed Freire's work, but individuals working in literary theory, cultural studies, composition, philosophy, research methods, political science, theology, sociology, and other disciplines have used it as well. In this context Freire reconstructed what it means to be an educator, as he upped the ante of what professional educators need to know and do. After Freire a progressive educator cannot be viewed as a technician, a functionary carrying out the instructions of others. Educators in the Freirean sense are learned scholars, community researchers, moral agents, philosophers, cultural workers, and political insurgents. In this context Freire taught us that education is always political and teachers are unavoidably political operatives. Teaching is a political act--there's no way around it. Freire argued that teachers should embrace this dimension of their work and position, social, cultural, economic, political, and philosophical critiques of dominant power at the heart of the curriculum. His notion of critical praxis characterized as informed action demanded curricular and instructional strategies that produced not only better learning climates but a better society as well.

Freire used a variety of strategies to produce this ambitious undertaking. In order to help students develop wider conceptual lenses to view their lives and social situation, Freire developed what he called codifications--pictures and photographs as part of a research process directed at the students' social, cultural, political, and economic environment. The pictures in this codification process depicted problems and contradictions in the lived worlds of students. Freire induced the students to step back from these pictures, to think about what they told them about their lives. What are the unseen forces and structures that are at work in these images, covertly shaping what is going on in the areas they depict? …

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