Paulo Freire – the liberating pedagogical method

Unknown female artist, Chile, [untitled], 1970s.


Freire's legacy, exposed in his vast and world-renowned work, is exactly the opposite of what those in political power in the country preach today.

“Change is not only necessary, it is possible” (Paulo Freire).

September 19th marked the centenary of Paulo Reglus Neves Freire (1921-1997), the Patron of Brazilian Education. His work is fundamental for Brazil, not only for understanding contemporary educational processes, but for understanding the world and its contradictions. dialogicity, praxis, autonomy, action, reflection, criticism, utopia, freedom, hope, dream, tolerance, democracy, ideology are some of the expressions and categories that are present throughout Freire's work and are not random, abstract terms – they make up a whole and have repercussions on the historical reality.

According to the educator, it is the action and reflection of men and women on the world that allows it to be transformed. It is the action/reflection dialectic, characteristic of the liberating pedagogical method, which favors a change in human consciousness in relation to the social structure of the subjects and an approximation of these with the criticism of the reality in which they are inserted.

Paulo Freire looked at students in order to give them the conditions to awaken and free themselves from social ties and a context of oppression, which is the raison d'être of the capitalist system or, as he wrote: “it is necessary to uncover the truth ”.[1]. This process can only be carried out within a dialogical theory, that is, one based on dialogue, horizontality, otherness, collaboration, union, respect and love between teachers and students. These would be the paths to an authentic educational practice aimed at freedom and emancipation, hence its eminently political character.

Freire's pedagogy requires rebelliousness, in the sense of resistance to staying alive to fight against injustices and to have the strength to denounce situations of oppression: unemployment, hunger, violence, alienation, corruption are issues that cannot be naturalized, which is why resignation and Conformity of the masses only interests the dominant groups, who work, through ideology, to inculcate in them that the responsibility for the situation in which they find themselves is the fault of their own choices.

In the current Brazilian context, attacks on Paulo Freire have been intensified by those in power and their interlocutors, but this does not happen by chance, it is part of a discursive strategy of the dominant politics, which spreads hatred against the other. This is done through everyday behavior in a networked world, “an accelerated and viral social form of contemporary communication”, as Muniz Sodré points out.[2], which proliferates fear and misinformation, and tries to annihilate critical thinking, forming what the late thinker Umberto Eco called a fascist nebula[3], full of contradictions, but adapted to the full functioning of financial capitalism, which exploits, imprisons, manipulates, terrorizes and murders subaltern social groups.

This type of fascism, in addition to having a deep contempt for the excluded, in the words of Roland Barthes also "always and everywhere proposes as its first objective to liquidate the intellectual class"[4] which, expressing itself from a language of its own, supported by a systematic set of algorithms and automata, aims to decimate any kind of construction of an autonomous political conscience. Such language results in the constant attempt to maintain the voluntary servitude of the masses, now captured by the tricks of the extreme right or “dictatorships of ignorance”[5] as in the expression of the philosopher Franco Berardi. That is why, in Brazil today, derogatory and slanderous language is reproduced on a large scale against all those who place themselves at the service of the imaginary demystification of concrete reality, which includes names, just to name a few, such as Marilena Chauí, Miguel Nicolelis, Luís Felipe Miguel, Paulo Arantes, Vladimir Safatle and, of course, Paulo Freire, all called “communists”, “doctrinators”, “leftists”, “petistas”, etc.

People linked to the arts are also insulted, such as Chico Buarque, Caetano Veloso, Chico Cesar, Paulo Betti, Camila Pitanga, Wagner Moura, among others. But one of the main targets is always Paulo Freire, often called a “leftist indoctrinator of schools”, “communist hoaxer”, “energetic”, “subversive” and “agitator”, so much so that in the 2018 campaign, President Jair Bolsonaro stated that “he would purge Freire's ideology from Brazilian schools”, as if they were using his method in their daily lives. Moreover, there is a common characteristic among those who reproduce hate speeches directed at intellectuals, which is the almost complete ignorance or distortion of the works of the vilified, objects of the most absurd qualifications, which makes them stigmatized by certain social groups, such as of self-styled conservatives, patriots and good citizens.

Freire's legacy, exposed in his vast and world-renowned work, is exactly the opposite of what those in political power in the country preach today, as he makes an apology - in a perspective that some authors currently call decolonial - to a school of inclusion, dialogue, otherness, cooperation and the “urgency of the commons”[6], not as an abstraction, but in the way he taught us, “mediated by a hope that is not pure hope, but a practical hope, which breaks, decides and becomes historically concrete”[7], which combats “epistemicide and the subalternization of knowledge”[8], having the potential to subvert the educational practice in Brazil, transforming it into an act of knowledge and unveiling of the world, through the permanent exercise of criticism.

The rejection of Paulo Freire is manifested through the silencing of the federal government in relation to the year of his centenary[9] birth, the hatred of his figure is the abomination and denial of justice and the realization of an emancipatory project for the majority of the Brazilian people, usurped by an authoritarian, cruel and harmful government mob, which rejoices in social inequalities and the suffering of the oppressed. Thus, it is necessary to remember the words of the educator himself, uttered in an interview for the Museum of the Person in October 1992 and which are still current: “my fundamental dream is the dream for freedom that encourages me to fight for justice, for respect for the other, for respect for difference, for respect for the right that the other has and the other has to be him or herself. I mean, my dream is that we invent a less ugly society than ours today. Less unfair, more ashamed. This is my dream. My dream is a dream of goodness and beauty”. May Paulo Freire's dream remain alive and encourage us to change the state of affairs in Brazil.

* Luiz Eduardo Neves dos Santos is professor of the degree course in Human Sciences at the Federal University of Maranhão (UFMA). author of The Urban Ludovicense (Editor Fi/EDUFMA).

Originally published on Boitempo's blog.


[1] FREIRE, Paul. Pedagogy of autonomy: knowledge necessary for educational practice. São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 1996, p. 125.

[2] SODRÉ, Muniz. The uncivil society: media, illiberalism and finance. Petrópolis-RJ: Voices, 2021, p. 229.

[3] Eco, Umberto. the eternal fascism. Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2018, p. 44.

[4] BARTHES, Roland. the grain of the voice. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 2004. p. 279.

[5] BERARDI, Franco. Asphyxiation. São Paulo: Ubu Editora, 2020. p. 17.

[6] DARDOT, Pierre; LAVAL, Christian. The Political Proof of the Pandemic. Boitempo Blog. 26 Mar. 2020. Available at:Dardot and Laval: The political proof of the pandemic – Blog da Boitempo>.

[7] FREIRE, Paul. Pedagogy of hope: a reunion with the pedagogy of the oppressed. Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo: Paz e Terra, 2021, p. 15.

[8] SANTOS, Boaventura de Sousa. The future starts now: from pandemic to utopia. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2021. p. 317.

[9] AMADO, William. Ministry of Education is silent on the centenary of Paulo Freire. Metropolises. 2 sep. 2021. Available at:Ministry of Education is silent on the centenary of Paulo Freire (>.

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