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Pedagogy of the Oppressed 
Education for Critical Consciousness 

Pedagogy in Process 
The Letters to Guinea-Bissau 

Learning to Question 
A Pedagogy of Liberation 
(with Antonio Faundez) 

Pedagogy of the City 



Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed 

With Notes by Ana Maria Aratjo Freire 

Translated by Robert R. Barr 

Thomas J. Beta Lib ary 
TRENT UNIV cesitt 


The Continuum Publishing Company 
370 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017 

Copyright © 1992 by Paulo Freire 
English translation Copyright © 1994 by The Continuum Publishing Company 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, 
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or 

by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, 
or otherwise, without the written permission of 

The Continuum Publishing Company. 

Printed in the United States of America 
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Freire, Paulo, 1921- 

{Pedagogfa da esperanca. English] 

Pedagogy of hope : reliving Pedagogy of the oppressed / Paulo 
Freire ; notes by Ana Maria Aratijo Freire ; translated by Robert R. 

Dp. cm. 

Translation of: Pedagogfa da esperanca. 

Includes bibliographical references. 

ISBN 0-8264-0590-8 

1. Freire, Paulo, 1921- . 2. Education—Philosophy. 3. Popular 
education—Philosophy. 4. Education—Social aspects—Latin America. 
5. Education—Social aspects—Brazil. 6. Freire, Paulo, 192J— 
Pedagogfa do oprimido. I. Freire, Ana Maria Araijo, 1933— 
IL Freire, Paulo, 1921— Pedagogfa do oprimido. English. 
IIL Title. 
LB880.F732P432 1994 
370’. 1—dc20 93-44911 


For Ana Maria, Nita, 
who gave me back a taste for life: 
when life seemed so long to me, 
so nearly hopeless... . 
I looked at her! 


In memory of Armando Neves Freire, 
excellent brother, fine friend 






and Reinilda 

With a brotherly embrace 

For Genove Aratijo, 
hopeful as a teenager, at ninety— 
whom I can never pay what I owe, 



Zé de Melo and Dora 

for reasons beyond counting 

with an embrace from their friend 

Opening Words 

e are surrounded by a pragmatic discourse that would 
ave us adapt to the facts of reality. Dream, and utopia, 
are called not only useless, but positively impeding. \ 
(After all, they are an intrinsic part of any educational practice with~ 
the power to unmask the dominant lies.) It may seem strange, then, 
that I should write a book called Pedagogy of Hope: Pedagogy of 
the Oppressed Revisited. 

But for me, on the contrary, the educational practice of a progres- 
sive option will never be anything but an adventure in unveiling. It 
will always be an experiment in bringing out the truth. Because this 
is the way I have always thought, there are those who dispute 
whether or not I am an educator. )It happened recently in a meeting 
at UNESCO in Paris—I have been told by someone who was there. 
Latin American representatives refused to ascribe me the standing 
of educator. At least I was not an educator as far as they were con- 
cerned. And they criticized me for what seemed to them to be my 
exaggerated “politicization. ” 

They failed to perceive that, in denying me the status of educator 
for being “too political,” they were being as political as L Of course, 
on opposite sides of the fence. “Neutral” they were not, nor could 
ever be. 

On the other hand, there must be countless individuals who think 
the way a friend of mine, a university professor, thinks. He came 
looking for me. In astonishment, he asked, “But Paul . . . a Peda- 
gogy of Hope in the shameless hellhole of corruption like the one 
strangling us in Brazil today?” 

The fact is that the “democratization” of the shamelessness and 


corruption that is gaining the upper hand in our country, contempt 
for the common good, and crimes that go unpunished, have only 
broadened and deepened as the nation has begun to rise up in 
protest. Even young adults and teenagers crowd into the streets, 
criticizing, calling for honesty and candor. The people cry out 
against all the crass evidence of public corruption. The public 
squares are filled once more. There is a hope, however timid, on 
the street corners, a hope in each and every one of us. It is as if 
most of the nation had been taken by an uncontainable need to 

vomit at the sight of all this shamefulness. 

On the other hand—while I certainly cannot ignore hopelessness ‘, 7 

as a concrete entity, nor turn a blind eye to the historical, economic, 
and social reasons that explain that hopelessness—I do not under- 
stand human existence, and the struggle needed to improve it, apart 
from hope and dream.(Hope is an ontological need. Hopelessness 
is but hope that has lost its bearings, and become a distortion of 
that ontological neat) 
_ When it becomes a program, hopelessness paralyzes us, immobi- 
lizes us. We succumb to fatalism, and then it becomes impossible 
to muster the strength we absolutely need for a fierce struggle that 
will re-create the worid. 

I am hopeful, not out of mere stubbornness, but out of an existen- 
tial, concrete imperative. 

I do not mean that, because I am hopeful, I attribute to this hope 
of mine the power to transform reality all by itself, so that I set 
out for the fray without taking account_of concrete, material data, 

declaring, “My hope is enough!” No/(my hope is necessary, but it 

is not enough. Alone, it does not win. But without it, my struggle 
will be weak and wobbly. We need critical hope\the way a fish needs 

-unpolluted water.) er 

_ The idea-that hope alone will transform the world, and action 
undertaken in that kind of naiveté, is an excellent route to hope- 
lessness, pessimism, and fatalism. But the attempt to do without 
hope, in the struggle to improve the world, as if that struggle could 
be reduced to calculated acts alone, or a purely scientific approach, 
is a frivolous illusion. To attempt to do without hope, which is based 
on the need for truth as an ethical quality of the struggle, is tanta- 
mount to denying that struggle one of its mainstays. The essential 


thing, as I maintain later on, is this: hope, as an ontological need, 

demands an anchoring in pesca release ico, hope 
needs practice_in_order_to-become-historical concreteness...That is 
why there is no hope in sheer hopefulness. The hoped-for is not 
attained by dint of raw hoping. Just to hope is to hope in vain,/ 
‘Without a minimum of hope, we cannot so much as start the 
struggle. But without the struggle, hope, as an ontological need, 
dissipates, loses its bearings, and turns into hopelessness. And hope- 
lessness can become tragic despair. Hence the need for a kind of 
education in hope,) Hope, as it happens, is so important for our 
existence, individual and social, that we must take every care not to 
experience it in a mistaken form, and thereby allow it to slip toward 
hopelessness and despair, Hopelessness and despair are both the. + 
consequence and the cause of inaction or immobilism. | Y 
In limited situations, beyond which lies “untested feasibility” 
alone'—sometimes perceivable, sometimes not—we find the why 
of both_positions: the hopeful one and the hopeless one. : 
‘One of the tasks of the progressive educator, through a serious, ; te 
correct political analysis, is to_unveil opportunities for hope, no ack :. 
matter what the obstacles may be.) After all, without hope there is a 
little we can do. It will be hard to struggle on, and when we fight ~ 
as hopeless or despairing persons, our struggle will be suicidal. We 
shall be beside ourselves, drop our weapons, and throw ourselves 
into sheer hand-to-hand, purely vindictive, combat. Of course, the 
- element of punishment, penalty, correction—the punitive element 
in the struggle we wage in our hope, in our conviction of its ethical 
and historical rightness—belongs to the pedagogical nature of the 
political process of which struggle is an expression. It would not be 
equitable that injustices, abuses, extortion, illicit profits, influence 
peddling, the use of offices and positions for the satisfaction of per- 
sonal interests—all of these things that make up the reason for 
which, with justifiable anger, we now struggle in Brazil—should go 
uncorrected, just as it would not be right for any of those who would 
be judged guilty not to be severely punished, within the limits of 
the law. ee 
It will not do—it is not a valid argument—simply to admit that 
none of this is a “privilege” of the Third World, as we sometimes 
hear it suggested. Yes, the First World has indeed always been an 

> ok 



example of scandals of every sort, always a model of wickedness, of 
exploitation. We need only think of colonialism—of the massacres 
of invaded, subjugated, colonized peoples; of the wars of this cen- 
tury, of shameful, cheapening racial discrimination, and the rapine 
that colonialism has perpetrated. No, we have no monopoly on the 
dishonorable. But we can no longer connive with the scandals that 
wound us in our remotest depths. 

What cynicism—just to take one example among dozens—that 
certain politicians should seek to conceal their doings from their 
constituents (who have an absolute right to know what is done in 
Congress and why), and defend, with puritanical airs, in the name 
of democracy, some right to hide out in a “secret ballot” during a 
presidential vote of confidence! Why hide, unless there is at least 
some minimal risk to one’s physical well-being? Why is concealment 
solemnly dubbed the “purity,” “honorableness,” “unassailability” of 
the president? Let these politicians have the dignity to assume re- 
sponsibility for their option. Let them come right out with their 
defense of the indefensible. 

Pedagogy of Hope is that kind of book. It is written in rage and 
love, without which there is no hope. It is meant as a defense of 
_tolerance—not to be confused with connivance—and radicalness. It 
is meant as a criticism of sectarianism. It ‘attempts to explain and 
defend progressive postmodernity and it will reject conservative, 
neoliberal postmodernity. 

The first step I shall ake will be to analyze or speak of the fabric, 
the texture, the very strands, of the infancy, youth, and budding 
maturity in which Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which I “revisit” in 
this book, came to be proclaimed, first in oral form and then in 

Some of these strands, these threads, will end with my exile, 
into which I go with a soul steeped in history—the cultural marks, 
memories, feelings, and sentiments, doubts, dreams that never got 
off the drawing board but were never abandoned—and longings, of 
my world, my sky, the tepid waters of the Atlantic, the “improper 
language of the people, the correct language of the people.”* I ar- 

*Manuel Bandeira, “Evocacao do Recife,” in Poesias, 6th ed. (Rio de Janeiro: 
José Olympio, 1955), p. 191. 


rived in exile, and reached the memory I bore in my soul of so 
many intertwined threads; there I came to be marked and stamped 
by new facts, new knowledge, and these wove new experiences, as 
in a tapestry. 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed emerges from all of this, and I shall 
speak now of that book—of how I learned while I wrote it, and 
indeed, of how, while first speaking of this pedagogy, I was learning 
to write the book. 

Then, in a second step in this present book, I shall return to 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I shall discuss some of its stages, and 
analyze certain criticisms leveled against it in the 1970s. 

In the third and final step in this book, I shall speak at length of 
the threads and the fabrics whose essence, as it were, was Pedagogy 
of the Oppressed itself. Here I shall practically relive—and basically, 
shall actually be reliving—and as I do so, rethink, certain special 
moments in my journeys through the four corners of the earth, to 
which I was carried by Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Perhaps, how- 
ever, I should make it clear to readers that, in taking myself back 
to Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and in speaking today of the tapestry 
of my experience in the 1970s, I do not intend to wallow in nostalgia. 
Instead, my reencounter with Pedagogy of the Oppressed will have 
the tone of one who speaks not of what has been, but of what is. 

The facts, the debates, the discussions, the projects, the experi- 
ments, the dialogues in which I shared in the 1970s, all bearing on 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, seem to me to be as current as do 
others to which I shall refer, of the 1980s and today. 

I should now like, in these opening words, to thank a group of 
friends, in Brazil and abroad, with whom, even before beginning to 
work on this Pedagogy of Hope, 1 held conversations about this 
project, and from whom I received such important encouragement: 

Ana Maria Freire, Madalena Freire Weffort, Maria de Fatima 
Freire Dowbor, Lutgardes Freire, Ladislau Dowbor, Celso Beisie- 
gel, Ana Maria Saul, Moacir Gadotti, Antonio Chizzotti, Adriano 
Nogueira, Marcio Campos, Carlos Arguelo, Eduardo Sebastiani Fer- 
reira, Addo J. Cardoso, Henry Giroux, Donaldo Macedo, Peter Park, 
Peter McLaren, Ira Shor, Stanley Aroniwitz, Rat! Magaria, Joao 
Batista F. Pinto, Michael Apple, Madeleine Groumet, Martin Car- 


noy, Carlos Torres, Eduardo Hasche, Alma Flor Ada, Joaquim 
Freire, Susanne Mebes, Cristina Freire Heiniger, and Alberto 

I should also like to express my thanks to my wife, Ana Maria 
Freire, for the excellent notes appended here, which clarify and 
anchor important elements in my text. Superscripts in the text refer 
to her numbered endnotes at the back of the book. Asterisks, on 
the other hand, refer to footnotes at the bottom of the page. 

Iam likewise aware of my indebtedness to Suzie Hartmann Lontra, 
who so patiently and devotedly proofread the typescript with me. 

Nor must I omit to express my gratitude to Werner Mark Linz, 
for the enthusiasm with which he has always discussed this project 
with me, whether face-to-face or in our correspondence—that same 
enthusiasm with which, twenty-four years ago, he read the manu- 
script of Pedagogy of the Oppressed and published it. 

Finally, to Marcus Gasparian, one of the finest and most sensitive 
publishers in Brazil today, I send a brotherly embrace and a “Thank 
you very much’ for the taste with which he constantly discussed with 
me what would come to be Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of 
the Oppressed. 

Paulo Freire 
Sao Paulo 
January 1994 



the same school where I had completed my secondary educa- 
tion And, also, as a peg! favor of the school’s director, Dr. 
Aluizio ngs de Aratijo,? my preparatory course for law school. ‘It 
was at that time that(I received the invitation to become part of 
the recently created Industrial Social Service, SESI, the Regional 
Department of Pernambuco, )set up by the National Industrial Con- 
federation and given legal status by presidential decree.° 
The invitation was transmitted through a great friend of mine and 
fellow alumnus of Colégio Oswaldo Cruz, a person to whom I am 
bound by close ties of friendship, which our political disagreements 
have never disturbed, to this very day. Our disagreements had to 
be. They expressed our diverging views of the world, and our under- 
standing of life itself. We have got through some of the most difficult 
moments of our lives tempering our disagreements, thereby de- 
fending our right and our duty to preserve mutual love by ensuring 
that it will rise above our political options and ideological positions. 
Without our knowing it, at the time, we were already—each in his 
or her own way—postmodern! In fact, in our mutual respect, we 
were actually experiencing the rock-bottom foundation of politics. 
His name is Paulo Rangel Moreira. Today he is an attorney of 
renown, and professor of law at the Federal University of Pernam- 
buco.® One bright afternoon in Recife, he came to our house in the 
Casa Forte district, 224 Rita de Souza Street, and told us—Elza, 
my first wife, and me—of SESI's existence and what it could mean 

I 1947 I was teaching Portuguese at Colégio Oswaldo Cruz, 2 


avn pREMRE 
for us. He had already accepted the invitation extended to him by 
the young president of the organization, engineer and industrialist 
Cid Sampaio, to coordinate its social service projects. Every indica- 
tion was that he would soon move to the legal department of the 
organization—his dream—to work in the field of his own expertise. 

I listened, we listened—silent, curious, reticent, challenged—to 
Paulo Rangel’s optimistic discourse. We were a little afraid, too, Elza 
and J. Afraid of the new, perhaps. But there was also within us a 
willingness and a taste for risk, for adventure. 

Night was “falling.” Night had “fallen.” In Recife, night “arrives” 
suddenly. The sun is “surprised” to find itself still shining, and 
makes a run for it, as if there were no time to lose. 

Elza flicked on the light. “And what will Paul do in this organiza- 
tion?” she asked. “What will it be able to offer Paul besides the 
salary he needs? How will he be able to exercise his curiosity, what 
creative work will he be able to devote himself to so that he wont 
die of sadness and longing for the teaching job he likes so much?” 

We were in our last year of law school, in the middle of the school 
year. Something had already happened, right about the time of the 
invitation, that was to become very important in my life. I have 
already referred to it in interviews, and it has been mentioned in 
biographical notes in books and periodicals. It had made Elza laugh 
with satisfaction at seeing something happen that she had almost 
guessed would happen—something she had counted on happening 
since the beginning of our life together. At the same time, her laugh 
was a pleasant one, without anything like “I told you so” about it, 
but just full-to-the-brim of gladness. 

J had come home at the end of the day with the tasty sensation 
of someone correcting a mistake he or she has been making. Open- 
ing the door, Elza asked me a question that, on so many people's 
lips, is not much more than a kind of bureaucratic formality, but 
which when asked by Elza was always a genuine question, never 
a rote formula. It expressed lively curiosity, and betokened true 
investigation. She asked, “Everything all right at the office today?” 

And I told her about the experience that had put an end to my 
brand-new career as a lawyer. I really needed to talk. I needed to 


recite, word for word, what I had just told the young dentist I had 
sitting in front of me in my very new office. Shy, frightened, nervous, 
his hands moving as if suddenly unhooked from his mind, detached 
from his conscious body, and become autonomous, and yet unable 
to do anything “on their own,” do anything with-themselves, or 
connect with the words that tumbled out of his mouth (God knows 
how)—the young dentist had said something to me that I needed 
to speak with Elza about at once. I needed to talk with Elza at that 
special moment, just as in other, equally special moments in the 
course of our life. I needed to speak of the spoken, of the said and 
the not said, of the heard, of the listened to. To speak of the said is 
not only to resay the said, but to relive the living experience that 
has generated the saying that now, at the time of the resaying, is 
said once more. Thus, to resay, to speak of the said, implies hearing 
once again what has been said by someone else about or because of | 
the saying that we ourselves have done. 

“Something very exciting happened to me this afternoon—just a 
few minutes ago, I said to Elza. “You know what? I’m not going to 
be a lawyer. It's not that I see nothing special, nothing captivating, 
about law. Law is a a basic need. It’s a job that has to be done, and 
just as much as anything else, it has to be based on ethics, and 
competence, and seriousness, and respect for people. But law isnt 
what I want.” Then I spoke of what had been, of things experienced, 
of words, of meaningful silences, of the said, of the heard. Of the 
young dentist before me whom IJ had invited to come talk with me 
as his creditors attorney. The young man had set up his dental 
office, at least partially, and had not paid his debts. 

“I made a mistake,” he said. “I guess I was overoptimistic. I took 
out a loan I cant pay back. But I'm legally required to have certain 
instruments in order to practice dentistry. So, well, sir, . . . you can 
take our furniture, in the dining room, the living room. . .” And 
then, laughing a shy laugh, without the trace of a sneer—with as 
much humor as irony—he finished up: “ .. . Only you cant have 
my eighteen-month-old baby girl.” 

I had listened in silence. I was thinking. Then I said to him, “I 
think you and your wife and your little girl and your dining room and 
your living room are going to sit in a kind of suspended animation for 


a while, as far as your debt-troubles are concerned. I'm going to 
have to wait till next week to see my client and tell him I'm dropping 
the case. It'll take him another week or so to get another down-and- 
outer like me to be his attorney. This will give you a little breathing 
space, even if it is just suspended animation. Id also like to tell you 
that, like you, I’m closing down my career before it’s even gotten 
started. Thanks.” 

The young man, of my own generation, may for all I know have 
left my office without much of a grasp of what had been said and 
heard. I squeezed his cold hand warmly with mine. Once he was 
home again and had thought over what had been said, who knows, 
he might have begun to understand some of the reasons that had 
led me to say what I had said. 

That evening, relaying to Elza what had been said, I could never 
have imagined that, one day, so many years later, I would write 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, whose discourse, whose proposal, has 
something to do with the experience of that afternoon, in terms of 
what it, too, meant, and especially in terms of the decision to accept 
Cid Sampaios invitation, conveyed to me by Paulo Rangel. I aban- 
doned the practice of law for good that afternoon, once I had heard 
Elza say, “I was hoping for that. Youre an educator.” Not man 
months after, as the night that had arrived in such haste Dena 
said yes to SESI's summons to its Division of Education and Culture, 
whose field of experience, study, reflection, and practice was to be- 
come an indispensable moment in the gestation of Pedagogy of 
the Oppressed. 

~ Never does afi event, a fact, a deed, a gesture of rage or love, a 
poem, a painting, a song, a book, have only one reason behind it. 
In fact, a deed, a gesture, a poem, a painting, a song, a book are 
always wrapped in thick wrappers. They have been touched by mani- 
fold whys. Only some of these are close enough to the event or the 
creation to be visible as whys. And so I have always been more 
interested in understanding the process in and by which things 

, come about than in the product in itself. 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed could not have gestated within me 
solely by reason of my stint with SESI. But my stint with SESI 
was fundamental to its development. Even before Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed, my time with SESI wove a tapestry of which Pedagogy 


was a kind of inevitable extension. I refer to the dissertation I de- 
fended in what was then the University of Recife, and later the 
Federal University of Pernambuco: “Educacao e atualidade brasi- 
leira.” I later reworked my dissertation and published it as Educacdo 
como pratica da liberdade, and that book basically became the fore- 
runner of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 

Again, in interviews, in dialogues with intellectuals, including 
non-Brazilians, I have made references to more remote tapestries 
that enveloped me, by bits and pieces, from my childhood and 
adolescence onward, antedating my time with SESI, which was 
without any doubt a “founding time,” a foundational time. 

These bits and pieces of time actually lived in me—for I had lived 
them—awaiting another time, which might not even have come as 
it came, but into which, if it did come, earlier bits and pieces of 
time were destined to extend, in the composition of the larger fabric. 

At times, it happens to us not to perceive the “kinship” among | 
the times we have experienced, and thus to let slip the opportunity 
to “solder together” disconnected cognitions, and in so doing to 
allow the second to shed light on the doubtful brilliance of the first. , 

here was my experience of infancy and adolescence with young- 
sters who were the children of rural and urban workers, my life as 
a child with children whose opportunities for life were so utterly 
minimal, the way in which most of their parents treated us;—Temis- 
tocles, my immediately elder brother, and me—their “fear of free- 
dom,” which I never understood, nor called it this at the time,thei 
subservient attitude toward their employers, the boss, the na 
which later, much later, I read in Sartre was one of the expressions 
of the “connivance” of the oppressed with the oppressors.* There 
were their oppressed bodies, the unconsulted hosts of the oppres- 
sors parasitism. 

It is interesting, in a context of childhood and adolescence, in the 
connivance maintained with the wickedness of the powerful—with 
the weakness that needed to turn into the strength of the domi- 
nated—that the time of SESI’s foundation, that time of “solderings” 
and “splicings” of old, pure “guesses,” to which my new knowledge 

*Jean-Paul Sartre, preface to Franz Fanon, Os condenados da Terra (Rio de 
Janeiro: Civilizacao Brasileira). 


with its critical emergence gave meaning, was the moment at which 
I read the why, or some of the whys—the tapestries and fabrics that 
were books already written and not yet read by me, and of 
books yet to be written that would come to enlighten the vivid 
memory that was forming me: Marx, Lukdécs, Fromm, Gramsci, 

Fanon, Memmi, Sartre, Kosik, Agnes Heller, M. Ponty, Simon Weil, 
Arendt, Marcuse, and so many others. 

Years later, the putting into practice of some of the “solderings™ 
and “splicings” of the inaugural years of SESI sent me into exile’— 
a kind of “golden spike” that enabled me to connect recollections, 
recognize facts, deeds, and gestures, fuse pieces of knowledge, sol- 
der moments, re-cognize in order to cognize, to know, better. 

In this effort to recall moments of my experience—which neces- 
sarily, regardless of when they were, became sources of my theoreti- 
cal reflections for the writing of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, as they 
would continue to be today, as I rethink Pedagogy—I feel that it 
will be appropriate to refer to an excellent example of such a mo- 
ment, which I experienced in the 1950s. The experience resulted 
in a learning process of real importance for me—for my theoretical 
understanding of the practice of political education, which, if it is 
to be progressive, must, as I have always asserted, take careful ac- 
count of the reading of the world being made by popular groups 
and expressed in their discourse, their syntax, their semantics, their 
dreams and desires. 

I was now working in SESI, and specifically on relations between 
schools and families. I had begun to experiment with various ave- 
nues to an improvement of the meeting of minds: to an understand- 
ing of the educational practice being carried out in the schools, on 
the part of families; to an understanding of the difficulties that fami- 
lies from popular areas would have in confronting problems in the 
implementation of their own educational activity. At bottom, I was 
looking for a dialogue between them from which might result the 
necessary mutual assistance that, at the same time—as it would 
imply more involvement of the families in the school—might en- 
hance the political connotation of that involvement in the sense of 
opening channels of democratic participation to fathers and mothers 
n the actual educational policy being implemented in the schools. 

I had carried out, by that time, a research project covering some 


one thousand families of students, throughout the urban area of 
Recife, the Zona da Mata, the countryside,|and what might be called 
the “doorway” to the desert hinterland of Pernambuco,® where SESI 
had nuclei or social centers in which it offered its members and 
their families medical and dental assistance, scholastic help, sports 
and recreation projects, cultural projects, and so on. 

[My research, which had nothing of the sophisticated about it, 
asked the parents questions about their relationship with their 
daughters and sons. \I asked about punishments, rewards, the most 
frequent punishments, the most frequent reasons for it, their chil- 
dren's reaction to the punishment, any change in their behavior, 
or want thereof, in the direction desired by the person doing the 
punishing, and so on. 

I recall that, when I had sifted through the results| I was aston- 
ished, even more than I had expected to be, at the emphasis on 
corporal punishment, really violent punishment, in the Recife inner 
city, the Zona da Mata, in the rural areas, and hinterland, by contrast 
with the almost complete absence, not only of violent corporal pun- 
ishment, but of any punishment of children, along the fishing coast. 
It seemed that, along the coast, under the maritime sky, the legends 
of individual freedom with which the culture is drenched, the fish- 
ers confrontation, in their precarious jangadas or rafts,? with the 
forces of the sea, the independent jobbers work done by persons 
free and proud, the imagination that lends such color to the fishers 
fantastic stories—it seemed that all of this had some connection with 
the taste for a liberty diametrically opposed to the use of violent 

I do not know myself to what extent we might consider the fishers 
lifestyle too permissive, wanting boundaries, or whether, on the 
contrary, with their emphasis on freedom, and conditioned by their 
own cultural context, the fishers are simply relying on nature itself, 
on the world, on the sea, in and with which their children they win 
an experience of themselves, to be the source of freedom’s necessary 
limits. It was as if, softening or trimming down their duty as their 
children’s educators, fathers and mothers shared them with the sea, 
with the world itself, to which it would fall, through their children’s 
practice, to delineate their responsibilities. In this fashion, the chil- 


dren would be expected to learn naturally what they might and 
_might not do. 

Indeed, the fishers lived a life of enormous contradiction. On one 
side, they felt free and bold, confronting the sea, in fellowship with 
its mysteries, doing what they called “scientific fishing,”!° of which 
they had spoken to me in the sunsets when, relaxing with them in 
their primitive shelters, their caicgaras,!' I learned to understand 
them better by listening to them. On the other hand, they were 
viciously plundered, exploited, now by the middlemen who bought 
for nothing the product of their hard labor, now by the moneylenders 
who financed their work tools. 

Sometimes, as I listened to them—in my conversations with them 
in which I learned something of their syntax and semantics, without 
which I could not have worked with them, or at any rate not effec- 
tively—I wondered whether they didnt perhaps notice how unfree 
they really were. 

I recall that, in the fishing season, we delved into the reason why 
various students were missing school so frequently. Students and 
parents, separately, replied. The students, “Because were free.” The 
parents, “Because theyre free. They'll go back some day.” 

Punishments in the other areas of the state that I researched 
ranged from tying a child to a tree, locking them in a room for hours 
on end, giving them “cakes” with thick, heavy switches, forcing 
them to kneel on stones used to grind corn, thrashing them with 
leather straps. This last was the principal punishment in a town of 
the Zona da Mata that was famous for its shoemaking. 

These punishments were applied for trivial reasons, ang mag 

I acknowledge the risks to which we expose ourselves in confront- 


ing such problems. On the one hand, there is the danger of volunta- 
will of the individual with the power to do all things. On the other 
hand, there is the peril of a mechanistic objectivism that refuses to 
ascribe any role to ‘subjectivity in the historical process. 

Both of these conceptions of history, and of human beings in that ’ 
history, end by definitively canceling the role of education. The first, 
because it attributes to education a power that it does not have; the 
second, because it denies that it has any power at all. i 

[As for the relationship between authority and freedom—the sub- 
ject of the research project that I have mentioned—we also run 
the risk either of denying freedom the right to assert itself, thus } 
exacerbating the role of authority; or else of atrophying the latter 
and thus hypertrophying the former.| In other words, fwe run the 
risk of succumbing to the seduction or tyranny of liberty, or to the 
tyranny of authority, thus acting at cross-purposes, in either hy- 
pothesis, with our incipient democracy. 

This was not my position then and it is not my position now. 
And today as yesterday, while on perhaps better foundations than | 
yesterday,/I am completely persuaded of the importance, the ur- 
gency, of the democratization of the public school, and of the ongo- 
ing training of its educators, among whom I include security people, 
cafeteria personnel, and custodians, and so on. Their formation must 
be ongoing and scientific. | Nor should it fail to instill a taste for 
democratic practices, among which should be an ever more active 
intervention on the part of educands and their families as to which 
direction the school is going. This has been one of the tasks to 
which I have devoted myself recently, so many years after having 
first observed this need, and spoken of it in my 1959 academic 
treatise, “Educacdo e atualidade brasileira,” to address it again as 
secretary of education for the City of S40 Paulo from January 1989 
to May 1991. Here is the challenge of the democratization of the 
public school, so neglected by the military governments!® that, in 
the name of the salvation of the country from the curse of commu- 
nism and from corruption, all but destroyed that country. 

Finally, with the results of my study in hand, I scheduled a kind 
of systematic visitation of all of the SESI nuclei or social centers in 
the state of Pernambuco where we maintain primary schools,"* as 

they were called at the time, to go there and speak to the parents 
about the findings of the inquiry. And to do something more: to 
join to communication of the findings of the investigation a discus- 
sion about the problem of the relationship between authority and 
freedom, which would necessarily involve the question of punish- 
ment and reward in education. 

The tour for discussion with the families was preceded by another, 
which I made in order to debate, in seminars as rigorous as it was 
possible to have, the same question with teachers. 

I had put together—in collaboration with a colleague, Jorge Mon- 
teiro de Melo, recently deceased, whose seriousness, honesty, and 
devotion I now reverence—an essay on scholastic discipline, which, 
alongside the results of the study, became the object of our prepara- 
tory seminar in our meetings with the families. In this fashion, we 

‘prepared ourselves, as a school, to welcome the students families— 
the natural educators of those of whom we were the professional 

Back then, I was accustomed to give long talks on the subjects 
that had been selected. I was repeating the traditional route of dis- 
course about something that you would give an audience. Then I 
would shift the format to a debate, discussion, dialogue about the 
subject with the participants. And, while I was concerned about the 
order and development of ideas, I proceeded almost as if I were 
speaking to university students. I say, “almost,” because actually my 
sensitivity had already made me aware of the differences in lan- 
guage, the syntactical and semantic differences, between the work- 
ing persons with whom I was working and my own language. Hence 
my talks were always punctuated with, “In other words,” or, “That 
is to say. . .. On the other hand, despite some years of experience 
as an educator, with urban and rural workers, I still nearly always 
started out with my world, without further explanation, as if it ought 
to be the “south” to which their compass ought to point in giving 
them their bearings. It was as if my word, my theme, my reading 
of the world, in themselves, were to be their compass. !® 

It was a long learning process, which implied a journey, and not 
always an easy one, nearly always painful, to the point that I per- 
suaded myself that, even when my thesis and proposal were sure, 
and I had no doubt in their respect, it was nevertheless imperative, 


first, to know whether this thesis and proposition coincided with 
the reading of the world of the groups or social class to whom I was 
speaking; second, it was incumbent upon me to be more or less 
abreast of, familiar with, their reading of the world, since only on 
the basis of the knowledge in its content, or implicit in it, would it 
be possible for me to discuss my reading of the world, which in 
turn, maintains, and is based on, another type of knowledge. 

This learning process, this apprenticeship, whose story is a long 
one, is rehearsed in my university dissertation, cited above, contin- 
ues being sketched in Educacéo como prdatica da liberdade, and 
becomes explicit once and for all in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 
One moment—I could even say, a solemn one, among others, of this 
apprenticeship—occurred during the one-day seminar to which I 
have referred, which consisted of talks in which I discussed author- 
ity, freedom, and punishment and reward in education. It happened 
precisely in the SESI nucleus or social center named for President 
Dutra,!® at Vasco da Gama!’—Amarela House—in Recife. 

Basing my presentation on an excellent study by Piaget* on the 
child’s moral code, his and her mental representation of punish- 
ment, the proportion between the probable cause of punishment 
and the punishment itself, I spoke at length. I quoted Piaget himself 
on the subject, and argued for a dialogical, loving relationship be- 
tween parents and children in place of violent punishments. 

My mistake was not in citing Piaget. In fact, how much richer 
my presentation could have been if I had talked about him very 
concretely, using a map, and showing where Recife is, then the 
Brazilian Northeast, then to move out to the whole of Brazil, show 
where Brazil is in South America, relate that to the rest of the world, 
and finally, point to Switzerland, in Europe, the land of the author 
I was quoting. It would have been not only richer, but more chal- 
lenging and instructive, to do that. But my actual mistake was, first, 
in my use of my language, my syntax, without more effort to get 
close to the language and syntax of my audience; and second, in my 
all but oblivion of the hard reality of the huge audience seated | 
before me. 4 

*Jean Piaget, The Moral Judgment of the Child, trans. Marjorie Worden (New 
York: Brace World, 1932). 


When I had concluded, a man of about forty, still rather young 
but already worn out and exhausted, raised his hand and gave me 
the clearest and most bruising lesson I have ever received in my 
life as an educator. 

I do not know his name. I do not know whether he is still alive. 
Possibly not. The wickedness of the country’s socioeconomic struc- 
tures, which take on stronger colors in the Brazilian Northeast— 
suffering, hunger, the indifference of the mighty—all this must have 
swallowed him up long since. 

He raised his hand and gave a talk that I have never been able to 
forget. It seared my soul for good and all. It has exerted an enormous 
influence on me. Nearly always, in academic ceremonies in which 
I have had an honorary doctorate conferred on me by some univer- 
sity, I acknowledge how much I owe, as well, to persons like the one 
of whom I am now speaking, and not only to scholars—other think- 
ers who have taught me, too, and who continue to teach me, teachers 
without whom it would have been impossible for me to learn, like 
the laborer who spoke that night. Actually, were it not for the scien- 
tific rigor that offers me greater opportunities for precision in my 
findings, I should not be able critically to perceive the importance 
of common sense and the good sense therein residing. In almost 
every academic ceremony in which I am honored, I see him standing 
in one of the aisles of that big auditorium of so long ago, head 
erect, eyes blazing, speaking in a loud, clear voice, sure of himself, 
speaking his lucid speech. 

“We have just heard,” he began, “some nice words from Dr. Paulo 
Freire. Fine words, in fact. Well spoken. Some of them were even 
simple enough for people to understand easily. Others were more 
complicated. But I think I understood the most important things 
that all the words together say. 

“Now Id like to ask the doctor a couple of things that I find my 
fellow workers agree with.” 

He fixed me with a mild, but penetrating gaze, and asked: “Dr. 
Paulo, sir—do you know where people live? Have you ever been in 
any of our houses, sir?” And he began to describe their pitiful 
houses. He told me of the lack of facilities, of the extremely minimal 
space in which all their bodies were jammed. He spoke of the lack 
of resources for the most basic necessities. He spoke of physical 


exhaustion, and of the impossibility of dreams for a better tomorrow. 
He told me of the prohibition imposed on them from being happy— 
or even of having hope. 

As I followed his discourse, I began to see where he was going to 
go with it. I was slouching in my chair, slouching because I was 
trying to sink down into it. And the chair was swiveling, in the need 
of my imagination and the desire of my body, which were both in 
flight, to find some hole to hide in. He paused a few seconds, ranging 
his eyes over the entire audience, fixed on me once more, and said, 
“Doctor, I have never been over to your house. But I’d like to de- 
scribe it for you, sir. How many children do you have? Boys or girls?” 

“Five,” I said—scrunching further down into my chair. “Three 
girls and two boys.” 

“Well, Doctor, your house must be the only house on the lot, 
what they call an oitdo livre house,” a house with a yard.¥® “There 
must be a room just for you and your wife, sir. Another big room, 
that's for the three girls. There’s another kind of doctor, who has a 
room for every son or daughter. But youre not that kind—no, sir. 
You have another room for the two boys. A bathroom with running 
water. A kitchen with Arno appliances.!? A maid’s room—much 
smaller than your kids rooms—on the outside of the house. A little 
garden, with an ‘ingress (the English word) lawn,” a front lawn. “You 
must also have a room where you toss your books, sir—a ‘study,’ a 
library. I can tell by the way you talk that you've done a lot of 
reading, sir, and youve got a good memory.” 

There was nothing to add or subtract. That was my house. An- 
other world, spacious and comfortable. 

“Now Doctor, look at the difference. You come home tired, sir, I 
know that. You may even have a headache from the work you do. 
Thinking, writing, reading, giving these kind of talks that youre 
giving now. That tires a person out too. But, sir,” he continued, “it’s 
one thing to come home, even tired, and find the kids all bathed, 
dressed up, clean, well fed, not hungry—and another thing to come 
home and find your kids dirty, hungry, crying, and making noise. 
And people have to get up at four in the morning the next day and 
start all over again—hurting, sad, hopeless. If people hit their kids, 
and even ‘go beyond bounds,’ as you say, its not because people 


dont love their kids. No, it’s because life is so hard thay dont have 
much choice.” 

This is class knowledge, I say now. 

This talk was given about thirty-two years ago. I have never forgot- 
ten it. It said to me, despite the fact that I didnt understand this at 
the time, much more than it immediately communicated. 

In his intonations, his laborers syntax and rhythm, the move- 
ments of his body, his hands of an orator, in the metaphors so com- 
mon to popular discourse [he called the attention of the educator 
there in front of him, seated, silent, sinking down into his chair, to 
the need, when speaking to the people, for the educator to be up 
to an understanding of the world the people have. An understanding 
of the world which, conditioned by the concrete reality that in part 
explains that understanding, can begin to change through a change 
in that concrete reality. In fact, that understanding of the world can 
begin to change the moment the unmasking of concrete reality be- 
gins to lay bare the “whys” of what the actual understanding had 
been up until then. 

A change in understanding, which is of basic importance, does 
not of itself, however, mean a change in the concrete. 

The fact that I have never forgotten the fabric in which that dis- 
course was delivered is significant. The discourse of that faraway 
night is still before me, as if it had been a written text, an essay that 
I constantly had to review. Indeed, it was the culmination of the 
learning process I had undertaken long ago—that of the progressive 
educator: even when one must speak to the people, one must con- 
vert the “to” to a “with” the people. And this implies respect for 
the “knowledge of living experience” of which I always speak, on 
the basis of which it is possible to go beyond it. 

That night, in the car on the way back home, I complained to 
Elza rather bitterly. Though she rarely accompanied me to meet- 
ings, when she did she made excellent observations that always 
helped me. 

“I thought I'd been so clear,” I said. “I don't think they under- 
stood me.’ 

“Could it have been you, Paulo, who didn’t understand them?” 
Elza asked, and she went on: “I think they got the main point of 
your talk. The worker made that clear in what he said. They under- 


stood you, but they needed to have you understand them. That’s 
the question.” 

Years later, Pedagogy of the Oppressed spoke of the theory that 
became steeped in practice that night, a night whose memory went 
with me into exile along with the rememberance of so many other 
fabrics lived. 

The moments we live either are instants in a process previously 
inaugurated, or else they inaugurate a new process referring in some 
way to something in the past. This is why I have spoken of the 
“kinship” among times lived—something we do not always perceive, 
thereby failing to unveil the fundamental why of the way in which 
we experience ourselves at each moment. 

I should like to refer, now, to another of these times, another 
fabric that powerfully scored my existential experience and had a 
noticeable influence on the development of my pedagogical thought 
and educational practice. 

Stepping back, now, from the moment to which I am about to 
refer, which I experienced between the ages of twenty-two and 
twenty-nine—part of it, then, while I was working in SESI—I see 
it as not just a moment but a process, whose point of departure 
occurred toward the end of my childhood and the beginning of my 
teen years, in Jaboatao.” 

During the period I am talking about, from the ages of twenty- 
two to twenty-nine, I used to be overcome by a sense of despair and 
sadness from time to time. I was a terrible sad sack at these mo- 
ments, and I suffered terribly from it. Nearly always, I would spend 
two or three days, or even longer, like this. Sometimes this state of 
mind would attack me without warning—in the street, in my office, 
at home. Sometimes it would come gradually, and get the best of 
me piecemeal. Regardless of which way it came, I felt wounded, and 
bored with the world, as if I were submerged in myself, in the pain 
whose reason I did not know, and everything around me seemed 
strange and foreign. Who wouldnt despair? 

One time, a schoolmate from high school managed to hurt and 
offend me by telling me about something in my behavior of the 
previous two or three days that he couldnt understand. “You 
wouldnt talk to me! On Empress Street!*! I was heading for Hospice 
Street, and you were walking on the other side of the street going 


the other way. I crossed over, and waved a big hello. I thought youd 
stop and say hi! And you just kept on walking! Why did you pretend 
you didnt see me?” 

There were other, less striking, cases than this one. My explana- 
tion was always the same. “I didn't see you. Look, I’m your friend! 
I wouldnt do something like that!” 

Elza always had deep understanding for me when this happened, 
and she helped me in every way she could. And the finest help she 
could give me, and she gave it, was not to so much as suggest to me 
that my attitude toward her was changing. 

After I had had these experiences for some time, especially as 
they were beginning to happen more and more often, I began to 
try to see it in the framework, in which it occurred, see it as a 
part of the bigger picture. What were the elements, or surrounding 
elements, of the actual moment at which I felt that way? 

When I could see the depression coming, I tried to see what it 
was that was there around me. I tried to see again, tried to remem- 
ber, what had happened the day before, tried to hear once more 
what had been said and to whom it had been said, what I had heard 
and from whom I had heard it. When you come right down to it, I 
began to take my depression as an object of curiosity and investiga- 
tion. I “stepped back” from it, to learn its “why.” Basically, I needed 
to shed some light on the framework in which it was being 

I began to perceive that it was repeated, almost identically—my 
depression, this lack of interest in the world, this pessimism: that it 
occurred more often in the rainy season, and mostly at or around 
the time of the trips I would make to the Zona da Mata to speak in 
SESI schools to teachers and pupils families on educational prob- 
lems. This observation called my attention to the trips I made with 
the same objective to the farming zone of the state. But it didnt 
happen in connection with these trips. So it wasn't trips that were 
the cause of my depression. 

I find it interesting that I can condense into just a few pages the 
three or four years of search out of the seven during which that 
moment was repeated. 

My first visit to the city of Sdo Paulo occurred when my search 
happened to be in full swing. 


The day after I arrived, I was in my hotel, that afternoon, and 
the rain began to pour. I went over to the window to peer out at 
the world outside. The sky was black, and it was really coming down. 
But one thing was lacking, in the world that I was observing, by 
comparison with the pouring rain that would be accompanied with 
such deep depression. What was missing was green, and mud—the 
black earth soaking up the water, or the yellow clay turning into the 
slippery, or else slurpy-sticky, mass that “grabs you like a great, big 
constrictor, as Gilberto Freyre said of massapé, the black clay of 
the Northeast.” 

The dark sky of Sao Paulo that day, and the falling rain, had no 
effect on me whatsoever. 

On my return to Recife, I brought with me a mental portrait that 
the visit to Sao Paulo had helped me to put together. My depres- 
sions were doubtless connected to rain, and mud—massapé clay— 
and the green of the cane brakes and the dark sky. Not connected 
to any of these elements in isolation, but to the relationship among 
them. What I needed now, in order to gain a clear understanding 
of the experience of my suffering, was to discover the remote frame- 
work in which these elements had won or had been winning the 
power to spark my depression. At bottom, in seeking for the deepest 
“why” of my pain, I was educating my hope. I never expected things 
just to “be that way.” I worked on things, on facts, on my will. I 
invented the concrete hope in which, one day, I would see myself 
delivered from my depression. 

