Paulo Freire, culture and education

Charlie Millar, Could.


Considerations about Débora Mazza’s recently released book

Débora Mazza's book is a documented work that opens the doors to a Paulo Freire (1921– 1997), at the same time, intimate and public, known and unknown, as it contextualizes his life and work together with those of people, institutions and processes that influenced and marked him.

The text revisits, from different perspectives, documents from the first Popular Culture Movements (MCP) and other mobilizations with which the thinker was involved in the early 1960s, as well as subsequent work carried out in Chile, Africa and elsewhere. of the exile to which he was subjected by the Brazilian civic-military coup government. It also recounts the setbacks of his return from exile and his difficult reintegration into society through entry into the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), the Workers' Party, the São Paulo Department of Education, as well as in other spheres.

In the first chapter, “A Brief Biography of Paulo Freire”, Débora Mazza comments on the personal and family circumstances and the socioeconomic and cultural elements of the educator's family and surroundings, making sharp considerations on the social, political and educational contexts taking place in years from 1920 to 1960, in Recife and Brazil. The author presents us with elements of childhood and youth, the impoverishment of the family and the impacts on Paulo Freire's life, his entry into the Faculty of Law and the various moments in which, due to his political-pedagogical work, he was persecuted and had his life curtailed by the oppressors on duty.

The second chapter, “Paulo Freire and the constitution of an educational thought”, analyzes the author's adherence to the field of education, highlighting the work at the head of the Industry Educational Service, in the years 1947 to 1957. During this period, he witnessed the reality and the problem of illiteracy, as well as rehearsing some actions in the sphere of adult education through government campaigns and popular projects.

Shortly thereafter, I would write Brazilian education and current affairs in the form of a thesis to compete in the public competition for the chair of Philosophy and History of Education at the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Recife, today the Federal University of Pernambuco. In this work, several elements of his philosophical and sociological understanding are found, dealing with the human condition in the context of underdevelopment, the socioeconomic, sanitary and health scarcity, the systematic deprivation of formative and creative resources such as education and culture. It is openly positioned in favor of an education carried out by the people, as an educational community at school and in other civil institutions, such as neighborhood clubs, residents' associations, churches, unions, movements of action fronts as a way of democratizing culture.

It is within the set of profound transformations that Paulo Freire, at this time, became involved with popular mobilization in Recife, the core of the organization of the Popular Culture Movement (MCP) that gained support from intellectuals, artists and university students in the city. Having not taken first place in the competition for the chair of History and Philosophy of Education, he dedicated himself to the Cultural Extension Service of the University of Recife, a decisive instance for the work that would take place in the following years with adult literacy, as through him discussions from the Popular Culture Centers (CPC), MCP, Base Education Movement (MEB) and the critical university met.

In 1962 and 1963, research cataloged the “vocabulary universe” in adult education programs, together with the structure of Culture Circles designed and set up at that time, allowing these initiatives to spread to other states in the Northeast. Among these experiences, the one carried out in the city of Angicos, in the interior of Rio Grande do Norte, would become known worldwide.

This decision was important for adult education movements to leave aside approaches based on primers and gradually move towards methodological approaches centered on the “generative themes” of the Freirean perspective. The author also highlights how the Regional Educational Research Centers were also present at this time, such as when the São Paulo Center opened the doors for Paulo Freire's proposal to be used outside the Northeast. She recalls that with the advent of the 1964 coup, these initiatives were persecuted and aborted.

The third chapter, “Paulo Freire at Unicamp: the authoritarian staleness and the democratic veneer”, elucidates the conditions of Paulo Freire's return to Brazil in 1980 and the reactions of distrust and disbelief aroused, outside and within the environments apparently favorable to redemocratization. The 1980s, marked by progressive events, such as the Diretas Já demonstrations, was also the scene of autocratic exercises in various sectors of Brazilian society, including the sphere of university management.

