The place of human experiences

Image: Engin Akyurt


Considerations on Paulo Freire's pedagogy

The philosopher Ernani Maria Fiori defined Paulo Freire as “a thinker committed to life, who does not think about ideas, he thinks about existence”. A sensitive and astute way of treating the work of someone who has never thought of life as dissociated from the world, the place of human experiences.

As the pedagogue of freedom and autonomy, he opposed the idea that our life is something previously designed and independent of how we act and think. For Freire, on the contrary, life is “something that needs to be done and whose responsibility I cannot omit”.

This is the reason why Paulo Freire considers the learning process as not restricted to classrooms, however relevant they may be, as it is by living that we learn and gain awareness of the world. Life, for him, is a “text to be constantly “read”, interpreted, “written” and “rewritten”, in a process of knowledge that can only be fully realized by acting in the world. This is how we constitute ourselves as human beings.

If acting in the world is the way we think and become aware of ourselves and the society in which we live, this world can only be understood as the interaction of society and nature, in which a permanent process of creation and recreation is carried out, of nature, society and individuals.

By thinking of life as permanent creation and recreation, Paulo Freire's pedagogy acts as a real battering ram against "the fatalistic and immobilizing ideology that animates the neoliberal discourse", which is always trying to make us believe that "there is nothing to do" .

This discourse of “hopelessness”, against which his pedagogy of freedom rebels, is the neoliberal ideology, fatalistic and accommodating, which wants to suppress the “creative force of learning” and, therefore, of transforming.

As long as life does not end, there is history and, therefore, there is a future to be built, a future that can be “problematic, but not inexorable”, as the patron saint of Brazilian education teaches us that “where there is life, there is unfinished business” and, therefore, , space for the construction of the new, for transformations.

For Paulo Freire, it is the nature of human beings to go beyond conditioning, as we are endowed with the “creative force of learning” and, therefore, of transforming, as the future is never something given, it needs to be built. Against hopelessness, therefore, Freire's pedagogy affirms hope in the capabilities of humanity's freedom.

Even if our existence is conditioned by cultural factors, the organization of power and the natural environment, this does not mean that we are “determined”. We are capable of perceiving that “obstacles do not last forever” and, therefore, can be overcome by collective and conscious action in the world.

Today, not even natural history is considered the field of determinations. It is understood as being subject to deviations, uncertainties and bifurcations, which makes it, in the words of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Ilya Prigogine, “a creation of possibilities, which some come true, others do not”.

Therefore, the true connection between natural history and human history is uncertainty and life itself is the pedagogical space in which we become aware of what we are, without life there is no social awareness and perception of the natural world. This is why consciousness is constituted as the consciousness of the world, according to the words of Ernani Maria Fiori, and no one becomes aware separately from others, because consciousness is a social act.

In one of his last writings, Paulo Freire shows the urgency of taking up the fight for fundamental ethical principles such as respect for the lives of human beings, the lives of other animals, the lives of birds, the lives of rivers and forests. He says he does not believe “in love between women and men, between human beings, if we do not become capable of loving the world”. For him, therefore, ecology gains fundamental importance at the end of this century.

It is for no other reason that his work is one of the main targets of this moment of intolerance towards knowledge, science and environmental protection. His life and work are a radical critique of the fatalism that tries to impose the present world as the only possible one.

The ship of insanity that supports the ongoing necropolitics in the country fights Paulo Freire with fury, because his pedagogy is subversive of the current order, which only admits a teaching that helps to perpetuate obscene social inequality and immense environmental degradation. Thus, it is necessary to love life to understand Paulo Freire.

*Gerson Almeida holds a master's degree in sociology from UFRGS.


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