And so it was that, one rainy afternoon in Recife, under a leaden 
sky, I went to Jaboatéo in quest of my childhood. If it was raining 
in Recife, in Jaboatéo, which was known as the “spout of heaven,” 
there was no describing it. And it was under a heavy rain that I 
paid my visit to Morro da Satide, where I had lived as a child. I 
stopped in front of the house in which I had lived—the house in 
which my father died in the late afternoon of October 21, 1934. I 
saw again the long lawn that stretched before the house at the time, 
the lawn we played soccer on. I saw again the mango trees, their 
green fronds. I saw my feet again, my muddy feet going up the hill, 
and me soaked to the skin. I had before me, as on a canvas, my 
father dying, my mother in stupefaction, my family lost in sorrow. 

Then I walked down the hill and went to see once more certain 


areas where, more out of need than for sport, | had hunted innocent 
little birds, with the slingshot I had made myself and with which I 
became an excellent shot.” 

That rainy afternoon, with the sky dark as lead over the bright 
green land, the ground soaked, I discovered the fabric of my depres- 
sion. I became conscious of various relationships between the signs 
and the central core, the deeper core, hidden within me. I unveiled 
the problem by clearly and lucidly grasping its “why.” I dug up the 
archeology of my pain.” 

Since then, never again has the relationship between rain, green, 
and mud or sticky clay sparked in me the depression that had af- 
flicted me for years. I buried it, that rainy afternoon I revisited 
Jaboataéo. At the same time as I was struggling with my personal 
problem, I devoted myself to SESI groups of rural and urban work- 
ers, worked on the problem of moving from my discourse about my 
reading of the world to them, and moving them, challenging them, 
to speak of their own reading. 

Many of them had possibly experienced the same process I had 
lived through—that of unraveling the fabric in which the facts are 
given, discovering their “why.” 

[ Many, perhaps, had suffered, and not just a little, in redoing their 
reading of the world under the impulse of a new perception—in 
which it was not actually destin , or fate or an inescapable lot that 
explained their helplessness as 8? their impotence in the face 
of the defeated, squalid body ‘of th their companion, and their death 
for want of resources. 

Let me make it clear, then, that, in the domain of socioeconomic 
structures, the most critical knowledge of reality, which we acquire 
through the unveiling of that reality, does not of itself alone effect a 
_change in reality. 

In my case, as I have just recounted, the unmasking of the “why” 
of my experience of suffering was all that was needed to overcome 
it. True, I was freed from a limitation that actually threatened both 
my professional activity and my life in the community of my fellow 
human beings. It had come to the point that I was politically limited, 
as well. 

JA more critical understanding of the situation of oppression does 
not yet liberate the oppressed. But the revelation is a step in the 


right direction. |Now the person who has this new understanding can 
engage in a political struggle for the transformation of the concrete 
conditions in which the oppression prevails. Here is what I mean. 
In my case, it was enough to know the fabric in which my suffering 
had been born in order to bury it. In the area of socioeconomic 
structures, a critical perception of the fabric, while indispensable, 
is not sufficient to change the data of the problem, any more than 
it is enough for the worker to have in mind the idea of the object 
to be produced: that object has to be made. 

But the hope of producing the object is as basic to the worker as 
the hope of remaking the world is indispensable in the struggle of 
oppressed men and ie revelatory, gnosiological practice 
of education does not of itself effect the transformation of the world: 
but it implies it. / 

No one goes anywhere alone, least of all into exile—not even 
those who arrive physically alone, unaccompanied by family, spouse, 
children, parents, or siblings. No one leaves his or her world without 
having been transfixed by its roots, or with a vacuum for a soul. We 
carry with us the memory of many fabrics, a self soaked in our 
history, our culture; a memory, sometimes scattered, sometimes 
sharp and clear, of the streets of our childhood, of our adolescence; 
the reminiscence of something distant that suddenly stands out be- 
fore us, in us, a shy gesture, an open hand, a smile lost in a time 
of misunderstanding, a sentence, a simple sentence possibly now 
forgotten by the one who said it. A word for so long a time attempted 
and never spoken, always stifled in inhibition, in the fear of being 
rejected—which, as it implies a lack of confidence in ourselves, also | 
means refusal of risk. 7 

We experience, of course, in the voyage we make, a tumult in our 
soul, a synthesis of contrasting feelings—the hope of immediate 
deliverance from the perils that surround us, relief at the absence 
of the inquisitor (either the brutal, offensive interrogator, or the 
tactically polite prosecutor to whose lips this “evil, dangerous sub- 
versive” will yield, it is thought, more easily), along with, for the 
extension of the tumult of and in the soul, a guilt-feeling at leaving 
one’s world, one’s soil, the scent of one’s soil,” one’s folks. To the 
tumult in the soul belongs also the pain of the broken dream, utopia 
lost. The danger of losing hope. I have known exiles who began to 


buy a piece of furniture or two for their homes only after four or 
five years in exile. Their half-empty homes seemed to speak, elo- 
quently, of their loyalty to a distant land. In fact, their hali-empty 
rooms not only seemed to wish to speak to them of their longing to 
return, but looked as if the movers had just paid a visit and they 
_were actually moving back. The half-empty house lessened the senti- 
ment of blame at having left the “old sod.” In this, perhaps, lies a 
certain need that I have so often perceived in persons exiled: the 
need to feel persecuted, to be constantly trailed by some secret 
agent who dogged their step and whom they alone ever saw. To 
know they were so dangerous gave them, on the one hand, the 
sensation of still being politically alive; and on the other, the sensa- 
tion of a right to survive, through cautious measures. It diminished 
their guilt feelings. 
~ Indeed, one of the serious problems of the man or woman in exile 
is how to wrestle, tooth and nail, with feelings, desire, reason, recall, 
accumulated knowledge, worldviews, with the tension between a 
today being lived in a reality on loan and a yesterday, in their context 
of origin, whose fundamental marks they come here charged with. 
At ibe problem is how to preserve one’s identity in the 
relationship between an indispensable occupation in the new con- 
text, and a preoccupation in which the original context has to be 
reconstituted./ How to wrestle with the yearning without allowing it 
to turn into nostalgia, How to invent new ways of living, and living 
with others, thereby overcoming or redirecting an understandable 
tendency on the part of the exiled woman or man always to regard 
the context of origin (as it cannot be got rid of as a reference, at least 
not over the long haul) as better than the one on loan. Sometimes it 
is actually better; not always, however. 
~ Basically, it is very difficult to experience exile, to live with all 
the different longings—for one’s town or city, one’s country, family, 
relatives, a certain corner, certain meals—to live with longing, and 
“educate it too. The education of longing has to do with the transcen- 
dence of a naively excessive optimism, of the kind, for example, with 
which certain companions received me in October 1964 in La Paz: 
“Youre just in time to turn around. We'll be home for Christmas.” 
I had arrived there after a month or a little more than a month 
in the Bolivian embassy in Brazil, waiting for the Brazilian govern- 


ment to deign to send me the safe-conduct pass without which I 
should not be allowed to leave. Shortly before, I had been arrested, 
and subjected to long interrogations by military personnel who 
seemed to think that, in asking these questions of theirs, they were 
saving not only Brazil but the whole world. 

“We'll be home for Christmas.” 

“Which Christmas?” I asked, with curiosity, and even more sur- 

“This Christmas!” they answered, with unshakable certitude. 

My first night in La Paz, not yet under the onslaughts of of the 
altitude sickness that were to fall upon me the next day, I reflected 
a bit on the education of longing, which figures in Pedagogy of 
Hope.jIt would be terrible, I thought, to let the desire to return 
kill in us the critical view,]and make us look at everything that 
happens back home in a favorable way—create in our head a reality 
that isnt real. 

Exile is a difficult experience. Waiting for the letter that never 
comes because it has been lost, waiting for notice of a final decision 
that never arrives. Expecting sometimes that certain people will 
come, even going to the airport simply to “expect,” as if the verb 
were intransitive. 

It is far more difficult to experience exile when we make no effort 
to adopt its space-time critically—accept it as an opportunity with 
which we have been presented. [It is this critical ability to plunge 
into a new daily reality, without preconceptions, that brings the man 
or woman in exile to a more historical understanding of his or her 
own situation “It is one thing, then, to experience the everyday in 
the context of one’s origin, immersed in the habitual fabrics from 
which we can easily emerge to make our investigations, and some- 
thing else again to experience the everyday in the loan context that 
calls on us not only to become able to grow attached to this new 
context, but also to take it as an object of our critical reflection, much 


more than we do our own from a point of departure in our own. | 

I arrived in La Paz, Bolivia, in October 1964, and another coup 
d'état took me by surprise. In November of the same year I landed 
in Arica, in Chile, where I startled my fellow passengers, as we 
were making our descent toward the airport, by calling out, loud 
and strong, “Long live oxygen!” I had left an altitude of four thou- 


sand meters and was returning to sea level. My body once more 
became as viable as it had been before. I moved with facility, rapidly, 
without exhaustion. In La Paz, carrying a package, even a little one, 
meant an extraordinary effort for me. At forty-three I felt old and 
decrepit. In Arica, and on the next day in Santiago, I got my strength 
back, and everything happened almost instantly, as if by sleight of 
hand. Long live oxygen! 

I arrived in Chile with my whole self: passion, longing, sadness, 
hope, desire, dreams in smithereens but not abandoned, offenses, 
knowledge stored in the countless fabrics of living experience, avail- 
ability for life, fears and terrors, doubts, a will to live and love. 
Hope, especially. 

I arrived in Chile, and a few days later started to work as a consul- 
tant for renowned economist Jacques Chonchol, president of the 
Instituto de Desarrollo Agropecuario (Institute for the Development 
of Animal Husbandry)—the INDAP—subsequently to be minister 
of agriculture in the Allende government. 

Only in mid-January of 1965 were we all back together. Elza, the 
three girls, and the two boys, with all their terrors, their doubts, 
their hopes, their fears, their knowledge gotten and being gotten, 
started a new life with me again in a strange land—a foreign land 
to which we were giving ourselves in such wise that it was receiving 
us in a way that the foreignness was turning into comradeship, 
friendship, siblingship. Homesick as we were for Brazil, we had a 
sudden special place in our hearts for Chile, which taught us Latin 
America in a way we had never imagined it. 

I reached Chile a few days after the inauguration of Eduardo 
Freys Christian Democratic government. There was a climate of 
euphoria in the streets of Santiago. It was as if a profound, radical, 
substantial transformation of society had occurred. Only the forces 
of the Right, at one extreme, and those of the Marxist-Leninist Left 
at the other, for different reasons, obviously, did not share the eu- 
phoria. How vast it was! What a certitude there was, rooted in the 
minds of Christian Democracy activists, that their revolution was 
fixed on solid ground, that no threat could even get near it! One of 
their favorite arguments, more metaphysical than historical, was 
what they called the “democratic and constitutionalist tradition of 
the Chilean armed forces.” 


“Never will there be an uprising against the established order,” 
they said, sure as sure can be, in conversations with us. 

I remember a meeting that did not go very well at the home of one 
of these militants, with some thirty of them, in which Plinio Sampaio, 
Paulo de Tarso Santos,?”)Almino Affonso, and I, participated. 

We argued that the so-called tradition of loyalty on the part of 
the armed forces to the established, democratic order was not an 
immutable quality, an intrinsic property of the military, but a mere 
“historical given, and therefore that this “tradition” might become 
historically shattered and a new process take its place. They an- 
swered that Brazilians in exile gave them “the impression of being 
crybabies who ve had their toys taken away,” or “frustrated, helpless 
children.” There was no conversing with them. 

A few years later the Chilean armed forces decided to change 
positions. I hope it was without the contribution of any of those with 
whom we were conversing that night, as I hope as well that none of 
them had to pay as dearly as thousands of other Chileans did—along 
with other Latin Americans—under the weight of the perversity 
and cruelty that came crashing down on Chile in September 1973. 
It was not by chance, then, that the most backward of the elite, in 
whom even timid liberal positions stirred threat and fear, frightened 
at the reformist policy of Christian Democracy, which was then re- 
garded as a kind of middle road, dreamed of the need to put an end 
to all this bold, too-risky business. Just imagine what Allende’s vic- 
tory meant, then, not only for the Chilean elite, but for the outsiders 
of the North! 

I visited Chile twice during the time of the Popular Unity govern- 
ment, and used to say, in Europe and in the United States, that 
anyone who wanted to get a concrete idea of the class struggle, as 
expressed in the most divergent ways, really ought to pay a visit to 
Chile. Especially, if you wanted to see—practically touch with your 
hands—the tactics the dominant classes employed in the struggle, 
and the richness of their imagination when it came to waging a more 
effective struggle for the resolution of the contradiction between 
power and government, I would tell my audiences, you really must 
go to Chile. What had happened is that power, as a fabric of rela- 
tions, decisions, and force, continued to be the main thing with 
them, while the government, which was in charge of policy, found 


itself being propelled by progressive forces, forces in discord with 
the others. This opposition, this contradiction, had to be overcome, 
so that both power and government would be in their hands again. 
The coup was the solution. And so, even within the Christian Demo- 
cratic party, the Right tended to place obstacles in the way of the 
democratic policy of the more advanced echelons, especially of the 
youth. As the process developed, a clearer and clearer tendency to 
radicalization, and breach between the discordant options, ap- 
peared, precluding a peaceful coexistence between them, either in 
the party or in society itself. 

On the outside, the Marxist-Leninist Left, the Communist party 
and the Socialist party, had their ideological, political, historical, 
and cultural reasons for not joining in the euphoria. They regarded 
it as naive at best. 

In step with the waxing and deepening of the class struggle or 
conflicts, the rift between the forces of Right and Left, among Chris- 
tian Democrats as in civil society, likewise deepened. Thus arose 
various tendencies on the Left calculated to regiment militants who, 
in direct contact with the popular bases, or seeking to understand 
these grassroots elements through a reading of the classic Marxists, 
began to call on the carpet the reformism that had finally gained 
the upper hand in the strategic plans of Christian Democratic policy. 

The Movimiento Independente Revolucionério, the MIR, was 
born in Concepcion, and was constituted of revolutionary youth who 
disagreed with what seemed to them to be a deviation on the part 
of the Communist party—that of a “coexistence” with elements of 
“bourgeois democracy.” 

It is interesting, however, that the MIR, which was constantly to 
the Left of the Communist party, and afterwards, of the Popular 
Unity government itself, always manifested a sympathy for popular 
education, something the parties of the traditional Left generally 

When the Communist party and the Socialist party refused, dog- 
matically, to work with certain poblaciénes who, they said, were 
without a “class consciousness,” so that they mobilized only for ad 
hoc protests and automatically demobilized whenever their de- 
mands were met, the MIR thought it necessary, first, to prove the 
correctness of this attitude toward the Lumpenproletariat, the “great 


unwashed,” and second, to observe whether, admitting the hypothe- 
sis that their proposition had been verified in certain situations, it 
would be verified again in a different historical moment. In other 
words, while there was some truth in the proposition, it could not 
be taken as a metaphysical postulate. 

And so it came about that, now under the Popular Unity govern- 
ment, the MIR launched an intensive campaign of mobilization and 
organization—itself a piece of political pedagogy—in which it in- 
cluded a series of educational projects in the popular areas. In 1973, 
I had the opportunity to spend an evening with the leaders of the 
poblacién—settlement or “new city’ —of ‘Nueba Habana, which, 
contrary to the dour forecast, after obtaining what it had been de- 
manding, its own villa, continued active and creative, maintaining 
countless projects in the area of education, health, justice, social 
security, and sports. I paid a visit to a lineup of old buses, donated by | 
the government, whose bodies, converted and adapted, had become 
neat, nicely set up little schoolrooms, which the children of the 
poblacién attended. In the evenings, the bus-schoolrooms would fill 
with literacy-program clients, who were learning to read the word 
through a reading of the world.|; Nueba Habana had a future, then, 
if an uncertain one, and the climate surrounding it and.the experi- 
mental pedagogy being plied within it was one of hope.) 

Alongside the MIR arose the Movimiento de Acci6n Popular Uni- 
taria, and the Christian Left, further splintering the Christian 
Democrats. A sizable contingent of more advanced youth among the 
Christian Democrats joined the MAPU, or else the Christian Left, 
and even migrated to the MIR as well, or the Communist and Social- 
ist parties. 

Today, nearly thirty years later, one readily perceives what, at the 
time, only a few grasped, and already urged. They were sometimes 
regarded as dreamers, utopians, idealists, or even as “selling out to 
the gringos.” At this distance, it is easy to see that only a radical 
politics—not a sectarian one, however, but one that seeks a unity in 
diversity among progressive forces—could ever have won the battle 
for a democracy that could stand up to the power and virulence of 
the Right. Instead, there was only sectarianism and intolerance— 
the rejection of differences. (Tolerance was not what it ought to be: 
the revolutionary virtue that consists in a peaceful coexistence with 


those who are different, in order to wage a better fight against the 

The correct road for the progressive forces standing to the Left 
of the Christian Democrats would have been to move—within ethi- 
cal limits of concession on policy—closer and closer to them, not in 
order to take over the party, nor again in such a manner as to drive 
it to the Right, nor, indeed, so as to be absorbed into it. And for its 
own part, Christian Democracy, in all intolerance, rejected dialogue. 
There was no credibility on either side. 

It was precisely by virtue of the inability of all forces to tolerate 

» one another that Popular Unity came to power. . . without power. 
« {From November 1964°to April 1969, I followed the ideological 
struggle closely! I witnessed, sometimes with surprise, retreats in 
the area of political ideology by persons who had proclaimed their 
option for the transformation of society, then became frightened and 
repentant, and made a fearful about-face in midcourse and turned 
into hidebound reactionaries. But I also saw the advances made by 
those who confirmed their progressive discourse by walking consis- 
tently, refusing to run from history. I likewise witnessed the progress 
of persons whose initial position had been timid, to say the least, 
but who became stronger, ultimately to assert themselves in a radi- 
calness that never extended to sectarianism. 
would really have been impossible to experience a process this 
rich,! this problem-fraught, to have been touched so profoundly by 
the climate of accelerated change, to have shared in such animated, 
lively discussion in the “culture circles” in which educators often 
had to beg the peasants to stop, since they had already gone on 
practically the whole night, Without all of this later winning explica- 
tion in this or that theoretical position of mine in the book that, at 
the time, was not even a =rojeae” 
was impressed, when I heard about it in evaluation meetings, 
or when I was actually present, by the intensity of the peasants 
involvement when they were analyzing their local and national real- 
ity. It took them mae seemed like forever to spill everything that 
was on their minds\\It was as if the “culture of silence” was suddenly 
shattered, and they had ‘discovered not only that they could speak, 
but that their critical discourse upon the world, their world, was a 
way of remaking that world. It was if they had begun to perceive that 


the development of their language, which occurred in the course of | 
their analysis of their reality, finally showed them that the lovlier / 
world to which they aspired was being announced, somehow antici- 
pated, in their imagination) It was not a matter of idealism) Imagina- 
tion and conjecture about a different world than the one of 
oppression, are as necessary to the praxis of historical “subjects” a @ 
(agents) in the process of transforming reality as it necessarily be-« Yh 
longs to human toil that the worker or artisan first have in his or pi 
her head a design, a “conjecture,” of what he or she is about to ~~”! 
ees ‘Here is one of the tasks of democratic popular education, of 
edagogy of hope: that of enabling the popular c ae to develop 
ei language: not the authoritarian, sectarian gobbledygook of 
“educators, but their own language—which, emerging from and 
returning upon their reality, sketches out the conjectures, the de- 
signs, the anticipations of their new world. Here is one of the central 
questions of popular education—that of nUae as a route to the 
invention of citizenship.) Cena amiaiya ery 
As Jacques Chonchol’s consultant in the fittiais for the Develop- 
ment of Animal Husbandry, in the area of what was then called in 
Chile human promotion, I was able to extend my collaboration to 
the Ministry of Education, in cooperation with people working in 
adult literacy, as well as to the Corporation for Agrarian Reform. 
Quite a bit later, almost two years before we left Chile, I began 
to work as a consultant for these same organizations on the basis of 
my position in another, the Instituto de Capacitaci6n e Investigacién 
en Reforma Agraria (Institute for Ways and Means and Research in 
Agrarian Reform, or ICIRA), a joint organization of the United Na- 
tions and the Chilean government. I worked there for UNESCO, 
against the will and under the consistent niggardly protest of the 
Brazilian military government of the period. | 
And it was as consultant for the Institute for the Development 
of Animal Husbandry, for the Ministry of Education, and for the 
Corporation for Agrarian Reform, that, as I traveled practically all 
over the country, always in the company of young Chileans, who 
were mostly progressives, I Jistened to peasants and discussed with 
them various aspects of their concrete reality. |I urged upon agrono- 
mists and agricultural technologists a political, pedagogical, demo- 
cratic understanding of their practice. I debated general problems 


of educational policy with the educators of the cities and towns 
I visited. 

I still have in my memory today, as fresh as ever, snatches of 
discourses by peasants and expressions of their/legitimate desires 
for the betterment of their world, for a finer, less-ugly world, a world 
whose “edges” would be less “rough,” in which it would be possible 
to love—Guevaras dream, too. 

I shall never forget what a UN sociologist, an excellent intellectual 
and no less excellent a person, a Dutchman who wore a red beard, 
told me after we had assisted, all enthusiastic and full of confidence 
in the working class, at a two hour discussion on their eagerness for 
the establishment of agrarian reform by the government (still the 
Christian Democrats) in a remote corner of Chile. The peasants had 
been discussing their right to the land, their right to the freedom 
to produce, to raise crops and livestock, to live decently, to be. They 
had defended their right to be respected as persons and as workers 
who were creators of wealth, and they had demanded their right of 
access to culture and knowledge. It is in this direction that those 
historico-social conditions intersected in which the pedagogy of the 
oppressed could take root—and this time I am not referring to the 
book I wrote—which, in turn, is here being matched by, or pro- 
longed into, a needed pedagogy of hope. 

With the meeting over, as we were leaving the wagon shed where 
it had been held, my Dutch friend with the red beard put his 
hand on my shoulder and said—choosing his phrases carefully, and 
speaking with conviction: “It's been worth four days of wandering 
through these corners of Chile, to hear what we heard tonight.” 
And he added, good-humoredly, “These peasants know more than 
we do.” 

I think it is important, at this point, to call attention to something 
I have emphasized in Pedagogy of the Oppressed: the relationship 
prevailing between political lucidity in a reading of the world, and 
the various levels of engagement in the process of mobilization and 
organization for the struggle—for the defense of rights, for laying 
claim to justice. 

i Progressive educators have to be on the alert where this datum 
'| is concerned, in their work of popular education, since not only 
the content, but the various manners in which one approaches the 


content, stand in direct relation with the levels of struggle referred 
to above. 4 
[it is one thing to work with popular groups, and experience the © 
way in which those peasants operated that night, and something else 
again to work with popular groups who have not yet managed to 
“see the oppressor “outside.” } 

This datum continues valid today. (Th he neoliberal discourses, 
chock-full of, “modernity,” do not have sufficient force to do away 
with social classes and decree the nonexistence of differing interests 
among them, any more than they have the strength to make away. 

with the. conflicts “and struggle between them. } 

Tit happens that struggle is a historical and sovial category. There- 
fore it has eet It changes from one space-time to another 
space-time The fact of the struggle does: not militate against the 
possibility Of pacts, agreements between the antagonistic parties. In 
other words, agreements and accords are part of the struggle, as a 
historical, and not metaphysical, category. 

There are historical moments in which the survival of the ode 
whole, which is in the interest of all the social classes, imposes upon 
those classes the necessity of understanding one another—which 
does not mean that we are experiencing a new age devoid of social 
classes and of conflicts.) 

The four-and-one-half years that I lived in Chile, then, were years 
of a profound learning process. It was the first time, with the excep- 
tion of a brief visit to Bolivia, that I had had the experience of 
distancing myself geographically, with its epistemological conse- 
quences, from Brazil. Hence the importance of those four-and-one- 
half years. 

Sometimes, on long automobile trips, with stops in cities along 
the way—Santiago to Puerto Mont, Santiago to Arica—I gave myself 
over to the quest for myself, refreshing my memory when it came 
to Brazil, about what I had done here, with other persons, mistakes 
made, the verbal incontinence that few intellectuals of the Left had 
escaped and to which many today still devote themselves, and 
through which they reveal a terrible ignorance of the role of lan- 
guage in history. 

“Agrarian reform, like it or lump it!” “Either this congress votes 
laws in the people’s interests or well close it.” 


Actually, all of this verbal incontinence, this explosion of verbiage 
has no connection, none whatever, with a correct, authentic progres- 
sive position. It has no connection with a correct understanding of 
struggle as political, historical practice. It is quite true, as well, that 
all of this volubility, precisely because it is not done in a vacuum, 
ends by generating consequences that retard needed changes even 
more. At times, however, the irresponsible chatter also generates a 
discovery of the fact that/verbal restraint is an indispensable virtue 
for those who devote themselves to the dream of a better world—a 
world in which women and men meet in a process of ongoing 

Basically, I sought to reunderstand the fabrics, the facts, the deeds 
in which I had been wrapped and enveloped. Chilean reality, in its 
difference from our own, helped me to a better understanding of 
my experiences, and the latter, reseen, helped me to understand 

what was happening and could be happening in Chile. 

- J traversed a great part of that country on trips on which I really 
learned a great deal. Side by side with Chilean educators, I learned 
by helping administer training courses for persons proposing to work 
at the grass roots in agrarian reform projects, those who would work 
with the peasants on the fundamental problem of the reading of the 
word, always preceded by a reading of the world. The reading and 
writing of the word would always imply a more critical rereading of 
the world as a “route” to the “rewriting —the transformation—of 
that world. Hence the hope that necessarily steeps Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed. Hence also the need, in literacy projects conducted in 
a progressive perspective, for a comprehension of language, and of 
its role, to which we have referred, in the achievement of citizenship. 

It was by attempting to inculcate a maximal respect for the cul- 
tural differences with which I had to struggle, one of them being 
language—in which I made an effort to express myself, as best I 
could, with clarity—that I learned so much of reality, and learned 
it with Chileans. 

Respect for cultural differences, respect for the context to which 
one has come, a criticism of “cultural invasion,” of sectarianism, 
and a defense of radicalness, of which I speak in Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed—all of this was something that, having begun to be part 


of my experience years before in Brazil, whose knowledge I had 
brought with me into exile, in the memory contained within my 
own self, was intensely, rigorously experienced by me in my years 
in Chile. 

These elements of knowledge, which had been critically consti- 
tuted in me since the inauguration of SESI, were consolidated in 
Chilean practice, and in the theoretical reflection I made upon that 
practice—in enlightening readings that made me laugh for joy, al- 
most like a teenager, at finding in them a theoretical explanation of 
my practice, or the confirmation of the theoretical understanding 
that I had had of my practice. Santiago, to mention just the team of 
Brazilians living there, sometimes de jure—in exile—sometimes 
just de facto, unquestionably provided us with a rich opportunity. 
Christian Democracy, which spoke of itself as a “revolution in free- 
dom,” attracted countless intellectuals, student and union leaders, 
and groups of leftist political leaders from all over Latin America. 
Santiago, especially, had become a place, or grand context of theory- 
of-practice, in which those who arrived from other corners of Latin 
America would discuss, with Chileans and foreigners living there, 
both what was going on in Chile and what was going on in their 
own countries. 

Latin America was effervescent in Santiago. Cubans were there, 
threatened as much as ever by the reactionary forces that, all filled 
with themselves, spoke of the death of socialism. The Cubans 
showed that changes could be made. There were the guerrilla theo- 
ries, the “focus theory,” the extraordinary charismatic personality of 
Camilo Torres—in whom no dichotomy existed between transcen- 
dentality and worldliness, history and metahistory—liberation the- 
ology was there (so soon to provoke fear, trembling, and rage), 
Guevara's capacity for love was there, as in the line he wrote to 
Carlos Guijano, as sincere as it was arresting: “Let me tell you, at 
the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the genuine revolutionary is 
animated by feelings of love. It is impossible to imagine an authentic 
revolutionary without this quality."* ; 

In May 1968 came the student movements in the outside world, 

*Ernesto Guevara, Obra revoluciondria (Mexico City: Era, 1967). 


rebellious, libertarian. There was Marcuse, with his influence on 
youth. In China, Mao Tse-tung and the cultural revolution. 

~ Santiago had become almost a kind of “bedroom community” 
for intellectuals, for politicians of the most varied persuasions. In 
this sense, perhaps Santiago was, in itself, at that time, the best 
center of “learning” and knowledge in Latin America. We learned 
of analyses, reactions, and criticisms by Colombians, Venezuelans, 
Cubans, Mexicans, Bolivians, Argentinians, Paraguayans, Brazilians, 
Chileans, and Europeans—analyses ranging from an almost unre- 
stricted acceptance of Christian Democracy to its total rejection. 
There were sectarian, intolerant criticisms, but also open, radical 
criticisms in the sense that I advocate. 

Some of my companions in exile and I learned not only from 
encounters with many of the Latin Americans I have mentioned who 
passed through Santiago, but from the excitement of a “knowledge of 
living experience,” from the dreams, from the clarity, from the 
doubts, from the ingenuousness, from the “cunning” of the Chilean 
workers—more rural than urban, in my case. 

I remember now a visit I made, with a Chilean companion, to an 
agrarian reform project some hours distance from Santiago. A num- 
ber of evening “culture circles” were in operation there, and we had 
come to follow the process of the reading of the word and rereading 
of the world. In the second or third circle we visited, I felt a strong 
desire to try a dialogue with a group of peasants. Generally I avoided 
this because of the language difficulty. I was afraid my language 
gaffes might prejudice the smooth functioning of the work. That 
evening I decided to lay this concern aside, and, asking permission 
from the educator coordinating the discussion, I asked the group 
whether they were willing to have a conversation with me. 

They accepted, and we began a lively dialogue, with questions 
and replies on both sides—promptly followed, however, by a discon- 
certing silence. 

I too remained silent. In the silence, I remembered earlier experi- 
ences, in the Brazilian Northeast, and I guessed what was going to 
happen. I knew and expected that, suddenly, one of them, breaking 
the silence, would speak in his or her name and that of his or her 
companions. I even knew the tenor of that discourse. And so my 


own waiting, in the silence, must have been less painful than it was 
for them to listen to the silence. 

“Excuse us, sir,” said one of them, “.. . excuse us for talking. 
Youre the one who should have been talking, sir. You know things, 
sir. We dont.” 

How many times I have heard this statement in Pernambuco, and 
not only in the rural zones, but even in Recife. And it was at the 
price of having to hear statements like that that I learned that{ for 
the progressive educator, there is no other route than to seize the 
educands “moment” and begin with their “here” and “now’—but 
as a stepping-stone to getting beyond, critically, their naiveté./It will . 
do no harm to repeat that a respect for the peasants’ ingenuousness, 
without ironical smiles or malicious questions, does not mean that 
the educator must accommodate to their level of reading of the 

What would have been meaningless would have been for me to 
“fill” the silence of the group of peasants with my words, thus rein- 
forcing the ideology that they had just enunciated. What I had to 
do was to/begin with the acceptance of something said in the dis- 
course of thé peasant and make a problem of it for them, and thereby | 
bring them once more to dialogue. | 

On the other hand, it would have been likewise meaningless— 
after having heard what the peasant said, begging pardon on behalf 
of the group for having spoken, when I was the one who knew how 
to do that, because I “knew —if I had given them a lecture, with 
doctoral airs, on the “ideology of power and the power of ideology.” 

Purely parenthetically, I cannot resist—at a moment like this, as 
I relive Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and speak of cases like this 
one that I have experienced, the experience of which has given me 
theoretical foundations for not only advocating, but experiencing 
respect for the popular groups in my work as an educator—I cannot 
resist expressing my regret over a certain type of criticism in which 
I am pointed to as an “elitist.” Or, at the opposite pole, where I am 
sketched as a “populist.” 

[T he far-off years of my experiences in SESI, the years of my 
intense learning process with fishers, with peasants and urban labor- 
ers, among the hillocks and ravines,of Recife, had vaccinated me, as 
it were, against an elitist arrogance. My experience has taught me 

that educands need to be addressed as such; but to address them 
as educands implies a recognition of oneself, the educator, as one 
of two agents here, each capable of knowing and each wishing to 
know, and each working with the other for an understanding of the 
object of cognition. Thus, teaching and learning are moments in a 
larger process—that of knowing, of cognizing, which implies re- 
cognizing. At bottom, what I mean is that the educand really be- 
comes an educand when and to the extent that he or she knows, or 
comes to know, content, cognoscible objects, and not in the measure 
that the educator is depositing in the educand a description of the 
objects or content. 

Educands recognize themselves as such by cognizing objects— 
discovering that they are capable of knowing, as they assist at the 
immersion of significates, in which process they also become critical 
“significators.” Rather than being educands because of some reason 
or other, educands need to become educands by assuming them- 
selves, taking themselves as cognizing subjects, and not as an object 
upon which the discourse of the educator impinges. Herein lies, in 
the last analysis, the great political importance of the teaching act. 
It is this, among other elements, that distinguishes a progressive 
educator from his or her reactionary colleague. 

“All right,” I said, in response to the peasant's intervention. “Let's 
say I know and you dont. Still, I'd like to try a game with you that, 
to work right, will require our full effort and attention. I'm going 
to draw a line down the middle of this chalkboard, and I’m going to 
write down on this side the goals I score against you, and on this 
other side the ones you score against me. The game will consist in 
asking each other questions. If the person asked doesn't know the 
answer, the person who asked the question scores a goal. I'll start 
the game by asking you a question.” 

At this point, precisely because I had seized the group’s “mo- 
ment, the climate was more lively than when we had begun, before 
the silence. 

First question: 

“What is the Socratic maieutic?” 

General guffawing. Score one for me. 

“Now it's your turn to ask me a question,” I said. 


There was some whispering, and one of them tossed out the 

“What's a contour curve?” 

I couldnt answer. I marked down one to one. 

“What importance does Hegel have in Marx’s thought?” 

Two to one. 

“Whats soil liming?” 

Two to two. 

“What's an intransitive verb?” 

Three to two. 

“Whats a contour curve got to do with erosion?” 

Three to three. 

“What's epistemology?” 

Four to three. 

“What's green fertilizer?” 

Four to four. 

And so on, until we got to ten to ten. 

As I said good-bye, I made a suggestion. “Let's think about this 
evening. You had begun to have a fine discussion with me. Then 
you were silent, and said that only I could talk because I was the 
only one who knew anything. Then we played a knowledge game 
and we tied ten to ten. I knew ten things you didn't, and you knew 
ten things I didnt. Let's think about this.” 

On the way back home I recalled the first experience I had had, 
long before, in the Zona da Mata of Pernambuco, like the one I had 
just had here. 

After a few moments of good discussion with a group of peasants, 
silence fell on us and enveloped us all. What one of them had said 
then, in Portuguese, was the same thing as I had heard tonight in 
Spanish—a literal translation of what the Chilean peasant had said 
this evening. 

“Fine,” I had told them. fi know. You dont. But why do I know 
and you don’t?” | 

Accepting his statement, I prepared the ground for my interven- 
tion. A vivacious sparkle in them all. Suddenly curiosity was kindled. 
The answer was not long in coming. 

“You know because youre a doctor, sir, and were not.” 


“Right, I’m a doctor and youre not. But why am I a doctor and 
youre not?” 

“Because youve gone to school, you've read things, studied things, 
and we havent.” 

“And why have I been to school?” 

“Because your dad could send you to school. Ours couldnt.” 

“And why couldnt your parents send you to school?” 

“Because they were peasants like us.” 

“And what is ‘being a peasant?” 

“It’s not having an education . . . not owning anything. . . work- 
ing from sun to sun. . . having no rights . . . having no hope.” 

“And why doesn't a peasant have any of this?” 

“The will of God.” 

“And who is God?” 

“The Father of us all.” 

“And who is a father here this evening?” 

Almost all raised their hands, and said they were. 

I looked around the group without saying anything. Then I picked 
out one of them and asked him, “How many children do you have?” 


“Would you be willing to sacrifice two of them, and make them 
suffer so that the other one could go to school, and have a good life, 
in Recife? Could you love your children that way?” 


“Well, if you,” I said, “a person of flesh and bones, could not 
commit an injustice like that—how could God commit it? Could 
God really be the cause of these things?” 

A different kind of silence. Completely different from the first. A 
silence in which something began to be shared. Then: 

“No. God isn't the cause of all this. It’s the boss!” 

Perhaps for the first time, those peasants were making an effort 
to get beyond the relationship that I called, in Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed, that of the “adherence” of the oppressed to the oppres- 
sor, in order to “step back” from the oppressor, and localize the 
oppressor “outside” themselves, as Fanon would say. 

From that point of departure, we could have gotten to an under- 
standing of the role of the “boss,” in the context of a certain socioeco- 
nomic, political system—gotten to an understanding of the social 


relations of production, gotten to an understanding of class interests, 
and so on and so on. 

What would have been completely senseless would have been if, 
after the silence that had so brusquely interrupted our dialogue, I 
had given a traditional speech, crammed with empty, intolerant 


oday, at more than twenty-five years distance from those 

mornings, those evenings, those nights of seeing, hearing, 

all but touching with my hands sectarian certitudes that 
precluded other certitudes, that denied doubts, that asserted a truth 
possessed by certain groups calling themselves revolutionary, I reas- 
sert, as is incumbent upon a pedagogy of hope, the position taken 
up and argued in Pedagogy of the Oppressed against sectarianisms, 
which always eviscerate, as well as the position I maintain there in 
defense of a critical radicalism. 

The preponderant climate with the factions of the Left was actu- 
ally one of sectarianism, which, along with rejecting history as op- 
portunity, generates and proclaims a kind of “liberation fatalism.” 
Socialism is on its way. . . necessarily. Carried to its ultimate conse- 
quences, then, an understanding of history as “liberation fatalism” 
prescinds from the struggle, from an engagement in the creation of 
democratic socialism as a job to do in history. Thus, it conjures away 
the ethic of struggle and the fineness of the striving. I believe, or 
rather I am convinced, that we have never needed radical positions, 
in the sense of the radicalness I advocate in Pedagogy of the Op- 
“pressed, as we need them today. We need them if we are to get 
beyond, on the one hand, sectarianisms founding themselves on 
universal, exclusive truths; and on the other, “pragmatic” accommo- 
dations to the facts, as if the facts had turned immutable. Each 
faction would have its immutability to work with—the former, or 


modern positions, just as the latter, or modernistic ones. Instead, 
let us be postmodern: radical and utopian. Progressive. | | 
_ [The last period of my time in Chile—to be precise, the period 
during which I worked in the Institute for Ways and Means and 
Research in Agrarian Reform (ICIRA),/ from the beginning of my 
third year in the country onward—was one of the most productive 
moments of my experience in exile. In the first place, I came to this 
organization only after having already acquired a certain visceral 
familiarity with the culture of the country, the habits of its peoples, 
and with the rifts in political ideology within Christian Democracy 
already clear. Then too, my activity in ICIRA was contemporaneous 
with the first denunciations lodged against me in and by the more 
radically rightist sectors of that party. These elements accused me 
of things I had never done nor ever would do. I always find that one 
of the ethical and political duties of someone in exile resides in 
respect for the host country. 

Although the condition of exile surely did not transform me into 
a neutral intellectual, neither did it ever_afford me the right to 
interfere in the party politics of the country. \I am not even inclined 
to go into the facts surrounding the accusations against me, as the 
latter could easily be demolished by their utter inconsistency. How- 
ever, upon being informed of the existence of the first rumor, I took 
the decision to write out in advance the texts of the talks I would 
give on the subjects on which I was to speak in the training groups. 
Along with becoming accustomed to writing them out, I got into 
the habit of discussing them, every time I could, with two great 
friends I worked with in the ICIRA, Marcela Gajardo, a Chilean, 
today researcher and professor at the Faculdade Latino-Americana 
de Ciéncias Sociais, and sociologist José Luiz Fiori, a Brazilian, 
today a professor at Rio de Janeiro University. 

The hours we spent together, discussing discoveries, and not just 
my talks, talking over our doubts, wondering together, challenging 
ourselves, recommending readings, being surprised, being fearful, 
exerted such a spell on us that, nearly always, the time of day came 
when our conversation was the only one to be heard in the building. 
Everyone else had left the office, and there we were, trying to get 
a better understanding of what was behind a peasant'’s reply to a 
challenge with which he had been presented in a culture circle. 


With them I discussed various things I wanted to say in Pedagogy 
of the Oppressed, which I was still composing. There is no denying 
the good that both of their friendships did me, and the contributions 
that their shrewd intellects added to my mind and my work. 

At bottom, in the last analysis, my time at the Instituto de Desar- 
rollo Agropecuaria, the Ministry of Education, and the Corporation 
for Agrarian Reform; my serious work with their technological 
teams, through which I found it possible to have a rich experience 
almost throughout the country, with countless peasant communities, 
interviewing their leaders; even simply the opportunity to have ex- 
perienced a life in the historical atmosphere of the time—all of this 
explained to me the doubts I had had that had led to my exile, 
deepened my hypotheses, assured me of my positions. 

It was in the intense experience I was having in Chilean society— 
my own experience of their experience, which always sent me back 
in my mind to my Brazilian experience, whose vivid memory I had 
brought with me into exile—that I wrote Pedagogy of the Op- 

pressed, in 1967 and 1968. Now that that composition has “come of 
age,” I take it once more in hand. To look at it again, rethink it, 
restate it. And to do some “new ’ saying, as well: the text in which 
it is now being said again has its own word to say, as well, and one 
that, in the same manner, speaks for itself, by speaking of hope. 

In more or less a conversational tone—in “conversation” not only 
with the reader now seeking a living contact with Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed for the first time, but with those who have read it fifteen, 
twenty years ago, and who, at this moment, as they read this reflec- 
tion on it, are preparing to read it again—I should like to focus in 
on a few points through which I might be able to make a better 
restatement of what I have already said. 

I think that an interesting point to begin with might be the actual 
creation, or procreation, of the book. Pedagogy of the Oppressed 
enwraps the procreation of ideas of course, but thereby it enfolds 
as well the moment or the moments of activity in which those ideas 
were generated, together with the moments at which they were put 
down on paper. Indeed, ideas that need to be argued to—which 
imply other ideas, ideas that have come to be restated in various 
“corners of texts to which authors feel obliged to return from time 
to time—become generated throughout these authors’ practice, 


within the greater social practice of which the ideas are a part. It is 
in this sense that I have spoken of the memories that I brought into 
exile, of which some had been formed in childhood long ago, but 
are still of genuine importance today for an understanding of my 
understanding or of my reading of the world. This is also the reason 
why I have spoken of the exercise to which I always devoted myself 
in exile—wherever the “loan context” was, the context in which, as 
I gained experience in it, I thought and rethought my relations with 
and in the original context. But as ideas, positions, to be made 
explicit and explained, to be argued in the text, have first seen the 
light of day in the action-reflection-action in which we are en- 
wrapped (as we are touched by memories of happenings in old 
fabrics), thus the moment of writing becomes as a time of creation 
and re-creation, as well, of the ideas with which we come to our 
desk. The time of writing, let me say again, is always preceded by / 
one of speaking of the ideas that will be set down on paper. At least 
this was the way it was with me. Speaking of ideas before writing 
about them, in conversations with friends, in seminars, in talks, was 
also a way not only of testing them, but of re-creating them, of giving 
them second birth. Their edges could be better honed down when 
the thinking managed to reach written form through another disci- 
pline, another set of systematics. In this sense, to write is also to | 
redo what has been thought out in various moments of our practice, 
of our relations-with; to write is as much to re-create, as much to 
restate what has been said previously, during the time of our activ- 
ity—just as much as serious reading requires of the one doing it a 
rethinking of the already-thought, a rewriting of the written, and a 
rereading, as well, of what before being turned into the writing of 
the author was some reading of his or her own. 

