Connecting local responses around the world
Note: Francophones, je vous proposerai bientôt la traduction :)
At first I was sceptical, but now I am a fan. Paolo Freire’s thinking and that of the Constellation are very close. Actually they are so close that the Constellation was probably influenced by Paolo Freire. The Constellation should contact people and organisations in the attached ‘List of projects inspired by Freire’. It would be stimulating for both parties.
Who was Paolo Freire? What were his ideas? What ideas do we have in common? How and to what extent did his ideas inspire people around the world? I try to answer these questions in the attached document, and also to summarize the different perceptions and extensive discussions on challenges and applicability of his thinking. My work is based mainly on documents I found on the Internet.
Paolo Freire was a Brazilian educator, internationally recognized for his literacy method (based on key words or "generative words" identified with the learners) and his ideas against oppression. His best known work is Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Paolo Freire was born in Recife in the Northeast region in Brazil in a middle class family. The crisis of 1928 - 1932 and the death of his father in 1934 made the situation difficult for his family. He nevertheless studied law, philosophy and linguistics at the University of Recife. After graduation, he became professor of Portuguese at the college Oswaldo Cruz, where he discovered his passion for teaching and he met his wife, Elsa Oliveira who contributed much to his pedagogy. He became director of Social Service for Industry (SESI), then coordinator of a literacy program for adults in the Nordeste region, then, in 1962, nationally. He developed his ideas of social transformation, outraged by the fact that society seems content to keep workers illiterate. In 1964, after the military coup, he was convicted of illegal association, was imprisoned and exiled. He worked in Chile for four years, then six months at Harvard, before moving to Geneva where he had a consulting role in the education department of the World Council of Churches. He travelled around the world. In 1979, the Brazilian government Figueiró allowed him to return home. He was Director of Education of the City of São Paulo for two years, and he then he dedicated himself to teaching and writing until his death.
Paolo Freire considered that pedagogy is either a way to oppress people or a tool of empowerment. In what he called banking education, the student is an empty bottle that the educator fills at the expense of critical awareness that would allow the student to be "for himself" instead of "being for another". The remedy proposed by Paulo Freire is dialogue. And for him this dialogue does not happen without love for the world and for others. "It is not sentimentality, but an act of courage. The act of love is to commit oneself to the cause, the cause of their liberation. " Education emancipates when it consists in collectively building knowledge from the complex and changing reality. Freire gave priority to writing over reading because if you can read, you become ungovernable, but by writing you make your voice heard. Moreover, for him, awareness should be accompanied by action or it’s an illusion. "We must educate ourselves anew with an understanding of the world or with a presence in the world that places us not only in this world, but with this world and with others, and that makes us creators, not mere spectators of what happening around us”.
The emphasis on dialogue, the conviction that ideas, knowledge and experiences should be exchanged to act together and confront thereby the complexity and the ever changing nature of reality; this is, I think, a first characteristic common to Freire and the Constellation.
A second element is what Freire called reinvention. He didn’t believe in ready-made methods and rejected all dogmas or absolute truth. He believed in a continuous process with constant questioning. The discussions on Ning reflect that the ideas of the Constellation are in perpetual construction.
A third element is the rupture he felt was needed in the teacher-student relationship; both actors should give and receive; a difficult one for both actors since ‘the expert educator and the passive student’ model is fixed in people’s mind. The trainer, in Freire’s thinking, learns, does not teach, does not solve problems, but asks questions that promote reflection and learning . The Freirean teacher and the Constellation facilitator face the same dilemma which is reflected in the Ning discussion opened by Laurence ‘Can a facilitator give information on HIV?’
Another element that the Constellation has in common with Freireans is the importance given to networks for knowledge exchange and action.
At first, I thought revealing strengths was not directly part of Freire’s thinking. He proposed a method he called Problématisation or Problem-Posing Education. However, as I understand it now, what he tried to do with his ‘liberation from oppression’ is to reveal strength of people to help them make their voice heard and take action.
I will post extracts of the documents below in the coming weeks: