Critical Thoughts in Education: A Review of Paulo Freire's Letters to Cristina

By Quintanar-Sarellana, Rosalinda | Multicultural Education, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Critical Thoughts in Education: A Review of Paulo Freire's Letters to Cristina


Quintanar-Sarellana, Rosalinda, Multicultural Education


Critical Thoughts in Education: A Review of Paulo Freire's

Letters to Cristina Reviewed

by Rosalinda Quintanar-Sarellana Son Jose State University

This book is a compilation of letters that Paulo Freire wrote to his niece Cristina. Cristina approached Freire with love and respect expressing the desire to know him personally. Paulo and Cristina had been corresponding when she asked him, to write about his life, and the way his childhood influenced him as an educator. From the beginning, one is introduced to the intimate relationship between uncle and niece where friendship and family love permeates.

Taking Cristina's request seriously, Freire begins to ponder his existence. A fundamental idea that comes forth is Freire's vision of challenges as obstacles to be overcome. Even as a young child, he was proactive in the way he encountered life. Eighteen letters, that comprise the book, present a wide range of topics and emotions. The pervasive theme throughout the book is social justice. Three of the major themes that emerge include: discontinuity between home and school; theory and praxis; and, language, culture, and social class.

Discontinuity between home and school. Poverty occupied a central role in Freire's life. An economic crisis in Brazil and his father's long illness contributed to his family's economic position. Freire describes how hunger blurred his vision and how tired he felt due to malnourishment. This experience with poverty probably helped him to empathize with the people who suffered from hunger. It certainly helped him understand why some children of poverty could not perform well in school. He became very critical ofthe dominant classes who label poor and malnourished children as "unmotivated" students with "learning disabilities." He argued that many children fail in school because the people in power do not respect the students' culture, language, and hunger.

Theory and praxis. One of Freire's most formidable accomplishments was his ability and willingness to unite theory and at his own actions in a reflective and critical manner making it applicable and relevant to reality. …

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