I spent a year or more talking about aspects of Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed. I spoke with friends that visited me, I discussed it in 
seminars and courses. One day my daughter Madalena came to me 
to delicately call my attention to something. She suggested greater 
restraint on my eagerness to talk about the as-yet-unwritten Peda- 
gogy of the Oppressed. I did not have the strength to abide by her 
suggestion. I continued, passionately, to speak of the book as if— 
and as a matter of fact this was true—I were learning to write it. 

I shall never be able to forget something about this oral period 


of Pedagogy of the Oppressed—an entire address in New York, my 
first, in 1967. 

It was my first visit to the United States, where I had been invited 
by Father Joseph Fitzpatrick and Monsignor Robert Fox, who is 
now deceased. 

It was an exceedingly important visit for me, especially because 
of what I was able to observe in places where blacks and Puerto 
Ricans were discriminated against. I visited these places by invita- 
tion of educators working with Fox. There was a great deal of similar- 
ity between what they were doing in New York and what I was doing 
in Brazil. The first one to notice the resemblances had been Ivan 
Illich, who then proposed to Fitzpatrick and Fox that they bring 
me to New York. 

In my trips and visits to the various centers the two priests main- 
tained in areas of New York, I was able to verify, seeing them all 
over again, behaviors expressive of the “wiliness” or “cunning” de- 
manded of the oppressed if they are to survive.j1 saw and heard 
things in New York that were “translations —not just linguistic ones, 
of course, but emotional ones, as well—of much of what I had heard 
in Brazil, and was hearing more recently in Chile. The “why” of the 
behavior was the same. Only the form—-what I might call “trap- 
pings’ —and the content, were different. | "'' RY iA nee 

There is a case, among these, which I report in Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed, that it will do no harm to take another look at here, 
somewhat more extensively. 

In one home, with blacks and Puerto Ricans participating in the 
group, the educator had a large blowup of a photograph carried in 
and placed on the arms of a chair. It was a picture of a street—as it 
happened, of the very street that ran in front of the building in 
which we sat. In the photo, a near mountain of garbage could be 
seen, piled on a corner of the street. 

“What do you see in this picture?” asked the educator. 

A silence ensued, as it always did, no matter where we were or 
to whom we addressed the question. Those present were somehow 
failing to recognize their own street. Then, emphatically, with false 
assurance, one of them came out with: “A street in Latin America.” 

“But the street signs are in English,” the educator now pointed 


Another silence, broken by another attempt to hide the painful, 
wounding, sorrowful truth. “Maybe a street in Latin America and 
were teachin’ English down there. Or maybe a street in Africa.” 

“Why not New York?” 

“Because we re in the United States and we dont have nothin like 
that here!” And the person speaking pointed to the photograph. 

After another, longer silence, a third participant spoke up, and 
said, with difficulty, and painfully, as if he were relieving himself of 
some terrible burden: “Might as well admit it’s our street. Where 
we live.” 7 

As I recall that session now, so much like so many others I shared 
in, as I remember how the educands defended themselves in the 
analysis or “reading” of the codification (the photo), trying to hide | 
the truth, I hear again in my mind something I once heard from 
Erich Fromm, in Cuernavaca, Mexico: “This kind of educational 
practice,’ he told me, in our first meeting, arranged by Ivan Illich, 
at which I had told him how I thought of and practiced education, 
“This kind of educational practice is a kind of historico-cultural, 
political psychoanalysis.” 

‘He was dead right, and his words were confirmed by the state- 
ments of the educands, one by one, to the approving nods of the 
others: “It’s a street in Latin America ... were there and were 
teaching English,” or “It's a street in Africa,” or “We're the US, we 
cant have anything like that.” Two nights before, I had assisted at 
another meeting, with another group, likewise of Puerto Ricans and 
blacks, where the discussion was about another fine photo. It was a 
montage, representing ‘slices’ of New York—more than half-a-dozen 
shots, one atop the other, representing socioeconomic conditions in 
various areas of the city, in ascending order of “decency starting 
with the bottom “slice.” 

_Once the group had understood what the photo was supposed to 
represent, the educator asked the group what part of New York in 
the montage was where they lived. Realistically, the group might 
have actually lived in the conditions in the second shot from the 
bottom in the picture, at best. 

There was silence, whispering, and opinion swapping. Finally 
came the group’s decision. Their place third from the top! 

On the way back to the hotel, sitting next to the educator, who 


was driving, I continued silently to think about the meetings, of the 
basic need individuals exposed to such situations have—until they 
accept themselves as individuals,and as a class, until they commit 
themselves, until they struggle-++their need to deny the humiliating 
truth, a truth that humiliates them precisely because they introject 
the dominant ideology that sketches them as incompetent and guilty, 
the authors of their own failures. And yet the actual “why” of those 
. failures is to be found in the perversity of the system. 

I thought as well of the moment, several evenings before, when 
(with Carmen Hunter as simultaneous translator—one of the most 
competent North American educators, even in those early days) I 
spoke for the first time at length about Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 
which I was to finalize only in the following year. And I compared 
the reactions of the educands on those two nights with those of some 
of the audience of my talk—educators and community organizers. 

“Fear of freedom” had marked the reactions in all three meetings. 
Flight from the real, an attempt to “tame’ the real through conceal- 
ment of the truth. 

At this very moment, as I recall these happenings and reactions 
of times so long ago, something else, something very much like 
them, comes to mind: an event at which I likewise assisted. It was 
another case of an expression of the assimilation and interiorization 
of the dominant ideology by the dominated themselves—I might 
even say, as I put it in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, an expression of 
the oppressor “inhabiting” and dominating the half-defeated body 
and soul of the oppressed one. 

We were in the midst of the campaign for the governorship of the 
State of Sado Paulo, in 1982. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, or Lula, was 
the Workers Party candidate, and, as a party activist, I attended 
some of the meetings in outlying districts of the city. I did not attend 
party assemblies, as I do not regard myself as sufficiently competent. 
These were meetings at recreational clubs or neighborhood associa- 
tions. At one of these meetings, a workman, some forty years of age, 
stood up and criticized Lula and his candidacy. His main argument 
was that he could never vote for somebody just like himself. “Lula’s 
the.same as me,” said the workman, with conviction. “He dont know 
how to talk. He dont talk the right kind o Portuguese to be in 
government. Lula aint had no education. He ain't, like they say, 


‘well-read.’ Look,” he went on “—if Lula won, what would we do? 
Think how embarrassed peopled be, if the queen o England was t 
come here again. Lula’ wife ain't got no rose garden to receive the 
queen! She cant be no First Lady!” 

In New York, the concealing discourse, which looks for some other 
geography in which to deposit the garbage, which was making it too 
plain how discriminated against the audience was, was a discourse 
of self-rejection. In the same way, it was a discourse of self-rejection, 
rejection of his class, that the workman had pronounced who refused 
to look at himself or to see in Lula, because he was a worker himself, 
a protest against the world that rejected him. 

In the most recent presidential campaign, the Northeasterner 
who worked with us in our house voted, in the first two rounds, for 
Collor. She told us, with absolute assurance, that she “didnt have 
anybody to vote for’ who would have been a candidate favorable to 
her own interests. 

Basically, she must have agreed with many of the elitists of this 
country: persons who refer to themselves as menas gente cannot 
imagine any of their own number being president. To say menas 
gente, “lesser people,” means, when all is said and done, that you 
are menos gente, “less people’ in the adverbial sense of “less”: less 
completely people. 

I went back to Chile. Presently I found myself in a new phase of 
the gestation process of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 

I began to use index cards, titling and numbering each one ac- 
cording to what was written on it. I always carried some paper in 
my pockets, or even a little notepad. Whenever an idea occurred to 
me—regardless of where I was, in a bus, on the street, in a restau- 
rant, alone, with someone—I jotted down the idea. Sometimes it 
was just a phrase. 

Then in the evening, back home, after dinner, I worked on the 
idea or ideas I had jotted down, expanding them on two, three, or 
more file cards. Then I put a title on each card, and a number, in 
ascending order. 

I started working on ideas I culled from reading I had done, as 
well. There were times when a statement by an author would make 
a light go on in my head. It would spark a series of reflections in 



me that might never have been a concern of the author of the book 
I was reading. 

Other times, what one or another author would say would lead 
me to reflections in the same area as that with which he or she was 
dealing, but reinforcing some position of mine and making it more 
clear to me. 

In many cases, the sort of thing that challenged me, and about 
which I wrote on file cards, were statements, or questions, either of 
peasants whom I was interviewing and whom I had heard discussing 
codifications in culture circles, or of agricultural technologists, 
agronomists, or other educators, whom I made sure I kept meet- 
ing in training seminars. What kept me from ever looking down 
on or simply belittling “common sense” may have been the always- 
respectful contact I had with it, ever since the faraway days of my 
experience in the Brazilian Northeast, coupled with the never-failing 
certitude within me thatLin order to get beyond “common sense,” 
you had to use it|Jast as it is unacceptable to advocate an educational 
practice that is satisfied with rotating on the axis of “common sense, » 
so neither is an educational practice acceptable that sets at naught 
the “knowledge of living experience’ and simply starts out with the 
educators systematic cognition. 

The educator needs to know that his or her “here” and “now” are 
nearly always the educands “there” and “then, Even though the 
educators dream is not only to render his or her “here-and-now” 
accessible to educands, but to get beyond their own “here-and-now” 
with them, or to understand and rejoice that educands have gotten 
beyond their “here” so that this dream is realized, she or he must 
begin with the educands “here,” and not with her or his own. At 
the very least, the educator must keep account of the existence of 
his or her educands “here” and respect it. Let me put it this way: 

(you never get there by starting from there, you get there by starting 
~ from some here\This means, ultimately, that the educator must not 
be ignorant of, underestimate, or reject any of the “knowledge of 
(living experience” with which educands come to schoo), ‘, 

I shall return to this subject again, as it appears t6 me to be 
central to a discussion of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and not only 
of the book by that name, but of the actual pedagogy of the op- 
pressed itself. 


Then came the time when I began, occasionally, to practically 
“play” with the file cards. I would calmly read a series of them, say, 
ten of them, and I would try to discover, first, whether there were 
any holes to fill in their thematic sequence; and second, whether a 
careful reading of them called forth in me or gave rise to the emer- 
gence of new topics. Basically, my “idea cards” turned into seed 
cards for other ideas, other topics. 

Sometimes—suppose, between card number eight and card num- 
ber nine—I would sense a vacuum, and begin to work on it. Then 
I would renumber the cards accordingly, so that they would still be 
in numerical sequence. 

As I recall, now, all of this mechanical work—and it has its nostal- 
gia for me—I admit that it would have saved time and effort, and 
been more efficient, if I had used a computer from time to time, 
even a little one like the one that my wife and I have today. 

But thanks to that mechanical effort, once I began to write the 
text—in July 1967, taking the opportunity of a vacation period—in 
two weeks of work, sometimes working all night long, I wrote the 
first three chapters of Pedagogy. When that much had been typed 
up—which I thought would be the whole book, just those first three 
chapters—I turned it over to my great friend, whom I shall never 
forget, and with whom I always learned so much—Ernani Maria ~ 
Fiori, to write the preface. When Fiori gave me back his excellent 
essay in December 1967, I took a few hours at home that night to 
read through the entire manuscript, from his preface to the last 
word of chapter 3, which I then thought of as the last. 

The year before, in 1966, Josué de Castro,” owner of a vanity as 
lush as that of Gilberto Freyre, but, like the latter, a vanity that 
disturbed no one, had spent some days in Santiago. One evening 
when he had no official tasks to perform, we sat together, conversing 
freely, in one of Santiago's lovely parks, Josué, Almino Affonso, and 
L Talking about what he was writing, Josué suddenly told us: “Til 
suggest a good habit for a writer to get into. At the end of a book, 
or article, let it ‘marinate for three months, four months, in a 
drawer. Then one night, take it out again and read it. People always 
change ‘something,’ concluded Josué, with his hand on the shoul- 
der of one of us. 

I took the risk of following his suggestion. The very night of the 


day Fiori gave me his text, after reading it and the three chapters 
of Pedagogy, I locked everything away in my “box” in my study, and 
left it there for two months. 

I cannot deny the curiosity, and even more, a certain yearning, 
that the text provoked in me as it lay there, locked away, “all, all 
alone.” Sometimes I had a powerful urge to take it out and read it 
again; but I thought it would be interesting, too, to take a certain 
distance from it. So I restrained myself. 

There in my study, one night a little more than two months later, 
I sat down with it a few hours to get reacquainted. It was almost as 
if I had found an old friend again. In fact, I read it with great 
emotion—slowly, without even wanting to finish it very soon—the 
whole text, page by page. (It would have been hard to imagine, just 
then, that twenty-four years later I would be doing much the same 
thing, several times, not with the manuscript, but with the book 
itself—to rethink it, to restate it.) 

I did not make many important changes in it. But I did make the 
basic discovery that the text was unfinished. It needed one more 
chapter. And so it came about that I wrote the fourth and last chap- 
ter, taking advantage, now of lunch period in training seminars in 
the vicinity of Santiago, now in hotels in cities or towns further away, 
where I also went to give seminars. After dinner, I would fairly race 
to my room, and seclude myself there the whole night through, 
writing chapter 4, till early the next day, when I would begin the 
work of my seminar once again. I remember now that the only text 
that could take me away from my writing work was Antonio Callado’s 
excellent Quarup. 

In those days I was still able to read while the car was lapping up 
the miles. Thus it was that, on one of my trips to the South of Chile, 
after taking the opportunity of highway time to spend some hours 
with my book, I finished reading Quarup in the hotel, filled with 
emotion, as the first light dawned. Then I wrote a letter to Callado, 
which I was too shy ever to mail. I am sorry to say that the letter 
was lost, along with letters written to me, when we moved to the 
United States in 1969. 

The gusto with which I gave myself to that exercise, the task of 
fairly spending myself in writing and thinking (mutually inseparable 
in the creation or the production of the text), compensated for the 


lack of sleep with which I returned from trips. I no longer remember 
the names of the hotels where I wrote parts of the fourth chapter 
of Pedagogy, but I still retain the sensation of pleasure with which 
I read, before going to sleep, the last pages I had written. 

At home, in Santiago, not rare were the times when, so involved 
in my work, and gratified by it, I was surprised by the morning sun 
stealing into the little room which I had converted into a library at 
500 Alcides de Gasperi Street, Apoquindo, Santiago, and lighting it 
up—sun and birds, morning, new day. Then I would look out the 
window, at the little garden Elza had made, the rosebushes she 
had planted. 

I do not know whether the house would still be there, and still 
be painted blue, as it was at the time. 

I should not be able to rethink Pedagogy of the Oppressed without 
thinking upon, without remembering, some of the places where I 
wrote it, but especially one of them, the house where I lived and 
was happy, and from where I left Chile, carrying longings, suffering 
at having to leave but hopeful of being able to respond to the chal- 
lenges that were waiting for me. 

With the fourth chapter finally ready, I looked at the first three 
again and touched them up, then I handed over the whole text to 
a typist. Next I made several copies, which I distributed among 
Chilean friends, and some Brazilian companions in exile and other 

In the acknowledgments, when the first Brazilian edition ap- 
peared—which only became possible after the book had already 
been translated into English, Spanish, Italian, French, and German, 
due to the climate of repression in which we lived—I left out the 
names of some friends, as well as those of some of my companions 
in exile. 

No one failed to come running, with his or her encouragement, 
plus concrete suggestions—for the clarification of a point here, for 
a stylistic improvement there, and so on. 

Now, so many years later, and even more convinced how doggedly 
we must struggle lest ever again, in the name of freedom, democ- 
racy, ethics, and respect for the common welfare, we should again 
have to experience the denial of freedom, outrage to democracy, 
deception, and contempt for the common weal, such as the coup 


d’état imposed on us on April 1, 1964 (which picturesquely dubbed 
itself a revolution), I should like to list the names of all who inspired 
me with their word, and express to them my sincere thanks: Marcela 
Gajardo, Jacques Chonchol, Jorge Mellado, Juan Carlos Poblete, 
Rati Velozo, and Pelli, Chileans. Paulo de Tarso and Plinio Sampaio, 
Almino Affonso, Maria Edy, Flavio Toledo, Wilson Cantoni, Ernani 
Fiori, Jodo Zacariotti, José Luiz Fiori, and Antonio Romanelli, 

There is another connection between Pedagogy of the Oppressed 
and the perverse, antidemocratic climate of the military regime that 
came crashing down on us with such remarkable, hateful fury, that 
I should like to bring out. 

Even though I knew that the book could not be published here— 
have its first edition in Portuguese, the language in which it was 
originally written—I did want to get the typescript into the hands 
of Fernando Gasparian, director of Paz e Terra, which was going to 
publish it. The question that arose was how to see to the safety not 
only of the material, but also, and above all, of the courier. At this 
point, in the early 1970s, we were already staying in Geneva. 

I had mentioned the problem to Swiss scholars, professors at the 
University of Geneva. One of them, who, besides being a professor, 
was a national councilor, Jean Ziegler, as he was about to leave for 
Rio de Janeiro on an academic assignment, offered to carry the 
typescript to Brazil personally. I accepted his offer, since, with his 
diplomatic passport plus his Swiss nationality, nothing untoward 
would befall him. He would get through the passport check and 
customs without questions or searches. 

A. few days later, Gasparian discreetly acknowledged receipt of 
the material, asking me to await more favorable times for its publica- 
tion. I sent the text toward the end of 1970, when the book was 
already in its first edition in English, or early in 1971. Its publication 
in Brazil, its first printing, was possible only in 1975. Meanwhile a 
countless number of Brazilians had read it, in foreign-language edi- 
tions arriving here by strokes of shrewdness and courage. I came to 
know, at this time, a young North American sister who worked in 
the Northeast, who said that, on her return trips from the United 
States, she had gotten into Brazil several times with a number of 
copies of Pedagogy, covered in book jackets with religious titles on 


them. In this fashion, her friends, who worked in the outlying dis- 
tricts of Northeastern cities, were able to read the book and discuss 
it even before its publication in Portuguese. 

At about the same time, I received in Geneva, hand-delivered, 
an excellent letter from a group of workers in S40 Paulo, of whom 
I have unfortunately since lost track. They had studied, together, a 
copy of the original that someone had typed out. It is a pity that so 
little is left of my Geneva archives. Among many a good thing that 
was lost, was that letter. But I remember how they ended it. “Paul,” 
they said, or words to this effect, “keep on writing—but next time 
lay it on a little thicker when you come to those scholarly types that 
come to visit as if they had revolutionary truth by the tail. You know, 
the ones that come looking for us to teach us that were oppressed 
and exploited and to tell us what to do.” 

Some time after Ziegler, that excellent intellectual, had gotten 
the typescript into Gasparian’s hands, he, Ziegler, published a book 
that immediately became a best-seller—La Suisse au-dessus de tout 
soupcon (Switzerland: above all suspicion), in which he disclosed 
Swiss secrets that were altogether too touchy, especially in the area 
of the hidden bank accounts of a certain type of Third World folk. 
Ziegler wounded innumerable interests with his book, and has suf- 
fered reprisals that have been by no means easy to deal with. Re- 
cently, Jean Ziegler is being put under pressure, and major 
restrictions, due to the publication of another best-seller of his, in 
which he discusses the “laundering” of drug-traffic money. As a 
national councilor, or deputy, from the canton of Geneva, Ziegler 
recently had his parliamentary immunity restricted by his col- 
leagues, on the allegation that he writes as a professor, a scholar, an 
academician, while that his parliamentary immunity pertains only 
to his activity in the Parliament. And so he can be put on trial for 
what he has written as a scholar. 

In view of all of this, and mindful of the unselfish favor he per- 
formed in serving as the courier of the forbidden book's typescript, 
I should like to make public here my solidarity with the great intel- 
lectual in whom I see no separation between the professor—the 
serious, competent scholar—and the watchful representative of the 
Swiss people, the national councilor. 


Finally, I owe one last word of acknowledgment, and posthumous 
gratitude: to Elza, for all she did in making Pedagogy a reality. 

I find that one of the best things that any of us, man or woman, 
can experience in life, is a loving tenderness in our relationships, 
however bespattered, from time to time, those relationships may be 
with a lack of compassion, which simply prove that we are, after all, 

“ordinary people.” 

This is the experience I had with Elza, on account of which, when 
you get right down to it, I became predisposed for a re-creation of 
myself under the equally unselfish care of another woman who, 
speaking to me and of us, writes in her excellent book of having to 
come to me to ‘reinvent things lost—” hers, with the death of Raul, 
her first spouse, and mine, with that of Elza—‘life, with love.”* 

All during the time I spoke about Pedagogy of the Oppressed 
with other persons and with Elza, Elza was always an attentive and 
critical listener, and became my first, likewise critical, reader when 
I began the phase of actual writing of the text. 

Very early in the morning, she would read the pages I had been 
writing until daybreak, and had left arranged on the table. 

Sometimes she was unable to contain herself. She would wake me 
up and say, with humor, “I hope this book won't send us into exile!” 

I am happy to be able to record this sense of gratitude with 
the freedom with which I do so, without fear of being accused of 
being sentimental. 

My concern, in this hopeful work, as I have demonstrated to this 
point, is to stir my memory and challenge it, like an excavation in 
time, so that I can show you the actual process of my reflection, my 
pedagogical thought and its development, of which the book is a 
step—just as my pedagogical thinking is actually developing right 
in this Pedagogy of Hope, as I discuss the hope with which I wrote 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 

Hence my attempt to discover—in old weavings, facts, and deeds 
of childhood, youth, and maturity, in my experience with others, 

“Ana Maria Aratjo Freire, Analfabetismo no Brasil: Da ideologia da interdicao 
do corpo a ideologia nacionalista ou de como deixar sem ler e escrever desde as 
Catarinas (paraguacu), Filipas, Anas, Genebras, Apolénias e Gracias até os 
Severinos (Sao Paulo: Cortez, 1989). 


within the events, within the instants in the general, dynamic pro- 

cess—not only Pedagogy of the Oppressed as it was being gestated, - 

but my life itself. Indeed, it is in the interplay of the fabrics of which 
life forms a part that life itself wins meaning. And Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed is an important moment of my life—my life of which the 
book expresses a certain “instant’—demanding of me at the same 
time that I demonstrate the necessary consistency with what I have 
said in it. 

Among the responsibilities that, for me, writing sets before me, 
not to say imposes on me, there is one that I always take on. Already 
experiencing, as I write, the consistency obtaining between my writ- 
ten word and my speech and my deeds, past and present, I likewise 
come to experience the importance of intensifying this consistency, 
all through the course of my existence. Consistency, however, is 
not paralysis. In the process of acting-and-thinking, speaking-and- 

writing, I can change position. Thus my consistency, still as neces-_ 

sary as ever, comes about within new parameters. What is impossible 
for me is inconsistency, even recognizing the impossibility of an 
absolute consistency. At bottom, this quality or this virtue, consis- 
tency, requires of us an insertion into a permanent process of search, 
demands of us patience and humility, which are also virtues, in our 
dealings with others. And at times, for any number of reasons, we 
find ourselves lacking these latter virtues, which are fundamental 
for the exercise of another: consistency. 

In this phase of the resumption of Pedagogy, I shall be seizing on 
certain particular aspects of the book, whether or not they have 
provoked criticism down through the years, with a view to explaining 
myself better, clarifying angles, asserting and reasserting positions. 

Let me say a little something about language: about my taste 
for metaphor, and about the sexist mark I left on Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed—just as, before that, on Educagdo como pratica da liber- 
dade. It seems to me not only important, but necessary, that I now 
do this. 

I shall begin precisely with the sexist langauge that marks the 
whole book, and of\my debt to countless North American women, 
from various parts of the United States, who wrote to me, from late 
in 1970 into early 1971, a few months after the first edition of my 
book had come out in New York ft was if they had gotten together 


to send me their critical eters which came into my hands in Ge- 
neva over the course of three months, almost uninterruptedly. 

Invariably, in their comments on the book, which seemed to them 
to contain a great deal of good, and to constitute a contribution to 
their struggle, they also spoke of what they regarded as a large 
contradiction. In discussing oppression and liberation, in criticizing, 
with just indignation, oppressive structures, | they said, I used sexist, 
and therefore discriminatory, language, in which women had no 
place. Almost all of those who wrote to me cited one or other passage 
in the book, like the one, for example, that I myself now excerpt 
from the Brazilian edition: “In this fashion, as their consciousness 
of the situation grows in acuity, men ‘appropriate that situation to 
themselves as a historical reality that is thereby subject to transfor- 
mation by them [masc.].”* Why not by women too? 

I remember reading the first two or three letters I received as if 
it were yesterday, and how, under the impact of my conditioning by 
an authoritarian, sexist, ideology, I reacted. And it is important to 
bring out that, here at the end of 1970 and the beginning of 1971, 
I had already intensely experienced the political struggle, had spent 
five or six years of exile, had read a world of serious works, but in 
reading the first criticisms that I received, still said to myself, or 
repeated, what I had been taught in my boyhood: “Now, when I say 
‘men, that of course includes ‘women.” And why are men not in- 
cluded when we say, “Women are determined to change the world”? 
No man would feel included in any discourse by any speaker, or in 
the text of any author, who would write, “Women are determined 
to change the world.” After all, men certainly dislike it when I say 
to a nearly all-female audience, but with two or three men in it, 
“Todas vocés deveriam ...” (“You should all [fem.] .. .”). For the 
men present, either I do not know Portuguese syntax, or else I am 
trying to “have some fun” at their expense. The one thing they 
cannot think is that they are included in my discourse. How can one 
explain, except on an ideological basis, the rule according to which, 
in a room filled with dozens of women and only one man, I have to 
say, “Eles todos séo trabalhadores e dedicados” (“You are all workers, 

*Paulo Freire, Pedagogia do oprimido, 17th ed. (Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 
1987), p. 74. 


and dedicated ones”), with all the variable terminations in the mas- 
culine gender? Indeed it is not a grammatical problem, but an ideo- 
logical one. | 

It is in this sense that I have explicitly stated at the beginning of 
these comments my debt to those women, whose letters I have 
unfortunately lost as well, for having made me see how much ideol- | 
ogy resides in language 

I then wrote to all of them, one by one, acknowledging their 
letters and thanking them for the fine help they had given me. 

From that date forward, I have always referred to “woman and 
man, or “human beings.” I had rather write an unattractive line 
sometimes than omit to express my rejection of sexist language. 

Now, in writing this Pedagogy of Hope, in which I rethink the 
soul and body of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I shall beg the publish- 
ing houses to get over their own sexist language. And let it not be 
said that this is a minor problem. It is a major problem. Let it not 
be said that, since the basic thing is to change a wicked world, re- 
creating it in terms of making it less perverse, the debate over sexist 
language is therefore of minor importance, especially since women 
do not constitute a social class. 

Discrimination against women, expressed and committed by sex- 
ist discourse, and enfleshed in concrete practices, is a colonial way 
of treating them, and therefore incompatible with any progressive 
position, regardless of whether the person taking the position be a . 
woman or a Man. -_ 

The rejection of a sexist ideology, which necessarily involves the 
re-creation of language, is part of the possible dream of a change of . 
the world. By that very fact, in writing or speaking a language no 
longer colonial, I do so not in order to please women or displease 
men, but in order to be consistent with my option for that less- 
wicked world of which I have spoken before—just as I did not write 
the book to which I now return in order to seem like a nice person 
to the oppressed as individuals and as a class, nor simply to beat 
over the head the oppressors as individuals or as a class. I wrote the 
book as a political task I understood I had to perform. 

It is not pure idealism, let it be further observed, to refuse to 
await a radical change_in the world in order to begin to insist on a 
change in language. Changing language is part of the process of 


changing the world.\The relationship, language-thought—world, is 
a dialectical, processual, contradictory relationship. Obviously the 
defeat of a sexist discourse, like the defeat of any authoritarian dis- 
course, requires of us, or imposes upon us the necessity, that, con- 
comitantly with the new, democratic, antidiscriminatory discourse, 
we engage ourselves in democratic practices, as well. 

What would be intolerable would be simply pronouncing the 
democratic, antidiscriminatory discourse and maintaining a colo- 
nial practice. 

An important aspect, under the heading of language, which I 
should like to emphasize is how much I have always been impressed, 
in my experiences with urban and rural workers, with their meta- 
phorical language: the wealth of symbolism in their speech. Almost 
in parentheses, I should call attention to the abundant bibliography, 
at the moment, of works by linguists and philosophers of language 
on metaphor and its use in literature and science. Here, however, 
my concern is to stress how much popular speech, and the absence 
of rough edges therein (there's a metaphor), has always gripped and 
excited me. From my adolescence, in Jaboatéo, my ears began to 
open to the sonority of popular speech, to which would later accrue, 
when I was with SESI, a growing understanding of popular seman- 
tics and, necessarily, syntax. 

My long conversations with the fishers in their hemp shelters on 
the Pontas de Pedra coast, in Pernambuco, like my dialogues with 
peasants and urban laborers, in the gullies and hillocks of Recife, 
not only familiarized me with their language, but sharpened my 
sensitivity to the lovely way they spoke of themselves—no matter 
that it be of their sorrows—and the world. Lovely and sure. 

One of the best examples of this loveliness and this sureness is to 
be found in the discourse of a peasant of Minas Gerais*! in dialogue 
with professor and anthropologist Carlos Brandao, in one of his many 
field-research expeditions. Brandéo recorded a long conversation 
with Antonio Cicero de Soza, or Cico, part of which he used as the 
preface of the book he was editing.* 

“Carlos Brandao et al., A questao politica da educagéo popular (Sao Paulo: 
Brasiliense, 1980). 


Now this gen]’man comes up and asks me, “Cico, what is edjica- 
tion?” Yup. Good. What do I think? I say. Well, see, you say 
“edjication”; an’ I say “edjication.” Same word, right? Pronuncia- 
tion, I mean. It’s jist one word: “edjication.” But then I ask to 
the genI'man: Is it the same thing? Is it the same thing that 
folks talk about when they say that word? There I say: No. I say 
to the gen'’man like this: Nope, it’s not. I don’t think so. 

Edjication—when the gen]’man comes up and says “edjica- 
tion,” he’s comin’ from his world. The same. . . ‘nother. When 
its me talkin’ I come from ‘nother place, nother world. I come 
from down in the holler where poor folks lives, like people say. 
Whatre you comparin it with, what's this word comin up with? 
With school, aint it? With that fine perfesser, good clothes, 
smart, new book, spiffy, notebook, fountain pen, all real special, 
everything just like it should be—from his world, with schoolin’, 
what changes folks into a doctor. Fact? I think so, but I think a 
ways off, since I never seen that roun’ here. 

I once proposed to a group of students of a graduate course at 
PUC-SP* that they read Cico’s text and analyze it. Make a critical 

We spent four three-hour sessions reading Cicos four pages. 

His thematics, which we gathered as we got into the text, as we 
unwrapped it, was rich and manifold, and the time just flew by. We 
never took breaks when we were discussing Cigo—we found the 
work that exciting. 

Something I should like very much to have been able to do, and 
that, though it was not done, I still have hope of doing some day, is 
to have discussed or come to discuss this text of Cigo with rural and/ 
or urban workers. The experience would consist in starting with a 
reading of Cico’s discourse, and joining my own to it. First, we would 
take Cico’s text and talk about it. Then it would be my turn to teach 
any of a number of elements of content about which, like Cico, if 
possibly with lesser power of analysis than his, the workers would 
have a “knowledge of living experience.” But the basic thing would 
be for me to challenge them to go more deeply into the meaning 
of the themes or content and thereby learn them. ; 

I cannot resist repeating: teaching is not the pure mechanical 
transfer of the contour of a content from the teacher to passive, 
docile students. Nor can I resist repeating that starting out with the 


educands’ knowledge does not mean circling around this knowledge 
ad infinitum. Starting out means setting off down the road, getting 
going, shifting from one point to another, not sticking, or staying. 
I have never said, as it is sometimes suggested or said that I have 
said, that we ought to flutter spellbound around the knowledge of 
the educands like moths around a lamp bulb. 

[Starting with the “knowledge of experience had” in order_to get 
beyond it is not staying in that knowledge.| 
=§Some years ago I visited a capital of the Northeast at the invitation 
of educators working in rural areas of the state. They wanted to have 
me with them for the three days they were going to devote to an 
appraisal of their work with various groups of peasants. At one mo- 
ment in one of the sessions, the question of language came up— 
the matter of the sonorous lilt of the peasants’ speech, the wealth of 
their symbolism, and so on. One of those present then recounted 
the following. 

For almost two months, he said, he had wanted to be in on the 
Sunday meetings a group of peasants regularly held after the nine 
oclock Sunday Mass. He had mentioned his wish to the leader, but 
the green light never seemed to come. 

One day he was finally invited. But as the meeting opened, and 
as he was being introduced to the group, he had to listen to the 
following speech by the leader. 

“Today we have a new member, and he’s not a peasant. He's a 
well-read person. I talked about this with you at our last meeting, 
whether he could come or not.” 

Then the leader gave the group a bit of personal data about the 
new member. Finally, he turned to the candidate himself, and, fixing 
him intently, said: “We have something very important to tell you, 
new friend. If youre here to teach us that were exploited, don't 
bother. We know that already. What we don’t know . . . and need 
to know from you . . . is, if youre going to be with us when the 

chips are down.” 
_ That is, they might have said, in more sophisticated terms, 
whether his solidarity went any further than his intellectual curios- 
ity. Whether it went beyond the notes that he would be taking in 
meetings with them. Whether he would be with them, at their side, 
| in the hour of their repression. 


Another educator, perhaps encouraged by the story he had just 
heard, offered his own testimonial, recounting the following. 

He was taking part, with other educators, in a one-day workshop 
with peasant leaders. Suddenly one of the peasants spoke up: “The 
way this conversations’ss goin’ nobody's gonna git it. Nope. "Cause 
as far as you herere concerned’—and he pointed to the group of 
educators—“youre talkin’ salt, and these people here,” meaning the 
others, the peasants, “they wanna know "bout seasonin’, and salt aint 
but part of the seasonin’.” 

As far as the peasants were concerned, the educators were getting 
lost in the view of reality that I am wont to call “focalistic,” while 
what they wanted and needed was an understanding of the relation- 
ships among the component “partialities” of the totality. They were 
not denying the salt, it was just that they wanted to understand it 
in its relationship with the other ingredients that constituted the 
seasoning as a totality. 

Speaking of this popular wealth, from which we have so much to 
learn, I recall suggestions I used to make to various educators who 
had frequent contact with urban and rural laborers, and who would 
go and record stories, snatches of conversations, phrases, expres- 
sions, in order to supply material for semantic, syntactical, prosodic 
(and so on) analyses of popular discourse. At a certain moment in a 
like undertaking, it would be possible to offer various groups of 
laborers, as if they were codifications, the stories or the phrases, or 
the scraps of discourse, already studied, with the collaboration of 
sociolinguists, especially, and test the understanding the educators 
had had of the phrases, the stories, by submitting them to the 
laborers. It would be an exercise in a comparison and contrast, be- 
tween the two syntaxes, the dominant and the popular. 

When it comes to language there is something else I should like 
to bring up here. It is something that I have never accepted—on the 
contrary, something that I have always rejected. It is the assertion, or 
even insinuation, that fine, elegant writing, is not scholarly. A 
scholar does difficult writing, not fine writing.| Language’s esthetic 
moment, it has always seemed to me, ought to be pursued by all of 
us, including rigorous scholars. There is not the least incompatibility 
between rigor in the quest for an understanding and knowledge of 


the world, and beauty of form in the expression of what is found in 
that world. 

It would'be an absurdity for there to be, or seem to have to if 
some necessary association between ugliness and scientific rigor. 

It is not by chance that my first readings in Gilberto Freyre, in 
the 1940s, impressed me so much, just as rereading him today be- 
comes a moment of esthetic pleasure as well 

Personally, ever since I was young, I have liked a discourse with- 
out sharp edges, regardless of whether it be pronounced by a peas- 
ant, in all naiveté about the world, or by a sociologist of the stature 
of Gilberto Freyre. Few people in this country, I think, have dealt 
with language with the good taste that Gilberto has applied. 

I have never forgotten the impact, on the adolescents whose 
teacher of Portuguese I was in the 1940s, of the reading I used to 
do with them of passages from Gilberto’s works. I invariably took 
him as an example when speaking to them of the problem of where 
to put objective pronouns in sentences, and emphasizing what a 
fine style he had. It would have been hard, regardless of whether 
he was being grammatical or not, for Gilberto Freyre to write some- 
thing unlovely. 

It was he who led me, without a moment's hesitation, in a first 
esthetic experience, to make my option between “Ela vinha-se 
aproximando,” and “Ela vinha se aproximando’—both meaning, 
“She gradually drew near.” I chose the latter? Why? On account of 
the sonority resulting from uncoupling the se from the auxiliary verb 
vinha and “releasing” it to be attracted by the a of the main verb, 
aproximando. It becomes s‘a when it is released from the first verb, 
and, as it were, nestles up to the a of aproximando. 

A writer commits no sin against scholarship if, while rejecting the 
narrow, insipid doctrine we find in grammars, he or she never says 
or writes, however, a “Tinha acabado-se” (“She had passed on”) in- 
stead of “releasing” the se from the acabado and sandwiching it 
between the other words, or a “Se vocé ver Pedro” (“If you see 
Peter’) using the infinitive instead of the indicative, or a “Houveram 
muitas pessoas na audiéncia” (“There were many persons in the 
audience” instead of “Many persons were in the audience’), or a 
“Fazem muitos anos que voltei” (“It's been many years since I re- 
turned” instead of “I returned many years ago”). 


A writer commits no sin against scholarship by refusing to wound 
the ear and good taste of the person reading or hearing his or her 
discourse, and may not, in so refusing, simplistically be accused of 
being “rhetorical,” or of succumbing to the “fascination of a linguistic 
elegance as an end in itself.” (On the contrary, otherwise a scholarly 
writer ought to be accused of having succumbed to the tastelessness 
of a vacuous flow of words.) Or pointed to as “pretentious,” or “snob- 
bish,” and seen as ridiculously pompous in his or her way of writing 
or speaking. 

If sociologist Gilberto Freyre—not to mention anyone else, for 
our purposes just now—had placed any credence in this (about an 
alleged connection between scholarly rigor and contempt for the 

esthetic treatment of language), we should not have, today, pages 
like this one: 

The word Northeast is a word, today, disfigured by the expres- 
sion “Northeast projects —that is, “antidrought projects.” The 
hinterland of dry sand creaking under your feet. The hinterland 
of hard landscapes, which hurt your eyes. The cacti known as 
Peru cereus. The angular oxen and horses. The light shadows, 
like some souls from another world who fear the sunshine. 

But that Northeast of humans and animals stretching almost 
into El Greco figures is only one side of the Northeast. The 
other Northeast? Older than the first. This time, the Northeast 
of fat trees, deep shadows, sluggish oxen, vigorous folk all but 
puffed up into Sancho Panzas by mill honey, fish cooked with 
manioc mush, wearisome, monotonous work, rotgut rum, half- 
fermented sugarcane juice, cocoa beans, worms, erysipelas or 
“St.Anthony’s fire,” idleness, sicknesses that make a person bloat 
up, the special disease you get from eating dirt. 

And further on: “An oily Northeast, where at night the moon 
seems to drip a fat grease of things and people. ’* - 

As for Pedagogy of the Oppressed, there were criticisms like those 
reported above—pompousness—as well as of what was regarded as 
the unintelligibility of my text—criticisms of a language considered 
all but impossible to understand, a recherché, elitist language that , 
betrayed my “want of respect for the people.” 

*Freyre, Nordeste. 


In remembering some, and rereading others, of these criticisms, 
today, I remember a meeting I had in Washington, DC, in 1972 
with a group of young persons interested in discussing certain topics 
in the book. 

Among them was a black man, of about fifty, who was involved in 
problems of community organization. During the discussions, from 
time to time, after some visible difficulty of understanding on the 
part of one of the young persons, he would speak up in an attempt 
to clarify the point, and always did so very well. 

At the end of the meeting he came up to me with a friendly 
smile, and said: “If some of these youngsters tell you they don't 
understand you because of your English, dont believe them. It’s a 
question of the thinking that’s expressed in your language. Their 
problem is, they dont think dialectically. And they don't yet have 
any actual experience of the hard life led by the sectors of society 
that suffer discrimination.” 

It is also interesting to observe that some of the criticisms, of 
the “hard, snobbish” language of Pedagogy in the English-language 
edition of my book, attributed a certain amount of responsibility to 
Myra Ramas, my friend, and the book’s competent, serious transla- 
tor. Myra worked with a maximum of professional precision, and 
absolute dedication. During the process of translation of the text, 
she would regularly consult with a group of friends. She would call 
them on the phone and say, “Does this sentence make sense to 
your” And she would read the passage she had just translated and 
was having doubts about. Then again, when she had finished part 
of a chapter, she would send a copy of the translation, along with 
the original, to other friends, North Americans who knew Portu- 
guese very well, like theologian Richard Shaull, who wrote the pref- 
ace to the North American edition, and ask them for their opinion 
and suggestions. 

I was consulted by her myself, a number of times, during my 
stint in Cambridge as visiting professor at Harvard. I remember 
her patient inquiry into various hypotheses she had for translating 
“inédito viavel,” one of my metaphors. Finally she selected, “un- 
tested feasibility.” 

Within the limits of my lack of authority in the English language, 
I have to say that I have a very good feeling about Myra’s translation. 


And so, whenever I deal with English-language readers, in seminars, 
in discussions, I have always taken responsibility for the “why” of 
any criticisms they might make of the language of the book. 

I also remember the opinion of the sixteen-year-old son of a black 
woman who was an excellent student of mine at Harvard. I had 
asked him to read Myra’s translation of the first chapter of Pedagogy, 
which had just arrived in New York. The following week, I was 
speaking with her and her son, whom I had asked to read the text. 
“This book,” he said, “was written about me. It’s all about me.” Let 
us even admit that he might have run into one or another word that 
was foreign to his young intellectual experience. Even so, it did. 
not deprive him of an understanding of the whole. His existential 
experience, in a context of discrimination, rendered him sym- 
pathetic to the text from the moment he began to read it. 

Today, after so many words, with Pedagogy translated into count- 
less languages, in which it has practically covered the globe, this 
kind of criticism has significantly diminished. But there is some- 
thing else. 

And that is why I have stayed a bit with this question. 

do not see the legitimacy of a student or teacher closing any 
book, not just Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and simply declaring it 
to be “unreadable” because he or she has not clearly understood 
the meaning of a sentence. And especially, doing so without having 
expended any effort/_without having behaved with the necessary — 
seriousness of someone who does studies. There are many people 
for whom to pause in the reading of a text as soon as difficulties 
arise in an understanding of it, so that the reader should have to 
have recourse to the ordinary work tools—dictionaries, including 
those of philosophy, social sciences, etymology, or synonyms, or 
encyclopedias—is a waste of time. No, on the contrary, the time 
devoted to consulting dictionaries or encyclopedias for an elucida- 
tion of what we are reading is study time, not wasted time. People 
will occasionally just “keep on reading,” hoping that, magically, on 
the next page, the word in question might “come up again’ in a 
context in which they will see what it means without having had to , 
“lock it up.” | 

Reading a text is a more serious, more exacting, enterprise than 
this/ Reading a text is not a careless, sluggish “stroll through the 



words.? Reading a text is learning the relationships among the words 
in the composition of the discourse. It is the task of a critical, hum- 
ble, determined “subject” or agent of learning, the reader. 

