Brasil's Paulo Freire

Brazil has a rich socialist and communist history. This thread will focus on Paulo Freire, the great educator and philosopher.

Freire was born in 1921 in Recife (Pernanbuco, Brazil).


However, his family relocated to Jaboatão dos Guararapes in an effort to save money during the Great Depression. He spent most of his free time playing soccer with other poor children.


These experiences marked Paulo and took him to develop his work on philosophy and pedagogy. He argued that poverty and hunger greatly affect the ability to learn. How will a poor kid, wondering where his next meal will come, learn about grammar or geometry?


"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"


Paulo became a lawyer, but never practiced. Instead he became a secondary teacher of Portuguese. He later became director of the Pernanbuco Department of Education and Culture. From there he actively worked with the poor and illiterate.


In 1962 he developed a program to teach 300 sugar cane harvesters to read and write in 45 days. The program was a success and it was expanded. However, a US supported coup ended the program as it rose to power in 1964. He was arrested and detained for 70 days.


Afterwards, he fled and lived throughout Latin America. While in Chile, working for the Christian Democratic Agrarian Reform Movement, he published his most important book:

“Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”


The first chapter of this essay presents an analysis of the oppressed and oppressor relationships, the justification for a pedagogy of the oppressed, and finally how liberation from this oppression won’t be a gift or a self-achievement, but a community process.


The second chapter explains and criticizes the “banking” concept of education, where students are empty vessels waiting to be filled by knowledge. Alternatively, he proposes a mutual process of learning, the discovery of our incompletion and our mutual struggle to become whole.


Chapter 3 explains the theory of dialogics as “the essence of education as the practice of freedom”. Exploring the human - world relationship, not only reading about subjects or events but understanding their world context and implications.


In the final chapter he contrasts dialogics with anti-dialogics as the instruments of freedom and oppression. He analyses capitalist education and its main characteristics: “conquest, divide and rule, manipulation, and cultural invasion”


Paulo’s work contributed to the development of movements in Latin America such as the liberation theology (future thread) and popular education. The Adult Learning Project in Scotland was based on his work. His ideas were central to the South African Black Consciousness Movement.


Finally Paulo was a devoted catholic. Is this a contradiction? Let’s allow Paulo to explain it himself:

Paulo’s defines education as one of the most important tools for people’s liberation. His analysis, critiques and theories are fundamental to understanding how and why we learn and teach. LSA is committed to a horizontal and liberating socialist education thanks to Paulo Freire.


Published Sep. 7 th 2019