Re-reading Freire

Paulo Reglus Neves Freire

When I first read Pedagogy of the Oppressed in 2010 I was frustrated with my job as a native English speaker-teacher in Hiroshima, Japan.  It was reading this book, which, in part inspired me to go back to school to try and re-make the way I think and act as a teacher, as a student, as a reader and as a writer.

Now, two years later I am a graduate student in UBC’s Educational Studies department in the process of doing just that.  For the past three months, I’ve been very much focused on coming to some deeper understanding of John Dewey’s Pragmatic program of Democratic Education.  That has been tempered somewhat by readings in Neo-Marxism as well as Ivan Illich’s specific brand of Libertarianism in the domain of critical studies devoted to that cultural practice known variously as “education” or “schooling.”

Now, this week, I’ve finally had the opportunity to return to Freire, the writer/teacher who inspired me to come here in the first place, and it’s as if I’m getting a fresh start.  This is Freire through a certain lens, I suppose: a Freire tinged with Pragmatism not un-criticized by feminists like bel hooks, a Freire across National and even continental boundaries, across Religious traditions, and a generation of poetry and politics between us.  What other differences ought I embrace in my reading?

Most striking in this most recent reading of Freire is his articulation of virtues for teachers, students or anyone who may engage in capital ‘D’ Dialogue.  We have love, humility, faith in humankind sans naïveté, and critical thinkingeach virtue being intimately involved with a subjective understanding of “the word”– I’m reading “word” as it is translated here as logos, one of the Greek roots of Dialogue.

Freire writes:

Dialogue is the encounter between men [sic], mediated by the world, in order to name the world.  Hence, dialogue cannot occur between those who want to name the world and those who do not wish this naming– between those who deny others the right to speak their word and those whose right to speak is denied them.  Those who have been denied their primordial right to speak their word must first reclaim this right and prevent the continuation of this dehumanizing aggression.


It is in speaking their word that people, by naming the world, transform it…


I have been struggling this week with the tendency I perceive myself to have of shutting down Dialogue in progress.  I want to be more sensitive to the flow of words around me, particularly when I am in a classroom (as a teacher or as a student, but particularly when I wear the skin of a teacher).  Am I needlessly aggressive.  Who might I be silencing or overpowering with the sound of my voice, even accidentally?  Am I reaching out by naming and not fencing in.  I want to make sure I transgress the boundaries I have become comfortable with– boundaries so often demarcated by silence only, a silence which I want to learn to live more peacefully with and within, listening intently but for silence.  I want to try to come to a deeper knowledge of the silence itself.  I want to reemerge from the loud noises I have been inhabiting wearing my student boots and student tuque.  I want to pose a problem to my self at all times and be comfortable in such a challenge-state.

Finally, as Freire positions himself as the eternal optimist, prophet of the “revolutionary futurity” of education, I certainly feel it in my power to change.  I am hopeful with Freire.  I believe in Education as the practice of freedom still.  Though, perhaps lately I had lost sight of it as such.  I will not anesthetize.  I will not be anesthetized through education.  I will live with and within the conflict, the uncertainty but also in the hope of the possibility of liberation, both for myself, and for my teachers.

1 thought on “Re-reading Freire

  1. is your intent to help/change/empower education towards a new direction in the US, Canada, worldwide? Do you ever ( or have you already) consider ‘giving up’ on turning education around within the US?

    I know as a student in higher education that i surely do. The more i hear/see about the money and politics determining how my education turns out, the more i tend to shrivel up a die a bit. i often have day after day where i am in complete shock/awe of what is going on in my school. and let me say, it is not a positive shock. the ignorance, teaching styles, disorganization, lack of advice, over-enrollment, ARGHH!!! i can drive my self crazy with discontentment. And i must say, the discontent stems from the outrageous amounts of $ i am having to spend/go in debt for just to get the education. Let’s just say that i wouldn’t complain so much if it was free.

    And then….i see my mother and father’s end of the spectrum. Two teachers in North Carolina…and all of the mess that is being made with politics. Why is my mom 62 years old, and still having to work her ass off just to get by? Why is her job so inferior to the job of a professor at a university? i promise you she does infinitely more work than the professor…..but she has nothing to show for it.

    I will just say i’m discouraged, very discouraged. when will education change/progress/turn around. why don’t people care about/value education and all its potentials? when will they realize? why don’t they care?

    so..i’m going to wrap up my somewhat/mostly incoherent comment here….i started out somewhere in this comment, and ended up traveling to nowhere in particular. oh well?

    one last thing, let me just say…even though i think education is completely busted in the US, i still want to be a part of it. my love for learning is just too strong. though i have lost that precious teacher-student interaction pretty much completely across the board in all of my education…i still just love to learn. life would be way too boring without constantly having something new to focus on and learn. learning is too exciting to let go of. i would love to come across schooling where i could get to know/connect with my teachers again though. the last, and pretty much only place in higher education i have found that was ABTech community college. Of the two universities i have attended, neither one has understood the value of this connection.

    i welcome your thoughts on bettering/improving my personal education experience! i have an open ear to all and any suggestions. does Canada ‘get it’ more than the US does?

    Well, i am going to continue on to another post of yours. i am really finding your Freire interest and related posts/topics intriguing right now! what is pragmatism though? i could look it up online, but i want your definition/explanation, lol. ok, i’m off. i have homework assignment after assignment to complete. Thank you for the distractions from my studies…seriously! it is good to take a break from my work and delve into the work of others. and reading your posts are infinitely more beneficial/enlightening/entertaining than facebook or some other bull****!

    ok, i’m off, sorry to blow up your spot with such a lengthy post with no particular direction/solid plan. keep up the hard work and drive for knowledge.

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