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.