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Paolo Freire was born in 1921 (and died in 1997). He was a Brazilian educationalist, who left an important mark on the progressive practice thinking. His work "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" is still one of the most popular educational texts. It is also among the most quoted works, especially in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Paulo Freire had a gift to weave together and drawn upon numerous strands in the way of thinking about liberation and educational practice. Sometimes he is called one f the most important educational thinker of our age (but it is justice to mention that some researchers consider that kind of claims rather excessive). Nevertheless, Paolo Freire made numerous significant theoretical innovations that had an important impact on the educational practice development. Moreover, Freire contributed in to popular education and informal education as well.
Let us examine and discuss some of Paolo Freire's works (notably two of his books: "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" and "Teachers as Cultural Workers - Letters to Those Who Dare Teach")
To understand how Paolo Freire exposes the non-neutrality of education let us briefly look through the content of the book "Pedagogy of the Oppressed". It has four chapters. Chapter one is about the justification for the title of the book itself. Moreover, this chapter examines the contradiction between the oppressed and the oppressors; it contains some suggestions on how to overcome the contradiction. In the chapter one we can find the following statement: "liberation is not a self- achievement or a gift, but it is a mutual process". Chapter two is devoted to the concept of education that is called there "banking". This concept is claimed to be an instrument of the oppression's critique. This chapter examines the contradiction between a teacher and a student. It states that education also suppose to be a mutual process. One more statement from the chapter two is following: people are incomplete beings and recognizing of this fact helps them to be humans more fully. The third chapter is devoted to dialog as the practice of freedom and an essential part of education, the relations between a human and the world and methodology of the "generative themes" investigation. Final chapter four says us about dialogic and untie-dialogic. This is the common content of the book we are going to use most in this paper.
"Pedagogy of Oppressed" is one of the most known of Paolo Freire's books. The main idea of it is to propose pedagogy with new type of relationship between society, a teacher and a student. Talking about "oppressed" Freire includes some details from class analysis made by Marx when he was explaining the relations between "the colonized" and "the colonizer". The book contains the own experience of Paolo Freire. He got it when in Brazil he was helping adults to write and read.
Paolo Freire is talking about the type of pedagogy which could help student to cultivate his or her own growth and get a useful learning experience from the daily life. Critics and researchers rather call this pedagogy OF the oppressed and not the pedagogy FOR oppressed. Freire's method of learning makes students to do more than just reproduce something that exists already. They should create their own things, words and concepts that going to help them to examine the reality, be aware of it and to be ready to fight for emancipation. Freire stated that some people get used to their naive consciousness. It means that they would not make any effort to change a situation even if they aware of it. Facundo (1984) stated that they prefer to choose the position they were accustomed to and think that there is no need to support them because nothing unusual is happening. Other people prefer to build their reality and protect themselves from any oppression in the way of going to the opposite side and start being an antithesis of the situation they are fighting against.
Freire suggests a method that implies two sequential and distinct aspects: a person should recognize the reality he or she lives in as an oppressed; the oppressed should initiatively fight for the self emancipation from oppressors. Paolo Freire states that it is the type of learning that school should give a student instead of teaching him or her how to adapt to the reality. According to Freire, if a person does not want to fight for his or her social and cultural freedom and emancipation and for his or her own interest, it means that such person lost the love of life. Such situation is cultivated by the type of education that is provided in schools. Freire proposes the totally opposite type of education. He proposes to help an individual to develop a love of life with help of a cultivation of his or her being; this state Freire suggests to achieve through liberation. For this purpose we need the type of education that stops being mechanic and alienating.
In his book Freire explains that a person is not allowed to transform or understand the reality around him or her if the education is just a method for adapting a person for the reality. The idea that the author suggests is following. A person should just learn how to recognize the reality and how to transform it. According to Roberts (2000) we see that as a help in achievement of the goal Freire considers necessary to establish dialogistic between students and teachers. A man cannot create himself when he keeps silent. He does it through actions, words and reflection. According to Freire - and many teachers willingly agree with his idea - a dialog is a key aspect in learning. When the dialog is established between two subjects it helps to develop and increase reciprocal kindness, something that is rather bravery than cowardice. Paolo Freire does not talk here about some naive act; he talks about the type of dialog that is able to create kindness between people.
Now let us apply to the next book of Paolo Freire (1998) "Teachers as Cultural Workers - Letters to Those Who Dare Teach". What concepts and ideas can we find there? Let us explore them one by one.
Theory of value gives the conception that is similar with "Pedagogy of the Oppressed": education should give student the awareness and help them to become better a subject than an object. Also education needs to show students how to think democratically and how to ask questions; moreover, a student should have a critical view and make a certain meaning from everything he or she learns.