Reading, as study, is a difficult, even painful, process at times, 
but always a pleasant one as well. It implies that the reader delve 
deep into the text, in order to learn its most profound meaning. 
The more we do this exercise, in a disciplined way, conquering any 
desire to flee the reading, the more we prepare ourselves for making 
future reading less difficult. 

- Most of all, the reading of a text requires that the one who does 
it be convinced that ideologies will not die. The practical application 
of this principle here means that the ideology with which the text 
is drenched—or the ideology it conceals—is not necessarily that of 
the one who is about to read it. Hence the need for an open, critical, 
radical, and not sectarian, position on the part of the reader, without 
which he or she will be closed to the text/ and prevented from 
learning anything through it because it may argue positions that are 
at odds with those of that reader. At times, ironically, the positions 
are merely different, and not positively antagonistic. 
<a many cases, we have not even read the author. We have read 
bout the author, and without going to him or her, we accept criti- 
isms age him or her. We adopt them as our own. 

Professor Celso Beisiegel, pro-rector for degree candidacy at the 
University of So Paulo, and one of this country’s leading intellectu- 
als, once told me that, on a certain occasion, as he was taking part 
in a group discussion on Brazilian education, he heard from one of 
those present, referring to me, that my works were no longer im- 
portant for the national debate on education. Curious, Beisiegel 
decided to investigate. “What books of Paulo Freire have you stud- 
ied?” he asked. 

Without a moment's hesitation, the young critic replied, “None. 
But I've read about him.” 

It is absolutely fundamental, however, that an author be criticized 
not on the basis of what is said about him or her, but only after an 
earnest, devoted, competent reading of the actual author. Of course, 
this does not mean that we need not read what has been or is being 
said about him or her, as well. 

Finally, the practice of an earnest reading of serious texts ulti- 


mately helps one to learn that reading as study is a broad process, 
requiring time, patience, sensitivity, method, rigor, determination, — 
and passion for knowledge. : 

Without necessarily identifying the authors of particular criti- 
cisms, nor even to the particular chapters of Pedagogy to which the 
objections that I shall now report will refer, I shall extend the pres- 
ent reflection by offering examples of judgments to which I ought 
to respond, or repeat responses I have already made. 

One of these judgments, which is from the 1970s, is one that 
takes me precisely for what I criticize and combat. It takes me for 
arrogant and elitist. It regards me as a “cultural invader,” and there- 
fore as someone disrespectful of the cultural and class identitity of 
the popular classes—the rural and urban workers. At bottom, this 
type of criticism, when made of me, and therefore based on a dis- _ 
torted understanding of conscientizacao and a profoundly naive view — 
of educational practice—as it seeks to regard that practice as a “neu- 
tral” one, “at the service of the well-being of humanity’—is inca- 
pable of perceiving that one of the finest things about this practice 
is precisely that it is impossible to live it without running risks. For. 
example, there is the risk of not being consistent—of saying one 
thing and doing something else. And it is precisely the political 
nature of educational practice, its helplessness to be “neutral,” that 
requires of the educator his or her ethicalness. The task of educator 
would be all too easy were it to be reducible to the imparting of 
content that would not even need to be treated aseptically, and 
aseptically “transmitted,” since, as the content of a neutral science, 
it would already be aseptic. In this case, the educator would have 
no reason, to say the least, to be concerned with being decent, or 
to make an effort to be decent, to be ethical, except with regard to 
his or her training and preparation. The subject or agent of a neutral 
practice would have nothing to do but “transfer knowledge, ” a knowl- 
edge that would be itself neutral. 

' Actually, there is no such thing. There neither is, nor has ever | 
been, an educational practice in zero space—time—neutral in the 
sense of being committed only to preponderantly abstract, intan- | 
gible ideas. )To try to get people to believe that there is such a thing. 
as this, al to convince or try to convince the incautious that this 
is the truth, is indisputably a political practice, whereby an effort 


is made to soften any possible rebelliousness on the part of those 
to whom injustice is being done. It is as political as the other prac- 
tice, which does not conceal—in fact, which proclaims—its own 
political character. 

What especially moves me to be ethical is to know that, inasmuch 
as education of its very nature is directive and political, I must, 
without ever denying my dream or my utopia before the educands, 
respect them. To defend a thesis, a position, a preference, with 
earnestness, defend it rigorously, but passionately, as well, and at 
the same time to stimulate the contrary discourse, and respect the 
right to utter that discourse, is the best way to teach, first, the right 
to have our own ideas, even our duty to “quarrel” for them, for our 
dreams—and not only to learn the syntax of the verb, haver; and 
second, mutual respect) 

Respecting the educands, however, does not mean lying to them 
about my dreams, telling them in words or deeds or practices that 
a school occupies a “sacred” space where one only studies, and 
studying has nothing to do with what goes on in the world outside; 
to hide my options from them, as if it were a “sin” to have a prefer- 
ence, to make an option, to draw the line, to decide, to dream. 
Respecting them means, on the one hand, testifying to them of my 
choice, and defending it; and on the other, it means showing them 
other options, whenever I teach—no matter what it is that I teach! 

And\let it not be said that, if I am a biology teacher, I must not 
“go off into other considerations —that I must only teach biology, 
as if the phenomenon of life could be understood apart from its 
historico-social, cultural, and political framework. \As if life, just life, 
could be lived in the same way, in all of its dimensions, in a favela 
(slum)* or cortigo (“beehive’—slum tenement building)™ as in a 
prosperous area of Sao Paulos “Gardens’!* If I am a biology teacher, 
obviously I must teach biology. But in doing so, I must not cut it 
off from the framework of the whole. 

The same reflection will be in order where literacy is concerned. 
_ Anyone taking a literacy course for adults wants to learn to read and 
write sentences, phrases, words. However, (the reading and writing 
of words comes by way of the reading of the world-} Reading the 
world is an antecedent act vis-a-vis the reading of the word.|The 
teaching of the reading and writing of the word to a person missing 

' 4 y QV + 

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the critical exercise of reading and rereading the world is, scientifi- 
cally, politically, and pedagogically crippled. | 

Is there risk of influencing the students? It is impossible to live, 
let alone exist, without risks. The important thing is to prepare 
ourselves to be able to run them well. 

K Educational practice, whether it be authoritarian or democratic, 
is always directive. | 

However, the moment the educator's “directivity” interferes with 
the creative, formulative, investigative capacity of the educand, then 
the necessary directivity is transformed into manipulation, into au- 
thoritarianism} Manipulation and authoritarianism are practiced by | 
many educators who, as they style themselves progressives, are actu- 
ally taken for such. 

My concern is not to deny the political and directive nature of 
education—a denial that, for that matter, it would be impossible to 
reduce to act—but to accept that this is its nature, and to live a life of 
full consistency between my democratic option and my educational 
practice, which is likewise democratic. 

\My ethical duty, as one of the subjects, one of the agents, of a 
practice that can never be neutral—the educational—is to express . 
my respect for differences in ideas and positions. I must respect — 
even positions opposed to my own, positions that I combat earnestly | 
and with passion) AQROLTES s 

To quibble that such bositidiis do not exist, is neither scientific 
nor ethical. 

To criticize the arrogance, the authoritarianism of intellectuals of 
Left or Right, who are both basically reactionary in an identical 
way—who judge themselves the proprietors of knowledge, the for- 
mer, of revolutionary knowledge, the latter, of conservative knowl- 
edge—to criticize the behavior of university people who claim to 
be able to “conscientize” rural and urban workers without having to 
be “conscientized” by them as well; to criticize an undisguisable air 
of messianism, at bottom naive, on the part of intellectuals who, in 
the name of the liberation of the working classes, impose or seek to 
impose the “superiority” of their academic knowledge on the “rude 
masses’—this I have always done. Of this I speak, and of almost 
nothing else, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. And of this I speak now, , 
with the same insistence, in Pedagogy of Hope. 


One of the substantial differences, however, between myself and 
the authors of these criticisms of me is that, for me, the route to 
the defeat of these practices is in the defeat of an authoritarian, 
elitist ideology. (T he route to the defeat of these practices is in the 
difficult exercise of the virtues of humility, of consistency, of toler- 
ance, on the part of the progressive intellectual—in the exercise of 
a consistency that ever decreases the distance between what we say 
and what we dof 

For them, the critics, the route to the defeat of these practices 
is in the fantasy of a denial of the political nature of education, of 
science, of technology. 

Freire’s theory of learning, it was said, in effect, in the 1970s, is 
subordinate to social and political purposes: and that kind of theory 
is open to the risks of manipulation. As if an educational practice 
were possible in which professors and students could be absolutely 
exempt from the risk of manipulation and its consequences! As if 
the existence of a distant, cold, indifferent educational practice when 
it comes to “social and political purposes” were, or ever had been, 
possible in any space-time! 

What is ethically required of progressive educators is that, consis- 
tent with their democratic dream, they respect the educands, and 
therefore never.manipulate them 

nae ee 

Hence the watchfulness with which progressive educators ought 
to act, the vigilance with which they ought to live their intense 
educational practice: /Hence the need for them to keep their eyes 
always open, along with their ears, and their whole soul—open to 
the pitfalls of the so-called hidden curriculum, Hence the exigency 
they must impose on themselves of growing ever more tolerant, of 
waxing ever more open and forthright, of turning ever more critical, 
of becoming ever more curious.) 

The more tolerant, the more open and forthright, the more 
critical, the more curious and humble they become, the more au- 
thentically they will take up the practice of teaching. In a like per- 
spective—indisputably progressive, much more postmodern, as I 
_ understand postmodernity, than modern, let alone “modernizing’— 
to teach is not the simple transmission of knowledge concerning the 
object or concerning content. Teaching is not a simple transmission, 
wrought by and large through a pure description of the concept of 


the object, to be memorized by students mechanically. Teaching— 
again, from the postmodern progressive viewpoint of which I speak 
here—is not reducible merely to teaching students to learn through 
an operation in which the object of knowledge is the very act of 
learning. Teaching someone to learn is only valid—from this view- 
point, let me repeat-twhen educands learn to learn in learning the 

reason-for, the “why,” of the object or the content.) It is by teaching 

biology, or any other discipline, that the professor teaches the stu- 
dents to learn. 

In a progressive line, then, teaching implies that educands, by 
“penetrating, as it were, the teacher's discourse, appropriate the 
deeper meaning of the content being taught. The act of teaching, 
experienced by the professor, is paralleled, on the part of the edu- 
cands, by their act of knowing that which is taught. 

For their part, teachers teach, in authentic terms, only to the 
extent that they know the content they are teaching—that is, only 
in the measure that they appropriate it, that they learn it, them- 
selves. Here, in teaching, the teacher re-cognizes the object already 
cognized, already known. In other words, she or he remakes her or 
his cognizance in the cognizance of the educands/" Thus, teaching is 
the form taken by the act of cognition that the teacher necessarily 
performs in the quest to know what he or she is teaching in order 

to call forth in the students their act of cognition as well! Therefore, ‘ 

teaching is a creative act, a critical act, and not a mechanical one. 
The curiosity of the teacher and the students, in action, meet on 
the basis of teaching-learning. } 

(one teaching of a content by appropriating it, or the apprehension 
of this content on the part of the educands, requires the creation 
and exercise of a serious intellectual discipline, to be forged from 

preschool onward.| To attempt or claim a critical insertion of edu- | 

cands in an educational situation—which is a situation of cognition— 
without that discipline, is a vain hope. But just as it is impossible 
to teach learning without teaching a certain content through whose 
knowledge one learns to learn, neither is the discipline of which I 
am speaking taught but in and by the cognitive practice of which 
the educands become the ever more critical subjects. 



pline, for an identification of the act of studying, of learning, 

of knowing, of teaching, with pure entertainment—learning 

as a kind of toy or game, without rules or with lax ones. Nor again 

st it be identified with insipid, uninteresting, boring busywork. 

(The act of studying, teaching, learning, knowing, is difficult, and 

especially, it is demanding, but it is pleasant}}as Georges Snyders 

never omits to remind us. * It is crucial, then, that educands discover 

and sense the joy that steeps it, that is part of it, and that is ever 
ready to fill the hearts of all who surrender to it. 

The testimonial role of teachers in the birthing of this discipline 
is enormous. But once it is at hand, their authority, of which their 
competence is a part, discharges an important function.{ Teachers 
who fail to take their teaching practice seriously, who therefore do 
not study, so that they teach poorly, or who teach something they 
know poorly, who do not fight to have the material conditions abso- 
lutely necessary for their teaching practice, deprive themselves of 
the wherewithal to cooperate in the formation of the indispensable 
intellectual discipline of the students. Thus, they disqualify them- 
selves as teachers. 

On the other hand, this discipline cannot emerge from a labor 
accomplished in the students by the teacher; While requiring the 


(, there is no room, in the constitution of this needed disci- 

*Georges Snyders, La joie a l'école (Paris: PUF, 1986). 


effective presence of the teacher—his or her orientation, stimulus, 
authority—that discipline must be built and adopted by the stu- 
dents. | 

I feel led to repeat, by way of emphasizing my position, that a 
democratic practice consistent with my democratic discourse, which 
speaks of my democratic option, does not impose on me a silence 
as to my dreams, (nor does the necessary criticism of what Amilcar 
Cabral* styles “the negativities of culture” make me an “elitist in- 
vader’ of the popular culture. Criticism, and the effort to overcome 
these “negativities,” are not only to be recammended, they are in- 
dispensable. Basically, this has to do with /the passage of knowledge 
from the level of the “knowledge of living experience,” of common 
sense, to the knowledge emerging from more rigorous procedures 
of approach to knowable objects. And to make this shift belongs to 
the} popular classes by right. /Hénce, in the name of respect for the 
culture of the peasants, for example, not to enable them to go beyond 
their beliefs regarding self-in-the-world and_self-with-the-world_ be- 
itist ideology) It is as if revealing the raison 
étre, the why, of things, and to have a complete knowledge of 
things, were or ought to be the privilege of the elite. Suffice it 
for the popular classes to be sani say, “I think its ...” about 
the world. \ 

What is impermissible—I repeat myself, now—is disrespect for 
the knowledge of common sense. What is impermissible is the at- 
tempt ranscend it without starting with it and proceeding by 

of it. 

To challenge educands with regard to their certitudes is a duty 
of the progressive educator) What kind of educator would I be if I 
did not feel moved by a powerful impulse to seek, without lying, 
convincing arguments in defense of the dreams for which I struggle, 
‘in defense of the “why” of the hope with which I act as an educator? 

(What is not permissible to be doing is to conceal truths, deny 
information, impose principles, eviscerate the educands of their 
freedom, or punish them, no matter by what method, if, for various 
reasons, they fail to accept my discourse—reject my utopia.) This 

*Amilcar Cabral, Obras escolhidas, vol. 1, A arma da teoria—unidade e luta 
(Lisbon: Seara Nova, 1976), p. 141. 


would indeed mean I am falling into inconsistency, into the destruc- 
tive sectarianism that I once upon a time severely criticized in Peda- 
gogy of the Oppressed and that I criticize today, in revisiting it, in 
Pedagogy of Hope. 

These considerations bring me to another point, one directly con- 
nected with them, in regard to which I have likewise had to listen 
to “corrections” that, it seems to me, themselves stand in need of 
correction. I refer to the insistence with which, for such a long time 
now, I have argued the need we progressive educators have never 
to underestimate or reject knowledge had from living experience, 
with which educands come to school or to informal centers of educa- 
tion.|Obviously there are differences in the way one must deal with 
this kind of knowledge, if it is a question of one or other of the cases 
cited above. In each of them, however, {to underestimate the wisdom 
that necessarily results from sociocultural experience, is at one and 
the same time a scientific error, and the unequivocal expression of 
_the presence of an elitist ideology.\It may even be the hidden, con- 
cealed, ideological foundation that, on the one hand, blinds a per- 
son to objective reality, and on the other, encourages the nearsight- 
edness of those who reject popular knowledge as having led them 
into scientific error. In the last analysis, it is this “myopia” that, once 
it becomes an ideological obstacle, occasions epistemological error. 

There have been various kinds of negative understanding, and 
therefore criticism, of this defense of popular knowledge, with which 
I have been engaged for so long{The mythification of popular knowl- 
edge, its superexaltation, is as open to challenge as is its rejection. 
As the latter is elitist, so the former is “basist.”"/ 

Still, both basism and elitism, so sectarian in themselves, when 
taken at and in their truth become capable of transcending them- 

One of these ways of criticizing the defense that I have been 
mounting of the knowledge acquired from living experience, criti- 
cisms not infrequently repeated today, to my legitimate astonish- 
ment and dismay, is that which suggests or asserts, basically, that I 
propose that the educator ought to stay spinning in an orbit, along 
with the educands, around their commonsense knowledge, without 
any attempt to get beyond that knowledge. And the criticism of this 
tenor concludes triumphantly by emphasizing the obvious failure of 

cee v 

. big 2 


this naive understanding. And it is attributed to me—this defense 

of a tireless circling around commonsense knowledge. . 

But I have never actually asserted, or so much as insinuated, 
“innocence’ of such proportions. 

What I have said and resaid, untiringly, is that/ “ve must not by- 
pass—spurning it as “good for nothing’—that which educands, be 
they children coming to school for the first time, or young people 
and adults at centers of popular education, bring with them in the 
way of an understanding of the world, in the most varied dimensions 
of their own practice in the social practice of which they are a part. } 
Their speech, their way of counting and calculating, their ideas 
about the so-called other world, their religiousness, their knowledge 
about health, the body, sexuality, life, death, the power of the saints, 3 
magic spells, must all be attaceatt i 

Indeed, this is a basic theme of ethnoscience® today: how to avoid 
a dichotomy between the knowledges, the popular and the erudite, 
or how to understand and experience the dialectic between what 
Snyders* calls “primary culture” and “developed culture.” 

A respect for both knowledges—a respect of which I speak so 
much—with a view to getting beyond them, must never mean, in a 
serious, radical, and therefore critical, never sectarian, rigorous, 
careful, competent reading of my texts, that the educator must stick 
with the knowledge of living experience. 

With progressive education, respect for the knowledge of living 
experience is inserted into the larger horizon against which it is 
generated—the horizon of cultural context, which cannot be under- 
stood apart from its class particularities, and this indeed in societies 
so complex that the characterization of those particularities is less 

to come by. 

(Respect for popular knowledge, then, necessarily implies respect_ 
for cultural context, \Educands concrete localization is the point of “ UM 
departure for the knowledge they create of the world/S"Their” world, © 
in the last analysis, is the primary and inescapable face of theZ Gon 
world itself. Lene 

My concerns with the respect due the local world of the educands °, 
continue, from time to time—to my dismay, again—to generate 

*Snyders, La joie a Uécole. 


criticisms that see me adrift, caught with no means of escape in the 
blind alley of the narrow horizons of localization. Once more, these 
criticisms are the upshot of a poor reading of me—or of the reading 
of texts written about my work by someone who likewise has read 
me poorly, incompetently, or who has not read me. 

I should deserve not only these criticisms, but far more telling 
ones, as well, if, instead of defending educands local context as the 
point of departure for a prolongation of their understanding of the 
world, I were to defend a “focalistic” position: a position in which, 
oblivious of the dialectical nature of reality, I should fail to perceive 
the contradictory relations between partialities and the totality. I 
would thus have fallen into the error we have seen criticized at a 
certain moment of this text by peasants in the figure of the relation- 
ship they cited between salt, as a part, as one of the ingredients, of 
seasoning, and the latter as a totality. 

This has never been what I have done or proposed, at any time 
during my practice as an educator—the practice that has furnished 
me the further undertaking of thinking upon my educational prac- 
tice, from which latter habit of reflection, in turn, has emerged all 
that I have ever written, down to this very day. 

(fo me, it becomes difficult, indeed impossible, to understand 

e interpretation of my respect for the local—the local or the re- 
gional—as a rejection of the universal. For example, I do not 
understand how, in so rightly criticizing positions that “stifle” or 
“suppress the totality implicit in locality—which suppression I call 
“focalism’—some give as an example of that suppression the cate- 
gory of “universal minimal vocabulary” that I use in my general 
concept of literacy training. 

The “universal minimal vocabulary,” of course, emerges from an 
investigation that has to be conducted, and it is on the basis of this 
vocabulary that we set up our literacy programs. Never, however, 
have I said that these programs to be developed on the basis of this 
universal vocabulary ought to remain absolutely bound up with local 
reality. If I had said that, I should not have the understanding of 
language that I have, which is manifest not only in earlier works, 
but in the present essay as well. In fact, I should be incapable of a 
dialectical manner of thinking. 

Without a great deal of commentary, I refer the reader to any 


edition of Educagdo como pratica da liberdade. 1 am thinking of the 
last part of the book, in which I execute an analysis of seventeen 
selected words among those that have created the “universal vocabu- 
lary’ on the basis of research conducted in the State of Rio de 
Janeiro, and applied as well in Guanabara, as Rio was then called.*’ 
A mere reading of these pages, it seems to me, explains the error 
of such a criticism. 

I believe that it is fundamental to have made clear to educands, 
or to keep making clear, this obvious fact: the regional emerges 
from the local just as the national arises from the regional, and 
the continental from the national as the worldwide emerges from _ 
the continental,” on 

Just as it isa mistake to get stuck in the local, losing our vision 

f the whole, so also it is a mistake to waft above the whole, renounc-/ 
any reference to the local whence the whole has emerged:-—~ 

Back in Brazil on a visit in 1979, I declared in an interview that 
my Recifeness explained my Pernambucanity, that the latter clari- 
fied my Northeastness, which in turn shed light on my Brazilianity, 
my Brazilianity elucidated my Latin Americanness, and the latter 
made me a person of the world. 

Ariano Suassuna became a universal writer from a point of depar- 
ture not in the universe, but in Taperua.* 

“A critical analysis on the part of popular groups of their way of 
being in the world of the most immediate everyday, that of their 
particular customary world,” I myself say in Pedagogy in Process: 
The Letters to Guinea-Bissau (1977/1978), page 59, “and the percep- 
tion of the why of the facts given in it, lead us to transcend the 
narrow horizons of the neighborhood or even the immediate geo- 
graphical area, to gain that global view of reality indispensable for 
an understanding of the task of national reconstruction itself.” 

But let us go back a way, to my first book, Educagdo como pratica 
da liberdade, completed in 1965 and published in 1967. On page 
114, in a comment on the process of the creation of codifications, 

I say: 

These situations function as challenges to groups. They are codi- 
fied problem situations, secreting elements that will be decoded 
by groups with the cooperation of the coordinator. A discussion 

of them, like that of those we have from the anthropological 
concept of culture, will lead groups to conscientizagao, and, con- 
comitantly, literacy. 
It is local situations [emphasis in the original], however, that 
open perspectives for an analysis of national (and regional) 

“The written word,” Plato said, “cannot be defended when mis- 
understood. ’* 

I cannot accept responsibility, I must say, for what is said or done 
in my name contrary to what I do and say. It is of no avail, to make 
the furious assertion, as someone once did: “You may not have said 
this, but people who say theyre your disciples did.” Without claim- 
ing, by a long shot, to compare myself to Marx (not because now, 
from time to time, it is said that he is a “has-been,” but on the 
contrary, precisely because, to me, he continues to be, needing only 
to be reseen), I find myself inclined to quote one of his letters— 
the one in which, irritated by inconsistent French “Marxists,” he 
said: “Well, then, all I know is that 'm no Marxist.’ + 

And as long as I have mentioned Marx, let me take the opportu- 
nity to comment on certain self-styled “Marxist” criticisms of me in 
the 1970s. Some of them—as, unfortunately, not infrequently oc- 
curs—failed to take into consideration two fundamental points: (1) 
that I had not died; (2) that I had not yet written Pedagogy of 
the Oppressed—which had years to wait—but only Educacdo como 
pratica da liberdade. Hence the illegitimacy of their extension to a 
whole body of thought a criticism of one moment of that thought. 
Certain criticisms may be valid for one or another text, but without 
foundation if extended to the totality of my work. 

One of these criticisms—apparently, at least, more formal, mecha- 
nistic, than dialectical—expressed amazement that I had made no 
reference to social classes—especially, that I had not asserted that 
“it is the class struggle that moves history.” My critics were sur- 

*Paul Shorey, What Plato Said: A Résume and Analysis of Plato's Writings with 
Synopses and Critical Comment, limited ed. (Chicago: Phoenix Books/University 
of Chicago Press, 1965), p. 158. 

t“Carta de Engels a Schmidt—Londres, 5.8.188,” in Karl Marx, Obras Escogi- 
das (Moscow: Progresso), 2:491. 


prised that, instead of social classes, I had worked with the “vague 
concept of the oppressed.” 

In the first place, it is inconceivable to me that employers and 
workers, rural or urban, could read Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and 
then conclude, the former, that they were laborers, and the latter, 
that they were employers. And this because the vagueness of the 
concept of the oppressed had left them so confused and indecisive 
that employers hesitated as to whether they should or should not 
continue to enjoy the usufruct of their “surplus value” and the work- 
ers as to their right to strike as a fundamental tool in the defense 
of their interests! 

I now recall something I read in 1981, shortly after my return 
from exile, written by a young worker of Sao Paulo in which she_ 
asked—answering her own question:| “Who are the people? Those 
who don't ask who the people are/’} \asuf cies 

However, the first time I read One of these criticisms, I sat down 
for several hours and reread my book, counting the times when, 
throughout, I had spoken of social classes. Not infrequently, on the 
same page, I had spoken of social classes two or three times. Only, 
I had spoken of social classes not as a cliché, or in fear of a possible 
inspector or ideological censor who might be spying on me and 
would possibly even call me to account. The authors of such criti- 
cisms, generally speaking, although they do not always make this 
explicit, are in the main uncomfortable with certain particular 
points, such as: the vagueness of the concept of the oppressed, which 
I have already mentioned, or of the people; the assertion I make 
in the book that the oppressed, in gaining liberation, liberate the 
oppressor; not to have declared, as I have already indicated, that 
the class struggle is the impulse of history; ithe treatment I accorded 
the individual, refusing to reduce him or her to a pure reflex of 
socioeconomic structures;/the treatment I accorded awareness and 
consciousness, the importance of subjectivity; the role of “consci- 
entization” or consciousness-raising that, in Pedagogy of the Op- 
pressed, transcends, in terms of criticalness, that attributed to it in 
Educacdo como pratica da liberdade; the assertion that the “adhe- 
sion” to reality in which the great peasant masses of Latin America 
find themselves dictates that the consciousness of oppressed class 


must pass, if not antecedently, then at least concomitantly, by way 
of the awareness of oppressed person. 

Never were all of these points raised at the same time. Rather, 
one or other of them was brought up in criticisms either written, or 
verbal (in seminars and discussions), in Europe, the United States, 
Australia, Latin America. 

Yesterday as today, I spoke of social classes with the same indepen- 
dence and consciousness of being right. It may even be, however, 
that many of those who demanded of me in the 1970s that I con- 
stantly explicate the concept, today require the very opposite: that 
I retract the two dozen times I employed it, because “there are no 
longer any social classes, nor therefore any class conflict.” Hence 
the fact that these critics now prefer, to the language of the possible, 
which holds fast to utopia as a possible dream, the neoliberal, “prag- 
matic’ discourse, according to which we must “accommodate” to the 
facts as given—as if they could be given in no other way, as if we 
had no duty to fight, precisely because we are persons, to have them 
given differently. 

ai have never labored under the misapprehension that social classes 
and the struggle between them could explain everything, right 
down to the color of the sky on a Tuesday evening? And so I have 
never said that the class struggle, in the modern world, has been or 
is “the mover of history.” On the other hand, still today, and possibly 
for a long time to come, it is impossible to understand history with- 
out social classes, without their interests in collision. 

The class struggle is not the mover of history, but is certainly one 
of them. —- Acker ledacac tet Codon y 

As someone dissatisfied with the world of injustice that is here— 
someone to whom the “pragmatic” discourse recommends I simply 
adapt—I must, surely, today, just as I did yesterday, be alert to the 
relationship between tactics and strategy. It is one thing to call on 
activists who keep on striving for a world less ugly, to attend to 
the need that, first, their tactics not contradict their strategy, their 
objectives, their dream; second, that their tactics, qua route to the 
realization of the strategic dream, be, be done, be realized, in con- 
crete history, and therefore that they change; and it is another thing 
simply to say that all you have to do is dream(_ Dreaming is not only 
a necessary political act, it is an integral oe of the historico-social 


manner of being a person. It is part of human nature, which, within 
history, is in permanent process of becoming. } 
7 In our making and remaking of ourselves in the process of making 
istory—as subjects and objects, persons, becoming beings of inser- 
tion in the world and not of pure adaptation to the world—we should 
end by having the dream, too, a mover of history. There is no change 
without dream, as there is no dream without hope. / 
hus, I keep insisting, ever since Pedagogy of the Oppressed:., , 
fier is no authentic utopia apart from the tension between the) 
nunciation of a present becoming more and more intolerable, and 
the “annunciation,” announcement, of a future to be created, built— , Yu) ft, 
politically, esthetically, and ethically—by us women and men/ Uto- , Keo, 
pia implies this denunciation and proclamation, but it does not per- 
mit the tension between the die away with the production of 
_ the future previously announced!) Now the erstwhile future is a new | 
‘present, and a new dream experience is forged. History does not 

~ \“ become immobilized, does not die. On the contrary, it goes on. 

The understanding of history as opportunity and not determin- ~ 
ism, the conception of history operative in this book, would be unin- 
telligible without the dream, just as the deterministic conception 
feels uncomfortable, in its incompatibility with this understanding 
and therefore denies it. 

Thus it comes about that, in the former conception the historical 
role of subjectivity is relevant, while in the latter it is minimized or 
denied. Hence, in the first, education, while not regarded as able 
to accomplish all things, is acknowledged as important, since it can 
do something; while in the second it is belittled. 

(Indeed, es mec ae eccerren ee 
whether this be as the pure, mechanical repetition of the present, 
or simply because it “is what it has to be’—there is no room for 
utopia, nor therefore for the dream, the option, the decision, or 
expectancy in the struggle, which is the only way hope exists. There 
is no room for education. Only for training.) 

As project, as design for a different, less-ugly “world,” the dream 
is as necessary to political subjects, transformers of the world and 
not adapters to it, aa—may I be permitted the repetition—it is fun- 
damental for an artisan, who projects in her or his brain what she 
or he is going to execute even before the execution thereof. 


(This is why, from the viewpoint of dominant class interests, the 
Ae the dominated dream the dream of which I speak, in the confi- 
dent way of which I speak, and the less they. practice the political 
apprenticeship of committing themselves to a utopia, the more open 
they will become to “pragmatic” discourses, and the sounder the 
dominant classes will sleep. 

The modernity of some of the sectors of the dominant classes, 
whose position is very far advanced over the posture of the old, 
retrograde leadership of the “captains of industry of yesteryear, 
cannot, nopsyes change its spots. It remains a class position. 

And yet\this does not mean, to my view, that the working classes 
ought to close themselves off, in sectarian fashion, from the broaden- 
ing of democratic spaces that can result from a new _kind of relation- 
ship between themselves and the dominant classes. |The important 
thing is that the working classes continue to learn, in the very prac- 
tice of their struggle, to set limits to their concessions—in other 
words, that they teach the dominant classes the limits within which 
they themselves may move. } 

Finally, relationships between classes are a political fact, which 
generates a class knowledge, and that class knowledge has the most 
urgent need of lucidity and discernment when choosing the best 
tactics to be used. Those tactics vary in concrete history, but must 
be in consonance with strategic objectives. 

This is surely not learned in special courses. It is learned and 
taught precisely at the historical moment at which necessity imposes 
on social classes the necessary quest for a better relationship be- 
tween them in dealing with their antagonistic interests. At such 
historical moments, such as the one in which we are living today, 
in our country and abroad, it is reality itself that cries out, warning 
social classes of the urgency of new forms of encounter for the secur- 
ing of solutions that cannot wait for tomorrow. The practice of setting 
up these new encounters, or the history of this practice, this at- 
tempt, can be studied by labor leaders, not only in courses of the 
history of workers struggles, but also in practical theory courses, 
later, of training for labor leaders. This is what we are experiencing 
today, in the maelstrom of the fearful crisis we are fighting, in which 
there have been high moments in discussions between dominant 
and laboring classes. Hence, however, to say that we are living an- 


other history now, a new history in which social classes are disap- 
pearing and their conflicts along with them; to say that socialism 
lies pulverized in the rubble of the Berlin Wall, is something in 
which I, for my part, do not believe. 

The neoliberal discourses, with all their talk of “modernity,” do 
not have the social classes and decree the 

nonexistence of antagonistic interests between them, nor Romo! they 
have the DOREY de omay sith the coniets and arcaslo between 
them. Any appearances to the contrary are to be explained by the 
fact that struggle is a historical category, and therefore has historic- 
ity. It changes from space-time to space-time. Struggle does not 
rule out the possibility of pacts and understandings, of adjustments 
between parties in discord. Pacts and understandings are them- 
selves part of the struggle. 

There are historical moments at which the survival of the social 
whole imposes on the classes a need to understand one another— 
which does not mean, let us repeat, experiencing a new historical 
time devoid of social classes and their conflicts. A new historical 
time, yes, but a time in which the social classes continue to exist 
and to fight for their respective interests. 

Instead of simple “pragmatic” accommodation, labor leaders are 
under the necessity of creating certain qualities or virtues without 
which, more and more, it is becoming difficult for them to strive 
for their rights. 

The assertion that an “ideological discourse” is a kind of natural 
clumsiness on the part of the Left, which insists on holding one 
when there are no ideologies anymore, and when, it is said, no one 
any longer wishes to hear an ideological discourse, is itself a cunning 
ideological discourse on the part of the dominant classes. What we 
have gotten over is not the ideological discourse, but the “fanatical,” 
or inconsistent, discourse, which merely repeats clichés that never 
should have been pronounced in the first place. What is becoming 
less and less viable, fortunately, is verbal incontinence—discourse 
that loses itself in a tiresome rhetoric bereft of so much as sonority | 
and rhythm. a 

Any progressive, who, all afire, insists on this practice—at times 
in a tremulous voice—will be contributing little or nothing to the 


political advance of which we have need. But, then, to up and pro- 
claim the era of the “neutral discourse’? Hardly. 
I feel utterly at peace with the interpretation that the wane of 
“realistic socialism” does not mean, on one side, that socialism has 
~ shown itself to be intrinsically inviable; on the other, that capitalism 
has now stepped forward in its excellence once and for all. 
What excellence is this, that manages to “coexist with more than 
a billion inhabitants of the developing world who live in poverty, * 
not to say misery? Not to mention the all but indifference with 
which it coexists with “pockets of poverty’ and misery in its own, 
developed body. What excellence is this, that sleeps in peace while 
numberless men and women make their home in the street, and 
says it is their own fault that they are on the street? What excellence 
is this, that struggles so little, if it struggles at all, with discrimina- 
tion for reason of sex, class, or race, as if to reject someone different, 
humiliate her, offend him, hold her in contempt, exploit her, were 
the right of individuals, or classes, or races, or one sex, that holds a 
position of power over another? What excellence is this, that tepidly 
registers the millions of children who come into the world and do 
not remain, or not for long, or if they are more resistant, manage 
; to stay a while, then take their leave of the world? 

Some 30 million children under five years of age die every year 
of causes that would not normally be fatal in developed countries. 
Some 110 million children throughout the world (almost 20 per- 
cent of the age group) fail to complete their primary education. 
More than 90 percent of these children live in low and medium- 
low income countries. + 

On the other hand, UNICEF states: 

If current tendencies are maintained, more than 100 million 
children will die of disease and malnutrition in the decade of 
the 1990s. The causes of these deaths can be counted on one’s 
fingers. Nearly all will die of diseases that were rather fami- 

*See Relatério sobre 0 Desenvolvimento Mundial, 1990, published for World 
Bank by Fundacdo Getitlio Vargas. 
tWorld Development Report, 1990, p. 76. 


liar in other times in the industrialized nations. They will die 
parched with dehydration, suffocated by pneumonia, infected 
with tetanus or measles, or suffocated by whooping cough. These 
five very common diseases, all relatively easy and inexpensive 
to prevent or treat, will be responsible for more than two-thirds 
of infant deaths, and more than half of all infantile malnutrition, 
in the next decade. 

The UNICEF report goes on to say: 

To put the problem in a global perspective: The additional costs, 
including a program to avoid the great majority of the deaths 
and infantile undernourishment in the coming years, ought to 
reach approximately 2.5 billion dollars a year by the end of the 
1990s—about the same amount of money as American compa- 
nies spend annually for cigarette advertising. * 

Simply astounding. 

What excellence is this, that, in the Brazilian Northeast, coexists 
with a degree of misery that could only have been thought a piece 
of fiction: little boys and girls, women and men, vying with starving 
pups, tragically, like animals, for the garbage of the great trash heaps 
outlying the cities, to eat? Nor is Sao Paulo itself exempt from the 
experience of this wretchedness. 

What excellence is this, that seems blind to little children with 
distended bellies, eaten up by worms, toothless women looking like 
old crones at thirty, wasted men, skinny, stooped populations? Fifty- 
two percent of the population of Recife live in slums, in bad weather, 
an easy prey for diseases that effortlessly crush their enfeebled bod- 
ies. What excellence is this, that strikes a pact with the cold- 
blooded, cowardly murder of landless men and women of the coun- 
tryside simply because they fight for their right to their word and 
their labor, while they remain bound to the land and despoiled of 
their fields by the dominant classes? 

What excellence is this, that gazes with serene regard upon the 
extermination of little girls and boys in the great Brazilian urban 

*UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), Situagéo mundial da infancia, 
1990, p. 16. 


centers—that “forbids” 8 million children of the popular classes to 
go to school, that “expels” from the schools a great number of those 
who manage to get in—and that calls all this “capitalistic modernity. ” 

To me, on the contrary, the element of failure in the experience 
of “realistic socialism,” by and large, was not its soci am, but 
“its authoritarian mold—which contradicted it, and of aan Marx 
and Lenin are also guilty, and not just Stalin—just as what is positive 
in the capitalist experience has never been the capitalist system, 
but its democratic mold. 

In this sense, as well, the crumbling away of the authoritarian 
socialist world—which, in many aspects, is a kind of ode to freedom, 
and which leaves so many minds, previously calm and contained, 
stupefied, thunderstruck, disconcerted, lost—offers us the extraor- 
dinary, if challenging, opportunity to continue dreaming and 
fighting for the socialist dream, purified of its authoritarian_distor- 
tions, its totalitarian repulsiveness, its sectarian blindness//T his is 
why I personally look forward to a time when it will become even 
easier to wage the democratic struggle against the wickedness of 
capitalism) What is becoming needful, among other things, is that 
Marxists get over their smug certainty that they are modern, adopt 
an attitude of humility in dealing with the popular classes, and be- 
come postmodernly less smug and less certain—progressively post- 

Let us briefly turn to other points already mentioned. 

Inasmuch as the violence of the oppressors makes of the op- 
pressed persons forbidden to be, the response of the latter to 
the violence of the former is found infused with a yearning to 

f Oppressors, wreaking violence upon others, and forbidding 
them to be, are likewise unable to be. In withdrawing from them 
| the power to oppress and crush, the oppressed, struggling to be, 
restore to them the humanity lost in the use of oppression. 
This is why only the oppressed, by achieving their liberation, 
can liberate the oppressors. The latter, as oppressing class [em- 
phasis in the original], can neither liberate nor be liberated. * 

The first observation I might make on the quotation from these 

*Paulo Freire, Pedagogia do oprimido, p.43. 


pages of Pedagogy of the Oppressed is that these pages are among 
those in which I make it very clear of whom I am speaking when I 
speak of oppressor and oppressed. 

Ultimately, or perhaps I might say, in the overall context, not only 
of the passage cited, but of the whole book (could it have been 
otherwise?), a particular anthropology is implicit (when not clear 
and explicit)—a certain understanding or view of human beings as 
managing their nature in their own history, of which they become 
necessarily both subject and object. This is precisely one of the 
connotations of that nature, constituted socially and historically, 
which not only founds the assertion made in the passage quoted, 
but in which are rooted, consistently, I feel confident, the positions 
on political pedagogy that I have argued over the course of the years. _ 

/ I cannot understand human beings as simply living. I can under- 
stand them only as historically, culturally, and socially existing. I can 
understand them only as beings who are makers of their “way,” in 
the making of which they lay themselves open to or commit them- 
selves to the “way” that they make and that therefore remakes them , | 
as welll 

Unlike the other animals, which do not become able to transform 
life into existence, we, as existent, outfit ourselves to engage in the 
struggle in quest of and in defense of equality of opportunity, by 
the very fact that, as living beings, we are radically different from 
one another. 

We are all different, and the manner in which living beings 

reproduce is programmed for what we are to be. This is why the 

human being eventually has need of fashioning the concept of 

equality. Were we all identical, like a population of bacteria, the 
otion of equality would be pertectly useless 

(The great leap that we learn to take has been to work not precisely 
on the innate, nor only on the acquired, but on the relationship 
between the two. 

“The fashioning of an individual,” says Francois Jacob, in the same 
passage, “from the physical, intellectual, moral viewpoint, corre- 

*Francois Jacob, “Nous sommes programmes, mais pour apprendre,” Le Cour- 
rier (UNESCO, February 1991). 


sponds to an ongoing interaction between the innate and the ac- 

We become capable of imaginatively, curiously, “stepping back” 
from ourselves—from the life we lead—and of disposing ourselves 
to “know about it.” The moment came when we not only lived, but 
began to know that we were living—hence it was possible for us to 
know that we know, and therefore to know that we could do more. 
What we cannot do, as imaginative, curious beings, is to cease to 
learn and to seek, to investigate the “why” of things. We cannot 
exist without wondering about tomorrow, about what is “going on, ” 
and going on in favor of what, against what, for whom, against whom. 
We cannot exist without wondering about how to do the concrete 
or “untested feasible” that requires us to fight for it. 

Why? Because this is the being we are “programmed,” but not 
determined, to be. “None of the programs, indeed, is completely 
rigid. Each defines the structures, which are only potentialities, 
probabilities, tendencies. Genes determine only the constitution of 
the individual,” so that “hereditary structures and the learning pro- 
cess are found to be strictly interconnected. * 

It is because we are this being—a being of ongoing, curious 
search, which “steps back” from itself and from the life it leads—it 
is because we are this being, given to adventure and the “passion 
to know,” for which that freedom becomes indispensable that, consti- 
tuted in the very struggle for itself, is possible only because, though 
we are “programmed, we are nevertheless not determined./ It is 
because this is “the way we are” that we live the life of a vocation, 
a calling, to humanization, and that in dehumanization, which is a 
concrete fact in history, we live the life of a distortion of the call— 
never another calling. Neither one, humanization or dehumaniza- 
tion, is sure destiny, given datum, lot, or fate. This is precisely why 
the one is calling, and the other, distortion of the calling. 

