Why is Paulo Freire so important in the education field?

Why is Paulo Freire so important in the education field?

It is not a secret education has suffered a lot of changes over time and new approaches have overcome the oldest. This field concerns everybody because it is through education how children are cultivated for future. Moreover, everybody hopes children grow up with values and be able to make positive changes for society. In this regard, some people including educators, psychologists, psychoanalysts and sociologists have taken this subject seriously and have worked in the implementation of new strategies that have been as current as they were in the past. Paulo Freire was one of these people who worked hardly while he lived for a better education system.

Paulo Reglus Neves Freire (1921-1997) was Brazilian educator, one of the most significant educator during the XX century, best known for his advocacy of critical pedagogy. He defended dialogue as the strongest way to strengthen student-teacher’s relationship. Besides, he continues being the inspiration for new educators generation whose main attempts are releasing society through education. Although his ideas were no supposed to represent any risk for society itself, he was seen as a communist and for that reason he had to lived abroad because he was exiled.

It was during his early years when he learnt to concern for the poor since, during his childhood his family suffered the consequences of the 1930’s depression and they had to move to a poorest neighborhood. Hence, his concern about eliminating poorness as long as he stated poverty and hunger severely affected his ability to learn, according to him “I didn’t understand anything because of my hunger. I wasn’t dumb. It wasn’t lack of interest. My social condition didn’t allow me to have an education. Experience showed me once again the relationship between social class and knowledge”. After his family’s misfortune’s change, he enrolled the law school at the University of Recife where he also studied phenomenology and psychology of languages. But after he accomplished his studies, he thought Portuguese in secondary schools and never practiced law.

After a while, he worked among the illiterate poor at the Department of Education and Culture of the Social Service in the state of Pernambuco and there he started his non-orthodox way of teaching, considered at some points liberation theology. Yet this, there was a challenge where he had to teach to read and write to 300 sugarcane workers in 45 days and Freire had the opportunity to implement all his theories. For this reason, he became a spotlight for the Brazilian government who approved the creation of thousands of cultural circles around the country.

Despite his efforts, in 1964 the military coup stopped his projects due to the traitor treat he received that send him to prison for 70 days. Subsequently, Freire had to move and he spent few years in Bolivia and Chile where he wrote Education as the Practice of Freedom and then, his most important work Pedagogy of the Oppressed. This last book was published in Spanish and English but in Brazil it was not published until seven years before its first publications by cause of the political accusations he made.

Image courtesy of Marcelo Freixo at Flickr.com
Image courtesy of Marcelo Freixo at Flickr.com


Pedagogy of the Oppressed
proposes a new relationship between teachers, students and society. It was strongly influenced by Frantz Fanon and Karl Marx. This book talks about the colonizer and the colonized, referring to both sides of society where education for example is just benefit rich have and poor do not have access for it. Besides, his experiences with the sugarcane workers made him think about the oppressed whose opportunities are not enough to change their social conditions.

The legacy of Paulo Freire is still alive. He worked for eliminate the way people taught at that time, teachers role was to fill students who were seen as empty vessels. Problem posing was one of his approaches where educators in cooperation with students think of solutions for real problems they were facing at that moment, specially problems poor have to face every day. Freire proposed dialogue as the main tool for humans to build a new society, to make changes. Action and reflection must work cooperatively, because transformation comes after humans make actions for positive changes and after the praxis, it is reflection the step that allows us to think about how things could be better. Paulo Freire’s statements are still subject of matter within educators who try every day to eliminate the branch that exists among social classes. It was thanks to him that some educators focus their works on educating people from language to reflection in order to make a dialogue. Within this method, people are invited to think of new solutions for common social problems and make big changes.

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