Brazilian with the most cited work in the social sciences in the world, educator Paulo Freire would turn one hundred years old this Sunday (19).
More than 50 years after writing his best-known work, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, Freire is the target of attacks by groups linked to President Jair Bolsonaro (no party), but celebrated abroad, where he names 20 institutes.
Get to know the main points of the educator’s life and work.
Who was Paulo Freire? Brazilian educator born in 1921 in Recife. Graduated in law, he turned his professional practice to education. In 1963, he developed a pioneering experience in adult literacy in Angicos (RN), but the program, which would be expanded on a national scale, was interrupted by the military dictatorship.
Arrested and exiled, he went to Chile and then to the US, where he taught at Harvard University. He wrote his main books abroad. He returned to Brazil with the amnesty and, in 1989, took over the Municipal Secretary of Education of São Paulo under Luiza Erundina, then in the PT, until 1991. He died in 1997, at the age of 75.
What are your core ideas? Paulo Freire sees education as a tool for individual and social emancipation and believes that every educational process must start from the reality of the student. It also values horizontality, that is, the possibility not only for students to learn from teachers, but also the opposite.
What is the Paulo Freire method? Often confused with his thinking, the so-called Paulo Freire method is an adult literacy methodology and represents a very small aspect compared to the dimension of his intellectual production. It was applied for the first time with more prominence in Angicos (RN) and publicized the literacy of students in 40 hours.
The process took place from generating words identified from the students’ reality. Words were broken down into syllables, and from them literacy took place. For Freire, it went far beyond the decoding of letters and included the awareness of students.
John Holst, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, says that the most innovative in the method was not the use of small words and their decomposition into syllables. “What was innovative about Freire’s approach was the extensive research work on the realities experienced in the lives of students, done together with students and other community members, which he felt was fundamental to the educational content and which should be done before any real literacy work would take place”, he says.
Why did Freire become the target of the Pocketnarists? His vision of education as a tool for social transformation linked the educator to a tradition associated with the left. The connection with the PT also weighs. Affiliated to the party, Freire participated in the Luiza Erundina administration in the city. On the other hand, during his time at the Municipal Department of Education, he had several conflicts with the party’s directory, which wanted, for example, to nominate occupants of commissioned positions.
Pocketnarists blame Paulo Freire for the problems of Brazilian education. What is your responsibility? Freire even outlined a national action to combat illiteracy shortly before the 1964 military coup and, as already mentioned, held the position of head of the Municipal Education Department of São Paulo from 1989 to 1991. This was the only moment he had direct responsibility for educational management.
“Freire himself said that the issue of illiteracy was not a method, but a political will”, says his biographer Sérgio Haddad. “The responsibility for education rests with the government.” It is noteworthy that, as the sheet, several elite schools in São Paulo, with good performances in the assessments, use the thinker’s ideas as a reference.
A famous phrase by Freire says that educating is a political act. what did he mean with this?
Professor at Uerj (University of the State of Rio de Janeiro) and author of a “philosophical biography” of the Brazilian, Walter Kohan states that the word political must be understood in its original sense, from the Greek origin polis, which refers to social organization, and not party politics. The idea is that the teacher and the student understand their place in the world, which is not neutral. “One example is: if we live in a racist world and we want a neutral education, we will be contributing to the world continuing to be racist.”
Why was Paulo Freire so well known abroad? For Kohan, he managed to condense diverse traditions of his time in education and express them in a powerful way that no one else had ever done. There is also the fact that he was forced into exile abroad, which expanded his network of contacts. Furthermore, Haddad points out the confluence of his work with the “spirit of the time”, proposing a pedagogy in favor of freedom at a time of the Cold War and dictatorships in Latin America.