It is important to emphasize that, in speaking of “being more,” 
or of humanization as ontological vocation of the human being, I am 
not falling into any fundamentalistic position—which, incidentally, 
is always conservative. Hence my equally heavy emphasis on the 
fact that this “vocation,” this calling, rather than being anything a 

*Jacob, “Nous sommes programmes.” 


priori in history, on the contrary is something constituted in history. 
On the other hand, the striving for it, and the means of accomplish- 
ing it—which are also historical, besides varying from space-time to 
space—time—require, indisputably, the adoption of a utopia. Utopia, 
however, would not be possible if it lacked the taste for freedom 
that permeates the vocation to humanization. Or if it lacked hope, 
without which we do not struggle. 

if he dream of humanization, whose concretization is always a 
process, and always a becoming, passes by way of breach with the 
real, concrete economic, political, social, ideological, and so on, or- 
der, moorings that are condemning us to dehumanization./Thus the 
dream is a demand or condition that becomes ongoing in the history 
that we make and that makes and remakes us. 

Not being an a priori of history, human nature, which on the 
contrary is constituted in history, has one of its implications in the 
vocation or calling to which we have referred. 

This is why the oppressor is dehumanized in dehumanizing the” 
oppressed. No matter that the oppressor eat well, be well regarded, 
or sleep well. It would be impossible to dehumanize without being 
dehumanized—so deep are the social roots of the calling //1 am not, 
I do not be, unless you are, unless you be. Above all, I am not if I 
forbid you to be. - 

[This is why, as an individual and as a class, the oppressor can 
neither liberate nor be liberated) This is why, through self-libera- 
tion, in and through the needed, just struggle, the oppressed, as an 
individual and as a class, liberates the oppressor, by the simple fact 
of forbidding him or her to keep on oppressing. 

However, liberation and oppression are not inextricably in- 
termeshed in history. Just so, human nature, as it generates itself 
in history, does not contain, as part and parcel of itself, being more, 
does not contain humanization, except as the vocation whose con- 
trary is distortion in history. 

The political practice based on a mechanistic and deterministic 
conception of history will never contribute to the lessening of the 
risks of men and women’s dehumanization. 

Throughout history, we men and women become special animals 
indeed, then. We invent the opportunity of setting ourselves free to 
the extent that we become able to perceive as unconcluded, limited, 


conditioned, historical beings. Especially, we invent the opportunity 
of setting ourselves free by perceiving, as well, that the sheer per- 
ception of inconclusion, limitation, opportunity, is not enough. To 
the perception must be joined the political struggle for the transfor- 
mation of the world. The liberation of individuals acquires profound 
meaning only when the transformation of society is achieved. 

The dream becomes a need, a necessity. }/ 

And, on this subject, another point that has generated criticism 
has been precisely the role I ascribe, and continue to ascribe, to 
subjectivity in the process of the transformation of reality, or to the 
relationship between undichotomizable subjectivity and objectivity, 
between awareness and the world. 

Beginning with the publication of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, not 
infrequent have been the times I have written or spoken of this 
matter, sometimes in interviews, sometimes in periodicals, some- 
times in essays, in seminars. It will do no harm, however, to take 
up the matter again now and discuss it anew, at least briefly. 

In fact, I have no doubt that this subject, which is always present 
in philosophical reflection, is not only still a current one, but a 
crucial one, as well, as the century closes. It continues to be an 
object of philosophical reflection, which reflection is necessarily ex- 
tended to the fields of epistemology, politics, ideology, language, 
pedagogy, and modern physics. 

e have to recognize, in a first approach to the subject, how 
difficult it is for us to “walk the streets of history’—regardless of 
whether we “step back” from practice in order to theorize it, or are 
engaged in it-++succumbing to the temptation either to overestimate 
our objectivity and reduce consciousness to it, or to discern or 
understand consciousness as the almighty maker and arbitrary re- 
maker of the world. 

Subjectivism or mechanistic objectivism are both antidilectical, 
and thereby incapable of apprehending the permanent tension be- 
tween consciousness and the world. 

It is only in a dialectical perspective that we can grasp the role 
of consciousness in history, disentangled from any distortion that 
either exaggerates its importance or cancels, rejects it. 

Thus, the dialectical view indicates to us the importance of re- 
jecting as false, for example, a comprehension of awareness as pure 


reflex of material objectivity, but at the same time the importance 
of rejecting an understanding of awareness that would confer upon 
it a determining power over concrete reality. 

In like fashion, the dialectical view indicates to us the incompati- 
bility between it and an inevitable tomorrow, an idea that I have 
criticized before, in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and that I now 
criticize in this essay. The dialectical view is incompatible with the 
notion that tomorrow is the pure repetition of today, or that tomor- 
row is something “predated,” or as I have called it, a given datum, 
a “given given.” This “tamed” or domesticated view of the future, 
shared by reactionaries and “revolutionaries” alike—naturally, each 
in their own way—posits, in the mind of the former, the future as a 
repetition of the present (which of course must undergo “adverbial” 
changes), and in the mind of the second, the future as “inexorable 
progress.”* Both of these views or visions imply a fatalistic “intelli- 
gence’ (in the sense of an interpretative “understanding,” an “inner 
reading’) of history in which there is no room for authentic hope. 

The idea of the inexorability of a history that will necessarily 
come in a predetermined manner constitutes what I call “liberation 
fatalism” or “fatalistic liberation’—a liberation to come as a kind of 
gift or donation of history: the liberation that will come because it 
has been said that it will come. 

‘In the dialectical perception, the future of which we dream is not 
inexorable. We have to make it, produce it, else it will not come in 
the form that we would more or less wish it to, True, of course, we 
have to make it not arbitrarialy, but with the materials, with the 
concrete reality, of which we dispose, and more as a project, a dream, 
for which we struggle. 

While for dogmatic, mechanistic positions, the consciousness that 
I call critical takes shape as a kind of epiphenomenon, a ‘spin-off’ — 
an automatic, mechanical result of structural changes—Cfor dialectic, 
the importance of consciousness is in the fact that, not being the 
maker of reality, neither is it, at the opposite pole, a pure reflex of 
reality. It is precisely on this point that something of basic impor- 
tance turns—the basic importance of education §s act of cognition 

*Erica Sherover Marcuse, Emancipation and Consciousness: Dogmatic and Dia- 
lectical Perspectives in the Early Marx (New York: Basil Blackwell, Ltd., 1986). 


not only of the content, but of the “why” of economic, social, politi- 
cal, ideological, and historical facts, which explain the greater or 
lesser degree of “interdict of the body,”*’ our conscious body, under 
which we find ourselves placed. 

In the 1950s, perhaps more by way of an intuition of the phe- 
nomenon than as a critical understanding of the same, at which 
understanding I was then arriving, I asserted, in the university dis- 
sertation to which I have referred in this book, and I repeated later 
in Educacéo como pratica da liberdade, that, while the advance 
from what I called “semi-intransitive awareness’ to “transitive-naive 
awareness is automatically at hand, on the strength of infrastruc- 
tural transformations, the more important passage—that from “naive 
transitivity’ to “critical transitivity —comes only through serious 
educational efforts bent to this end.* 

To be sure, my experiences with SESI, with which I coupled 
memories of my childhood and adolescence in Jabotéo, helped me 
to understand, even before my theoretical readings on the subject, 
the relations prevailing between awareness and world as tending to 
be dynamic, never mechanistic. I could not avoid, of course, the 
risks to which I have referred—those of mechanism and of idealistic 
subjectivism—in discussing those relations, and I acknowledge my 
slips in the direction of an overemphasis on awareness. 

In 1974, in Geneva, Ivan Illich and I presided at a conference 
under the patronage of the Department of Education of the World 
Council of Churches, in which we took up once more the concepts 
of “descholarization’” (Illich) and conscientizagdo (I). I wrote a little 
document for the conference, from which I am now going to quote 
an extended passage instead of simply referring the reader to it. (It 
originally appeared in the WCC periodical RISK, in 1975).+ 

. . . Although there can be no consciousness-raising (conscienti- 
za¢ao) without the unveiling, the revelation, of objective reality 
as the object of the cognition of the subjects involved in process 

*Paulo Freire, Educagao como prédtica da liberdade (Rio de Janeiro: Paz e 
Terra, 1969). 

tIn Brazil, it appears in Agdo cultural para a liberdade e outros escritos (Rio de 
Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1976). In the United States, it appears under the title, The 
Politics of Education (Massachusetts: Bergin and Garvey, 1986). 


of consciousness-raising, nevertheless that revelation—even 
granting that a new perception flow from the fact of a reality 
laying itself bare—is not yet enough to render the consciousness- 
raising authentic. Just as the gnoseological circle does not end 
with the step of the acquisition of existing knowledge, but pro- 
ceeds to the phase of the creation of new knowledge, so neither 
may consciousness-raising come to a halt at the stage of the 
revelation of reality. Its authenticity is at hand only when the 
practice of the revelation of reality constitutes a dynamic and 
dialectical unity with the practice of transformation of reality. 

I think that certain observations can and should be made on the 
basis of these reflections. One of them is a criticism I make of 
myself, and it is that, in Educagdo como prética da liberadade, 
in considering the process of consciousness-raising, I took the 
moment of the revelation of social reality as if it were a kind of 
psychological motivator of the transformation of that reality. My 
mistake, obviously, was not in recognizing the basic importance 
of the cognition of reality in the process of its transformation; 
rather my mistake consisted in not having addressed these 
poles—knowledge of reality and transformation of reality—in 
their dialecticity. I had spoken as if the unveiling of reality auto- 
matically made for its transformation. * 

*Paulo Freire, Acdo cultural para a liberdade e outros escritos (Rio de Janeiro: 
Paz e Terra, 1987). 


f my position at the time had been mechanistic, I would not 

even have spoken of the raising of consciousness, of conscienti- 

zacdo. | spoke of conscientizagéo because, even with my slips 
in the direction of idealism, my tendency was to review and revise 
promptly, and thus, adopting a consistency with the practice I had, 
to perceive that practice as steeped in the dialectical movement 
back and forth between consciousness and world. 

In an antidialectically mechanistic position, I would have rejected, 
like all mechanists, the need for conscientizacdo and education be- 
fore a radical change in the material conditions of society can occur. 

Neither, as I have asserted above, is an antidialectical perspective 
compatible with an understanding of critical awareness other than 
as an epiphenomenon—‘as a result of social changes, not as a factor 
of the same” (Erica Marcuse, 1986). 

It is interesting to observe that, for the idealistic, nondialectical 
comprehension of the relationship between awareness and world, 
one can still speak of conscientizagdo as an instrument for changing 
the world, provided this change be realized only in the interiority 
of awareness, with the world itself left untouched. Thus, conscienti- 
za¢gao would produce nothing but verbiage. 

From the viewpoint of a mechanistic dogmatism, there is no point 
in speaking of conscientizagao at all. Hence the dogmatic, authori- 
tarian leaderships have no reason to engage in dialogue with the 
popular classes. They need only tell them what they should do. 

(Mechanistically or idealistically, it is impossible to understand 


what occurs in the relations prevailing between oppressors and op- 
pressed, whether as individuals or as social classes. 

YOnly in a dialectical understanding, let us repeat, of how aware- 
ness and the world are given, is it possible to comprehend the 
phenomenon of the introjection of the oppressor by the oppressed, 
the latter's “adherence” to the former, the difficulty that the op- 
pressed have in localizing the oppressor outside pcs’ 

Once again the moment comes to mind when, twenty-five years 
ago, I heard from Erich Fromm, in his house in Cuernavaca, his 
blue eyes flashing: “An educational practice like that is a kind of 
historico-sociocultural and political psychoanalysis.” 

This is what dogmatic, authoritarian, sectarian mechanists fail to 
perceive, and nearly always reject as “idealism.” 

Af the great popular masses are without a more critical under- 

Pein, of how society functions, it is not because they are naturally 
incapable of it—to my view—but on account of the precarious condi- 
tions in which they live and survive, where they are “forbidden to 

know.7 Thus, the way out is not ideological propaganda and political 

“sloganizing,” as the mechanists say it is, but the critical effort 
through which men and women take themselves in hand and be- 
come agents of curiosity, become investigators, become subjects in 
an ongoing process of quest for the revelation of the “why” of things 
and facts. Hence, in the area of adult literacy, for example, I have 
long found myself insisting on what I call a “reading of the world 
and reading of the word.” Not a reading of the word alone, nor a 
reading only of the world, but both together, in dialectical solidarity. 

It is precisely a “reading of the world” that enables its subject or 
agent to decipher, more and more critically, the “limit situation” or 
situations beyond which they find only “untested feasibility.” 

I must make it clear, however, that, consistently with the dialecti- 
cal position in which I place myself, in terms of which I perceive 
the relations among world-consciousness-practice-theory-reading- 
of-the-world-reading-of-the-word-context-text, the reading of the 
world cannot be the reading made by academicians and imposed on 
the popular classes. Nor can such a reading be reduced to a compla- 
cent exercise by educators in which, in token of respect for popular 

*See, among others, Sartre, Fanon, Memmi, and Freire. 



culture, they fall silent before the “knowledge of living experience” 
and adapt themselves to it. 

The dialectical, democratic position implies, on the contrary, the 
‘nfaailadion of the intellectual as an indispensable condition of his 
or her task. ‘Nor do I see any betrayal of democracy here/ Democracy 
is betrayed when contradicted by authoritarian attitudes and prac- 
tices, as well as by spontaneous, irresponsibly permissive attitudes 
and practices. \ 

It is in thisense that I insist once more on the imperative need 
of the progressive educator to familiarize herself or himself with the 
syntax and semantics of the popular groups—to understand how 
those persons do their reading of the world, to perceive that “crafti- 
ness of theirs so indispensable to the culture of a resistance that 
is in the process of formation, without which they cannot defend 
themselves from the violence to which they are subjected. 

Educators need an understanding of the meaning their festivals 
have as an integral part of the culture of resistance, a respectful 
sense of their piety in a dialectical perspective, and not only as if 
it were a simple expression of their alienation. Their piety, their 
religiousness, must be respected as their right, regardless of 
whether we reject it personally (and if so, whether we reject religion 
as such, or merely do not approve the particular manner of its prac- 
tice in a given popular group). 

In a recent conversation with Brazilian sociologist Professor 
Otavio Ianni, of UNICAMP, I received a report from him of some 
of his encounters with young activists of the Left, one of them in 
prison, in Recife, in 1963. Ianni not only made no effort to hide his ° 
emotion at what he had seen and heard, but approved and endorsed 
the way these militants respected popular culture, and within that 
culture, the manifestations of their religious beliefs. 

“What do you need,” Ianni asked the young prisoner. 

“A Bible,” he answered. 

“I thought youd want Lenin’s Que fazer? (What is to be done?),” 
said Ianni. 

“I dont need Lenin just now. I need the Bible. I need a better 
understanding of the peasants mystical universe. Without that un- 
derstanding, how can I communicate with them?” 

Besides the democratic, ethical duty to proceed in this way, in- 


cumbent on the progressive educator, such a procedure is also de- 
manded by requirements in the field of communication, as the 
young person in Recife had discerned. 

Unless educators expose themselves to the popular culture across 

e board, their discourse will hardly be heard by anyone but them- 
selves) Not only will it be lost, and inoperative, it may actually 
reinforce popular dependency, by underscoring the much-vaunted 
“linguistic superiority” of the popular classes. | 

It is once more against the background of a dialectical comprehen- 
sion of the relationship between world and awareness, between eco- 
nomic production and cultural production, that it seems valid to me 
to call progressive educators attention to the contradictory move- 
ment between culture's “negativities’ and “positivities.” There can 
be no doubt, for example, that our slavocratic past*® marks us as a 
whole still today. It cuts across the social classes, dominant and 
dominated alike. Both have worldviews and practices significantly 
indicative of that past, which thereby continues ever to be ‘present. 
But our slavocratic past is not evinced exclusively in the almighty 
lord who orders and threatens and the humiliated slave who “obeys” 
in order to stay alive. It is also revealed in the relationship between 
the two. It is precisely by obeying in order to stay alive that the 
slave eventually discovers that “obeying,” in this case, is a form of 
struggle. After all, by adopting such behavior, the slave survives. 
And it is from learning experience to learning experience that a 
culture of resistance is gradually founded, full of “wiles,” but full of 
dreams, as well Fall of rebellion, amidst apparent accommodation. 

The quilombos*!—the hiding places used by runaway slaves— 
constituted an exemplary moment in that learning process of rebel- 
lion—of a reinvention of life on the part of slaves who took their 
existence and history in hand, and, starting with the necessary “obe- 
dience,” set out in quest of the invention of freedom. 

In a recent public discussion entitled, “Presence of the People in 
the National Culture,” in which I participated, along with the Brazil- 
ian sociologist I have already mentioned, Otdvio Ianni, the latter, 
referring to this slavocratic past of ours and the marks it has left on 
our society, brought out its positive signs as well—the slaves resis- 
tance, their rebellion. He spoke of the corresponding struggles, 
today, of the “landless,” the “homeless,” the “schoolless,” the “food- 


less,” the “jobless,” as current kinds of quilombos, or “under- 
ground railroads. ” 

fit is our task as progressive educators to take advantage of this 
tradition of struggle, of resistance, and “work it.) It is a task that, to 
be sure, is a perverted one from the purely idealist outlook, as 
well as from the mechanistic, dogmatic, authoritarian viewpoint that 
converts education into pure “communication,” the sheer transmis- 
sion of neutral content. 

Another consideration that I cannot refrain from entertaining in 
this book is the question of the programmatic content of education. 
I seem to be misunderstood on this matter at times. 

This calls for a reflection on educational practice itself, which is 
taking shape before our eyes. 

Let us “step back” from educational practice—as I now do in 
writing, in the silence, not only of my office, but of my neighbor- 
hood—in order the better to “close in” on it again, take it by sur- 
prise, in its component elements in their reciprocal relationship. 

As an object of my curiosity, which curiosity is now operating 
epistemologically, the educational practice that, by “taking my dis- 
tance” from it, I “close in” on, begins to reveal itself to me. The first 
observation I make is that (any educational practice always implies 
the existence of (1) a subject or agent (the person who instructs and 
teaches); (2) the person who learns, but who by learning also 
teaches; and (3) the object to be imparted and taught—the object 
to be re-cognized and cognized—that is, the content; and (4) the 
methods by which the teaching subject approaches the content he 
or she is mediating to the educandj) Indeed, the content—in its 
quality as cognoscible object to be re-cognized by the educator while 
teaching it to the educand, who in turn comprehends it only by 
apprehending it—cannot simply be transferred from the educator 
to the educand, simply deposited in the educand by the educator. 

Educational practice further involves processes, techniques, ex- 
pectations, desires, frustrations, and the ongoing tension between 
practice and theory, between freedom and authority, where any ex- 
aggerated emphasis on either is unacceptable from a democratic 
perspective, which is incompatible with authoritarianism and per- 
missiveness alike. 

The critical, exacting, consistent educator, in the exercise of his 


or her reflection on educational practice, as in the practice itself, 
always understands it in its totality. j 

He or she will not center educational practice exclusively on, for 
example, the educand, or the educator, or the content, or the meth- 
ods, but will understand educational practice in terms of the rela- 
tionship obtaining among its various components, and will perform 
that practice consistently with his or her understanding, in all use 
of materials, methods, and techniques. 

There has never been, nor could there ever be, education without 
content, unless human beings were to be so transformed that the 
processes we know today as processes of knowing and formation 
were to lose their current meaning. 

The act of teaching and learning—which are dimensions of the 
larger process of knowing—are part of the nature of the educational 
process. There is no education without the teaching, systematic or 
no, of a certain content. And /teach” is a transitive-relative verb. It 
has both a direct and an indirect object. One who teaches, teaches 
something (content) to someone (a pupil)) 7 

The question that arises is not whether or not there is such a 
thing as education without content (which would be at the opposite 
pole from a “contentistic,” purely mechanistic education), since, let 
us repeat, there has never been an educational practice without 

(The fundamental problem—a problem of a political nature, and 
colored by ideological hues—is who choses the content, and in be- 
half of which persons and things the “chooser’s” teaching will be 
performed—in favor of whom, against whom, in favor of what, 
against what. What is the role of educands in the programmatic | 
organization of content? {What is the role, on various levels, of those 
at the bases—cooks, maintenance workers, security personnel, who 
find themselves involved in a school’s educational practice?(What is 
the role of families, social organizations, and the local community? } 
Nor let it be said, in a spirit of smoldering, venomous aristocratic 
elitism, that students, students’ fathers, students mothers, janitors, 
security people, cooks, have “no business meddling in this —that 
the question of programmatic content is of the sole jurisdiction or 
competency of trained specialists. This discourse is like peas in a 


pod with i ya ge one that proclaims that an illiterate does not 
know how to vote.” 

(Tn the first place, to argue in favor of the active presence of pupils, 
pupils fathers, pupils’ mothers, security people, cooks, and custodi- 
ans in program planning, content planning, for the schools, |as the 
Sao Paulo Municipal Secretariat of Education does today~in the 
Workers party administration® of Luiza Erundina, does not mean 
denying the indispensable need for specialists. It only means not 
leaving them as the exclusive “proprietors” of a basic component of 
educational stacthel it means democratizing the power of choosing 
content, Which is a necessary extension of the debate over the most 
democratic way of dealing with content, of proposing it to the appre- 
hension of the educands instead of merely transferring it from the 
educator to the educands. This is what we are doing in the Sao 
Paulo Municipal Secretariat of Education.“ It is impossible to de- 
mocratize the choice of content without democratizing the teaching 
of content.” 

Nor let it be said that this is a populist, or “democratistic’ position. 
No, it is not democratistic, it is democratic. It is progressive. But it 
is the position of progressives and democrats who see the urgency 
of the presence of the popular classes in the debates on the destiny 
of the city. Their presence in the school is a chapter in that debate, 
and is a positive sign, and not something evil, something to be 
deterred. This is not the position of self-styled “democrats” for whom 
the presence of the people in facts and events, a people organizing, 
is a sign that democracy is not doing well. 

Besides considering the importance of this kind of intervention 
in the destiny of the school in terms of a democratic learning pro- 
cess, we can also imagine what a school will be able to learn from, 
and what it will be able to teach, cooks, janitors, security guards, 
fathers, and mothers, in its indispensable quest for a transcendence 
of the “knowledge of living experience” in order to arrive at a more 
critical, more precise knowledge, to which these persons have a 
right{ This is a right of the popular classes that progressives have to 
recognize and fight for if they are to be consistent—the right to 
know better than they already know—alongside another right, that 

of sharing in some way in the production of the as-yet-nonexistent 


Something that likewise seems to me to be important to bring 
out, in any discussion or conceptualization of content, in a critical, 
democratic outlook on curriculum, is|the importance of never 
allowing ourselves to succumb to the naive temptation to look on 
content as something magical. | /And it is interesting to observe that, 
the more we look on content as something magical, the more we 
tend to regard it as neutral, or to treat it in a neutral manner. For 
someone understanding it as magical, content in itself has such 
power, such importance, that one need only “deposit” it in educands 
in order for its power to effect the desired change. And it is for this 
reason that,) when content is rendered magical, or is thus under- 
stood, when it is regarded as having this force in itself, then the 
teacher seems to have no other task than to transmit it to the edu- 
cands. Any discussion about social, political, economic, or cultural 
reality—any critical, in no way dogmatic, discussion—is regarded 
as not only unnecessary, but simply irrelevant. 

This is not the way I see things.) As object of cognition, content 
must be delivered up to the cognitive curiosity of teachers and pu- 
pils. The former teach, and in so doing, learn. The latter learn, and 
in so doing, teach. 

As object of cognition, content cannot be taught, apprehended, 
learned, known, in such a way as to escape the implications of politi- 
cal ideology—which implications, as well, are to be apprehended 
by the cognizing subject. Once more a “reading of the world” is 
imperative that stands in dynamic interrelationship with the cogni- 
tion of word-and-theme, of content, of cognoscible object. 

That every reader, everyone engaged in any teaching or learning 
practice, explicitly wonder about his or her work as teacher or pupil, 
in mathematics, history, biology, or grammar classes, is of little im- 
portance. [Chat all explicitly interrogate themselves, and see them- 
selves, as participating as teacher or pupil in the experience of 
critical instruction in content, that all explicitly engage in a “reading 
of the world” that would be of a political nature, is not of the high- 

What is altogether impermissible, in democratic practice, is for 
teachers, subreptitiously or otherwise, to impose on their pupils 
their own “reading of the world,” in whose ; amework, therefore, 
they will now situate the teaching of sare The battle with the 


authoritarianism of the Right or the Left does not lead me into that 
impossible “neutrality” that would be nothing but a cunning way of 
seeking to conceal my option. 

(The role of the progressive educator, which neither can nor ought 
to-be omitted, in offering her or his “reading of the world,” is to 
bring out the fact that there are other “readings of the world,” difter- 
ent from the one,being offered as the educator's own, and at times 
antagonistic to | 

Let me repeat: 'there is no educational practice without content. 
The danger, of course, depending on the educator's particular ideo- 
logical position, is either that of exaggerating the educator's author- 
ity to the point of authoritarianism, or that of a voiding of the 
teacher's authority that will mean plunging the educand into a per- 
missive climate and an equally permissive practice. Each of the two 
practices implies its own distinct manner of addressing content. 

In the former case, that of the exaggeration of authority to the 
point of authoritarianism, the educator is ascribed the “possession” 
of content. In this fashion, educators who feel that they “possess” 
content, hold it as their property—regardless of whether they have 
had a share in its selection—since they possess the methods by 
which they manipulate the object, they will necessarily manipulate 
the educands as well. Even when calling themselves progressive and 
democratic, authoritarian educators of the Left, inconsistent with at 
least a part of their discourse, feel so uncomfortable with critical 
educands, educands who are investigators, that they cannot bring 
themselves to terminate their discourse, any more than can authori- 
tarian educators of the Right. 

[In the latter case, we have an annihilation of the teacher’s author- 
ity that plunges the educands into the above-mentioned permissive 
climate and equally permissive practice, in-which, left to their own 
devices, they do and undo what they please, 

Devoid of limits, spontaneous practice, which shreds to pieces 
something so fundamental in human beings’ formation—spontane- 
ity—not having sufficient strength to deny the necessity of content, 
nevertheless allows it to trickle away in a never-justifiable pedagogi- 
cal “Let's pretend.” 

And so, when all is said and done, there is nothing the progressive 
educator can do in the face of the question of content but join battle 


for good and all in favor of the democratization of society, which 
necessarily implies the democratization of the school in terms, on 
the one hand, of the democratization of the programming of content, 
and on the other, of the democratization of the teaching of that 
content. The democratization of the school, especially when we have 
some say-so over the “network” or “subsystem” of which it is a part, 
so that we can make a contribution to governmental change in a 
democracy, is part of the democratization of society. In other words, 
the democratization of the school is not a sheer epiphenomenon, 
the mechanical result of the transformation of society across the 
board, but is itself a factor for change, as well. 

( Consistent progressive educators need not await the compre- 
hensive democratization of Brazilian society in order to embrace 
democratic practices with respect to content. They must not be 
authoritarian today i in order to be democratic tomorrow 


pal, state, and federal S Ove Ons of a Pasemative mold, or to 
“progressive” governments nevertheless tinged with the dogmatism 
I have always criticized, to democratize the organization of curricu- 
lum or the teaching of content. Concretely, we need neither authori- 
tarianism nor permissiveness, but democratic substance. 

In 1960 I wrote, for the symposium, “Education for Brazil,” spon- 
sored by the Recife Regional Center for Educational Investigations, 
a paper entitled, “A Primary School for Brazil” and published by 
the Revista Brasileira de Estudos Pedagégicos, no. 35 (April-June 
1961). I shall cite a brief passage from this text here for the sake of 
its bearing on the question under discussion in this part of this book. 

The school we need so urgently [I said in 1960] is a school in 
which persons really study and work. When we criticize, on the 
part of other educators, the intellectualism of our schools, we 
are not attempting to defend a position with regard to the school 
in which the study disciplines, and the discipline of studying, 
would be watered down. We may never in all of our history have 
had more need of teaching, studying, learning, than we have 
today. Of learning to read, write, count. Of studying history, 
geography. Of understanding the situation or situations of our 
country. \The intellectualism we fight is precisely that hollow, 
empty, sonorous chatter, bereft of any relationship with the real- 



ity surrounding us, in which we are born and reared and on 
which, in large part, we yet feed today. \We must be on our guard 
against this sort of intellectualism, just as we must be on our 
guard against a so-called antitraditionalist position that reduces 
schoolwork to mere experiences of this or that, and which ex- 
cuses itself from performing the hard, heavy work of serious, 
honest, study, which produces intellectual discipline. 

It is precisely the authoritarian, magical comprehension of con- 
tent that characterizes the “vanguardist” leaderships, for whom 
men’s and women’s awareness is an empty “space waiting for con- 
tent—a conceptualization I have severely criticized in Pedagogy of 
the Oppressed. And I criticize it again today as incompatible with 
a pedagogy of hope. 

But let me make one thing perfectly clear: it is not every con- 
scious mind, not every awareness, that is this empty “space” waiting 
for content, for the authoritarian vanguardist leaders. Not their own 
awareness, for example. They feel they belong to a special group in 
society (Erica Marcuse, 1986), which “owns” critical awareness as a 
“datum.” They feel as if they were already liberated, or invulnerable 
to domination, so that their sole task is to teach and liberate others. 
Hence their almost religious care—their all but mystical devotion— 
but their intransigence, too, when it comes to dealing with content, 
their certitude with regard to what ought to be taught, what ought 
to be transmitted.(Their conviction is that the fundamental thing is 
to teach, to transmit, what ought to be taught—not “losing time,” 
in “mindless chatter” with popular groups about their reading of 
the world. 

‘Any concern with educands expectations, whether these persons 
be primary-school children, high-school students, or adults in popu- 
lar education courses, is pure democratism. Any concern on the 
part of the democratic educator not to wound the cultural identity 
of the educands is held for harmful purism. Any manifestation of 
respect for popular wisdom is considered populism.| 

his conception is as consistent, on the Left, with a dogmatic 
thinking, of Marxist origin, in terms of which a critical, historical 
awareness is given, as I have already mentioned, almost as if it were 
just “put there” (Erica Marcuse, 1986); as it is consistent, on the 
Right, with the elitism that would have the dominant classes, by 


nature, knowing, and the dominated ones, by nature, ignorant. 
Thus, the dominant teach when and if they feel like it; the domi- 
nated learn at the price of much effort. 

A dogmatic activist working in a school as a teacher is indistin- 
guishable from her or his colleague working on behalf of a union, 
or in a slum, except for the material differences in their respective 
activities. For the former, it is imperative to “fill” the “empty” aware- 
ness of educands with content whose learning process he or she as 
educator already knows to be important and indispensable to the 
educands. For the latter, it is likewise imperative to “fill” the “empty” 
consciousness of popular groups with the working-class conscious- 
ness that, according to this individual, the workers do not have, but 
which the middle class judges and asserts themselves to have. 

I can never forget what four German educators, of the former 
East Germany, said one evening, in the early 1970s, as we sat in 
the home of one of them. One spoke, while the others nodded their 
assent: “I recently read the German edition of your book, Pedagogy 
of the Oppressed. I was very glad you criticized students absence 
from discussions of programmatic content. In bourgeois societies,” 
he went on, dogmatically, “you have to talk about this, and fire 
the students up about it. Not here. We know what the students 
should know.” 

From this point forward, after what I said to them in response, it 
was hard to keep up the conversation. The visit came to an end, 
and I retired earlier than I had expected to the home of a friend 
who was putting me up. 

It took me a while to get to sleep. I thought not only about what 
I had just heard that evening in Berlin, but about what I had heard 
all day long there, in a group of young scientists, university scholars. 
The contrast was huge. The young people criticized the authoritar- 
ianism of the regime: for them it was retrograde, antidemocratic, 
and arrogant. And their criticism was lodged from within the social- 
ist option, not from the outside. 

The educators with whom I had just been speaking were an exam- 
ple of the very thing the young scientists had spoken to me about 
and had opposed. 

It was hard to sleep, thinking of the supercertitude with which 
those “modern” educators wove their discourse, their declaration of 


unshakable faith: “Not here. We know what the students should 

This is the certitude, always, of the authoritarian, the dogmatist, 
who knows what the popular classes know, and knows what they 
need even without talking to them. At the same time, what the 
popular classes already know, in function of their practice in the 
interwoven events of their everyday lives, is so “irrelevant,” so “disar- 
ticulate,” that it makes no sense to authoritarian persons. What 
makes sense to them is what comes from their readings, and what 
they write in their books and articles. It is what they already know 
about the knowledge that seems basic and indispensable to them, 
and which, in the form of content, must be “deposited” in the “empty 
consciousness of the popular classes. 

If anyone, on the other hand, assuming a democratic, progressive 
position, therefore argues for the democratization of the program- 
matic organization of content, the democratization of his or her 
teaching—in other words, the democratization of curriculum—that 
person is regarded by the authoritarian as too spontaneous and per- 
missive, or else as lacking in seriousness. 

If, as I have declared above, the neoliberal discourse has no power 
to eliminate from history the existence of social classes, on one hand, 
and the struggle between them, on the other, then the rug is pulled 
out from under the authoritarian positions that characterize so- 
called realistic socialism and underly a vertical discourse and prac- 
tice of curricular organization. 

Neoliberals err when they criticize and reject us for being ideo- 
logical in an era, according to them, in which “ideologies have died.” 

[The discourses and dogmatic practices of the Left are mistaken not 
because they are ideological, but because theirs is an ideology that 
connives with the prohibition of men’s and women’s curiosity, and 

contributes to its alienation: 

P (ay not authentically think unless others think _I simply cannot 
think for others, or for others, or without others." This assertion, 
owing to its implicit dialogical character, unsettles authoritarian 
mentalities. This is also why they are so refractory to dialogue, to 
any.idea swapping between teachers and students. 

[Dialogue between teachers and students does not place them on 
the same footing professionally; but it does mark the democratic 


position between the Teachers and students are not identical, and 
this for countless reaSons. After all, it is a difference between them 
that makes them precisely students or teachers. Were they simply 
identical, each could be the other! Dialogue i is meaningful precisely * of 
because the dialogical subjects, the agents in the dialogue, not only 2° 
retain their identity, but actively defend it, and thus grow coma | 
Precisely on this account, dialogue does not level them, does not 

“even them out,” reduce them to each other] Dialogue is not a favor 
done by one for the other, a kind of grace accorded/On the contrary, 
it implies a sincere, fundamental respect on the part of the subjects 
engaged in it, a respect that is violated, or prevented from material- 
izing, by authoritarianism. Permissiveness does the same thing, in 
a different, but equally deleterious, way. 
/ There is no dialogue inZspontaneism’ any more than in the om- 
nipotence of the teacher. But a dialogical relation does not, as is 
sometimes thought, rule out the possibility of the act of teaching. 
On the contrary, it founds this act, which is completed and sealed in 
its correlative, the act of learning,* and both become authentically 
possible only when the educator's thinking, critical and concerned 
though it be, nevertheless refuses to “apply the brakes” to the edu- 
cand’s ability to think)-On the contrary, both “thinkings’ become 
authentically possible’only when the educator's critical thinking is 
delivered over to the educand’s curiosity If the educator's thinking 
cancels, crushes, or hinders the development of educands thinking, 
then the educator's thinking, being authoritarian, tends to generate 
in the educands upon whom it impinges a timid, inauthentic, some- 
times even merely rebellious, thinking.) «ag 

Indeed, dialogue cannot be blamed for the warped use sometimes 

made of it—for its pure imitation, or its caricature. Dialogue must 
not be transformed into a noncommittal “chewing the fat’*’ to the 
random rhythm of whatever happens to be transpiring between 
teacher and educands. 

[Pedagogical dialogue implies not only content, or cognoscible ob- 
ject around which to revolve, but also a presentation concerning it 
made by the educator for the ere 

*See, in this regard, Eduardo Nicol, Los principios de la ciencia (Mexico City: 
Fondo de Cultura Econémica, 1965). 



Here I should like to return to reflections I have previously made 
about the “expository lesson. * 

The real evil is not in the expository lesson—in the explanation 
given by the teacher. This is not what I have criticized as a kind of 
Sbenking {1 have criticized, and I continue to criticize, that type of 
educator-educand relationship in which the educator regards him- 

self or herself as the educands sole educator—in which the educator 
- violates, or refuses to accept, the fundamental condition of the act of 

knowing, which is its dialogical relation (Nicol, 1965), and therefore 

‘establishes a relation in which the educator transfers knowledge 

about a or b or c objects or elements of content to an educand 

‘sf considered as pure recipient. 

This is the criticism I have made, and still make. The question 
now is: will every “expository classroom,” as they are called, be this? 
I think not. I deny it. There are expository classrooms in which this 
is indeed attempted: pure transferrals of the teachers accumulated 
knowledge to the students. These are vertical classrooms, in which 
the teacher, in a spirit of authoritarianism, attempts the impossible, 
from the viewpoint of theory of knowledge: to transfer knowledge. 

There is another kind of classroom, in which, while appearing 
not to effect the transfer of content, also cancels or hinders the 
educand's ability to do critical thinking. That is, there are classrooms 
that sound much more like children’s songs than like genuine chal- 
lenges. They house the expositions that “tame” educands, or “lull 
them to sleep’—where, on the one side, the students are lulled to 
sleep by the teacher's pretentious, high-sounding words, and on the 
_ other, the teacher likewise doing a parcel of self-babying.(But there 
“is a third position, which I regard as profoundly valid: thatin which 
the teacher makes a little presentation of the subject and then the 
group of students joins with the teacher in an analysis precisely of 
that presentation. In this fashion, in the little introductory exposi- 
tion, the teacher challenges the students, who thereupon question 
themselves and question the teacher, and thereby share in plumbing 

_the depths of, developing, the initial exposition) This kind of work 

*Paulo Freire and Sérgio Guimaraes, Sobre educagéo—didlogos (Rio de Janeira: 
Paz e Terra, 1984). 


may in no wise be regarded as negative, as traditional schooling in 
the pejorative sense. 

Finally, I find yet another kind of teacher whom I do not regard 
as a banker. It is that very serious teacher who, in conducting a 
course, adopts a relationship with the subject, with the content, of 
which she or he is treating, that is one of profound, affectionate, 
almost loving respect, whether that content be constituted of a text 
composed by the teacher or a text composed by someone else. Ulti- 
mately, he or she is bearing witness to the educands as to how he 
or she studies, “approaches,” or draws near a given subject, how she 
or he thinks critically. Now the educands must have, or create and 
develop, the critical ability to accompany the teacher's movement 
in his or her attempt to approach the topic under consideration. 

From a certain point of view, this kind of teacher also commits 
an error. It consists in ignoring the fact that the knowledge relation 
does not terminate in the object. In other words, the knowledge 
relationship is not exclusively between a cognizing subject and a 
cognoscible object. It “bridges over” to another subject, basically 
becoming a subject-object-subject relation. 

( As a democratic relationship, dialogue is the opportunity available 
to me to open up to the thinking of others, and thereby not wither 
away in isolation? °° *v" Wi 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed first saw the light of day twenty-four 
years ago, under the impulse of this sentiment with which, more 
touched by it and enveloped in it than before, I revisit it in this 
Pedagogy of Hope. 

I began this book by saying that a poem, a song, a sculpture, a 
painting, a book, a piece of music, a fact or deed, an occurrence, 
never have just one reason to explain them. An event, a fact, a deed 
of love or hatred, a poem, a book, are always found wrapped in thick 
webs, tapestries, frameworks, and touched by manifold whys, of 
which some are more proximate to the occurrence or creation— 
more visible as a why. 

A great proportion of the first part of this book has centered on 
a grasp of certain of the tapestries or frameworks in which Pedagogy 
of the Oppressed took its origin. 

Now, in the latter part of this volume, I shall speak of facts, occur- 


rences, tapestries, or frameworks in which I have shared and am 
sharing and which have revolved around Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 

Published in New York in September 1970, Pedagogy immediately 

began to be translated into various languages, sparking curiosity, and 
favorable criticism in some cases, unfavorable in others. By 1974 the 
book had been translated into Spanish, Italian, French, German, 
Dutch, and Swedish, and its publication in London by Penguin Books 
carried Pedagogy to Africa, Asia, and Oceania, as well. 
The book appeared at an intensely troubled moment in history. 
Social movements appeared, in Europe, the United States, and 
Latin America, each with its own space-time and particular charac- 
teristics. There was the struggle with sexual, racial, cultural, and 
class discrimination. In Europe, there was the struggle waged by 
the Greens to protect the environment. Coups détat with a new 
face, in Latin America, with new military governments replacing 
those of the previous decade. Now the coups were ideologically 
based, and all of them were coupled in one way or another to the 
locomotive of the North going full steam ahead for what seemed to 
it the capitalist destiny of the continent. There were the guerrilla 
wars in Latin America, the base communities, the liberation move- 
ments in Africa, independence for former Portuguese colonies, the 
battle in Namibia. There were Amflcar Cabral, Julius Nyerere, their 
leadership in Africa and its repercussions outside Africa. China. 
Mao. The Cultural Revolution. A lively loyalty to the meaning of 
the May of 1968. There were the political and pedagogical union 
movements—all of them obviously political, especially in Italy. 
There was Guevara, murdered the decade before, present as a sym- 
bol not only for Latin-American revolutionary movements, but for 
progressive leaders and activists the world over. There was the Viet- 
nam War, and the reaction in the United States. There was the fight 
for civil rights, and the climate of the 1960s in the area of political 
culture overflowed, in that country, into the 1970s. 

These, with their numberless implications and developments, 
were some of the social, cultural, political, and ideological historical 
fabrics that explain, in part, both the curiosity the book aroused, 
and with the tenor of the reading and the acceptance with which it 
met—whether it was accepted or rejected, and what criticisms were 
made of it. 


As I did not systematically keep and duly comment on the letters 
that came to me from each respective linguistic region of the world 
after each new translation of Pedagogy is something I regret today 
with an almost physical pain. They were letters from the United 
States, Canada, Latin America, and after the publication by Penguin 
Books, Australia, New Zealand, the islands of the South Pacific, 
India, and Africa, such was the effectiveness of that publisher's dis- 
tribution network. After the letters, or sometimes with them, came 
invitations to discuss and debate theoretico-practical points of the 
book. Not infrequently, in Geneva, for a day or longer, I would host 
a group of university students, accompanied by their teacher, who 
would be running a course or seminar on Pedagogy, or a group of 
workers, especially Italian workers, but also immigrant workers in 
Switzerland, who—from a more political perspective than the one 
maintained by the university students—wanted to have points ex- 
plained and aspects illuminated bearing directly on their practice. 

I remember now, for example: there was a series of coinciding 
positions on political pedagogy, my positions in the book and posi- 
tions in the general view maintained by the Italian union leaders 
then heading up the battle for what they called the “fifty hours.” 
The movement was finally victorious in obtaining recognition of 
workers right to take courses on work time. 

On various occasions, in Geneva, or in Italy, I met with some of 

these leadership teams to discuss points of practical theory in their 
struggle in terms of dimensions of the book. 
- It was in those days that we began to form a group and hold 
discussions just among ourselves: Elza Freire, Miguel Darcy de 
Oliveira, Rosiska de Oliveira, Claudius Ceccon, myself, and, later, 
Marcos Arruda and the Institute for Cultural Action. The IDAC 
team was playing a truly important role just then, in seminars on 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed held throughout Europe, the United 
States, and Canada. A time or two, as first director of IDAC, I 
participated in some of those seminars analyzing the book. 

It would be difficult to exaggerate how much I was enriched by 
the discussions I held, for hours on end, with German university 
youth, whether in Geneva or in their universities in Germany. I 
could not help being struck with their strong liking for theoretical 
discussion, and the seriousness with which they challenged me on 


the basis of their careful, rigorous reading, which they had done 
either by themselves or along with their professor. Or how much it 
likewise enriched me to engage in discussions with Italian or Span- 
ish labor leaders—with the former, as I have said, in meetings in 
Geneva or Italy, while with the latter I could only meet in Geneva, 
since at that time Pedagogy of the Oppressed was contraband in 
Spain and Portugal alike. Franco Spain, like Salazar’s Portugal,* 
had shut us both out. Pedagogy and me. 

