Paulo Freire – the fight against social illiteracy

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It is not Paulo Freire that the powerful fear, but the power of generating words

There are at least two ways to become human, the first is by birth; we emerge as a work of nature and, the second, by knowledge. We become experts in the collective memory and creators of our own ideas and inventions. In the first way, we can do nothing but wait for the birth event. Of the second, much can be said, written and told.

Paulo Freire is a great educator. This adjectival statement would say it all and would be enough for his detractors to shut up and reflect every time they hear some indisputable praise in his favor. But they only know how to put God, country and family “above all else” and have not learned the good manners of respect and care not to pronounce anyone's name in vain.

Detractors are like plague vultures so that the cattle may still live and die in health. In the case of Paulo Freire, they pray that his deeds, examples and conquests, enjoying impressive worldwide respect, disappear by a simple croak with their stinking beaks. They should respect this gentleman formulator of truths, because at least they learned to say, even if they do the contrary to the evangelical explanation that: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn 8,32).

When Josué de Castro published his book hunger geography, in 1946, Paulo Freire taught Portuguese at Colégio Osvaldo Cruz and taught Philosophy of Education at the School of Fine Arts at the Federal University of Pernambuco. But what do hunger have to do with education? All. Mainly because the two mess with human sensitivity. Once hunger is satisfied, Fine Arts not only train professionals, but reinvent the human species itself.

There is a lot of ignorance in the minds of prey and prejudiced people, incapable of perceiving when humanity, through the genius of its most outstanding representatives, takes a leap forward. Socrates, the Greek philosopher, in 400 years before Christ invented “maieutics”, a method of learning facilitated by everyday dialogue. Archimedes, 200 years before our era, invented the lever and created the expression: “Give me a support point and I will move the earth”. Sigmund Freud, already in the last century, discovered the method of “Free association” and found the way to enter the human unconscious through speech and listening. Paulo Freire formulated the “adult literacy method” and, as Arquimedes could have said: “Give me an illiterate adult and I, with 40 hours of class, will make him capable of reading the world and writing about it”.

We could highlight so many other geniuses and inventors, such as Copernicus, René Descartes, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Karl Marx, etc., but this is not our objective. Let's go back to Josué de Castro, so that those possessed by governmental incompetence and uncultured learn that there are different types of geography, he was interested in hunger geography and, to Paulo Freire, social illiteracy. The northeast of the country at that time in the 1940s was populated by 15 million people and, in addition to hunger, half of the population did not know how to read and write. Faced with such a weight to be moved, Paulo Freire could have become a blessed as Antonio Conselheiro had done 50 years before him, and resort to religious preaching. He could have followed the example of Lampião, who died less than 10 years before his university graduation, and continued the cangaço, resorting to firearms as a mediation for liberation. No. As Archimedes sought a point of support to place the lever, and found education.

As we see, there were other alternatives. In the previous paragraph alone we saw three possibilities and the three were so disturbing that the agents of the first two initiatives chosen to face poverty were beheaded and their heads taken as proof of the victory of oppression against freedom. Paulo Freire, although today they want to behead him, miserably won the opportunity, accompanied by his family, to leave the country in 1964.

Paulo Freire's dangerousness, if you want his detractors to use religious words, was having risked, as Ezequiel had done, going to the “valley of bones” and hearing the order there: “Prophesy to these bones and say to them: Bones dry hear the word... I will make a spirit enter you and you will have life. I will put sinews on you and make flesh appear on you and cover you with skin; I will put a spirit in you and you will live…” (Ez, 37,4-6). And the bones believed.

The art of human recreation can only come from those who believe in impossible possibilities. Death by hunger, described by Josué de Castro, in those circumstances, served to motivate life. It was not and is not the silence of the dead that shook and shakes the already destabilized order of those in power, but the reaction of the fallen. Paulo Freire was able to synthesize this relationship in the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”: “It is not in silence that men are made, but in words, in work, in action-reflection”. Those “human bones” could have life if flesh, words and ideas were recreated in them. And so it was done, the ragamuffins rose up and made their own consciences red flags that drove away coronelismo, closed the electoral corrals and erased the ignorance of repeating that “everything is God's will”. And, if the form surrounds the region, the country and the world, it is because some words still need to be incarnated, assimilated, expressed and practiced.

On the occasion of the commemoration of the centenary of Paulo Freire's life, the message echoes through the conscience of the world: “No one frees anyone, no one frees himself”. This legacy was left to guide us that liberation can only occur together with the recreation that we make of ourselves. Cooperation is the secret of becoming more and more human. They are the “generative words” that teach how to read the world and understand exploitation and humiliation. Paulo Freire bothers the arrogant because he knew how to dive deep into the abyss of misery and come back from there with his arms full of confident people capable of leading their own destiny.

Today, the adult literate by the Paulo Freire method, knows that the word “genocide” is a crime and behind it hides the “genocide” that needs to be arrested, tried and condemned to do justice. The word “rights” is written in the plural, because they are interconnected and guaranteeing them is not a favor that is paid with votes.

Paulo Freire became immortal for teaching how to recreate the human being, with words that generate transformation: food, brick, rights, justice, cooperation, insurrection. There are many literate people who know how to write them, but do not know how to defend and exercise them. There are many who need to seize them, spell them, practice them and write them, what is lacking is organization.

It is not Paulo Freire that the powerful fear, but the power of generative words. They have the power to incarnate the bones, cover them with healthy skin and fill the bodies with conscience and revolt. He showed that the lever of liberation has its support in education and, the support of the lever of domination is ignorance. In the end, whoever is smarter and, organized, put more strength, wins.

*Ademar Bogo He holds a PhD in philosophy from UFBA and is a university professor.


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