Theory of knowledge states that knowledge is the social construct. According to the book, there are two types of knowledge: unconscious practical knowledge and reflective critical theory knowledge. Beliefs can transform to knowledge by critical reflection and discussion. Freire states that it is unacceptable to pay attention to just one side of a dichotomy. It is not useful if knowledge is limited to content and logic, to superstitions and emotions. It should search for connection between feelings and understanding.
In the part about theory of human nature we can find following words (according to Freire (1998): "The ability of humans to plan and shape the world for their future needs is what separates man from animals. The oppressed majority must be taught to imagine a better way so that they can shape their future and thereby become more human". (p. 94). Freire recognizes that humans are the only beings who are able to be both subject and object of relationship. He talks about the relationships between people and the world that could be naively, critically or perceived magically; but in spite of it people need to be aware of the relationships because they are possible for human beings only. One more topic is criticized in this part. It is a statement of elite that they are the best part of humanity and their way is not just only different from their way of some other people but this way is the best one. This type of thinking is intolerant. Freire calls it an irresistible desire to be different and to reflect the difference. Steiner et al. (2000) also declared that the progressive educator should keep his choice and do not let students feel that he belongs to a dominant elite class. A teacher should not feel superior to different kinds of learners: to those who are from the slum, who does not eat well, who does not dress nicely, and who does not speak correctly and so on. There are also many other factors that limit the oppressed majority's success and the source of this limitation is the non-critical thinking.
In the part about theory of learning Paolo Freire talks about wrong perception of education as a bank that contains all knowledge; and students come there to withdraw just knowledge that they need for living. Freire shows that knowledge is not a certain commodity that should pass from teachers to students. Learners need to construct knowledge from something that they possess already. If a teacher wants to understand how a student can learn he should examine how the student understands the world.
Theory of transmission state that educating is a political process, which should be democratic and avoid teaching how to depend on authority. Teacher also supposes to learn - from student and about student. It lets knowledge be constructed in those ways that are sensible to a student. Educational process should give an opportunity learner to become teacher and vice versa. It is necessary to give the following quotation here (according to Freire (1998): "... it is not possible to be a teacher without loving one's students, even realizing that love is not enough. It is not possible to be a teacher without loving teaching." (p. 15).
Theory of society states that if the society is democratic it supposes to give equal opportunity to everyone. Nevertheless, according to Freire (1998), "it is truly difficult to make a democracy. Democracy, like arty dream, is not made with spiritual words but with reflection and practice... What I say must not be contradicted by what I do. It is what I do that bespeaks my faithfulness or not to what I say." (p. 67)
Theory of opportunity repeats one more time that every single student should have equal rights and ways to make a progress. It shows that idea of equality is very important for Freire. He is sure that non-equality is the main instrument of any oppression and from book to book repeats that there is no place for discrimination in the educational system.
Theory of consensus explains why people have right to disagree and how to do it in a right way. Every person has his or her own opinion and it is normal when an opponent disagrees and wants to prove his own point of view. Freire sure that this process helps people to achieve better knowledge if both sides want to find out truth during discussion. Consensus is important. It helps people to accept somebody's opinion and to show respect if a person does not want to change his mind.
Freire contributed in pedagogy a lot. Let us discus five main aspects of his works.
His suggestion of dialogue as an important instrument of education is very useful and wide spread practice till today;
Freire pays an attention to praxis. He calls it an action which is informed and linked to some values.
The type of education suggested by Freire was useful for those teachers who traditionally work with oppressed and with those people who have no right of voice; Freire shows how to help such kind of people to build courage;
Freire shows the necessity of the educational activity and life experience;
Paolo Freire shows that it is possible and important to transcend the division between learners and teachers.
After examining and discussing some main aspects of Paolo Freire's works we can conclude the following. The greatest idea of Freire is that it is rather better to help a human to form himself than to let him being formed. It can help people to build the type of free truly democratic community that is so desirable by politics and philosophers. It is true that every idea has its good and bad sides; some ideas of Freire could lose their urgency; nevertheless, society should take its best concept and use it to make our relations and life better.
Facundo, Blanca. Freire Inspired Programs in the United States and Puerto Rico: A Critical Evaluation. Washington, D.C.: The Latino Institute, 1984.
Freire, Paolo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York Herder and Herder, 1970
Freire, Paolo. Teachers as Cultural Workers - Letters to Those Who Dare Teach. Westview Press, 1997.
Roberts, P. Education, Literacy, and Humanization: Exploring the Work of Paulo Freire. Bergin & Garvey, 2000.
Steiner, A. et al. Freirean Pedagogy, Praxis, and Possibilities: Projects for the New Millennium. Falmer Press, 2000.