It was at that time, and on account of Pedagogy, that I came in 
contact with the harsh reality of one of the most serious traumas of 
the “Third World in the First”: the reality of the so-called guest 
workers—lItalians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Greeks, Turks, Arabs, in 
Switzerland, in France, in Germany—and their experience of racial, 
class, and sexual discrimination. 

In one of the seminars in which I took part in Germany, on literacy 
and postliteracy programs for Portuguese workers, I was told by 
some of the latter that their German colleagues despised them to 
the point, and in such a way, that they regarded them as incapable 
of ever speaking their language, so that when they spoke to them 
in German they put all the verbs in the infinitive mood. And surely 
enough, one of the Portuguese workers told me, in German, refer- 
ring to a fellow worker: “He to like the meeting very much, but not 
to understand everything.” 

In Paris, in one of these seminars on Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 
a Spanish worker, enraged and almost in physical pain, protested a 
lack of class solidarity on the part of his French colleagues. “Lots of 
em come up and kick our butt,” he said, with irritation, “if were 
not lookin!” 

Behavior like this could reinforce today’s neoliberal discourse, ac- 
cording to which the social classes are vanishing. They no longer 
exist, we hear. They existed, though, at the moment of the above- 
mentioned unburdening on the part of the Spanish worker, and they 
exist today as well. But their existence does not necessarily betoken 
a level of solidarity on the part of their members, especially interna- 
tionally. At the same time, sectors of the dominated themselves are 
steeped in the authoritarian, discriminatory, dominant ideology. It 
becomes installed in them, and causes them to see and feel them- 


selves to be superior to their companions who have left the land of 
their origin and wear the mark of need. 

One of the serious problems that alert, politically engaged guest- 
worker leaders had to confront in the 1970s, and they discussed it 
with me in connection with their reading of Pedagogy, was a lack of 
motivation on the part of their companions for any commitment to 
the political struggles transpiring in the lands of their origin. 

I myself took part in meetings in Switzerland, France, and Ger- 
many with immigrant workers at which I heard discourses evincing 
far more concern for an easier life in their experience far from their 
native lands, than of a desire to return to those lands one day in 
conditions appreciably better than those in which they had once 
left them. It was readily perceptible, in those days, whether in the 
meetings I have mentioned, or in conversations with leaders in 
which I was told of these difficulties of mobilization and political 
organization, that a great many of the workers who had emigrated 
to the new, “loan” context were taken, on the one hand, with a 
feeling of relief and joy that they had work now, and at the same 
time, with a sense of fear: fear of losing the tiny bit of security that 
they had found in their “loan” context. Their feelings of insecurity 
were too great for the minimal courage they would have needed for 
the adventure and risk of political commitment, however slight a 
commitment. The time that they had spent living in their countries 
of origin, the hope of employment, of security, had caused them to 
stake everything on employment, in the loan context, instead of on 
structural changes in their own context. These persons, a great pro- 
portion of the guest workers-to-be, had left their context of origin 
under the crushing burden of a weariness that I called, in those days, 

(“existential weariness —not a physical weariness, but a spiritual 
weariness, which left those caught in it emptied of courage, emptied 
of hope, and above all, seized with a fear of adventure and risk. And 
with the weariness came what I dubbed: “historical anesthesia.”) 

On one of my visits to Germany for a discussion with Portuguese 
guest workers, which was held in a Catholic parish that was sponsor- 
ing an excellent program in political pedagogy, I heard from a young 
priest the following story: “A short while ago I received a complaint 
from three Portuguese workers that they and many of their compan- 
ions were being severely exploited by the landlords of their little 


shacks: super-high rent, flouting of the law governing tenant rights 
and obligations, and so on. 

“So I decided,” continued the father, “after talking about it at 
Mass one Sunday, to call a meeting of anyone willing to discuss the 
question with me and try to figure out what could be done. Several 
parishioners came to the meeting. We worked together for two ses- 
sions, and we programmed a strategy against the almighty landlords: 
complaints in the newspapers, fliers, walks through the parish 
neighborhood, and so on. 

“So we began putting the plan in practice—until a committee of 
tenants, including one of the ones who had made the complaint to 
me in the first place, came to me personally and requested that I 
call off the campaign. They had been threatened with eviction unless 
I stopped the accusations.” And I still remember the words with 
which the priest concluded his story: “I felt a powerful tension, an 
ethical tension, between continuing to fight the exploiters, who now 
had gone so far as to take advantage of the emotional dependency 
of the oppressed and were blackmailing thera, and respecting the 
tenants pusillanimity and calling off the struggle, thereby restoring 
to them a sense of relative security—basically a false security, but 
one they couldnt do without—in which they lived.” 

In line after line of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I discuss this 
phenomenon. Fanon and Memmi* did the same, or had done it 
before me. I mean the fear that fills the oppressed, as individuals 
and as a class, and prevents them from struggling. But fear is no 
abstraction, and neither is the “why” of fear an abstraction. Fear is 
altogether concrete, and is caused by concrete considerations—or 
considerations that seem concrete, so that, in the absence of any 
demonstration to the contrary, they might as well be. 

And so the leadership, which, for any number of reasons, enjoys 
a different, higher level of “immunization” to the fear that affects 
the masses, must adopt a special way of leading where that fear is 
concerned. Once more, then, it becomes incumbent upon them to 
( maintain a serious, rigorous relationship between tactics and strat- 
egy, a relationship of which I have already spoken in this book. In 

*Franz Fanon, Os condenados da Terra; Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the 
Colonized (Boston: Beacon Press). 


the last analysis, the problem facing the leaders is: they must learn, 
through the critical reading of reality that must always be made, 
what actions can be tactically implemented, and on what levels they 
can be so implemented. In other words, what can we do now in 
order to be able to do tomorrow what we are unable to do today? 
In the case I have just narrated of the German parish, the solution 
to the problem from which the workers fear could not be eliminated 
was found in a tactical freeze on the action initiated. Here was an 
action that could be resumed further down the line, after a project 
in political pedagogy from which a victory over the fear, at least in 
part, would be won. That project would reveal to the workers that 
their landlords are vulnerable, too. Guevara, as well, spoke about 
this aspect of thé dialectical relationship between oppressors and 
oppressed—of the'need for the latter to be given objectives whereby 
they can become convinced of the vulnerability of the former, as a 
decisive moment in the struggle. Indeed, the more the oppressed 
see the oppressors as “unbeatable,” endowed with an invincible 
power, the less they believe in themselves. \Thus has it ever been. 
One of the tasks of a progressive popular education, yesterday as 
today, is to seek, by means of a critical understanding of the mecha- 
nisms of social conflict, to further the process in which the weakness 
of the oppressed turns into a strength capable of converting the 
oppressors strength into weakness. This is a hope that moves us. 

While I lived one-half of the decade of the sixties in the climate 
of the Brazilian transition that was shattered by the 1964 coup, and 
the other half in Chile, where I wrote Pedagogy—in the seventies, 
with the book multiplying in various languages, I saw myself ex- 
posed, along with it, to challenges that sparked analyses on my 
part, and these analyses in many cases confirmed and reinforced 
the book's basic theses. 

It is impossible, in my view, to overrate the importance of the 
innumerable meetings and encounters in which I took part with 
students and professors of German, Swiss, English, Dutch, Bel- 
gian, Swedish, Norwegian, French, Latin-American, African, Asian, 
United States, and Canadian universities. This is why I speak so 
much of them here. And sprinkled among these meetings of an 
academic nature, the no less rich Saturdays to which I was subjected 
by groups of workers. 


The tonic administered by the former—a First World audience— 
with an occasional exception, came in the form of a theoretical analy- 
sis. My interlocutors would assess the degree of rigor with which I 
had approached this theme or that one, or the precision of my 
language, or the evident influence on me of this thinker or that one 
(whose work, at times, I had not read!). Or the inconsistency into 
which I had slipped between something I had said on, for instance, 
page 25, and something else on page 122. The German students 
loved this kind of critique. 

When the encounters occurred with Third World students, a dif- 
ferent tonic was administered. Here, discussion turned preponder- 
antly on political questions, and these led us to philosophical, 
ethical, ideological, and epistemological questions. 

In my meetings with immigrant workers, Italians, Spaniards, Por- 
tuguese, of whom a large proportion had also read Pedagogy, in 
Italian, Spanish, or French, interest always centered on a more criti- 
cal understanding of practice in order to improve future practice. 

While the university people, generally speaking, tried to find and 
“understand a certain practice imbedded in a theory,” the workers 
sought to sneak up on the theory that was imbedded in their prac- 
tice. Regardless of the world I found myself in with labor leaders 
who were immersed in personal experience of politics and policy 
for changing the world, this is how it always was. It did not matter 
whether those leaders belonged to the Third World of the Third or 
to the Third World of the First. This is always the way it was. 

Once or twice, in Geneva or away, I had the opportunity of work- 
ing in long seminars with workers and academicians, obviously pro- 
gressive. I hope they still take that position today, and have not given 
in to the ideology of those who decree the death of the ideologies 
and who proclaim that the dream is a way of fleeing the world 
instead of re-creating it. 

I had one of the encounters to which I have just referred, a hugely 
rich one, with academicians and a Spanish laborer, one weekend 
some time in the 1970s, in Germany, in Frankfurt, to be precise. 
Two or three groups of progressive intellectuals, respectively Marx- 
ists and Christians, who did not relate well with each other, agreed 
to come together for a study day provided I took part. 

I have always found it worthwhile to serve as the pretext for a 


good cause. So I accepted the invitation and went, along with two 
German friends—theologians, both of them, clear-sighted, creative, 
serious intellectuals: Werner Simpfendoerfer, who was to translate 
Pedagogy into German, and Ernst Lang, now deceased, director of 
the World Council of Churches, who had invited my collaboration 
in that body and who was to write the preface to the German edition. 

The language of the meeting was German, with a simultaneous 
translation into English for me, and from English into German for 
the others, except for the theologians. 

One of the groups had invited a laborer, a Spanish guest worker, 
who spoke German without any difficulty. 

The presence of the Spanish worker had the effect of keeping the 
meeting on a level of equilibrium between the necessary abstraction 
and a quest for the concrete. In other words, the presence of the 
laborer lessened the risk that abstraction might renounce its authen- 
tic nature and meander about in a vagueness ever more distant from 
the concrete. 

When we took our first coffee break, the worker came over to me 
and we began to converse in Spanish. We alone understood each 
other now. No one in hearing, other than ourselves, understood 
Spanish, as was to be expected. 

After a few perfunctory remarks, with which we were actually 
working up to a little conversation, the Spanish worker said: “I have 
to admit intellectual qualities in these young people that make me 
admire them. Theyre devoted to the cause of the working class. 
They work tirelessly. But they seem to think that revolutionary truth 
is pretty much their private property. Well, now, we guest workers 
..., he added, with a twinkle in his eye, “. . . were a sort of new 
game for them.” 

There was wisdom, there was grace in his discourse, without grief, 
and without anger. It was as if the truth infusing his words gave him 
the peace with which he spoke. He spoke of the problem he had 
mentioned with the tranquility of someone who knew his “why.” 

We chatted a while longer, commenting on the elitism, the au- 
thoritarianism, the dogmatism of the positions he had criticized. At 
one point he told me: “I have an interesting experience to tell you 
about—something I was involved in before I read your Pedagogy of 
the Oppressed. 


“I’m an activist in a Leftist political movement working both in 
Spain and outside. One of our jobs is training immigrants politically 
so that we can then all go out and try to mobilize and organize other 
guest workers. 

“A year ago, or so, five of us got together to try to work out a 
course in political problems to offer our fellow immigrants. We met 
for a discussion, just among ourselves, one Saturday afternoon in 
the home of one of these activists. We figured out what we thought 
the course ought to be, content and presentation. Finally, the way 
you academics like to do, we laid it all out on in a nice, orderly 
package ready to bestow on our future pupils. We were sure we 
knew not only what our people would like to know, but what they 
ought to know. So why waste time listening to them? All we had 
to do was communicate to them what they could expect in the 
course. All wed have to do was announce the course and enroll the 

“Once we had the program worked out, with the weekend times, 
the place, the whole thing—we started looking for students. 

“Total failure. No one was interested. We spoke to everybody we 
could. We laid out the content, we visited a number of people and 
explained how important the program was, how important the 
course was, and. . . nothing came of it. 

“We got together one Saturday to try to figure out why wed failed. 
Suddenly I got an idea. 

“Why not take a survey, in the factories? Why not talk with lots 
_ of people, one at a time, and find out what each oned like to do? 
Why not ask them what they prefer, and what they usually do on 
weekends? Then, on the basis of that, we ought to be able to figure 

‘\,( out how to ‘get to them, instead of just starting out with what we're 

so sure they ought to know) 

“We decided to give it “a try. We gave ourselves two weeks to 
conduct the survey, and scheduled another meeting of the five of us 
after that, for an evaluation. And out we went to conduct the survey. 

“After two weeks we got together again as planned, the five of us, 
each with a report on the job wed done. Lots of the Spaniards liked 
to play cards on weekends. Then there was a bunch that liked to go 
for hikes. Some others went to parks, or to supper in each other's 
houses, or would sit around drinking beer, and so on. 


“We picked the card games. Maybe this would be an ‘in with 
them, to get to political problems. So we practiced up at cards,” 
the Spanish worker went on, enthusiastically, “and we started going 
around stopping in on the groups that would play cards on week- 
ends, in each others homes. Then during the week wed get to- 
gether, the five of us, for an evaluation. 

“Sometimes during a game, with my cards in my hand, not looking 
at anybody, Id just kind of casually ask, “Know what happened yes- 
terday in Madrid?’ 

““No, theyd say. 

“Cops raided some of our guys and locked ‘em up. For one little 
protest march. 

“Nobody said a word. 

“T didnt either. 

“Well, gotta go, Id say, then I'd stop in on another game, and 
then another. Another question, a political question. 

“All five of us kept doing this, in different places. 

“After four months, we could finally get a bunch of them together 
to discuss if we'd like to get up some systematic meetings on politics. 
There were thirty of us at the first meeting, and we made a joint 
decision to run a real course on political problems. And we've had 
the best results we've ever had.” 

He laughed when I told him, “That proves that if we want to work 
with the people and not just for them we have to know their ‘game. ” 

This is precisely what authoritarian educators are always fighting. 
They claim to be progressive, and yet they regard themselves as 
proprietors of knowledge, which they need only extend to the igno- 
rant educands. These people always see signs of permissiveness 
or “spontaneism” in the respect that radical democrats show for 

These people will never understand what it means to start with 
the reading of the world, the comprehension of the world, had by 
the educands. All surprised, as if they had made a great discovery, 
they say their practice proves that staying on the lower level of 
knowledge that the groups have, without trying to teach them any- 
thing beyond that knowledge, does not work. Of course it does not 
wor is so obvious that it does not work that there is no point in 
bothering to prove it. One of the main reasons for the lack of spirit 


and inspiration in team members who get together to evaluate their 
practice is that the person running the evaluation process has no 
more sophisticated knowledge than the team has. No research is 
needed to establish the inviability of an evaluation seminar in which 
the coordinator lacks that particular knowledge with which he or 
she might explain the obstacles encountered by the participants in 
their practice. The normal tendency will be the failure of the semi- 
nar. So will a physics course fail unless the teacher knows physics. 
One does not teach what one does not know.\ But neither, in a 
democratic perspective, ought one to teach what one knows without, 

,. first, knowing what those one is about to teach know and on what 

»* level they know it; and second, without respecting this knowledge. 
One begins with that which is implicit in the reading of the world 
of those about to learn what the one about to teach knows. 

This is what my practice, consistent with my democratic option, 
has taught me. This is also what the Spanish workers I have just 
spoken of were taught by their practice. 

I should like to suggest certain further considerations in connec- 
tion with the Spanish workers experience. First let me present a 
consideration along the lines of political ethics. Educators have the 
right, even the duty, to teach what seems to them to be fundamental 
to the space-time in which they find themselves. That right and 
that duty fall to the educator by virtue of the intrinsic “directivity” 
of education. Of its very nature, education always “outstrips itself.” 
It always pursues objectives and goals, dreams and projects. I have 
asked before, in this book: what sort of educator would I be if I had 
no concern for being maximally convincing in my presentation of 
my dreams? But that does not mean that I may reduce everything 
to my truth, my “correctness.” On the other hand, even though I 
may be convinced, like the Spanish worker-activists, for example, 
that reflection on the political life of a town or city is essential, I 
may not on that account dictate the themes on which that political 
analysis and reflection must bear. A rather moralistic viewpoint 
would brand as disloyal the tactic of the Spanish workers in using 
card games to make a political approach to their companions and 
thereby render viable their objective of seriously studying the politi- 
cal question in Spain with them. This is not how I see it. They are 
as ethical as academicians could be in their own research. 


The second reflection I should like to offer is far more positive. It 
regards the validity, in Latin America today, not only of the principle 
invoked by the Spanish workers, but of their work method. The 
popular educator must make a democratic option and act consis- 
tently with that option. I fail to see how popular education, regard- 
less of where and when it is practiced, could prescind from the 
critical effort to involve, on the one side, educators, and on the 
other, educands, in a quest for the “why” of the facts. In other words, 
in a popular education focusing on cooperative production, union 
activity, community mobilization and organization so that the com- 
munity can take the education of its sons and daughters in hand 
through community schools—without this having to mean an excuse 
for the state to neglect one of its duties, that of offering the people 
education, along with care for their health, literacy, and their educa- 
tion after the attainment of literacy—in any hypothesis, there is no 
discarding the gnoseological process. The process of knowing be- 
longs to the very nature of education, and so-called popular educa- 
tion is no exception. On the other hand, popular education, in a 
progressive outlook, is not reducible to the purely technical training 
of which groups of workers have a real need. This will of course be 
the narrow training that the dominant class so eagerly offers work- 
ers—a training that merely reproduces the working class as such. 
Naturally, in a progressive perspective as well, a technical formation 
is also a priority. But alongside it is another priority, which must 
not be shoved out of the picture. For example, the worker learning 
the trade of machinist, mechanic, or stonemason has the right and 
the need to learn it as well as possible—but also has the right to 
know the “why” of the technical procedure itself. The worker has 
the right to know the historical origins of the technology in question, 
and to take it as an object of curiosity and reflect on the marvelous 
advance it implies—along with the risks it exposes us to, of which 
Neil Postman warns us of in an extraordinary recent book.* This is 
doubtless not only a profoundly current issue of our time, but a vital 
one, as well. And the working class should not be part of the em- 
ployer-employee relationship simply in the way the worker in “Mod- 

*Neil Postman, Technopoly—the Surrender of Culture to Technology (New York: 
Knopf, 1992). 


ern Times” saw himself wildly struggling to tighten the screws that 
came along the assembly line, in the critique we have trom the 
genius of Charlie Chaplin. 

‘Jt seems to me to be fundamental for us today, whether we be 
mechanics or physicists, pedagogues or stonemasons, cabinetmakers 
or biologists, to adopt a critical, vigilant, scrutinizing attitude toward 
technology, without either demonizing it or “divinizing” it. ) 

Never perhaps, has the almost trite concept of exercising control 
over technology and placing it at the service of human beings been 
in such urgent need of concrete implementation as today—in de- 
fense of freedom itself, without which the dream of a democracy 
is evacuated. 

The progressive postmodern, democratic outlook in which I take 
my position acknowledges the right of the working class to be trained 
in such a way that they will know how their society functions, know 
their rights and duties, know the history of the working class and 
the role of the popular movements in remaking society in a more 
democratic mold. The working class has a right to know its geogra- 
phy, and its language—or rather, a critical understanding of lan- 
guage in its dialectical relationship with thought and world: the 
dialectical interrelations of language, ideology, social classes, and 

In a recent brief trip through Europe, I heard from a European 
sociologist, a friend of mine recently returned from Africa, that 
political activists of a certain African country were saying that the 
“Freire era’ had come and gone. What is needed now, they were 
saying, is no longer an education faithfully dedicated to a critical 
understanding of the world, but an education strictly devoted to the 
technical training of a labor force. As if, in a progressive view, it 
were possible to dichotomize technology and politics! The ones who 
attempt this dichotomy, as I have emphasized above, are the domi- 
nant class. Hence the wealth of discourse with which we are be- 
sieged today in favor of the pragmatic ideal of adjusting ourselves to 
the world at hand in the name of the values of capitalism. In this 
new history of ours, without social classes, and thus without any 
conflicts other than purely personal ones, we have nothing other to 
do than to let the calloused hands of the many and the smooth ones 
of the few remake the world at last into a festival. 


Really, I do not believe in this. But I hear and regret the mistake 
in which the above-mentioned African activists are caught: the long, 
intensely tragic experience that has so long victimized them, their 
rejection as John, as Mary, as persons, as sex, as race, as culture, as 
history, the disregard for their lives, which to a perversely murder- 
ous white supremacy are of no value, so that those lives can just “be 
there,” stand there practically like an inanimate object that never- 
theless moves and speaks and is under white command, and any 
black life can simply die or disappear and white supremacy will not 
care one little bit. This long, tragic experience, so worthily human- 
ized by their people's struggle, by that fine, high struggle, has never- 
theless bequeathed them, through and through, that same kind of 
existential weariness that suddenly came upon the guest workers in 
Europe, as I have described above. The illusion is that today’s his- 
torical moment calls on the men and women of their country to wage 
a completely different struggle from the one before—a struggle in 
which technology would replace people's political formation alto- 
gether. At the same time, the blurring of political parameters rein- 
forces the fatalism that marks “existential weariness,” inviting us to 
resign ourselves to a “hope’ in which only an adverbial change is 
possible in the world. 

But the truth is: regardless of what society we are in, in what 
world we find ourselves, (it is impermissible to train engineers or 
stonemasons, physicians or nurses, dentists or machinists, educators 
or mechanics, farmers or philosophers, cattle farmers or biologists, 
without an understanding of our own selves as historical, political, 
social, and cultural beings—without a comprehension of how society 
works. And this will never be imparted by a supposedly purely 
technological training. ) 

Another concern on which popular education must never turn its 
back is epistemological research, antecedent to or concomitant with 
teaching practices, especially in peasant regions. This is a task that 
has become dear to the ethnoscience being plied among us today 
in Brazil: to know how rural popular groups, indigenous or not, 
know—how they organize their agronomic knowledge or science, 
for example, or their medicine, to which end they have developed 
a broadly systemized taxonomy of plants, herbs, trees, spices, roots. 
It is interesting to observe how they integrate their meticulous tax- 


onomy with miraculous promises—for example an herbal tea that 
heals both cancer and the pangs of unrequited love, or battles male 
impotence; or special leaves for protection in childbirth, for “fallen 
breastbone,” and so on. Pony 

Recent research in Brazilian universities has verified the actual 
medical usefulness of certain discoveries made by popular wisdom. 

| For example, to discuss with peasants this ongoing university-level 
verification of their knowledge is a political task of high pedagogical 
importance. Such discussion can help the popular classes win confi- 
dence in themselves, or augment the degree of confidence they have 
already attained.) Confidence in themselves is so indispensable to 
their struggle for a better world! I have already made reference to 
the need for it in this book. 

What seems to me to be unconscionable, however, today as yester- 
day, would be to conceive—or even worse, to practice—a popular 
education in which a constant, serious approach were not main- 
tained, antecedently and concomitantly, to problems like: what con- 
tent to teach, in behalf of what this content is to be taught, in behalf 
of whom, against what, and against whom. Who selects the content, 
and how is it taught? What is teaching? What is learning? What 
manner of relationship obtains between teaching and learning? 
[What is popular knowledge, or knowledge gotten from living experi- 
ence? Can we discard it as imprecise and confused? How may it be 
gotten beyond, transcended? \What is a teacher? What is the role of 
a teacher? And what is a student? What is a student’s role? If being 
a teacher means being superior to the student in some way, does 
this mean that the teacher must be authoritarian? Is it possible to 
be democratic and dialogical without ceasing to be a teacher, which 
is different from being a student? Does dialogue mean irrelevant 
chitchat whose ideal atmosphere would be to “leave it as it is to see 
if itll work’? Can there be a serious attempt at the reading and 
writing of the word without a reading of the world? Does the ines- 
capable criticism of a “banking” education mean the educator has 
nothing to teach and ought not to teach? Is a teacher who does not 
teach a self-contradiction? What is codification, and what is its role 
in the framework of a theory of knowledge? How is the “relation 
between practice and theory’ to be understood—and especially, 
experienced—without the expression becoming trite, empty word- 


age? How is the “basistic,” voluntaristic temptation to be resisted— 
and how is the intellectualistic, verbalistic temptation to engage in 
sheer empty chatter to be overcome? How is one to “work on” the 
relationship between language and citizenship? 

[Jt is impossible to make education both a political practice and 
a gnosiological one, fully, without the constant stimulus of these 
questions, or without our constantly answering them. 

Finally, I believe that the way I pose these questions in this book 
implies my answers to them—answers that express the positions on 
political pedagogy that I reaffirm in this book. 


ne day I received a phone call at my home in Geneva. It 

was a Sunday morning, a very cold, cloudy morning, and 

the French mountains you can see in the distance were 
swathed in clouds. A typical Swiss January Sunday. 

The call was from a Spanish guest worker, who asked if he and 
two of his companions might drop in for an interview with me some 
evening in the coming week. He told me they wanted to talk about 
a children’s education program they had planned and were setting 
up. He mentioned that they were reading Pedagogy of the Op- 
pressed, and that they would like to talk about that too. “Who 
knows,” he said, “—if you were to have time, and were interested, 
we might meet more than once.” 

We agreed on a day, and, at the scheduled time, they arrived with 
certain documents and certain children’s exercises. 

We chatted a bit about the climate, and the hard winter. They 
told me about Spain and asked me about Brazil. Then they broached 
the question that had brought us together. However, to be methodi- 
cal, they had to introduce that question with an introduction ex- 
plaining their political option, their activism. They spoke of their 
experience as guest workers, of the restrictions on their right to have 
their families with them to which so many of them were subjected, of 
the obligation imposed on them, simply because they had been in 
Switzerland for a year, to go back to Spain and renew (or fail to 
renew) their privilege of spending another one-year term here the 
following year. 


This legal determination, besides relieving the Swiss government 
of the burden of expenditures for education and health, not to men- 
tion other considerations, obliged them to live in a state of constant 
tension. Their vital insecurity was one more “why” for the “existen- 
tial weariness’ I have talked about. They gave examples. Many of 
their companions found themselves on an emotional roller coaster, 
living in a present that, despite their now having the work that they 
had been without in their own country, was a today with a doubtful, 
too doubtful, tomorrow. It was a today in which, missing the love 
and tenderness, as well as physical presence, of their families, they 
found their activity, their strength, their resistance, all undermined. 
Many among them, then, awash in “existential weariness” and “his- 
torical anesthesia,” simply gravitated around their personal prob- 
lems and concerns of the moment, unable to glimpse the “untested 
feasibility” that lay beyond the “limited situation” in which they 
found themselves immersed.* Hence also the difficulty of moving 
them out of their “historical anesthesia,” which spawned a kind of 
apathy, a kind of paralysis, when it came to a concern for or discus- 
sion of political questions. Then, added to the “historical anesthesia’ 
in which so many of them were caught, there was the cultural, 
political, and ideological climate of Switzerland, which was unfavor- 
able to public political dissent. I remember how, just about the time 
of the encounter of which I now speak, in reaction to a strike by 
construction workers on a huge site in Geneva, an official or quasi- 
official declaration was issued, in the guise of a union document, 
denouncing the workers position, and deploring that “for the first 
time in the history of Switzerland, and therefore in scant consonance 
with the uses and customs of this country, they have had recourse 
to force in order to have their demands met: they have had recourse 
to a strike.” Obviously a notice like this was not very encouraging 
to an effort to enable the guest workers to overcome their apathy and 
participate in the political projects being conducted by their leaders. 

On the contrary, the explicitly open nature of the letter condemn- 
ing the strike reinforced in the guest workers the “historical anesthe- 
sia’ of which I am speaking. 

*For “limit situations’ and “untested feasibility,” see my Pedagogia do oprimido, 
pp. 908. 


But from the viewpoint of the immigrant Spanish workers leader- 
ship, the political reaction implied in the note appeared as a chal- 
lenge, as well as a confirmation of their conviction as to the need 
for their Spanish companions political training. 

The pedagogical project they had come to me about was a special 
one, and bore directly on their children—the sons and daughters of 
those Spanish workers who, under Swiss law, could bring their fami- 
lies with them from Spain. When you come right down to it, it 
was a counterschool project. Their “school” would be established 
precisely for the purpose of conducting an ongoing criticism of the 
Swiss schools attended by the Spanish children. It would be a 
“school” that would problematicize the Swiss school—render it 
problematic in the eyes of the workers children. 

The decade of the 1970s was just under way, and Althusserian 
studies had burst upon the scene denouncing the school system as 
an instrument for the reproduction of the dominant ideology (stud- 
ies not always invulnerable to distortions and exaggerated interpre- 
tations). I do not believe, as far as I can recall, that we made any 
reference to the Althusserian theory of reproduction, but our con- 
versation did basically turn on a critical understanding of the role 
of the school, and of the role in the school that progressive or conser- 
vative educators might play. In other words, the conversation bore 
on the power of the dominant ideology, and how that power might 
be blocked. And indeed, the program of which the Spanish workers 
were speaking to me with such justifiable enthusiasm focused pre- 
cisely on the Swiss schoo! their children were attending—Swiss 
schooling in all its aspects. This is what they were planning to do, 
and this is what they had come to speak with me about on that 

These Spanish workers were planning to set up, alongside the 
scholastic practice maintained by the Swiss school, in its particular 
manner, in doing its own teaching, another school that would take 
the Swiss school as the object of a critical analysis. A child could 
attend their school only under one condition: he or she would have 
to decide, after a short trial period, whether to continue to attend. 
And classes would be held not every day, or for long periods of time, 
but for only two hours or so at a time, and only three times a week. 
Nor was the new school intended as a substitute for the Swiss school. 


It would complement it, through the experience of critical thinking 
about the world. The Spanish workers who conversed with me that 
evening were convinced of their children’s need to study seriously, 
to learn, to create study habits, which, at least in part, they seemed 
to be doing in the Swiss schools. 

The children would spend the regular school day in the Swiss 
schools, and then, on certain days, go to this other school, as well, 
where they would “rethink” what they had learned or were learning. 

The workers primary, overriding purpose was, on the one hand, 
to diminish the risk of having to watch the alienation of their chil- 
dren, cut off as these children were from their own culture—a risk 
greatly intensified by the Swiss school, which was unquestionably 
competent from the viewpoint of the dominant interests—and on 
the other hand, to stimulate in the children a critical way of thinking, 
as I now have brought out. Hence their project. Hence their sui 
generis school, which would take the other one as the object of its 
study, critically examine its practice, and analyze its curriculum— 
not only in its explicit elements, but in its hidden ones, as well. 

The educators in the “challenge school” would not always be the 
same persons. Teachers would rotate, serving when they had free 
time. They would be trained in occasional evening or weekend semi- 
nars, in which they would rehearse their task. 

They would also discuss with the children the ideology imbedded 
in the books of children’s stories, whether or not these were being 
used in the Swiss schools. 

One of the stories they repeated to me, laughing with almost 
childlike amusement, but critical of the ideology that permeated it, 
told of the simple, happy family life of a family of pigs—a papa pig, 
a mama pig, and three little piglets. The youngest piglet was always 
getting into things, overcome with curiosity. He did not like routine. 
He tried everything, and was always looking for something new 
and different. 

But nothing ever worked for him. His older siblings followed con- 
vention to the letter, and got along fine. One autumn Sunday, under 
a clear blue sky, the youngest piglet decided to set out for the day 
and give his curiosity free rein. Nothing worked out. The moment 
he stepped beyond established bounds, he was attacked by a little 
dog. Wounded, and escaping by the skin of his teeth, he thought 


he saw another dog, and “poked the dog with a little stick.” The 
“dog” turned out to be a swarm of bees. The poor little pig was all 
but stung to death by the horrible, diabolical attack of the enraged 
bees. From failure to failure he goes, returning home at nightfall 
dejected and subdued, now without the courage to so much as think 
of a new adventure. His commonsensical father was waiting for him, 
and wisely tells him, with the benign air of a gentle pedagogue, “I 
knew that you would do this some day. For you, there was no other 
way to learn that we need not leave the beaten path. Try to change 
something, and we run the risk of being hurt very painfully, as must 
have happened to you today.” 

Silent and contrite, the little pig listened to the “sensible” dis- 
course of his well-behaved father. 

It was against such a hamstringing suggestion, it was against pro- 
grams like these, calculated to tame, that the Spanish workers chal- 
lenging, questioning school was being created. They dreamed of an 
open, democratic education, one that would instill in their children 
a taste for questioning, a passion for knowledge, a healthy curiosity, 
the joy of creating, and the pleasure of risk without which there can 
be no creation. 

Hence the community of views between Pedagogy of the Op- 
pressed, about which we spoke in meetings we held after this one, 
and the experience of the school in which children were taught to 
question things. 

Their reading of Pedagogy had confirmed the Spanish workers 
in some of the pedagogical intuitions that had moved them to the 
concretization of their experiment—the books whole analysis of 
the dialectical relationship between oppressors and oppressed, of 
the process of the introjection of the dominator by the dominated; 
its reflections on a “banking” education and its authoritarianism, on 
an education that challenges the status quo, on dialogue, on demo- 
cratic initiatives; on the need, in a progressive educational process, 
for educands to have their curiosity challenged; on the critical pres- 
ence of educators and educands who, while teaching and learning 
respectively, nevertheless all learn and teach, without any implica- 
tion either that their relationship is one of homogeneous reciprocity, 
or that the teacher does not learn and the learner does not teach. 
All of this stimulated them, as I had been stimulated by reading 


Fanon and Memmi back in the days when I was putting the final 
touches on Pedagogy. 

Perhaps, in the process of their experience with Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed—as they read of the educational practice to which I was 
holding+-perhaps they felt the same emotion with which I was taken 
when I plunged into The Wretched of the Earth and The Colonizer 
and the Colonized—the satisfying sensation with which we are taken 
when we find a confirmation of the “why” of the certitude we find 
within ourselves] 

The positive results they had achieved had led the parents of the 
children of the questioning and challenging school—they had told 
me in our meeting—to come to them and ask them to do something 
like that for themselves, the parents, as well. They said they would 
like another school, in which they would be able to discuss, together, 
their presence in Switzerland, the political situation in Spain, and 
sO on. 

It had been by way of the implementation of the idea of a school 
that would challenge their children’s school, that, now, the parents 
had come for courses or seminars, or political training meetings. In 
Geneva, the “game’ was no card game. 

The following year—the year after I became acquainted with that 
experiment in which these workers, turned educators, were calling 
their children’s school in question and challenging them to think 
critically, Claudius Ceccon, the remarkable Brazilian cartoonist, 
then residing in Geneva, recounted to me the following case, that 
of his son Flavio. 

One day, dejected and hurt, Flévio had told him that his teacher 
had torn up one of his drawings. At home, Flavio had learned free- 
dom of expression, and was gradually encouraged to use it more and 
more, as he grew up exercising his curiosity in a climate of respect 
and affection. Curiosity was not forbidden. And so Flavio creativity 
enjoyed the necessary conditions of self-expression. He could not 
understand why in the world his teacher would destroy one of his 
drawings! That had offended him deeply, nor had he been the only 
one to take offense. It had been as if his teacher had ripped up a 
little piece of himself. After all, his drawing was a creation of his, 
was it not? Had it not deserved as much respect as a story or a 
poem he might have written? 


As any father or mother would have done who had embraced a 
democratic option and whose behavior was consistent with that op- 
tion, Claudius went to the teacher to talk about what had happened. 

The teacher had a high regard for the child. She spoke of him in 
terms of high praise, emphasizing his talent and his capacity for 

As Claudius watched the teacher, he noticed by her gestures by 
her tone of voice that it could never have entered her head that he 
had come to voice his disapproval of what she had done to Flavio's 
drawing—for that matter, his disapproval of what she had done to 
Flavio himself, with his creativity that she had all but torn to shreds. 

Delighted at a visit from the parent of one of her students whom 
she genuinely admired, she paced back and forth, fairly skipping, 
speaking of her class activities. 

Claudius listened, and followed her narratives, awaiting an oppor- 
tunity to speak with her about what had happened. His rage had 
abated now. He was calmer. 

All of a sudden the teacher showed Claudius a series of nearly 
identical drawings. The drawings were all of a black cat—a single 
cat, multiplied, with the alteration of some trait here or there. 

“What do you think of that?” the teacher asked, and without 
waiting for an answer, exclaimed, “My students did these. I brought 
them a little statue of a cat for them to draw.” 

“Why not bring a live cat into the classroom—one that would 
walk and run, and jump?” Claudius asked. “Then the children would 
draw the cat as they understood it, as they perceived it. The children 
would actually reinvent the cat. They would be free to make any cat 
they felt like. They would be free to create, to invent and reinvent. ” 

“No, no!” the teacher fairly shouted. “Perhaps that might do for 
your child. Perhaps. I don't know, but perhaps with him that might 
do, for Flavio, with his lively, intelligent, free spirit. But what about 
the others? I remember how I was when I was a child,” the teacher 
went on. ‘I was terrified in situations where I felt obliged to choose, 
decide, create. That's why a few days ago I took a drawing away from 
Flavio,” she said, euphemistically, referring to its destruction at her 
hands. He had drawn a cat that couldnt exist. A cat of all different 
impossible colors. I couldnt accept his drawing. It would have been 


harmful not only to him but to the others, too—even more harmful 
to them than to him.” 

And that, it appeared, was the way the entire school functioned. 
It was not merely that one educator who shook with fear at the very 
mention of freedom, creation, adventure, risk. For the whole school, 
as for her, the world should not change, and just as in the story of 
the little pig, we ought never to leave the beaten path, or deviate 
from the established norm, in our passage through this world. Walk 
in the footsteps others have left for us. Lo, our lot and destiny. 

Blaze trails as we go? Re-create the world, transform it? Never! 

It was because of incidents like this, along with other, more seri- 
ous occurrences, that the Spanish guest workers had created their 
school—the school that called their children’s other school, the 
Swiss school, into question. 

Of the memories that I retain of facts and events, over the course 
of the seventies, which were closely connected with Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed, there are moments that I shall never forget, so vivid 
and vital do they remain in my recollection. 

Just now I am speaking of various encounters I had in Geneva— 
whether in my office at the World Council of Churches, or in the 
apartment we had in Grand Lancy—with intellectuals, teachers, 
students, religious, blacks, whites from South Africa. During the 
1970s, rarely did a month go past that someone, a native of South 
Africa or at least someone who lived there and was passing through 
Geneva, did not come to speak with me of the tragic, absurd, un- 
thinkable experience of racism. 

Rare too was the occasion, in those days, when I did not have a 
conversation with a woman or man, white or black, of South Africa— 
on her or his way to the United States—on the same subjects as 
those of my other meetings in Geneva, as well as on different issues. 

Rarely did much time pass between occasions when the phone 
would ring and I would pick it up to hear, “I landed in Geneva two 
days ago. I’m flying to South Africa tonight. I knew itd be too risky 
for me to take Pedagogy of the Oppressed into the country with me, 
so I spent all last night reading it. Could I talk to you today, before 
I leave?” Naturally I never said no. I postponed other meetings, 
canceled interviews, changed agendas, but never said no to any of 
those requests. Headache, upset stomach, bad mood, weariness, 


homesickness for Brazil, reading to do, writing to do, no such reason 
could make me say no to any of these requests whatsoever. In the 
face of the emotional, and not only political, need with which they 
were accompanied in the one making the request, all such consid- 
erations became secondary ones. They carried no weight with me 
as an argument for refusing a meeting that, at times, was requested 
for a Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. 

The very moment someone asked on the phone whether he or 
she might come and consult with me, I felt the importance and 
urgency of the meeting so powerfully that I needed it as much as 
the one asking for it. I would have been frustrated myself, had I 
refused it. 

My rebellion against every kind of discrimination, from the most 
explicit and crying to the most covert and hypocritical, which is no 
less offensive and immoral, has been with me from my childhood. 
Since as far back as I can remember, I have reacted almost instinct- 
ively against any word, deed, or sign of racial discrimination, or, for 
that matter, discrimination against the poor, which, quite a bit later, 
I came to define as class discrimination. 

The evidence I heard from South Africans, white or black, in 
Geneva or in the United States, shocked me, and continues to shock 
me today when I recall it, as I am doing now. The brutality of racism 
is something beyond what a minimum of human sensitivity can en- 
counter without trembling, and saying, “Horrible!” 

I have heard from South African whites, or whites living in South 
Africa, who are as revulsed as I, who are as antiracist as I, traumatic 
accounts of unthinkable discriminatory practices. And from blacks 
as well. “I'm not allowed to say, “My God,” a young black church 
person told me, to my dismay and near incredulity at what I was 
hearing. “I have to say, ‘Your God.’” 

Blacks and whites, South Africans or residents of South Africa, 
with whom I conversed usually spoke of relations between oppres- 
sors and oppressed, colonizers and colonized, whiteness and black- 
ness, employing theoretical elements common to Fanon, Memmi, 
and Pedagogy of the Oppressed. They were especially interested in 
discussing how to attack concrete situations, and how, through an 
in-depth approach to the “why” or “whys” of the sense of being 
crushed that the popular classes have of themselves, they might 


revise their earlier perceptions. In other words, they wanted to learn 
how to perceive their old perception of reality and adopt a new 
apprehension of the world, but without this meaning that, by reason 
of being perceived differently, the world were suddenly transformed. 
It meant that{ on the basis of a new apprehension of the world, it 
would be possible to acquire the disposition to change it! 

[ Today, I fear that some men and women, rightly disturbed, some 
intellectuals in revolt who sought me out in those days, may now be 
among those who have allowed themselves to be tamed by a certain 
high-sounding neoliberal discourse. They may have been won to the 
cause of those who find that, when all is said and done, “This is the 
way it is, this is how history is, this is how life is. The competent 
run things and make a profit, and create the wealth that, at the right 
moment, will “trickle down” to the have-nots more or less equitably. 
The discourse upon and in favor of social justice no longer has mean- 
ing, and if we continue to hold that discourse in this “new history” 
of ours, we shall be mounting obstacles to the natural process in 
which it is the capable who make and remake the world. Among 
these persons are to be found those who declare that we no longer 
have any need today of a militant education, one that tears the mask 
from the face of a lying dominant ideology; that what we need today 
is a neutral education, heart and soul devoted to the technical train- 
ing of the labor foree—dedicated to the transmission of content in 
all the emaciation of its technicity and scientism. But that’s the 
old discourse! 

These visits from South Africans or residents of South Africa, 
with their expressions of justifiable anger and necessary indignation, 
were contemporaneous with my first visit to Africa—to Zambia and 
Tanzania, once again in connection with Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 
I was to stop over in Zambia, where I would hold a week-long 
seminar in Kitwe, in a center for theological studies, Mindolo Ecu- 
menical Foundation, then I would go on to Tanzania, for another 
seminar, at the University of Dar es Salaam. In both encounters, 
discussion would turn on Pedagogy, which was central to the “why” 
of the invitations I had been extended. While I was changing planes 
in Lusaka for a local flight to Kitwe, I was summoned to the “meeting 
area” on the airport public address system. Waiting for me there I 
found a young North American couple, whom I had met, I believe, 


in Boston, two or three years before. They were working in Zambia 
as volunteers, and had very good relations with the leadership of 
the MLA, the Movement for the Liberation of Angola. 