Prevented from resuming his position as university professor at the Federal University of Pernambuco due to legal impediments of the dictatorship that still persisted, UNICAMP was one of the institutions in which part of the teaching staff committed itself to welcoming Freire. Despite the genuine invitation, “the thin layer of democratic veneer present in some sectors of the university” found itself hostage to the “authoritarian staleness (…), which graces academic chambers with strength and vigor, as well as the happy breeze of political openness and democratic recovery” (p. 114).

The chapter's comments and considerations revolve around the analysis of Paulo Freire's Functional Life Process at the institution, which, in addition to indicating the drawbacks of bureaucracy, testifies to the university's conservative reaction to the actions and recognition obtained by the professor through educational practices. perpetuated outside academic protocols. The dilemma surrounding his reception was notably explained in the documents, when some teachers were asked to provide opinions on Paulo Freire's intellectual and moral reputation.

The chapter describes the institutional resistance to assigning Paulo Freire the position of MS-6, the highest level at the university. Débora Mazza details the protocols for comings and goings (even though there is an indication and budgetary allocation for their implementation) and the numerous requests for documentary inclusions, in a demonstration of resistance to the professor's assimilation into Unicamp's staff. The Functional Life Process ends with Paulo Freire's request for dismissal, after 11 years of work, due to the recognition of his right to retirement by the UFP.

The question that seems to be crucial is how the public sphere becomes the stage for ways of managing and organizing cultural and intellectual work that are antagonistic to political openness. Paulo Freire's university work, whether in the extension engagement he had at Unicamp working at the Paulínia Health Center, or in his involvement with student mobilization, or in the writing and circulation of his books, reveals a researcher and teacher forged in the actions that , since the years of his work at the University of Recife, prioritized the popular perspective that was opposed to a traditional university project.

The fourth chapter “Paulo Freire in Bolivia: reminiscences”, the author reports on a work experience she lived in Bolivia, alongside the educator, in 1987, when several institutions in that country organized to offer him the title of Doctor Honoris Causa granted by the Universidad Maior de São Simão, in Cochabamba. She describes Paulo's ability to participate and move between groups of different social and political hues such as indigenous popular education movements, groups linked to liberation theology, basic education teachers, researchers and academics from the University of Cochabamba.

He was depressed by the recent death of Elza Freire (1916-1986), his first wife, and transformed his feeling of mourning and discomfort into the possibility of establishing communion with all those who suffer from adverse situations in the world. It generated a feeling of brotherhood and acceptance among those who are different and unequal, and promoted the strengthening of groups linked to popular education.

The fifth chapter, “Paulo Freire and the Escola sem Partido Project” reflects on the current state of Freire's thought, following the developments of the extreme right that has linked Paulo Freire's name to the failure of Brazilian education. The author documents photos that circulated on social media, posters with expressions of hate, images with fanciful and unreasonable statements, but also deliberately harmful and opportunistic. She makes considerations about the privatization crusade in education aimed at civil society and the mobilization of conservative and anti-democratic ideologies that aim to disqualify public schools.

It highlights that Paulo Freire warns enthusiasts about making state management of public schools more flexible, who, sometimes excited about the possibility of opening initiatives independent of the State's bureaucratic clutches, do not realize that the pulverization of the means of financing public education - dear to neoliberal agenda – leads the State to give up its basic democratic commitment to take responsibility for popular public education.

The neoliberal agenda strengthened worldwide from the 1980s onwards, and the Escola sem Partido Project emerged at a time in Brazilian history when many of the neoliberal ideas already guided educational work and served for the standard management of public schools in several states of the country. country. Initiated by lawyer Miguel Nassib in 2003, and with the support of deputy Flávio Bolsonaro, it became a bill in 2014 (pp. 163-164). It is not trivial that the registration of the Project in the National Congress occurred together with the rise, heyday and defamation of the left-wing social-democratic project in Brazil, under the auspices of the governments of Luís Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.

