by Carien Fritze
(a community worker/organizer in London, England)
WHO IS PAULO FREIRE?
Freire is a Brazilian. He was born in the North East in 1921 of middle-class parents, better off than most. He then went on to work with the poor and this sharing of their life led him to the discovery of what he describes as the culture of silence, of the dispossessed. He came to realise that the ignorance and lethargy of the poor people in his country were the direct product of the whole situation of economic, social and political domination.
At the age of 23, Freire married a teacher and through her became interested in education. In 1959 he became Professor of History and Philosophy of Education and began experimenting with new methods of teaching adults to read and write. He was more concerned to help people to become aware of their under-dog situation than just to teach them reading and writing. He wanted to confront their pessimism and fatalism by enabling them to become aware of their capacity to shape their environment and to obtain the means to do so. Through his experience of teaching illiterate people, Freire soon discovered a method of teaching in which he showed how quickly literacy can be achieved provided it is linked to local social and political issues. Freire has linked teaching and consciousness raising together in his method. In 1964 there was a military coup in Brazil which overthrew the democratic regime. It was inevitable that Freire would be thrown out of his own country. For the new regime a person like Freire, who was not only helping peasants and slum-dwellers to read and write but also to think and act, was an unwanted person.
After a short spell in jail, he went to Chile, where he worked for 5 years with the Chilean Institute for Agrarian reform and as a Unesco consultant, developing his adult literacy experiment a step further. He then went to Harvard University where he worked with the Centre for the study of Development and Social Change.
He has worked since 1970 in the Department of Education of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, where he has been busy organising education projects for Third World countries. He also speaks with groups all over the world about his ideas.
In order to understand Freire’s method of consciousness raising, it is essential to understand his perceptions of humankind and oppression. His approach to education and consciousness raising are intimately related to each other and from these he has developed his concepts and methods. THE CONSCIOUSNESS
FREIRE'S PERCEPTIONS OF HUMANKIND
There are according to Freire two views on humankind.
One view conceives of humans as objects: they are mouldable and adaptable. The other view sees humans as subjects, independent beings, able to transcend and recreate the world. The Theory of Paulo Freire Page 2
In the first conception, humans can be compared with animals. They act and obey without taking time to reflect. An animal cannot see itself as "I" against a "not I", or in other words it cannot see itself separate from this world. If human beings are seen as objects, they are submerged in the world. They have not been given a chance of self-reflection.
In the second view, human beings are seen as subjects. They can think and reflect for themselves and they can dissociate from the world. The essential difference between humans and animals is that humans can operate in the world through action and reflection.
As the starting-point for his theory, Freire chooses the thesis "that humans are subjects in and with the world". According to him consciousness is determined by the socio-economic and political context, and also by cultural conditioning through one's upbringing, education and religion. In other words, it is an inter-change between economic and cultural structures.
Freire distinguishes three different levels of consciousness. MAGICAL CONSCIOUSNESS
Such people adapt themselves defencelessly and...