Bem vindos ao Freire Fridays! The legendary Brazilian critical pedagogue has always been one of those thinkers whose ideas I admire from a distance. Read a few articles for my MA. Skimmed Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I’ve been wanting to get more intimate with Freire’s body of work, so I figured this weekly post was a good place to start.
In between classes today, I popped down to the OISE-UT library and rented a DVD of Letters in the Earth, an interview conducted with Freire in 1979. Stroking his beard and chain-smoking cigarettes, Freire calmly discusses the roots of his educational activism with Canadian educators Roby Kidd and Alan Thomas. This interview was conducted 12 years after Brazil exiled Freire for his educational activism.
Freire recalls how as a young 22 year-old adult ed researcher, he discussed education both with Brazilian peasants and with intellectuals. He was struck by how much more able the peasants were to understand and communicate how their concrete realities shaped their educational experiences. The intellectuals, he says, had been “conditioned” by the university and were less able to relate theory to authentic experience. If we are too steeped in the culture of academia, we risk bureaucratizing the ideas of education and social development and turning them into empty concepts that are divorced from the values, needs, and concrete realities experienced by subjugated people.
Roby asks Freire if he sees himself as an educator who focuses on social revolution, or as a social revolutionary who uses education as a means to an end. Freire cautions us against dichotomizing the two, and adds that educators have to be politicians and (I love this part) artists. The idea, he says, is not to focus on education and social development, but education FOR social development, education INSIDE development. Education is always political.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the interview that really stands out for me:
“The more we teach students that education is a neutral tool, neutral students, that we have to measure and evaluate with numbers; the more we say that teachers are neutral beings in the service of humanity, the more we are training them in order for them not ot analyze in a critical way the concrete reality of how it is becoming – because reality is not, reality is becoming.
When we try not only to describe a certain society like it is becoming, but when we try to analyze the raison d’être for this becoming, and to discuss the possibilities for changing, the tendency is for some people to say that you are no longer educators – no longer “scientists” – but ideologues…and for me – as if they are not ideologues! When they deny the very process of ideology, they are making ideology.”
Have a great weekend, and beware of false neutrality!