Despite the growth in popularity and results of interest in the political and economic field, this institutional scenario occurred amidst a reorganization of the most entrenched and archaic conservative sectors. The author demonstrates how the project uses conceptual and regulatory mechanisms typical of the services market, such as the Consumer Protection Code, to give civil society the impression that public education would be adequately supervised based on consumerist prerogatives.

It is clear that the political-pedagogical interests involved in the composition of the project hijack the republican character because “This private and privatist conception of education and school results in the disqualification of the teacher and the work of public schools disguised as arguments apparently linked to the sphere of Christian morality” (p. 165). This mischaracterization of the true work of the school does not occur to point out the problems of conjuncture or structure in which the undeniable difficulties of the public teaching are involved. On the contrary, it is directed at teachers as individuals, considered to be flawed, unprepared, irresponsible and opportunistic, making an open and shameless attack on the class entities of education workers.

Débora Mazza demonstrates how this discourse based on fear leads the Bill's arguments to the unrestricted validation of family power over school matters, underscoring the right to public education by reinforcing the distribution of vouchers to the private sector funded by the State, tracking youth circulation more closely by keeping them at home through reinforcing home education and promoting Distance Education as a solution to lower high school costs, despite the problems so recently perceived when it was necessary for school communities to adopt hybrid models due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is the farce of private property that wants to simulate the safeguarding of freedom of choice and family morals through the market and, unfortunately, some educators have bought into this discourse, sometimes believing themselves to be revitalizing educator-student relations by distancing themselves from Paulo's proposals. Freire.

We thus arrive at “In the Shadow of this Mangueira”, a point that deserves mention and which Débora Mazza highlights delicately: the traditionalism with which the philosophical, pedagogical and political thought of Paulo Freire was disqualified with attacks from sectors of the right and the left. The author inventories ideas defended by Guiomar Namo de Mello and other names who served at the Secretary of Education in the state of São Paulo, indicating the conservatism of many proposals that were later revived on the school floor by the Escola sem Partido Project.

The scrutiny offered reveals how Freire's pedagogy, dialogical and popular in the construction of knowledge, was obstructed by the processes of construction of knowledge and power inside and outside schools. Paulo Freire was an active thinker in popular mobilization movements. Whether as secretary of education in the municipality of São Paulo (1989- 1991), or as a member and companion of the Popular Culture Movement in work with the Cultural Extension Service of the University of Recife (1962- 1964), or as coordinator of the Institute of Cultural Action at work during exile (1976-1980).

He thought the reality of/with the people and not for/by the people. As the author points out, in doing so, he received criticism, misjudged, and revised himself. However, his defense of education and educators never aimed simply to show errors and contradictions, but to help workers dare to envisage other political-pedagogical models.

In the early 1980s, many intellectuals of different ideological stripes saw him as someone who, in the name of popular education, did not go beyond the systemic and systematic reproduction of capitalist logic (p. 193-195). A position that led some to recant in the course of history. The damage, however, extended beyond the slide. There is something there for critical educators, eager to engage in actions that change people's lives, through politics and popular education: the disqualification of fighters is, perhaps, as or more pernicious than the jingoistic exacerbation of their ideas.

Lastly, Paulo Freire: culture and education brings an analytical overview of the educator's history with sober sociological temper, abundant historiographical documentation and a lot of political and pedagogical clarity. It serves the most solidary purposes of thinking about this teacher so dear to the history of Brazilian thought. He helps all people who are truly concerned about rethinking the contradictions of capitalist society to do so with Paulo Freire and, thus, transform his legacy into a driving force for the most supportive purposes of overcoming his and our contradictions. Because the need for dialogic education is as urgent today as it was in the past.

*Bruno Botelho Costa He is a professor of philosophy at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of Rio de Janeiro (IFRJ). Author, among other books, of Paulo Freire and popular culture movements: the construction of a philosophy of education (CRV).


Debora Mazza. Paulo Freire: culture and education. Campinas, Ed. Unicamp, 2023, 232 pages. (

the earth is round exists thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.

See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis