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Critical Theorist: Paolo Freire
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Paulo Freire

Excerpts from Mentoring the Mentor

Donaldo Macedo|Peter C. Murrell, Jr.|Gloria Ladson-Billings|James W. Fraser|William T. Stokes| Asgedet Stefanos|Tim Sieber|Ron Scapp|Freire's Response


Paulo Freire
   A Response

In A Response, Freire replies to the scholars who took part in the dialogue by responding to the major themes that emerged:

The Key to Critical Dialogue: Listening and Talking

"The one who is a student of listening implies a certain treatment of silence and the intermediary moments of silence. Those who speak democratically need to silence themselves so that the voice of those who must be listened to is allowed to emerge"(Freire, 1997, p. 306).

"The challenge is to never paternalistically enter into the world of the oppressed so as to save it from itself. The challenge is also to never want to romanticize the world of the oppressed so that, as a process of staying there, one keeps the oppressed chained to the conditions that have been romanticized so that the educator keeps his or her position of being needed by the oppressed, 'serving the oppressed,' or viewing him or herself as a romantic hero" (p. 307).


What I Can and Cannot Offer to Educators in Other Contexts

"..not only with respect to my work, but with respect to other thinkers, with respect to Dewey, for example, or Montessori, or Frenet, ..what too many educators expect from these thinkers is that we will provide techniques to save the world" (p. 307).

Respect for cultural identity takes place "in a social and historical context and not in pure air. These things take place in history, and I, Paulo Freire, am not the owner of history" (p. 308).

"..the progressive educator must always be moving out on his or her own, continually reinventing me and reinventing what it means to be democratic in his or her own specific cultural and historical context" (p. 308).


Responding to Race, Class, and Gender in the United States

"I couldn't possibly address the details of race and gender in the U.S. context if I myself did not know the context" (p. 308).

"What I do provide is a general framework that calls for a deep respect for the Other along the lines of race and gender" (p. 309).


Allowing Me Also to Continue Growing and Changing in My Contexts

"It seems to me that many educators who claim to be Freirian are only referring to Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which was published almost thirty years ago, as if that is the first and the last work that I wrote. My thinking has been evolving and I have been constantly learning from others throughout the world, particularly with respect to questions of race and gender in other societies"(p. 310).

"The minute you freeze history, or ideas, you also eclipse the possibility of creativity and undermine the possibility of the development of a political project" (p. 311).


Layered Multiple Identities: People as Oppressor and Oppressed

"The consciousness of incompleteness in human beings leads us to involve ourselves in a permanent process of search. It is precisely this constant search that gives rise to hope" (p. 312).


The Ethical Requirements for Teachers

"..we democratic educators must struggle so that it becomes clearer and clearer that education represents formation, and not merely training" (p.313).

"The ethical requirements are becoming more and more critical in a world that is becoming less and less ethical" (p. 313).

"..because in our preparation as teachers we were denied access to dialogue about the nature of ethics, we have been handicapped in our ability to confront and clearly address the specificity of a context that in its nature is ethical, because we do not know the ethics" (p. 313).


The Absence to Attention of Ethics in Preparation of Teachers

"It is not a coincidence that the curriculum of most professional programs--in our case, teacher preparation--often does not include the opportunity for future professionals to engage in a serious and profound discussion about what it means to be ethical in a world that is becoming more profoundly unethical to the extent that human beings are becoming more and more dehumanized by the priorities of the market" (p. 313).


The Need to Maintain Ethical Clarity

"...the teacher who finds herself or himself entrapped by the requirements of a mechanistic curriculum which calls for dispensing more and more content without grounding, needs to revert to her or his conviction that will determine an ethical posture vis-à-vis the curriculum so as to negotiate the context" (p. 315).


Ethics and the Fear of Ethics

"We must ask why so few teacher preparation programs include serious attention to the issue of ethics and why a fundamental focus on ethics is such a small part of today's educational dialogue while methods and statistics play such a large role"
(p. 314).


The Barriers to Ethical Dialogue in Totalitarian and "Democratic" Systems

"This distortion, this distance or incoherence between the values espoused and the practice of education also happens in the United States due to notions of the market and willingness to use any level of oppression to maintain, and indeed never question, the status quo" (p. 317).

"For example, how many times do teachers in the United States preach and teach about democracy, solidarity, justice, and equality for all, on the one hand while, on the other hand, punish any students who would refuse to say the pledge of allegiance, thus violating the principle of the pledge that he or she is preaching or teaching about?"(p. 318).


How to Survive and Prevail as a Democratic Teacher/How to Build a Movement

"I think that one of the great difficulties that a teacher with a democratic perspective may have is that he or she may find him or herself alone. It is important to remember that it is not from what is done in the classroom alone that he or she will be able to support the students in reconstructing their position in the world" (p. 321).

"...because of the individualist nature of many teachers, particularly in North America, that after failing in their individualistic experiment with critical and radical democracy, they claim that some of my proposals are unworkable in the North American context" (p. 322).

"Orality is dialogical by its very nature to the extent that you cannot do it individualistically. Thus the challenge for schools is to not kills those values of solidarity that lead to democratic space through a process that freezes the required dialogical nature of orality through the individualistic apprehension of reading and writing" (p. 323).


What is the Role of a Mentor in Supporting the Development of a Democratic Teacher?

"..for the teacher to become a mentor it is important that he or she challenges the student's creative freedom and that he or she stimulate the construction of the student's autonomy" (p. 324).

"The fundamental task of the mentor is a liberatory task. It is not to encourage the mentor's goals and aspirations and dreams to be reproduced in the mentees, the students, but to give rise to the possibility that the students become the owners of their own history" (p. 324).


Reinventing Paulo Freire in North America--or Any Other--Context

"The notion of reinventing Paulo Freire can only imply reinvention in connection with the substantivity of my ideas. That is because if you do not understand the substantivity of my ideas, it is impossible to speak of reinvention"(p. 325).


The Search for an Icon Comes Out of a Fear of Democracy

"The idea, then, is not to interact with or engage me and my ideas in bineristic terms--either Paulo Freire the guru or icon or a total rejection of Paulo Freire as proposing ideas that are unworkable in the North American context. The challenge is to engage my theoretical proposals dialogically, and it is through this dialogue that I think we can create possibilities, including the possibility that I can be reinvented in a North American context" (p. 328).


Donaldo Macedo|Peter C. Murrell, Jr.|Gloria Ladson-Billings|James W. Fraser|William T. Stokes| Asgedet Stefanos|Tim Sieber|Ron Scapp|Freire's Response

Paulo Freire
Oppressor/Oppressed Educational Banking Dialogic Action Pedagogy of Hope Others on Freire Links  
Updated: 12/1//99
Laurie Williams