Teachers as Cultural Workers by Paulo Freire
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I finished this a couple of days ago, but it took me a while to finally get around to reviewing it. I am giving it three stars, but it is not because it is a bad book. The book can be a bit repetitive, especially if you have read some of Freire's other works, and a few passages can be a little dry. Having said that, there is a lot in this book for teachers and educators to reflect upon. I found myself making notes in my personal journal at various times, jotting down passages and quotes I wanted to remember for later. Freire covers a lot of ground in this book from the teaching of reading to the behavior of teachers, from the teaching act to political action and activism. I think a lot of what Freire wrote in this book is very relevant today if educators would take the time to read the book, reflect on it, then take action. I also think that the book has a lot to say to librarians, who are educators as well, and who often do a lot of teaching (especially if you are an instruction librarian, but even at the reference desk some degree of teaching goes on). Some of it also speaks to our profession in terms of the idea of library neutrality, a topic I have considered before (I have a book just on that topic listed in my GoodReads lists if anyone is interested).
I took this book with me when I went to Immersion (ACRL Institute on Information Literacy for those not in librarianship, an intensive institute for instruction librarians) this past summer. In part, I was looking for a bit of inspiration. I think I also longed to read something that is not necessarily present in the Immersion curriculum (or if it is, it is very well hidden or unacknowledged). I think Freire has a lot that can speak to librarians, if we take the time to listen.
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Additional notes from and about the book:
Freire gives a suggestion on writing:
"If we think about the intimate relationship between reading, writing, and thinking and about our need to intensely experience this relationship, we might accept the suggestion that at least three times a week we should devote ourselves to the task of writing something. That writing could be notes about something read, a commentary about some event reported in the media, a letter to an unknown person--it doesn't matter what. It is also a good idea to date and keep these writings and, a few months later, critically analyze them" (45-46).
This sounded to me like a pretty good argument for keeping and writing in a personal journal, which is something I have been doing for years now, even if not in the most consistent way. This may also be another explanation, for me, of why I keep a journal. I need to experience that intimate relationship between reading, writing and thinking. I have expressed before in some previous writings of mine that writing helps me think and work out ideas. Lately I have been doing more writing in my personal journal than blogging. Part of it has been time constraints. Work has been very busy, and at the end of the day, it is easier to just write in my journal for a while than fire up the computer and open the blogging program. Another reason is that, to be honest, a lot of the drama in the librarian sector of the blogosphere just does not interest me, so I would rather just not blog about certain things. I am still reading a bit of the library literature; I just have not gotten around to blogging some of those notes.
There are a few other things I jotted down, but I am choosing not to blog them here. However this passage on progressive educators moved me, and it made me think about our profession as well. Freire writes:
"Progressive educators need to convince themselves that they are not only teachers--this doesn't exist-- not only only teaching specialists. We are political militants because we are teachers. Our job is not exhausted in the teaching of math, geography, syntax, history. Our job implies that we teach these subjects with sobriety and competence, but it also requires our involvement in and dedication to overcoming social injustice" (103-104).
That may be a large reason why I became first a teacher and then a librarian. In fact, I think this is very applicable to to librarians, especially those of us in reference and instruction. To me, this takes me back once more to the question of library neutrality. How neutral can we really in a world of social injustice? I know what I would answer, but I also know a lot of my professional brethren choose to ignore the issue, evade it, or in some cases just do not care. And as Forrest Gump would say, "that's all I got to say about that." By the way, if you are interested in the topic of library neutrality, this book may be of interest.