We greeted each other with an embrace, and they asked me 
whether I could stay in Lusaka that day, and fly to Kitwe the next. 
The MLA team in Lusaka would like a conversation with me on 
problems of education and struggle, literacy programs in liberated 
areas, and so on. If I should accept, my friends told me, they would 
see to flight arrangements and advise the theological center in 

By one oclock that afternoon I was having lunch in the young 
couple’s home with the MLA leaders, headed by Licio Lara, who 
within a few years would be second in the Angolan government and 
chief of the party's political bureau. 

We spent an afternoon and night of work, using some documen- 
tary films to flesh out our conversations. 

Lara started us off with a realistic report on the status of the 
liberation struggle, then we went back and forth about the educa- 
tional practice to be applied during the struggle itself. We dwelt on 
an analysis of how to take advantage of the need for sheer survival 
in the struggle by turning that need to account in the discovery of 
more effective and more rigorous means or procedures than, for 
example, benziduras (spells) or simple talismans. But in no wise, 
not even here, where going beyond commonsense knowledge was a 
matter of life and death, would it be legitimate to belittle that knowl- 
edge or look down on it. It must be respected.{A transcendence of 
commonsense knowledge, I was already in Pheak in those days, 
must be achieved only by way of that very knowledge.\ 

Indeed, this was a conception dear to the heart of Amilcar Cabral, 
the great African leader who, alongside others, inspired the libera- 
tion movements in what are now the former Portuguese colonies: a 
more rigorous empowerment of his comrades through seminars in 
which they would be authentically trained and their methods evalu- 
ated, which he would conduct on his visits to the battle front. Ca- 
bral’s objective was to overcome what he called culture weaknesses 
or debilities. He put it this way: 


Let no one imagine that the officers of the revolutionary forces 
approve the notion that, if we carry a talisman in our belt, we 
shall not die in battle. No, we shall not die in battle if we do not 
wage war or attack the enemy from a position of weakness. If we 
make mistakes, if we are in a position of weakness, we shall 
certainly die. There is no way around that. You can tell me a 
string of stories that you have in your heads: “Cabral doesnt 
know. We've seen cases where it was the talisman that snatched 
our comrades from the jaws of death. The bullets were headed 
right for them, and they turned around and ricocheted back the 
other way.” You can say that. But I have hope that our children’s 
children, when they hear that, will be glad that PAIGEC [African 
Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde] was able 
to wage the struggle in accordance with the reality of their 
land—and not have to say, “Our grandparents fought really hard, 
but they believed in superstitions.” This conversation may mean 
nothing to you now. I'm talking about the future. But I have 
certitude that the majority understand what I say, and know I 
am right. * 

Interspersing our conversation with documentaries, we also dis- 
cussed, at length, the question of literacy, and the imperative need 
that the struggle itself, as a process, enjoined upon its leadership: 
that they bend serious efforts to this end—in terms of activists 
technical training, of course, with a view to the progress of the 
struggle, and to the use of more modern and more sophisticated 
weapons, which could require more sophisticated knowledge on the 
part of the activists. Simultaneously with this kind of preparation, 
however, should come the activists political training. These persons, 
in the framework of Cabral’s critical understanding, ought always to 
be armed militants—activists, yes, military never. 

Years later, I had the opportunity to continue some of these con- 
versations with Lticio Lara, in Luanda, when he was working as 
chief of the party's Political Bureau, and when, at his invitation and 
that of the minister of education in Angola then, the poet Anténio 
Jacinto, who had spent seven years in the colonial dungeons, I 

*Amilcar Cabral, Obras escolhidas, vol. 1, Arma da teoria, p. 141. 



worked as a consultant to his ministry through the World Council 
of Churches. 

That meeting in Lusaka left a deep mark on me. The same is true 
of my meeting in Dar es Salaam with the FRELIMO (Mozambique 
Liberation Front) leaders, at the Formation Campus for leaders and 
administrators, a short distance outside Dar in a lovely location 
placed at the disposal of the front by the Tanzanian government. 
Finally, I was invited to hold a dialogue with experienced activists 
currently engaged in the struggle and therefore having no time for 
woolgathering or intellectual tours de force. What they wanted was 
to dive into a critical, theoretical reflection with me on their prac- 
tice, their struggle, as a “cultural fact and a factor of culture” (Cabral, 
1976). Their confidence in me as a progressive intellectual was genu- 
inely important to me. They did not criticize me for citing a peasant 
along with Marx. Nor did they regard me as a bourgeois educator 
because I maintained the importance of the role of consciousness 
in history. 

That was a satisfaction. I, a thinker in the field of educational 
practice, had been understood by activists currently caught up in 
their struggle, and had been invited to hold a dialogue with them 
precisely concerning that struggle, sometimes an armed one and 
sometimes not. It was a satisfaction that accompanied me all through 
the seventies, and that has accompanied me to this very day, most 
recently in my visit to El Salvador, of which I speak at the end of 
this book. The same was true of my journey through all of the former 
Portuguese colonies (with the sole exception of Mozambique), my 
trips to Tanzania, my conversations with President Nyerere, in 
which we discussed “education as self-reliance” and Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed, my sojourns in Nicaragua, Grenada (that lovely Carib- 
bean island that was the victim of an invasion), my encounter with 
Cuba. But along with the satisfaction of these encounters came the 
joy of so many others, at the four corners of the earth, with progres- 
sive folk who dreamt the possible dream of changing the world. And 
almost always, Pedagogy of the Oppressed had preceded me in these 
corners of the earth, in some sense paving the way for my own 
arrival there. 

I remember writing, during my nights in Africa, in Kitwe, in Dar 


es Salaam, a harsh, strong report of my visit. My report transcribed 
stories I had heard from Africans from the period preceding the 
independence of Zambia or Tanzania, and I myself wrote of the 
cruel marks of colonialism and racism. 

“A few years ago,” a Tanzanian professor told me as we walked 
into the bar of the hotel where I was staying in Dar, “I wouldnt 
have been able to walk into this bar like this. Things were different. 
The warnings posted along our beaches were unbelievable: “Blacks 
and Dogs Prohibited, “Blacks and Dogs Prohibited.’” My friend 
from the University of Dar was murmuring these words, softly, in a 
kind of singsong, facing me across the table in the bar, as if by 
repeating the offensive words of the shameful sign, he were some- 
how expressing the righteous wrath of women and men the world 
over in the face of the outrage represented by racism. 

Afterwards I strolled along the beach with him—the beach that 
had once been off-limits for him, and accessible only to whites. His 
“genetic inferiority,’ according to the “science” of a professor who 
“coincidentally” was white, counterindicated that his Negro feet 
tread those white areas, and that his Negro body “pollute” the blue 
waters of his own sea. “Blacks and Dogs Prohibited,” he kept whis- 
pering, as we left the beach and headed for his house for dinner. 

There are no such signs posted on the beaches of Tanzania. But 
racism is alive and well, crushing, shredding people's lives, and 
besmirching the world. 

As Patrick Lekota, Popo Molefe’s comrade—two extraordinary 
black South African leaders—put it in a letter to a friend: 

Today we are receiving judgment. Earlier on I had some anxiety 
for my family. All my years are going to our struggle, and the 
question must cross their minds as to whether I still remember 
my obligations toward them. But now, all that has suddenly 
changed into unbridled rage with this system of South African 
law. This past week, an Afrikaner bully, Jacobus Vorster, was 
fined [$1,200] for tying an African laborer to a tree and beating 
him to death. He was then released to go back to his farm with 
an order that he pay the widow [$43] per month for five years. 
The laborer (deceased) had accidentally killed Vorster’s one dog 


and injured another one. ... African life remains extremely 
cheap in this country.* 

So here is an instance of racism. But it is only one out of millions 
of such violent, shameful, absurd instances. 

Between January 3 and mid-February 1973, at the invitation of 
the religious leaders associated with the World Council of Churches, 
I visited twelve states of the United States. On that pilgrimage I 
found myself together with countless educators. Once more with 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed as mediator, I discussed their practice 
with them, seeking to understand it critically in its given context. 
Not always, let it be said in passing, were the groups in agreement 
with the analyses I made of certain components of their historico- 
social context. But none of the divergencies—even when they bore 
on substantive issues, as we shall see below—rendered inviable a 
generally rich, dynamic dialogue. 

Working from an ecumenical perspective, the team responsible 
for the study days had contacted the various groups of social workers, 
scattered throughout the twelve states, who wished to be included 
in these seminars, and set up with them a coordinating committee 
to arrange the calendar of meetings. 

On weekdays I met with groups, or leaders of movements that, 
although they declined to join church groups for the process, were 
not thereby excluded from the same. 

On weekends, in a city of one of the states in which I was working, 
a larger seminar would be held, with upwards of seventy partici- 
pants. The main lines and themes of the discussions had been set 
down minutely and in advance. For the last weekend, representa- 
tives of the twelve seminars crowded together for an evaluation 
meeting in New York, whose framework had been constituted from 
the reports of each of the twelve seminars. 

As I have said, beginning in 1967 I visted the United States regu- 
larly, participating in meetings and giving talks, even apart from the 
time I lived in Cambridge, at 371 Broadway (nearly a year). But 
never had I been exposed in such systematic, direct contact with 

*Rose Moss, “Shouting at the Crocodile,” in Popo Molefe, Patrick Lekota and 
the Freeing of South Africa (Beacon Press, 1990). 


the complex and highly technologized reality of North America. 
Those forty-five days challenged me to the maximum, and taught 
me a great deal. I relearned things I had learned before, obvious 
things like the fact that oneness in difference will be the only effec- 
tive response of those forbidden to be, those prevented from living, 
to the ancient rule of the mighty: divide and conquer. Without unity 
in diversity, the so-called minorities could not even struggle, in the 
United States, for the most basic (and therefore the “least,” if we 
may so say) rights, let alone overcome the barriers that keep them 
from “being themselves,” from being “minorities for themselves,” 
with one another and not against one another. 

The first time I made this statement on unity in diversity was in 
one of the weekend seminars of which I have just spoken. It was at 
a seminar in Chicago. It had begun in the morning, in the hotel 
where Elza and I had been put up, and where I had one of the 
most concrete experiences of discrimination I have ever had. We 
were sitting in the restaurant having breakfast. The waiters were 
going back and forth, taking care of customers to our right, to our 
left, in front of us, and at some tables a little way behind us, but 
passing us by as if we did not exist, or were under the effect of one 
of those marvelous science-fiction drugs that make you invisible. 

It was an experience of discrimination that I shall never forget. 
And the reason why I shall never forget it is precisely that, after all 
the years I had lived without having it happen to me, it was suddenly 
happening to me. Deep down inside, I realized, I had not conceived 
of myself as a possible object of discrimination. Of course, this beto- 
kened a lack of humility on my part, to say the least. 

We went without breakfast, even though (after my righteous pro- 
tests, and the explosion of my no less righteous anger, softened a 
bit by Elza’s more gentle manner) we left the restaurant to the 
accompaniment of the profuse apologies of the manager on duty, 
who was as racist as the waiters. 

The hour was upon us: the seminar was scheduled to begin in a 
few moments. So we went to a cafe on the corner for an orange 
juice and a cup of coffee. 

And so I walked into the big auditorium, where the participants 
had been waiting. I felt burdened—with a kind of sorrow, a great 
deal of anger, and a sense of helplessness, along with a little hunger, 


not to mention a hefty dose of frustration at not having my favorite 
American breakfast: “eggs up and a toasted English.” 

The coordinator opened the meeting. Then, one by one, the lead- 
ers of each of the various groups stood up and said, “Were black, 
and wed like to meet just among ourselves.” Or, “Were Indians. 
We'd like to be by ourselves.” Or, “Were Mexican Americans, and 
wed like a room to talk.” Then, his voice ringing with sarcasm, a 
young black pointed at a group of whites and said: “This is the ‘other’ 
group!” The whites had been silent. And silent they remained. 

In relations between blacks and whites, if I am not completely 
mistaken, there seems to be, on the part of many whites who do 
not regard themselves as racists, something that encumbers them 
in their dealings with blacks, and prevents them from mounting an 
authentic battle against racism. Here is what I mean. It seems—at 
least to me—that whites have strong guilt feelings with regard to 
blacks. And if there is anything that annoys those who suffer dis- 
crimination, it is to have someone dealing with them in a guilty 
tone. The presence of this feeling of guilt suggests, at the least, the 
existence of vestiges of the actual “why’ of the guilt: in this case, 
traces of the preconception itself. Here is the reason for the posture 
of accommodation adopted by so many whites in the way they be- 
have in situations like the one just described. What I mean to say 
is this. In my relations with blacks, with Chicanos, with gays and 
lesbians, with homeless persons, with workers white or black, there 
is no need for me to treat them paternalistically, brimming over 
with guilt. What I ought to be doing is discussing and debating 
things with them, disagreeing with them, as new comrades, or at 
least as possible comrades-to-be, comrades in the battle, companions 
along the way. 

Actually, what the rejected ones need—those forbidden to be, 
prevented from being—is not our tepidity but our warmth, our 
solidarity—yes, and our love, but an unfeigned love, not a mis- 
trustful one, not a soppy love, but an “armed” love, like the one of 
which poet Thiago de Melo tells.*° 

It was precisely amidst the silence that ensued among after the 
various “minority” leaders had claimed the right to isolation, that I 
spoke up. 

“I respect your position,” I said, 


but I am convinced that the more the so-called minorities accept 
themselves as such, and close off from one another, the sounder 
the only real minority—the dominant class—will sleep. All 
through history, among the many self-proclaimed rights of 
power, power has always arrogated the right, as an intrinsic con- 
dition of its very being, to paint the portrait of those who have 
no power. And the picture the powerful paint of the powerless, 
to be incarnated by them, obviously will reinforce the power of 
those who have power, by reason of which they do their portrait 
painting. The colonized could never have been seen and por- 
trayed by the colonizers as cultivated, capable, intelligent per- 
sons worthy of their liberty, or, for example, as the producers of 
a language that, because it is a language, advances and changes 
and grows historico-socially. On the contrary, the colonized will 
have to be barbarous, uncultured, “nonhistorical” persons—until 
the arrival of the colonizers, who ‘bring them history. They 
speak dialects, not languages, fated never to express “scientific 
truth,” or “the mysteries of transcendence,’ or the “loveliness of 
the world.” 

Generally speaking, the powerless, in the early moments of 
their historical experience, accept the sketch the powerful draw 
of them. They have no other picture of themselves than the one 
imposed on them. One of the signs of nonconformism on the 
part of the powerless is rebellion against the portraits created of 
them by the powerful. 

The so-called minorities, for example, need to realize that, 
when all is said and done, they are the majority. The path to 
their self-acceptance as the majority lies in concentrating on the 
similarities among themselves, and not only the differences, and 
thus creating unity in diversity, apart from which I fail to see 
how they can improve themselves, or even build themselves a 
substantial, radical democracy. 

My discourse annoyed some of those present. “That's white talk,” 
said the young black leader, lifting his index finger solemnly and 
looking daggers at me. 

“No, this isn’t white talk,” I said. “It's intelligent, clear-sighted, 
progressive talk, and it could have been uttered by a black man, a 
black woman, a blue-eyed Irishman, a Chicano, anybody at all, as 
long as theyre progressive. The only person who cant do this kind 
of talk is somebody whose self-interest would be served by the 


maintenance of the status quo. The only person who cannot logically 
speak in this way is a racist. Of course, it may be that, historically, 
right now, for any number of reasons, it is impossible to attain this 
oneness in difference. It may be, for example, that the grass roots 
of each ‘minority’ have not matured as yet, or have not sufficiently 
matured, to accept dialogue, accept ‘being with’ one another (or, 
more likely, their leaders have not). That's something else again. 
But to say that ‘unity in diversity is ‘white talk? No, that’s not right.” 

The groups had divided up and isolated themselves. They held 
their discussions and arrived at various conclusions on certain 



hen the seminar was over, I took advantage of the fact 

that the matter had come up, and talked about it again. 

I insisted that, on the journey in quest of unity in diver- 
sity—a long, difficult, but completely necessary journey—the “mi- 
norities’ (who, once more, are ultimately the majority) at odds with 
the majority have a great deal to learn. 

After all, no one walks without learning to walk—without learning 
to walk by walking, without learning to remake, to retouch, the 
dream for whose cause the walkers have set off down the road. And 
I have heard tell of this again just recently, so long after that Saturday 
morning in Chicago. This is what the current leader of the serin- 
gueiros among the Rain Forest Peoples—Osmarino Amancio, one 
of the disciples of Chico Mendes, recently the victim of a cowardly 
assassination— spoke of recently in ECO-Rio 92, with such candor 
and energy. His words, and the emphasis with which he uttered 
them in the presence of Chief Ianomami, reminded me of that semi- 
nar in Chicago. 

“In the beginning,” Amancio declared, “we believed the story we 
were told by the mighty—that the Indians were our enemies. The 
Indians, on their side, manipulated by these same mighty ones, 
believed them as well—that we were their enemies. As time went 
by, we discovered that our differences should never be the reason 
for our killing one another on behalf of the interests of the mighty. 
We discovered that we were all ‘Rain Forest People, and that we 


have always desired only one thing around which we could unite: the 
rain forest. Today,” he concluded, “we are a unity in our differences. 

There is another learning process, another apprenticeship, of ex- 
ceeding importance, but exceedingly difficult, especially in highly 
complex societies like that of North America. I mean the process of 
learning that a critical comprehension of the so-called minorities of 
one’s culture is not exhausted in questions of race and sex, but 
requires a comprehension of the class division in that culture, as 
well. In other ie does not explain everything. Nor does 
race. |Nor does class. Racial discrimination is by no manner of means 
reducible to a problem of class. Neither is sexism. Without a refer- 
ence to the division between the classes, however, I, for one, fail to 
understand either phenomenon—racial discrimination or sexual—in 
its totality, or even that against the “minorities” in themselves. Besides 
skin color, or sex differentiation, ideology, too, has its “color.” 

Cultural pluralism is another serious problem that ought to be 
subjected to this kind of analysis. Cultural pluralism does not consist 
of a simple juxtaposition of cultures, and still less is it the prepotent 
might of one culture over another Cultural pluralism consists in the 
realization of freedom, in the guaranteed right of each culture to 
move in mutual respect, each one freely running the risk of bein 
different, fearless of being different, each culture being “for itself 
They need the opportunity to grow together, but preferably not in 
the experience of an ongoing tension provoked by the almightiness 
of one culture vis-a-vis all the others, which latter would all be 
“forbidden to be.” 

The needed ongoing tension, among cultures in a cultural plural- 
ism, is of a different nature. The tension that is needed is the tension 
to which the various cultures expose themselves by being different, 
in a democratic relationship in which they strive for advancement. 

he tension of which the cultures have need in a multicultural soci- 
ety is the tension of not being able to escape their self-construction, 
their self-creation, their self-production, with their every step in the 
direction precisely of a cultural pluralism, which will never be fin- 
ished and comple: he tension in this case, therefore, is that of 
the “unfinishedness’ that each culture accepts as the raison détre 
of its very search and self-concern,} the why of its nonantagonistic 
conflicts—conflicts ungenerated by fear, by prideful arrogance, by 


“existential weariness,” by “historical anesthesia,” nor, again, by an 
explosion of vengeance, by desperation in the face of an injustice 
that seems to go on forever. 

We must also realize that the society to whose space other ethnic 
groups, for economic, social, and historical reasons, have come, to 
be “adsorbed” here in a subordinate relationship, has its dominant 
class, its class culture, its language, its syntax, its class semantics, 
its tastes, its dreams, its ends—its projects, values, and historical 
programs. The society to whose space other ethnic groups have 
come has its dreams, projects, values, and language that the domi- 
nant class not only defends as its own—and since they are its own, 
calls them “national’—but also therefore “offers” to the others (along 
any number of paths, among them the school), and will not take no 
for an answer. There is no genuine bilingualism, therefore, let alone 
multilingualism, apart from a “multiculturality,” and no multicul- 
turality arises spontaneously. [A multiculturality must be created, 
politically produced, worked on, in the sweat of one’s brow, in con- 
crete history. 

Hence the need, once more, for the invention of unity in diversity. 
The very quest for this oneness in difference, the struggle for it as 
a process, in and of itself is the beginning of a creation of multicul- 
turality. Let us emphasize once more: multiculturality as a phenome- 
non involving the coexistence of different cultures in one and the 
same space is not something natural and spontaneous. It is a histori- 
cal creation, involving decision, political determination, mobiliza- 
tion, and organization, on the part of each cultural group, in view 
of common purposes. Thus, it calls for a certain educational practice, 
one that will be consistent with these objectives. It calls for a new 
ethics, founded on respect for differences. 

In the early stages, the struggle for unity in diversity, which is 
obviously a political struggle, means mobilizing and organizing all 
the various cultural forces—without ignoring the class rift—and 
bringing these forces to bear on a broadening, a deepening, a tran- 
scending of a pure, laissez-faire democracy. We must adopt that 
democratic radicalness for which it is not enough merrily to pro- 
claim that in this or that society man and woman enjoy “equal free- 
dom,” meaning the right to starve, have no schools to send their 


children to, and be homeless—so, the right to live in the street, the 
right not to be taken care of in old age, the right simply not to be. 

It is imperative that we get beyond societies whose structures 
beget an ideology that ascribes responsibility for the breakdowns 
and failures actually created by these same structures to the failed 
themselves, as individuals, instead of to the structures of these socie- 
ties or to the manner in which these societies function) If black 
urchins do not learn English well it is their own fault! It is due to 
their “genetic” incompetency, and not to the racial or class discrimi- 
nation to which they are subjected, not to the authoritarian elitism 
that presumes to impose a “cultural standard’—an elitism that ulti- 
mately goes perfectly hand in hand with a complete disrespect for 
popular knowledge and popular speech. It is the same thing as oc- 
curs in Brazil. The little boys and girls of the hill and gully country 
fail to learn because they are born incompetent. 

These were some of the subjects discussed in the study day of 
which I speak. 

In the case of most of the positions I held in those days, and still 
hold, the reaction was not long in coming. 

The worst thing would have been a well-behaved silence, conceal- 
ing the discord. It was a good thing that the various groups—most 
of them, at any rate, expressed themselves, no matter that it have 
been against my view of the facts and problems. 

Things have not changed a great deal between 1973 and 1994, 
when it comes to an all but systematic refusal on the part of antiracist 
and antisexist movements, even serious movements, to admit the 
concept of social class into a comprehensive analysis either of racism 
and sexism themselves, or of the struggle against them] And the 
same is true for the struggle against the thesis of unity in diversity. 

Recently a university professor, black, female, a friend of mine, a 
serious, competent scholar, in conversation with me, my wife Nita, 
and Professor Donaldo Macedo, in Boston, vehemently denied any 
relationship between social classes and racism. 

We listened to her, she listened to us, we listened to each other 
respectfully, as I listened in 1973 to those who who said no to my 

If she had been offended by us, or we by her—because, for us, 
even though racism is not reduced to social class, we cannot under- 


stand the former without the latter, while for my friend this is not 
the case—had we offended each other, we would have fallen into a 
sectarian position as reprehensible as the racism we were execrating. 

Even more recently, in July of this year, I experienced tough 
resistance on the part of a group of competent intellectuals, mostly 
of Mexican or Puerto Rican origin, in California, to the possible 
dream, the necessary utopia, of transcending this almost invincible 
taste for shutting oneself up in a ghetto, and moving on to the 
political invention of unity in diversity. On this occasion, too, my 
interlocutors extended their reaction to or rejection of the category 
of class to any analysis of North American reality. 

Between sessions in the seminar I delighted in the reading of 
Manning Marabele.* 

Another study day, with its unforgettable moments, marked my 
first visit to the Caribbean, with a program of meetings and discus- 
sions held on various islands, starting in Jamaica. 

And on all the islands, with an occasional exception, the seminars 
were planned and coordinated by organizations working in popular 
regions in an advisory capacity on behalf of social movements on 
various levels and in various areas. 

Once more, a reading of Pedagogy of the Oppressed and the appli- 
cation of some of its suggestions nearly always occasioned a discus- 
sion of matters in which I was confronted with identical problems, 
if “clothed” in different “trappings. ” 

In the interest of brevity, I have selected three of the richer mo- 
ments of my voyage, and I shall concentrate on them. 

The first is connected with my being forbidden to enter Haiti, in 
whose capital I was to hold one of the seminars to discuss literacy 
and postliteracy programs. 

In Geneva, through the World Council of Churches, I had ob- 
tained an entry visa for Haiti. Upon arriving in Kingston, however, 
I was informed by program organizers that Haitian authorities had 
informed them that I was prohibited from entering the country. 
So they had switched the seminar from Haiti to the Dominican 

*Manning Marabele, The Crisis of Color and Democracy: Essays on on Race, 
Class and Power (Monroe, Maine: Common Conrage Press, 1992). 


It will be worthwhile here more to underscore the attitudes of 
arbitrary power—of fear of freedom (and anger with freedom), of a 
horror of culture, of contempt for thought in the authoritarian and 
unpopular regimes—than for any other reason. It helps to under- 
stand just how it came about that I was prevented from entering 
Haiti in those days. I was told that, upon learning of the seminar 
coordinators request that I enter the country, the national authori- 
ties, perhaps out of sympathy with the Brazilian military regime, 
decided to consult our embassy in Port-au-Prince. 

The response, according to the same source, was a categorical 
“No.” Obviously I can prove none of this, but none of it is very 
significant in comparison with the absurd pressure that, during the 
military regime, which called itself serious, democratic, and pure, 
was exerted not only against me, but against so many other Brazil- 
ians in exile. The first honorary doctorates that I received were 
bestowed in spite of ridiculous pressures put on the universities not 
to bestow them. My trip to UNESCO under FAO auspices occa- 
sioned incredibly flimsy and disgustingly petty reactions on the part 
of the military government then in power in Brazil. 

After a great deal of pressure by my first wife, Elza, on the Brazil- 
ian consulate in Geneva, where she insisted on her own right and 
that of her minor children to carry the passport whose renewal 
had been denied them more than three years before, the Brazilian 
government then in power ordered that they be issued a document 
valid only for Switzerland, as if they had needed a passport to travel 
from Geneva to Zurich! I frequently referred, in the outside world, 
to the “creativity” of the Brazilian Foreign Affairs Ministry in this 
matter. It all came down to national diplomacy’s having invented a 
“stay-in-port,” with which it “took the wind out of the sails” of the 
life of less dangerous exiles! 

The interesting thing is that Elza traveled with me through part 
of the world with her “stay-in-port.” In the airports, the police care- 
fully scrutinized that diplomatic anomaly, smiled, and stamped it, 
thereby manifesting their acceptance not only of the “stay-in-port” 
but of the human person who used it. 

Let us return to our case. 

As I was prevented from entering Haiti, another meeting had 
been arranged instead, in the Dominican Republic. It was to be 


with a popular education group, under Catholic auspices. Twenty to 
twenty-five educators wished to discuss with me, in particular, the 
question of the Generative Thematic, the actual programming of 
programmatic content, and my criticism of “banking” education. 
Heading toward the Dominican Republic, we made a stop in Port- 
au-Prince. I was traveling with a United Nations technologist and a 
Jamaican educator. For technical reasons, the flight to the Domini- 
can Republic would not leave for three more hours. And so my 
friend the United Nations technologist telephoned a friend of his, 
who quickly came to the airport to drive us around the city. 

I entered the country under prohibition from doing so, with my 
Swiss document inserted beneath my friend’s passport. It was a 
blue passport, which, by “bluing” my own, preserved me from 

The little city struck me. Especially all the popular artists, who 
displayed their paintings in various corners of the squares. Their 
pictures were full of color, and spoke of the life of their people, the 
pain of their people, the joy of their people. It was the first time 
that, in the face of such loveliness, such artistic creativity, such a 
quantity of colors, I felt as if I were, as indeed I was, faced with a 
multiplicity of discourses on the part of the people(” It was if the 
Haitian popular classes, forbidden to be, forbidden to read, to write, 
spoke or made their discourse of protest, of denunciation and proc- 
lamation, through art, the sole manner of discourse they were 

( By painting, they not only supported themselves and their fami- 
lies, but also supported, maintained, within themselves, possibly 
without knowing it, the desire to be c 

Some time ago, I conceived a huge desire to return to Haiti, 
legally, during the tenure of the elected, democratic government 
that has recently been overthrown by one more adventurer bent on 
defacing his world and imprisoning his people. Now, with this be- 
trayal of the Haitian people, it is no longer possible. It is a pity that 
we have come to the end of the century, and the end of the millen- 
nium, still running the historical risk of suffering these cowardly 
coups against freedom, against democracy, against the right to be. 
Once again the dominant minority, invested with the economic and 
political power upon which their firepower, their destructive vio- 

lence, rests, crushes the popular majorities in Haiti. Defenseless, 
these latter return to silence and immobility. Perhaps they will 
plunge into the popular arts—their festivals, their music, the very 
rhythm of their bodies. These things they must never renounce, and 
now they are an expression of their resistance, as well. 

Little did I imagine, as I headed for the Dominican Republic, 
what awaited me there. 

As a Brazilian citizen, I had not applied for an entry visa, since 
none was required by the Dominican regime then in power. The 
problem was that I did not even have my Brazilian “do-not- 
pass-port.” I only had a Swiss travel document. 

For the police at the airport, I was not Brazilian, I was a Swiss. 
And the Swiss needed a visa. As I had none, I was prohibited from 
entering. I was escorted, and none too politely, to “Departures” to 
reboard my plane, which would now go on to Puerto Rico. 

My friend the United Nations technologist left the boarding area 
for the reception area, found the priest who had come to meet me, 
and told him what was happening. 

Some fifteen minutes later, so soon after having been “recycled” 
to Puerto Rico, and from there to Geneva, via New York, I was 
sought out by the same police officer who had so discourteously 
escorted me to the waiting area from which I was to leave the coun- 
try. “Kindly come with me, sir,” he said, in a much different, more 
delicate, tone. “You are to enter the country.” 

At the moment I was far readier to leave than to stay, but the 
persons who were awaiting me must not be punished, nor must I 
fail to accomplish the task for which I had come to the Dominican 
Republic. I accompanied the police officer, to the tune of his profuse 
apologies, to the passport checkpoint, where the priest stood who 
would still have quite a time getting me into the country. I was 
listed as “disapproved, ’ it seemed, in the airport register, now surely 
replaced by computers. My name—no, there was no mistake—was 
there, “Paulo Reglus Neves Freire,” whole and entire, carefully 
penned, correct to the letter. This meant that I might not enter the 
country after all, and this time for far more serious reasons than 
merely not having a visa. Not this time. This time I found myself 
on an exceedingly lengthy list of “undesirables’—“dangerous 


subversives,” who posed a “threat,” as, for example, traffickers in 

The only solution, said the chief of the Airport Police, who had 
been summoned for his opinion, was for the priest who had invited 
me to speak with the national security chief. The latter alone had 
the authority to make the final decision. The police chief himself 
made the call, then handed the phone to the priest. 

“Yes, General. Yes,” said the priest, “if Professor Freire is willing 
to accept these conditions, I shall be responsible for him.” 

And with his hand over the mouthpiece, the priest asked me: 
“Will you stay the five days here without leaving the building where 
were having the seminar? And the press must not know youre in 
the country. No one must know. Do you accept?” 

“Of course I accept. I came here to converse, to teach, and to 
learn, not to make side trips or give interviews. I accept. There is 
no problem,” I replied. 

“Very well, General. Professor Freire is grateful for the opportu- 
nity of entering our country under the conditions you have estab- 
lished, and I guarantee that they will be fulfilled to the letter.” 

He handed the phone to the chief of police, who listened to the 
orders of the national security chief. 

I got in. I worked five days. I heard excellent reports on work in 
progress in rural and urban areas. 

This is what I had come for. It would have betokened political 
immaturity on my part if, out of some personal vanity, and feeling 
belittled, I had refused the general’s proposal. 

In the five days I spent in the country, without giving any inter- 
views, without appearing in the streets, without touring the city, I 
nevertheless did what I had come there to do. 

On the last day, on the trip back to the airport, the father made 
some discreet detours through the city so I could get a general idea 
of it. 

Beyond a doubt, this experience is not to be compared with the 
one I had some months later, when I was arrested one night in a 
hotel in Libreville, Gabon, in Africa, where I had arrived at the 
invitation of the recently installed government of SAo Tomé and 

What an irony, by the way, to be arrested in a city called Libre- 


ville, for being “exceedingly dangerous,” and having “written a sub- 
versive book,” as I was informed, without any beating around the 

“But sir,” I said to the officer whose demeanor was certainly that 
of a chief of police, “I'll only be in your country for twenty-four 
hours, while I wait for my flight to So Tomé tomorrow afternoon. 
Besides, I’m passing through here at the invitation of the govern- 
ment of S40 Tomé and Principe. So I only see an abuse of power 
here in what you have just communicated to me, and I protest that 
abuse: that I will be held at the hotel until tomorrow’s flight.” 

“You are not under arrest. You are our guest. Only, you may not 
leave your room.” 

A few moments later, at the hotel, my room was locked from 
the outside. 

Not under arrest! Strange terminology. 

There was one thing about that first visit to the Caribbean that 
impressed me a great deal: the experiment I visited on the lovely 
little isle of Dominica. 

Peasants living on a large, financially troubled ranch, which had 
been a key contributor to the country’s agricultural production, had 
persuaded the government to buy the ranch (with the cooperation 
of the British company that ran it) and hand it over to them, where- 
upon they undertook to purchase it over the course of so-and-so 
many years. 

The peasants then created a cooperative, with the technological 
assistance of an agricultural engineer who had been working with 
them. When I visited the experiment, they had already been manag- 
ing the property for a little over a year, and were having excellent 

There is a personal aspect of my visit that I should like to make 
public in this book—an experience of which I spoke of with my 
children after my return to Geneva. I was visiting the ranch as the 
guest of the president of the peasant cooperative that was managing 
the economic, social, and educational life of the ranch. He lived 
with his wife—no children—in a very simple house, without elec- 
tricity, on a little hill, the kind of hillock we call a morro in Brazil. 
In front of the house stood a lush mango tree, some bushes, and a 
green lawn. 


It was raining when I got out of the car to climb the slippery, 
muddy slope—its clay a “cousin” to the massapé of Brazil’s North- 
east. With a slip here and a slide there, my right hand tight on the 
arm of the president of the cooperative, my feet groping for a foot- 
hold, finally we got to the house, which was lighted by a kerosene 

We spoke a bit, the president and I. His wife, in a corner of the 
room, was listening, but not venturing to say anything. 

I was tired, and I had my mind more on going to bed than on 
anything else. 

Before going to my room—their own room, which they had put 
at my disposition in a gesture of siblingship—naturally I wanted to 
use the bathroom. Then it was that I perceived how far removed I 
was from the concrete daily life of peasants, despite my having writ- 
ten the book they had read in their study circles and therefore 
invited me to come talk with them. 

The more I needed to go to the bathroom, the less casual I felt 
about asking where it was. This could be complicated. I said to 
myself, if I ask where the bathroom is, and there is no bathroom, 
how will I be understood? 

Suddenly I said to myself: am I not being a bit like the white 
liberals who feel guilty when they talk with blacks?—the behavior 
to which I have referred a few pages earlier. Only, this time the 
division is a class one. I summoned up my courage, then, and asked 
my friend: “Where's the bathroom?” 

“The bathroom? The bathroom is the world,” said Mr. President, 
courteously conducting me beneath the mango tree, where we both 
raised the level of the water flowing down through the grass. 

Other than the bathroom, my major problem was, the next day, 
how to take my morning bath. My morning bath, in the fashion that 
I take it, has to do with my class position—just as does the way I 
speak, for example with the verb agreeing with the subject, or my 
dress, or my gait, or my tastes. 

It was a fine thing for me to be living and dealing not only with 
the couple with whom I stayed, but with the other peasants there. 
It was a fine thing, especially, to be able to observe how they came 
at the question of education, culture, technical training—they and 
their companions in the co-op. 


To this purpose, I spent two or three days actually out in the 
fields, besides joining in a conference set up by the leadership and 
attended by well-nigh seventy peasants at which we discussed ques- 
tions of curricular organization and problems of teaching and the 
learning process. 

After a little over a year of being their own bosses, under a demo- 
cratic regime—without, therefore, the abuses of, on the one hand, 
permissiveness and unlimited freedom, or on the other, unlimited 
authority—the work of the ranch was genuinely exemplary. The 
contribution of the agronomist, their educator, with his seriousness 
and competence, was lauded by all. 

The peasants had set up some ten centers throughout the area— 
ten “nuclei,” each managed by a team and headed by an elected 
officer. They had built ten rustic adobe meeting rooms. They had 
gotten sawhorses and laid boards on them for tables. The little rooms 
each had an extension, or a corner, that served as a kitchen, where 
the members of that particular center met for lunch and social re- 
freshment. All of the members of the area around each center would 
bring whatever they could—a chicken, a fish, some fruit, or the like. 
Teams of two persons, a man and a woman, took turns preparing 
the food. 

Every day the workers had two hours for lunch, during which time 
they discussed problems of daily experience. One of the members of 
each center, also in rotation, was in charge of noting down the sub- 
jects discussed, or even broached, in the daily meeting. These sub- 
jects, the material of the daily meetings, would then be brought up 
at the big meeting held every other Saturday at the co-op office 
itself, with the agricultural engineer or other experts present. The 
ranch in its entirety was regarded by the peasants not only as a 
center of economic production, but as their cultural center, as well. 
When you got right down to it, the ten “cultural nuclei” were the 
best way they had found to divide up the ranch as a totality, in 
the process of improving their knowledge and training, just as the 
biweekly meeting was the effort to, shall we say, “retotalize” the 
divided totality. 

It was an experiment in popular education directly connected 
with production, and I saw it functioning in an exemplary manner. 
This was in the 1970s. 


Recently, participating in an international conference in Montego, 
Jamaica (May 1992), I met an educator from the Dominican Repub- 
lic. We got on the subject of things that had happened years ago, 
and I immediately asked her whether she knew how the work on 
the community ranch was going. “It’s all over. Politics,” she said. 

Toward the end of 1979 and the beginning of 1980, I was twice 
more in the Caribbean. On these occasions my destination was Gre- 
nada, the magnificent little island that, seemingly overnight, almost 
magically, had mounted a revolution that, all fine and gentle that it - 
was, nevertheless failed to escape the fury of the teeth-gnashing, 
raging folk who own the world—any more than that of the raging 
folk who, while not proprietors of the world, think themselves pro- 
prietors of revolutionary truth. 

The revolution in Grenada resulted, in its final moment, from an 
almost Quixotic geste on the part of its leader, a still-young, ardent 
leader, one who had great confidence in his people. 

Taking advantage of the absence of the head of the government, 
Bishop and a dozen companions attacked a police station. It surren- 
dered without resistance. With the weapons captured there, they 
were able to arm other militants, then still others. Meanwhile, gov- 
ernment forces joined the movement. And the entire government 
establishment had collapsed as if it had been run over by a steam- 
roller. It was a revolution that had been waiting to happen. Without 
the malaise of the popular masses, without their hope and their 
readiness for change, the “wild idea” of Bishop and his companions 
might not have gotten by the second obstacle. 

History does not surrender or bow docilely to the arrogant will 
of the voluntarist.(Social transformations occur upon a coinciding of 
the popular will, the presence of a leadership blessed with discern- 
ment, and the propitious historical moment, Thus, a popular move- 
ment seized power with a minimum of social cost. Ruling interests 
did not even have time to react. The island was preparing to walk 
in a different direction. A different government was attempting to 
change the face of the country. 

My first visit to the island had been arranged a month before, in 
Managua, Nicaragua, where I had gone at the invitation of Fernando 
Cardenal, then Literacy Crusade Coordinator and later education 
minister. It was in Managua, where I gave the crusade a bit of 


myself, as well, and my understanding of education, that my friend 
Arturo Ornelles, who had worked with me in Sao Tomé, in Africa, 
and who was then working in the Education Sector of the Organiza- 
tion of American States, informed me of the Grenadan ministry of 
education's interest that I should visit that country. It was up to me, 
Arturo told me. 

Arturo took charge of communicating to the government of Gre- 
nada that I had accepted the invitation, but that the minister would 
have to request my trip to his country from the World Council of 
Churches, in whose Education Division I was working. Everything 
was in order, and in mid-December we arrived in Grenada, where 
every indication was that only the power elite outside the govern- 
ment and their foreign masters radically opposed the country's new 
political direction. What else could have been expected? They were 
defending their class and race interests. 

They must have been jubilant, then, when Mr. Bishop’s assassina- 
tion at the hands of the sectarian, authoritarian fanaticism of an 
incompetent Left—occasioning such a strong reaction on the part 
of Fidel Castro—further facilitated the already-easy invasion of the 
island. And so the dreams of the popular majorities were demol- 
ished. Now they would continue to live their difficult life, perhaps 
plunged once more into the fatalism in which there is no place 
for utopia. 

This was not the historical climate at the time of my two visits to 
Grenada. On the contrary, a contagious joy was afoot. People spoke 
with the hope of persons who were beginning to share in the re- 
creation of their society. 

Three meetings on the first visit left an indelible impression on 
me. One consisted of an entire day of conversations with the minister 
and various national teams, in which we discussed certain basic 
aspects of the new education they were gradually attempting to put 
in practice.. 

Together, we reflected on an education that, while respecting chil- 
dren's understanding of the world, would challenge them to think 
critically. It would be an education in whose practice the teaching 
of content would never be dichotomized from the teaching of precise 
pee (We spoke of an antidogmatic, antisuperficial thinking—a 


critical thinking, 6 would constantly resist the temptation of 
pure improvisation, . 

~ Any effort in the direction of implementing the above considera- 
tions—that is, any attempt to put into practice an education that, 
first, while respecting educands understanding of the world, will 
challenge them to think critically, and second, will refuse to separate 
the teaching of content from the teaching of thinking precisely— 
any such educational enterprise calls for the ongoing formation of 
the educators. Their scientific training, above all, calls for a serious, 
consistent effort to overcome the old authoritarian, elitist frame- 
works, which linger, latent, in the persons in whom they “dwell” 
and are ever ready to be reactivated,/, And without the exercise of 
this attempt to surmount the old—an attempt that involves our sub- 
jectivity, and implies the acknowledgment of its importance, a sub- 
jectivity so disdained and belittled by the dogmatism that reduces 
it to a mere reflex of objectivity—no attempt at changing the school 
by steering it in a democratic direction will likely carry the day) 

The two principles I have just stated can actually base an entire 
transformation of the school, and of the educational practice within 
it. Starting with these two points, I told the educators in our meet- 
ings, it would be possible for us to proceed to develop any number 
of dimensions, with innovations in curricular organization, with a 
new relationship between educators and educands, with new human 
relations in the school (administration, teachers, maintenance, secu- 
rity), new relations between the school and families, new relations 
with the neighborhood the school is in. 

It was appropriate that, in February of the following year, 1980, a 
National Leadership Training Seminar should be held, which would 
subsequently develop into dozens of training meetings all over the 

Invited to the February seminar, which had been set up by the 
Education Sector of the Organization of American States—the 
agency in which Arturo worked, as I have already mentioned— 
were Brazilian sociologist, now professor at the Federal University 
of Pernambuco, Joao Bosco Pinto, Chilean educational sociologist 
Professor Marcela Gajardo, who was unable to attend, myself, and 
naturally, Arturo Ornelles. 

The second meeting that impressed me so much on my first visit 


to Grenada was the one I had with administrators of the ministry 
of education. The minstry set aside a morning for our dialogue, to 
which all were invited, including clerks, chauffeurs, secretaries of 
the various departments, and typists. 

