If there was an intellectual who contributed more decisively to understanding the meaning of education, we have no doubts in affirming that it was Paulo Freire. He didn’t just offer educational explanations for man freeing himself from the shackles of darkness. More than that, it placed education in the context of praxis, analyzing society and its politics, and offering solutions to the great problems of education, not only in Brazil, but in Latin America and perhaps worldwide.
In order to carry out this very ambitious task of education as a practice of freedom, after all, Brazil was going through a period of military dictatorship, Paulo Freire used the popular literacy method connecting the subject with the lived experiences. In the method of dialectic movement he was rigorous, and in the practice of criticism blunt, even in the harsh times that led to his imprisonment and then exile. This did not prevent him from facing with passion his object of study, which was also a project of freedom and man’s emancipation: the education of the pedagogy of the oppressed.
Among the leading educators already in existence, Paulo Freire is one of the most widely cited and also one of the most rarely read with due attention. Alongside Marx, he is equally certainly one of the most misunderstood, especially by his critics of social networks. A myth surrounds his legacy: that he was a communist educator. In fact, he was a socialist who believed in popular participation and the transformation of the world by those who are deprived of their right to be. That’s why he committed himself to the literacy of young people and adults as a man’s right to be a citizen. This was your historic, ethical and political commitment!
Exiled not only for his ideas but for his revolutionary praxis, in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, as well as the Pedagogy of Hope and the Pedagogy of Autonomy, he used the method of literate and raise awareness among young people and adults as a practice of freedom and the right of man to become a citizen of the world. This was his passion, making his work and his life full of energy and desire to transform Brazilian education. The optimistic passion that fueled the action led him into exile, but without losing the ability to directly influence the destinies of Brazilian educators. The return from exile and participation as Secretary of Education in the government of Luiza Erundina, in São Paulo, allowed him to problematize education and resume the critical conception of reality, so obscured by the harsh times of the civil-military dictatorship.
Paulo Freire’s passion was not only the development of education, but also democracy. Passion fueled by the belief that development was within the reach of Brazilians at the historical moment when the country had a high rate of illiteracy, in the 1960s. The idea is simple and powerful. Only this passion explains the strength of his thinking. Their hope was great with the development of educational policy for the oppressed, but the disillusionment and frustration with the direction of the country’s educational policy as a “content repository” were even greater.
Always thinking independently and critically, his political capacity for inference and deduction is powerful and he always starts from the observation of empirical reality, because as Frei Betto says; “The head thinks from where the feet step”. In this way, it avoids starting from general presuppositions and abstract hypotheses to deduce reality and its historical movement. It seeks from reality and its historical and political movement, to infer theory through revolutionary praxis.
Even so, he still believes in utopia as a dialectical movement of transformation of social structures, driven by the hope that the oppressed man will be a historical subject of the process, even more so in the 1960s, with the exclusion of the illiterate from the right to vote , and representing the vast majority of the popular classes. His style of action was based on a pedagogy that sought to root out authoritarian relations that excluded the popular masses from the right to be a citizen.
However, as an educator of the oppressed, Paulo Freire is all that and much more than that. His struggle for popular education, understanding of social structures and overcoming the country’s structural backwardness – in its multiple facets – was carried out with an intensity and determination that only the liberating passion and the humanist pedagogical method can explain.
Luciane Carminatti is a teacher, state deputy and president of the ALESC Education Commission
Juliano Giassi Goularti holds a PhD from the Institute of Economics at UNICAMP and a researcher at the Center for Studies on Economics in Santa Catarina (NECAT) at the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC)