Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Booknote: The Paulo Freire Reader

Title: The Paulo Freire Reader
Editors: Ana Maria Araújo Freire and Donaldo Macedo
Publishing information: New York: Continuum Books, 2001
ISBN: 0-8564-1275-0
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Educational Philosophy, Critical Pedagogy
291 pages

I have been rereading some of Paulo Freire's writings; this is something I have not done since my undergraduate days when I read some of his work for an adult education class. Paulo Freire's work deals with empowerment. More important to me, his work argues for the need of educators to be on an even ground with their students. By this I mean that teachers should be learning from their students as well as the students learning from the teacher. His Pedagogy of the Oppressed clearly explains how the educational establishment is used as an oppressive instrument by the oppressors to maintain their power at the expense of the oppressed. His method, if one can use such a simplistic term as "method," includes raising consciousness of the oppressed so they may move out of their oppression and reach their true potential. He used techniques of familiarity, concepts and terms from the everyday life of the poor in Brazil to educate them. In the process, he went on to educate and inspire the rest of the world.

Reading Freire makes a good educator take a look at his/her practice in order to reflect. Many good educators likely nod in agreement when they read the words of Freire; they know much of this already. I know I found myself nodding, inspired, and in agreement, and I am certainly not a great teacher if you define "great teacher" by the usual measures: prominence, awards, popularity, books written, etc. I am just a librarian and educator with the simple idea that education should be available to all, and that my job, my gift, is to facilitate that process of education through dialogue, some guidance, and mutual respect. It has to be noted that Freire's method is a political method; it was meant to politicize the peasants so they could read not only the words but the world around them. Education, true education, is political in this regard. And when I say true education, I don't mean the political stuff in schools today that tries to pass for education and sounds more like indoctrination. Overall, Freire's work is dangerous stuff; it is subversive, then again, a teacher is to be a subversive if he/she is doing the work well in order to truly educate.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed was written back in 1968. Reading parts of it today reveals that the book is very relevant today. I dare readers to read the second chapter on the banking concept of education. I will say many readers will recognize public schools in the United States today in the banking model. I know I saw a lot of what I avoid in the classroom. For readers, this is where the book I am making a note for comes in.

The Paulo Freire Reader provides an excellent selection of Freire's writings from his books and other works. The book is a great way to learn about Freire's work across time. Most people probably know about Pedagogy of the Oppressed, even if it is only they know of the book but never read it. The Reader includes the first two chapters of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The Reader will expose readers to his other works as well, giving them a sense of how Freire's thinking evolved and developed. The editors also provide an excellent introduction that presents the educator's life, his work, and the impact of his work on education around the world. For any reader wanting to know more who may feel reading a whole book may be too much, this reader is recommended. For educators, this is a good item to discover, or rediscover Freire. For librarians, this book may be another reminder of why we do what we do.

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