“I am convinced,” the minister told me, in requesting the meet- 
ing, “that\well never manage to change, to redirect, pedagogical 
policy, and place it in the democratic perspective were striving for, 
unless we can count on the participation of all of the sectors that, 
in one way or another, make up the ministry of education. Nor shall 
we be able to do anything without the cooperation of the educands, 
their families, their communities.” 

This was actually the first time a new administration that was 
gradually taking things in hand had invited me to speak to its educa- 
tional personnel on the importance of our school tasks, whether our 
own particular job be to sweep the classroom floor or to construct 
educational theory. Nor did I practice any demagogy in my ap- 
proach, any more than I do today. 

Reactions ranged from stunned surprise on some faces, to great 
curiosity and an ebullient eagerness to learn more in the expressions 
worn by the majority. 

One of the conclusions my auditors came to as they sat there with 
the minister was that meetings like the one we were holding ought 
to be held on a systematic basis, although attendance would be 

The third meeting I was to hold was with Mr. Bishop himself. 
He received Arturo Ornelles and me, at the presidential residence, 
for nearly three hours. Our conversation was over fruit juice, and 
we had at our disposition, for tasting (or ravenous gulping), on a side 
table, a luscious tray of native fruits. 

At the moment I write, and comb my memory, I wonder about 
two or three qualities of that person, so soon to be erased from 
the world that loved him, which touched Arturo and me in our 
conversation with him. 

I think I might begin with his simplicity and lack of artificiality. 
It was the simplicity of a person who lived a life of consistency 
between what he said and what he did. He did not even need to 
make an effort to keep from falling into self-adulation. It was thus 
that, with simplicity, at times with the smile of a child, he spoke to 


us of the adventurous exploit (but not that of an adventurer) that he 
had undertaken, he and his companions, in search of the assumption 
of the power that he then sought to re-create. 

He had a taste for freedom, and a respect for the freedom of 
others. He was determined to help his people help themselves, 
mobilize, organize, retrace the outlines of their society. He had a 
clear sense of historical opportunity—an opportunity that does not 
exist outside of ourselves, an opportunity that makes its appearance 
in a certain compartment of time, waiting for us to pursue it, but 
an opportunity that is waiting precisely in the relationship between 
ourselves and time itself—an opportunity deep in the heart of 
events, in the interplay of contradictions. It is an opportunity that 
we ourselves create, right in history—in a history that punishes us 
both when we fail to take advantage of the opportunity, and when we 
simply invent it in our heads, without any foundation in social fabrics. 

I remember his dialectical way of thinking (not a way of speaking 
about dialectics). The impression I have now, in recalling the meet- 
ing, is that Bishop thought dialectically so spontaneously and ha- 
bitually that there was no separation in him between discourse and 
practice. Hence, for example, the understanding he revealed in con- 
versation of the importance of subjectivity in history, which led him 
to recognize the role of education before and after the production, 
or better, the effort to produce, a new power. 

Perhaps this was one of the points, developed in the political 
practices of his government, that provoked the “mechanists,” as I 
call them, who are so very undialectical and who turned against him. 

At one moment in my conversation, Bishop asked me something 
that revealed his great relish for democracy, and revealed the re- 
markable similarity between him and the great African leader Amil- 
car Cabral, about whose struggle we were enthusiastically speaking. 
Bishop asked me to devote some of my time to the military during 
my visit to the island. He said something like: “It would be very 
helpful if you discussed with them the frankly civil spirit with which, 
and with which alone, we can remake our society.” 

Even without expressing it in so many words, Bishop perceived 
that, at bottom, in the democratic reinvention of society, the military 
fit in only when they know their function in the service of civil 
society. The military fit into civil society, not the other way around. 


And of course this was one of the things I stressed in my conversa- 
tion with the military. It provoked certain silences, perhaps in an 
expression of disapproval. 

Of my meetings, the one with the military was the one that im- 
pressed me the least. Before, I had met with some higher-ranking 
officers, in Lima, and in Lisbon, after the so-called Carnation Revo- 
lution. I had had three hours of conversation with majors and colo- 
nels from the various branches. They were a youthful folk, weary of 
an unjust, impossible war in Africa. 

What was happening, really, was that the Portuguese colonial 
armed forces, even in the mid-1970s, enervated by a war in which 
they had gradually come to perceive the absurdity of the process, 
were having to face off with Africans with whom just the reverse 
was happening: they were growing in the conviction of the ethical 
and historical correctness of their struggle. 

My encounter with the Portuguese military, who had thus been 
“conscientized” by the African war—a meeting arranged by a major 
who told me he had read Pedagogy of the Oppressed over and over 
(over and over in secret, obviously) and had used it on the under- 
ground assignments he carried out with other members of the mili- 
tary—revealed to me, among other things, this obvious basic point: 
the agents of war are not only the highly technical instruments 
employed, invaluable though they be; nor are they only men and 
women. The agents of war are men, women, and instruments. 

For the success of the fight, the ethical awareness and political 
awareness of the fighters is of paramount importance. Technology is 
at times replaced by the weaker side's power of invention, which 
emerges from a strength they possess that is lacking to the mighty: 
their ethical and historical conviction that their fight is legitimate. 

This is what happened in Vietnam, as well, where a highly ad- 
vanced North American technology yielded to a will to be on the 
part of the Vietnamese, and to their artful inventiveness, that of the 
weaker side. 

So this is what happened in Grenada, itself, where a lack of ethical 
and historical conviction on the part of the side possessing the weap- 
ons gave way to the force of a courage armed with the ethics and 
the history with which Bishop and his companions came to power. 


In February 1980 we returned to Grenada, Arturo and I, along 
with Joéo Bosco Pinto, who was making his first trip there. 

First off, we had a meeting with the national planning committee 
for the seminar, where we learned how the seminar would function, 
and what task would fall to each of us. 

The intention of all of us, the national team’s as well as our own, 
was to steer the labors of the seminar as much as possible in the 
direction of a unification of practice and theory. We therefore ex- 
cluded, from the outset, a course consisting of “theoretical” dis- 
courses, however fine they might be, on theory and practice, school 
and community, the cultural identity of the educands, the relation- 
ship between educators and educands, or what it is to teach and 
what to learn. Or on the question of programmatic content and how 
to organize it. Or on an investigation of the milieu in which the 
school is located, or in which various schools in the same area are 
located. And so on. 

Of course, we should have to create, imagine, hypothetical situ- 
ations—authentic codifications—upon which we would ask the par- 
ticipants of the seminar, whom we would present with elements 
typifying the situation, to spend a given amount of time to write 
their analyses: in other words, to decode the codification. 

On the basis of the example that I shall now give, we shall be able 
to imagine the others, for which, regrettably, none of us any longer 
has any documentation. Let me take the example of a sketch in 
which we could see a school typical of the island, with a given 
number of elements of its ambience included. 

The coordinating committee asked the members of the seminar 

A. Characterize, describe, what they saw in the picture, in purely 
narrative terms. 

B. Describe and analyze a day's routine, not only of the school, 
but also of the area around the school. 

C. Describe, this time more in detail—on the basis of experience, 
if they had had such experience, or else on the basis of what 


they had heard—relations between the teachers and students 
in such a school. 

D. Incase of a need to criticize the kind of relationship prevailing 
between teachers and students in the school, to try to identify 
the causes of that relationship, and to make suggestions as to 
how to improve it. 

E. Answer the following question: what do you think is good or 
bad about a rural school in whose programmatic content there 
is nothing, or almost nothing, about rural lifer 

F. Answer this question: in your own practice, what is it, to you, 
to teach, and what is it, to you, to learn? 

G. Answer this question: do you find that the role of the teacher 
is to mold students in accordance with some ideal model of 
men and women, or instead, to help them to grow, and to 
learn to be themselves? Defend your position. 

As I say, there were other such investigatory projects. The partici- 
pants had two-and-one half hours to answer, beginning at 8:00 A.M. 

Beginning at 10:30, we read the answers. First, each of us indi- 
vidually read them. Next, we discussed the various reports among 
ourselves. Then, for part of the afternoon, we discussed their im- 
plicit or explicit theoretical, political, and methodological aspects 
with the entire group. 

The dialogue we held with the national educators was a rich one. 
Their analysis and their positions stimulated our reaction. And we, 
the coordinators of the seminar, engaged in discussions about how 
we reacted to the reaction of the national educators. 

Over the course of three days, while, from 8:00 to 10:30 a.M., the 
participants answered the questions proposed to them, we met with 
various cabinet members (the ministers of agriculture, health, and 
planning) and conversed with them about the possibility and need 
of a common effort in which the efforts of their ministries would be 
combined with those of the ministry of education—or better, the 
possibility and need to have the ministry of education, in planning 


its policy, do that planning in light of what those of agriculture, 
health, and planning had in mind for the country. 

I remember that, in our second and last meeting with Mr. Bishop, 
we spoke of this need of a comprehensive view of the country—the 
importance of an interconnection among the various sectors of the 
government, with a view to an adequate balance between the means 
and ends of each respective ministry, as well as an adequate commu- 
nication among them all. We spoke of the question of ethics in 
addressing the public welfare, and of the candor with which the 
government, regardless of the breadth or depth of its activity, from 
a police department in a remote corner of the island to the prime 
ministers cabinet, should say or do things. Everything should be 
out in the open. Everything should be explained. We spoke of the 
pedagogical nature of the act of governing, of its mission of formation 
and of offering an example, which requires utter seriousness on the 
part of those who govern. There is no such thing as an authentic, 
legitimate, credible government if its discourse is not confirmed by 
its practice, if it practices political patronage and the pork barrel, if 
it is severe only with the opposition and kind and gentle with its 
coreligionists. If you give in once, twice, three times to the shoddy 
ethics of the mighty—or even of your “friends,” who are exerting 
pressure on you—the floodgates will open. From now on there will 
be only scandal upon scandal, and connivance with scandals ends 
by anesthetizing its agents and generates a climate typical of the 
“democratization of shamelessness. ” 

As I sit here recalling these twelve-year-old things I am thinking 
about what we are experiencing today in Brazil.| The avalanche of 
scandals at the highest levels of power become an example for the 
simple citizenry and the people. 

Everything becomes possible: deceit, betrayal, lying, stealing, 
falsifying, kidnapping, calumny, murder, assault, threats, destruc- 
tion, taking “thirty pieces of silver,” buying bicycles as if they were 
going to open bicycle rental shops all over the country. We must 
put a stop to everything being possible. 

The solution, obviously, is not in a hypocritical puritanism, but 
in a conscious, explicit relish for purity. 

“Td like to talk with you a bit, sir,” said a young man with a 


Portuguese accent, phoning me one Sunday morning in Geneva in 
the spring of 1971. 

I quickly consulted Elza, and with her consent asked him to come 
over for breakfast. I was then to spend the afternoon working on an 
upcoming interview for a European periodical. And so, inviting him 
to come for 11:00 A.M., I told him in the same breath that at 2:30 
I was going to have to start to start a job with a Monday morning 

In Geneva, everything runs on time. Even the buses run on time. 
The 10:04 bus actually comes at 10:04. And if it doesnt, it would 
be no surprise if the people of the neighborhood received a courte- 
ous letter from the Department of Public Transportation asking for- 
giveness and promising that it wont happen again. 

And so it was not long after the phone call that the doorbell rang, 
and the young man, indeed a Portuguese, had arrived. Uncomfort- 
able, and speaking rapidly, the boy swallowed his syllables, and 
slurred some vowels in the words of his structure of thought, playing 
them differently from the way we in Brazil make them “dance” in 
our thought structure. It was just what we Brazilians and Portuguese 
find so annoying in conversation with each other. It is not precisely 
the tighter rhythm of Portuguese speech that annoys us, and our 
more open rhythm that annoys them. It is the syntax. Nor is it the 
semantics inextricably imbedded in the syntax. It is the syntax itself, 
the thought structure. This is what annoys us both. 

In 1969, two years before that morning in Geneva when I con- 
versed with the uneasy young man, I had received, in the United 
States, a series of little notes, several of them written on the same 
sheet of paper, from Portuguese who had only recently learned to 
read and write. They had been sent by peasants of a rural area near 
Coimbra. They were writing to me to express their gratitude for 
what I had done for them, to tell me of their friendship, and to 
invite me, when political conditions should permit, to come and 
visit them, so that I might receive their embraces and hear of their 
fondness for me. 

A young American was the bearer of the messages, and she 
brought me one more thing along with them—a banner, or pennant. 
The motto on the pennant, by the way, is worth pondering: “There 
are people who can make flowers grow where it had seemed impos- 


sible.” Yes, they might have thought they had been born to a sure 
fate, under the sign of an inability to read words, and had been 
convinced of this. But they had learned to read words. And so the 
reason must have been outside themselves! In their teachers and in 
me. Of course, had they failed, the reason would have had to be 
inside themselves. 

I answered all of those who had written to me by penning little 
cards, in a simple, though never simplistic, language, and addressing 
them in care of Maria de Lourdes Pintacilgo, who within a few years 
would become prime minister of Portugal, and who at the time, 
together with Tereza Santa Clara, was heading the efforts of a group 
of excellent folk working in the area of popular education. The liter- 
acy campaign in that rural area near Coimbra was only a small 
part of what was being accomplished by that dedicated, competent, 
loving, and discerning Grail team. 

At one point in our conversation, that Sunday morning on which 
I report here, the young Portuguese gentleman referred directly to 
the work at Coimbra. “Does Paulo Freire know how a group of 
Catholic women have perverted his ideas in the countryside 
around Coimbra?” 

“What I know of the work done in Coimbra doesnt seem to me 
to be a distortion of my proposals. By all indications, it was simply 
what could concretely be done,” I said, and I went on: “Under what 
regime, under what police observation do you think those young 
women were working in Coimbra?” 

But without answering my questions, the young man insisted that 
“they had not associated the literacy campaign with the political 
struggle against Salazar. They were just nice little Catholic girls. 
They had no understanding of the class struggle as the thrust of 
history,” he concluded, triumphantly. 

Three years had passed since the conscientizagdo of the Portu- 
guese colonial armed forces. The Carnation Revolution had erupted. 
A new government was in place, and had initiated the process of 
democratizing Portugal and decolonizing the Africa once misnamed 

Hope reigned. Spirits forbidden to so much as speak shouted and 
sang. Minds prohibited from thinking discoursed, and burst the 
bonds that had held them. 


I visited Portugal at the invitation of the new government, in 
which the university had joined, and I spoke to teachers and stu- 
dents. I visited Coimbra, and its university. And of course, led by 
the same loving, dedicated young women who had believed in God 
and in the need to change the world in behalf of the outcast and 
had done such wonderful service in the environs of the city, I visited 
the peasants who, in 1969, had written me those cards that spoke 
of their brotherly and sisterly love. I embraced them all, lovingly. 
Our personhoods were, as it were, inscribed on one another's hearts, 
and our affectionate discourse expressed a mutual gratitude. Theirs 
to me. Mine to them all. 

It was that morning in Coimbra, out in the country, that I learned 
of the little rural community that, along with a small number of 
others, had given such complete support to the revolutionary gov- 
ernment at one of the moments when the Right was flailing about 
in all its frenzy. One of the more daring of the elderly peasants 
taking the literacy course with the young women of the Grail got 
up early one particular morning, and, before anyone else was awake, 
went around collecting all the Fascist propaganda that had been 
distributed during the night in her little village. The whole village 
refused to support the rightist demonstration to which they had 
been invited by these pamphlets! 

No discourse on the class struggle had been necessary during the 
literacy course, however real that struggle might be, in order for 
her and her companions to perceive, once the right moment had 
come, the relationship between the reading of the word, the reading 
of the world, and above all, the transformation of the world! 

The only sensible way for the Catholic girls to have done their 
work had been within the limits of good tactics. Any other approach 
would have been “reactionary.” 

News of the Carnation Revolution took me by surprise on a thirty- 
five-day visit to Australia, New Zealand, and some of the principal 
islands of the region. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, once more, was 
at the center of the frameworks of our meetings. Its publication by 
Penguin Books, as I have pointed out, enabled it to reach all of that 
world, along with India, and the misnamed “British” Africa. 

Never have I accepted the denomination of British, French, or 
Portuguese Africa, not to mention the other “Africas.” I have dis- 


puted with friends in the ministries of the Portuguese ex-colonies 
(“Portuguese ex-colonies,” yes) a number of times, arguing against 
the designation of a “Portuguese-speaking Africa.” I do not believe 
in the existence of such a thing, any more than in that of a “French- 
speaking” or “English-speaking” Africa. What we have is an Africa 
over which there hovered, in domination, colonial-style, the Portu- 
guese language, the French language, the English language. That 
is another matter. 

The big risk, or one of the big risks, of these Africas is that, partly 
out of nostalgia for the old colonial days—under the impulse of 
the ambivalent feeling the colonized have for the colonizers, one of 
repulsion and attraction at once, to which Memmi (Albert Memmi) 
refers—partly from necessity, partly under pressure, linguistic “ex- 
expressions consisting of the old linguistic bonds would now deepen 
into an incarnation of a new kind of “language” or expression: the 
neocolonial. Not that I defend, for the various Africas, the absurdity, 
the impossibility, of an absolute breach with the past, which basically 
remains untransformed, and a renunciation of the positive factors in 
the cultural influences of old Europe. What I defend and recom- 
mend is a radical breach with colonialism, and an equally radical 
rejection of neocolonialism. I call for the defeat of the colonial bu- 
reaucracy, as I actually suggested to the governments of Angola, 
Bissau, and S4o Tomé and Principe; the defeat of the colonial school, 
the formulation of a cultural policy that would take seriously the 
question of the national languages, which the colonizers called, pejo- 
ratively, “dialects.” 

In fact, (colonized persons and colonial nations never seal their 
liberation, conquer or reconquer their cultural identity, without as- 
suming their language and discourse and being assumed by it/ 

That a Portuguese, a French, a British ex-colony not turn its back 
on these languages and these cultures, that they make use of them, 
that they study them, that they take advantage of their positive 
elements, is not only right and good, but altogether needful. The 
basic thing, however, is that the country that receives “foreign aid,” 
in whatever form that aid be offered, technological or artistic, do so 
as an active, autonomous agent, and not as the passive object of the 
transfer effectuated by the other country. I was once told, perhaps 
by way of caricature, that a certain African country had received 


foreign aid (to be repaid, however) from the former Soviet Union, 
in the form of a snowplow, for clearing the streets after snowstorms! 
In this case, it was the Soviet Union that fluttered over this country 
of Africa! 

But to get back to the trip to Australia, New Zealand, Papua New 
Guinea, and Fiji. I shall omit any commentaries on the beauty, 
in some cases the peerless beauty, of this region, and attempt to 
concentrate on one or other point of the theory of which I speak in 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, a theory anchored in my own practice 
rather than in other persons practices that I would have been able 
to explain theoretically. This was true, by and large, of everything 
I did on the journey, in discussion, research, negative criticism, 
concordant analysis, and requests for explanation. 

In Australia, especially, I had the opportunity of associating with 
intellectuals, Marx’s loyal allies, who precisely as his authentic fol- 
lowers had grasped the dialectical relationship between the world 
and consciousness, and had assimilated the theses defended in Peda- 
gogy of the Oppressed rather than looking upon it as a volume of 
idealism. But I also dialogued with persons imprisoned in a dogma- 
tism likewise of Marxist origin, who, while not precisely belittling 
consciousness, reduced it to a mere shadow of materiality. For those 
who thought in this way, mechanistically, Pedagogy of the Oppressed 
was a book of bourgeois idealism. Actually, however, one of the rea- 
sons why this book continues to be as much sought after as it was 
twenty-two years ago may be precisely because of content that led 
certain critics of that time to regard it as idealistic and bourgeois. I 
refer to the importance the book ascribes to consciousness, without, 
however, seeing consciousness as the arbitrary maker of the world. 
I refer to its recognition of the manifest importance of the individual, 
without ascribing to individuals as such a strength they do not have. 
I mean\the weight, which the book likewise recognizes, in our life, 
individual and social, of feelings, passion, desires, fear, insight, the 
courage to love, to be angry.) I mean the book's vehement defense 
of humanistic positions, but without ever sliding into sloppy senti- 
mentalism. I mean its understanding of history, in whose intermin- 
gled context and motion it seeks to understand that of which it 
speaks. I mean its rejection of sectarian dogmatic opinions. I mean 
its relish for the ongoing struggle, which generates hope, and with- 


out which the struggle withers and dies. I mean Pedagogy’s perva- 
sive opposition, so “early on,” to the neoliberals, who fear the 
dream, not the impossible—since the impossible should not even 
be dreamt of, while the dream makes things possible—in the name 
of facile adaptations to the catastrophes of the capitalist world. 

Many in the 1970s, sometimes in a letter addressed to me, said: 
“I desiderate the Marxist presence in your analyses, or your igno- 
rance of the fact that ‘the class struggle is the driving force of history. 
But I think” (and these persons were the most sensible of the lot!) 
“that we can get something out of what you are doing and saying by 
‘rewriting you in a Marxist vein.” And many of the men and women 
who thus expressed themselves are to be found today, sadly, in the 
ranks of the “pragmatic realists,” although at least they acknowledge 
the social classes when they walk through the hills, gullies, slums, 
callampas, and streets of Latin America. | 

And so I traveled through much of Australia. I held discussions 
with factory workers, with “aborigines,” as they are called (I was 
received by one of their groups at a special meeting). I held debates 
with university professors and students, and with religious groups, 
Protestant and Catholic. In the religious groups, whether Catholic 
or Protestant, the launching pad was the Theology of Liberation, 
both the importance of that theology, and the defeat it proposed of 
accommodation and immobilism through acceptance of the deep 
meaning of the presence of man and woman in history, in the 
world—a world ever to be re-created on pain of having, not a world, 
but a mere platform to set things on. 

In New Zealand, I held more discussions about Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed, with groups like those in Australia and emphasizing one 
aspect or other of the book. I was impressed by my discussions 
with indigenous leaders—with their insight, their awarness of their 
position of subjection and their rejection of that position, their thirst 
for the struggle, their nonconformity. Today, the Maori population 
of one-hundred-thousand, who are bilingual, have the option of | 
studying their own language in the schools.* 

My trip through Papua New Guinea was a hasty one. The island 

*The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni- 
versity Press, 1987). 


was preparing to gain its autonomy, take itself in hand, within a few 
months, no longer to be a “protectorate” of Australia, which it had 
been since the end of World War II. 

One of the meetings I set up was with a group of young politicos 
who bade fair to play a salient role among the leaders of the process 
of assumption of the reins of national government. Our meeting 
was a lengthy one, concentrating on problems of development and 
education, education and democracy. Primary, secondary, and uni- 
versity education. Cultural identity. Language, ideology, social 

That evening I shared in a discussion at the university, whose 
topics, as might have been expected, included doubts and criticisms 
about certain elements in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 

Some of the criticisms repeated others I had heard previously, 
in Australia. 

Along with certain merits of the book, the “idealistic” stamp of 
my humanism was emphasized, for example—the “vagueness,” to 
which I have referred in the present book, in my concept of “op- 
pressed, or in my concept of “people.” 

I rejected that sort of criticism, of course, just as I do today. But 
our debates never lost the tone of a dialogue, never became polemi- 
cal. The persons who dissented from my positions obviously meant 
me no harm. Their criticisms did not feed on some uncontainable 
rage against me. Thus, even in the case of diametrically opposed 
positions, in Australia or in New Zealand, the respectful relationship 
that prevailed between those who disagreed with me and myself was 
never lost. The same thing had occurred between North American 
scholar Chester Bowers and me at the University of Oregon, at a 
debate in the presence of sixty members of a seminar, in July 1987. 



e disagreed almost across the board, for an hour and a 
half, but without having to offend or abuse each other. 
We simply argued for our respective, mutually contradic- 
tory positions. We did not have to distort anything in each other's | 
thinking. a 

The last stop on my long trip was Fiji. Two key events made my 
journey to such distant corners of the world well worth the while. 
One was a meeting at the University of the South Pacific, at which 
the students dealt with me in such a tone of intimacy that it was as 
if I were their teacher there, and lived there with them in their 
campus dorms. So familiar were they with my books, thanks to their 
translation into English. 

Still today, I enjoy, genuinely enjoy, the recollection of the evening 
of that meeting. The huge auditorium, recently dedicated, was 
crammed to the rafters, with people spilling out into the university 
gardens, somewhat similarly to what happened this past April (1992) 
at the State University of Santa Cruz at Itabuna, in Bahia. 

On both occasions, in the 1970s in Fiji and more recently in 
Itabuna, loudspeakers had to be installed facing the gardens of both 
universities, and the meeting delayed until they were in place. 

Obviously we could not have the dialogue that we should have 
liked to have. On both occasions I simply spoke to the students. In 
Fiji in the 1970s I spoke about certain matters discussed in Pedagogy 
of the Oppressed, one of the textbooks they used in their courses. 
In the 1990s, in Itabuna, my material was from the present 


book, in which I am revisiting and reliving Pedagogy of the 

Let the reader not puzzle long over why I set these two meetings 
in contiguity here, despite their distance in time and space. They 
had an element of similarity. The participants of both, students of 
some twenty years ago from the islands of the South Pacific, and 
students of today in Itabuna, Bahia, were impelled by like motives: 
they were on fire with a love of freedom, and had found a point of 
reference in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 

The second event was the homage offered me by the native com- 
munity of a village deep in a beautiful, thick wood. 

It was a festival at which politics, religion, and siblingship 

The leaders and other members of the community were abreast 
of what I was doing and what I was writing about. Some of them 
had even read Pedagogy of the Oppressed. And so they welcomed 
me as an intellectual committed to the same cause that mobilized 
them and stirred them to the struggle. They insisted on stressing 
this aspect, just as had the natives of Australia, called aborigines, in 
receiving me with such intimacy, deep in the heart of their own 

( It was as if, in the spirit and the rituals of their traditions, they 
had been bestowing an honorary doctorate on me.| 

For that matter, this becomes one of the reasons why, not out of 
arrogance, but out of a legitimate sense of satisfaction, I have ac- 
cepted the homage of the intellectuals of the academies, and the 
intellectuals of field and factory. 

I have no reason, in the name of some false modesty, to hide, on 
one hand, the fact that I am offered these homages, or on the other, 
the wholesome fact that I welcome them—that they gladden me, 
and comfort and encourage me. 

The deeply meaningful ritual with which the solemnity or festival 
proceeded was simple and lighthearted. Yet it touched me deeply. 
Ultimately, the symbolic act of the ceremony, as I understood it 
(neither was it explained to me, nor do I think it ought to have 
been), suggested to me that, though a stranger, and unendowed with 
certain qualities or certain basic prerequisites, I was nevertheless 
being invited to “enter” into the spirit of the culture, of its values, 


of its siblingship. To this purpose, however, I had to “suffer” or 
undergo experiences calculated to result in my capacity to “commu- 
nicate” with the loveliness and “ethnicity” of that culture. 

It was significant, for example, that, at the beginning of the cere- 
mony, basically one of purification, I might not speak. I was forbid- 
den the right to the word—which is fundamental, indispensable, 
for communion. But not just any word can seal communion. Hence 
my silence until certain things should occur during the ceremony 
that would reestablish my word. Hence also the designation, by the 
priest, of an ‘orator’ to speak in my name. Unless I could speak, in 
the intimacy or heart of the culture—even before my own word 
should be reestablished—it would be impossible for me to “suffer” 
the experience of the reestablishment of my word in absolute si- 
lence. The word that was lent to me by my representative had the 
function of mediating the reconquest of my own. 

Only in the course of the ceremonial process, after the official 
speech of a delegate of the group, whose discourse was not translated 
for me, possibly a discourse of requirements being made of me, to 
which my “representative” responded, and only after taking, from 
the same “chalice” as he, the purifying drink, without manifesting 
any reluctance, was I finally ascribed the right to speak in the inti- 
macy of his world. 

My discourse was then the discourse of a quasi-sibling: a formal 
discourse that conformed to the rules, to the ethico-religious exigen- 
cies of the culture. 

I now spoke a few words, in English, with a French Catholic 
priest who had been in Fiji for twenty years as my simultaneous 
translator, even though nearly everyone present understood En- 
glish. I told of my joy and sense of honor at having become able to 
speak after such a long period of silence. My speech, I added, | had 
been augmented by a meaning that it had not had before./ Now 
my speech had been legitimated in a different culture, in which 
communion was not only among men and women and gods and 
ancestors, but also among all the other expressions of life. Now the 
universe of communion included the trees, the animals, the beasts, 
the birds, the very earth, the rivers, the seas: life in plenitude 

There were days—my days in all that part of the Pacific, and not 
only in Australia or New Zealand or Papua New Ginea or Fiji— 


when I was torn inwardly in so many directions. I felt pulled toward 
the astonishing beauty of nature, of human creation; toward the 
feeling for life, and love for the earth; toward the populations called 
aborigines; and I was overwhelmed anew by a wickedness I already 
knew—the wickedness of racial and class discrimination. Race and 
class discrimination is an agressive, ostentatious discrimination, at 
times. At times, it is covert, instead. But wicked it always is. 

I have saved, purposely, a bit of commentary on my last visit to 
Chile and my first visit to Argentina, for the end. It was in June 
1973, while the Popular Unity regime was in power, that I most 
recently visited Chile, a few months before the violence of the coup 
burst over the heads of all. It was waiting in the wings, though, that 
was plain to see. My first visit to Argentina, in November 1973, 
would be separated from the next by a long interval, on account of 
the coup that resulted in the banishment of the books of Marx, 
Darcy Ribiero, and myself. 

When I read the decree published in the press I could scarcely 
resist sending a telegram to the general who had appointed himself 
president to thank him for the excellent company in which he had 
placed me. 

My trip to Chile in June 1973, regardless of the angle from which 
I observe it, and far as I am from it today, was one of the most 
unforgettable I have ever made. 

I shall concentrate on two moments that I experienced then, in 
the extraordinary climate of the struggle of the political ideologies, 
in the class confrontation that reached such levels of finesse on the 
part of the dominant classes and was such a powerful learning pro- 
cess for the popular classes. It was apropos of this era that I heard 
from a worker that he had learned more in one week than in all his 
life up until then. What the young worker was ultimately referring 
to was the process of his apprenticeship in the class struggle. He 
had been serving on a committee of workers who were trying to 
understand the reasons why, suddenly, countless articles had begun 
to be absent from the Chilean market—rubber nipples that go on 
baby bottles, chickens, basic medicines, and so on. 

Fathers and mothers spent sleepless nights, their children crying, 
on account of the shortage of rubber nipples. If you could find one 
rubber nipple in the pharmacies of Santiago it was a miracle. 


“Good day, sir. Do you have any rubber nipples?” 

“No, I'm very sorry. Its the fault of those who voted for Allende” — 
the little memorized ideological speech that was supposed to be 
recited those days, as I was told, in Santiago. 

That is class struggle. 

“Do you have a pollo—a chicken?” 

“No. It’s the fault of those who voted for Allende.” 

The dominant class had buried poultry by the thousands, reason- 
ing that a temporary poultry-shortage was a small price to pay for a 
win tomorrow, without risk. 

That is class struggle. 

Some twenty years ago, the dominant class concealed merchan- 
dise, diverted products, and lied and said that it was the fault of 
those who had voted for Allende. Today, it pronounces a neoliberal 
discourse, in which, not only in Chile, but all over the world, it talks 
of the nonexistence of classes, and says that to protest the evil of 
capitalism is to return to the perilous, negative, destructive dream 
that has already done so much harm. 

I hope that we progressives, who suffer, who lose companions, 
siblings, friends, in the perversity of all the coups we have had come 
crashing down on us, will be careful not to lend an ear to these 
falsehoods, which masquerade as postmodernity but are as hoary as 
the bullying and despotism of the mighty. . 

The first moment to which I should like to make reference is that 
of a meeting in which I participated with a large group of Marxist 
educators, who lodged criticisms identical with the “Marxist” criti- 
cisms to which I have already referred in this book. For example, 
they would cite my supposed failure to assign sufficient importance 
to the class struggle, or my “idealism,” or the dialogue that, ac- 
cording to some of them, seemed to smack of “democratism” or 
humanism—as well as, once more, of the “idealism,” with which | 
Pedagogy of the Oppressed was alleged to be riddled. | 

It was a lively debate, and we went on for over two hours. It was 
recorded on tape to be printed as an issue of a Santiago educa- 
tional periodical. 

Unfortunately, I have lost track of my copy of the periodical, ad 
so can now neither transcribe any of the things said, nor report 
more precisely on the topics addressed. But I can certainly declare 


the excellence of that encounter in terms of the seriousness with 
which we conducted our discussions. 

I can see their faces now, even as I write, nineteen years to the 
month since that encounter, those debating companions of mine 
that evening in Santiago. I had been so full of hope that they had 
not let themselves so much as be tempted by the language of “prag- 
matic” accommodation to the world. 

Before saying good-bye, and leaving the spacious hall, I asked my 
interlocutors to turn around and cast a critical glance at a poster 
they had been using for the literacy campaign. There were several 
posters hanging on the walls. 

A middle-aged workman, sitting at a table, was having showered 
over his passive head, by a strong, determined hand—as if it were 
crumbling something between its fingers—pieces of words. The vig- 
orous hand of the educator was sowing letters and syllables in the 
purely recipient head of the worker. 

“This poster,” I then told them, “was drawn by a progressive! That 
makes it completely inconsistent. Without so much as batting an 
eyelash, it goes ahead and expresses a barefaced authoritarian ideol- 
ogy. But besides that, it betrays a profound scientific ignorance of 
the nature of language. 

“This is really the kind of poster that ought to be ed by reaction- 
aries, who, to their reactionism, join a crying ignorance of language, 
as I have just said.” 

Then there was another poster. It said: Quem sabe, ensina a quem 
nao sabe (The one who knows teaches the one who knows not). 

[- “But for the one who knows to be able to teach the one who 
knows not,” I said then, and I repeat now, “first, the one who knows 
must know that he or she does not know all things; second, the one 
who knows not must know that he or she is not ignorant of every- 
thing. Without this dialectical understanding of knowledge and igno- 
rance, it is impossible, in a progressive, democratic outlook, for the 
one who knows to teach the one who knows not.” 

The second specially exciting moment of that visit (a trip I have 
referred to earlier in this book) was the entire evening I spent, in the 
company of sociologist Jorge Fiori, in Poblaci6n Nueba Habana—a 
“land invasion” that had begun to acquire the aspect of a cidade 
livre, a free city. I saw and felt, close up, the ability of the popular 


classes to organize and govern—the wisdom with which the lider- 
anca not only detected problems, but also discussed them with the 
whole population of the quasi cidade. No decisions were ever taken, 
in the collective life of the “cidade,” without first being submitted 
to discussion by all. 

They believed in the democracy they were building together, in 
the “popular” law they had begun to codify, in the equally popular, 
progressive, democratic education they were in the course of shap- 
ing. They believed in the individual and social solidarity in which 
they felt and knew they were growing. And, on account of all of this, 
they also knew themselves to be, on the one hand, the agents of 
fright and fear in the dominant class, and on the other, the objects 
of that class’s unbridled fury. 

Nueba Habana was destroyed. Its leader was murdered in Sep- 
tember 1973. 

Its spirit of freedom, its sibling dream, its socialist ideal, live— 
perhaps, just possibly, biding their time against a possible return, by 
way of the defeat or rejection of the neoliberal “pragmatic” discourse. 

In August 1973 I received a telephone call from Buenos Aires. It 
was from the chief of staff of Dr. Taiana, the Argentine minister of 
education. He told me that the minister himself wished to speak 
with me. 

“Professor Freire,” said Dr. Taiana, “we should be most pleased 
if you would accept our invitation to come to Buenos Aires as soon 
as you can. It would be ideal, for example, around the turn of the 

I had already committed myself, for this same period, to certain 
meetings sponsored by the World Council of Churches that I could 
not afford to miss. 

And so the visit was scheduled for November 1973—after the 
ministry had accepted certain conditions I laid down! Not working 
in the evening was one; some evenings, when possible, out listening 
to tango music was another. 

The ministry complied. I worked hard in the daytime, but I went 
out to hear tango music two evenings, there in Buenos Aires! 

On my way to Argentina, I stayed overnight with my dear friend 
Darcy Ribeiro, in Lima. We talked all night, such was our fondness 
for each other and our restless curiosity to know—the curiosity of 


those alone who, knowing that they know, know that they know little, 
and that they need and can know more. Not the curiosity of persons 
have who know themselves to be glutted with knowing. 

Sitting in his pontifical-style armchair, with his legs tucked under 
him, Darcy talked about his work in Peru, his plans for books, his 
reflections in the areas of culture and education. He spoke, we 
spoke, also of our homesickness for Brazil. We saw once more what 
we had seen, and how we had seen what we had seen, in the days 
before the 1964 coup, when Darcy was President Goulart’s™ chief 
of staff and I was running the National Program for Adult Literacy.*! 

We spoke of Chile. Of his meetings with Allende, of the assassi- 
nated president's genuinely democratic mind and spirit. Of the coup 
in Chile that would have come even if the Left had not made the 
mistakes it had made. The fewer the mistakes, the sooner the coup 
would have come. In the last analysis, the reason for the coup was 
much more in the correct things the Left had done than in any 
mistakes it had made. 

Our magnificent friend, Darcy's and mine, the great Peruvian— 
or rather, Latin American—philosopher Augusto Salazar Bonde, 
leader of Peru's great educational reform, whom Darcy and I, along 
with Ivan Illich, had helped out, picked me up at.the airport. A 
week later, on my way back to Europe, I visited him in the hospital 
where he was to die within a few days. The cancer that had been 
killing him was still unrecognized, and was finally diagnosed only 
the evening before he died. 

I remember, now, my conversations with philosopher Salazar in 
Cuernavaca, Mexico, sitting talking with Illich, or in Geneva in our 
home, or in Lima with his team. Always the serious, engaged, lucid 
thinker, Augusto was never an obscurer. He was always an unveiler. 

When I met him, toward the end of 1969 in Cuernavaca, he had 
read a series of my texts, among them some that had been incorpo- 
rated into Pedagogy of the Oppressed and that had been published 
by the Center for Intercultural Formation, at Cuernavaca, which 
Illich directed. 

From Augusto I heard some of the analyses in function of which 
it seemed to him that Pedagogy of the Oppressed, then in process 
of being translated into English, would not be a book of merely 
transitory interest. “Pedagogy of the Oppressed is not a ‘con- 


junctural’ book,” he told me one day, meaning not an “occasional” 
one, not a composition occasioned by the fortuitous conjunction of 
concrete phenomena that might not be repeated, or might recur 
only rarely. 

On my way from the Lima airport, in the car with Augusto, I had 
a painful presentiment that my friend was nearing the end. I did 
not say anything to him, although something told me that he knew 
he was dying. My suspicions grew when he began to tell me about 
a book he was working on. He told me he was so concerned about 
whether he would have time to get it written that one day he de- 
cided to dictate portions of it onto a tape as he drove his car from 
one place to another. “I give the tapes to the secretary every day,” 
he said. 

I do not know whether my friend managed to record his book— 
finish it. 

I was glad to have seen him on my way to Argentina, and then, 
for the last time, on the way back. I only regret that I was unable 
to talk with him about what I had seen—all I had seen and heard 
in Argentina: a cultural revolution almost without a power base. A 
cultural revolution being mounted by a government that was power- 
less in so many respects. A project in the field of systematic educa- 
tion, and one of huge wealth and creativity. An experiment that 
moved Darcy Ribeiro to say, excitedly, “Please, pay attention to what 
youre doing!” 

My week in Buenos Aires was divided thus: two four-hour meet- 
ings with the rectors of all of the country’s public universities; an 
all-day meeting with the ministry's various technical teams; a meet- 
ing with a popular group in a slum on the outskirts of Buenos Aires; 
and finally, an evening with political activists, at which we discussed 
what was happening in the country. 

I was actually surprised at the innovative élan with which the 
universities were hurling themselves into the effort of their own re- 
creation. In all aspects of the experiment, there was something 
worth watching in each of them. Instruction and research both 
strove to avoid any dichotomy between them, as it ultimately harms 
them both. Another effort was in the area of “extension.” In fact, 
although not all of the universities included extension projects in 
their renewal, most of them did. And instead of limiting this effort 


to simply doing social work in popular areas, the universities were 
beginning to encounter social movements, popular groups. And this 
encounter sometimes occurred at the university itself, not only in 
the popular areas. I remember discussing, at-some length, not only 
the political problem, but the epistemological question it involved. 

More than ever before, political decision making, in a progressive 
mold, ought to be extended into populism, so that a university would 
place itself in the service of popular interests, as well This would 
imply, as well, in practice, a critical comprehension of how university 
arts and sciences ought to be related with the consciousness of the 
popular classes: that is, a critical comprehension of the interrelations 
of popular knowledge, common sense, and scientific cognition. 

I had no doubt then, any more than I do today, that, when we 
think in critical terms of the university and the popular classes, in 
no way are we admitting that the university should close the door 
on an altogether-rigorous concern for research and instruction. 

It does not pertain to the nature of a university's relationship with 
or commitment to the popular classes to tolerate a want of rigor, or 
any incompetence. On the contrary, the university that fails to strive 
for greater rigor, more seriousness, in its research activities as in 
the area of instruction—which are never dichotomizable, true— 
cannot seriously approach the popular classes or make a commit- 
ment to them. 

At bottom, the university ought to revolve around two basic con- 
cerns, from which others derive and which have to do with the 
circle of knowledge.\The circle of knowledge has but two moments, 
in permanent relationship with each other{the moment of the cogni- 
tion of existing, already-produced, knowledge, and the moment of 
our own production of new howled hile insisting on the impos- 
sibility of mechanically separating eithér moment from the other— 
both are moments of the same circle. I think it is important to bring 
out the fact that the moment of our cognition of existing knowledge 
is by and large the moment of instruction, the moment of the teach- 
ing and learning of content; while the other, the moment of the 
production of new knowledge, is, in the main, that of research. But 
actually, all instruction involves research, and all research involves 
instruction. {There is no genuine instruction in whose process no 
research is performed by way of question, investigation, curiosity, 


creativity; just as there is no research in the course of which re- 
searchers do not learn—after all, by coming to know, they learn, and 
after having learned something, they communicate it, they teach)) 

The role of any university, progressive or conservative, is to im- 
merse itself, utterly seriously, in the moments of this circle. The role 
of a university is to teach, to train, to research. What distinguishes a 
conservative university from another, a progressive one, must never 
be the fact that the one teaches and does research and the other 
does nothing. 

The universities with whose rectors I worked with for eight hours 
in Buenos Aires in 1973 held this same conviction. None of them 
was making any attempt to reduce the self-democratization of the 
university to a simplistic approach to knowledge. This is not what 
they were concerned about. What they were concerned about was to 
diminish the distance between the university and what was done 
there, and the popular classes, without the loss of seriousness and 

Another matter, to which the rectors and their advisers likewise 
gave attention, in the area of instruction, was Heide for an inter- 
disciplinary understanding of teaching, instead of merely a disciplin- 
ary one.) 

Various academic departments sought to work in this way in an 
attempt tofovercome the compartmentalization of views to which 
we subject reality, and in which, not infrequently, we become lost. 

However, not everything was coming up roses. Inevitably, there 
were reactions on the part of sectarians—ideologues of Left and Right 
alike, so deeply rooted in their truth that they never admitted anything 
that might shake it—a Left and a Right equally endowed with a capac- 
ity for hatred of anything different, intolerant persons, private pro- 
prietors of a truth not lightly to be doubted, let alone denied. 

It was a fine thing, however fragile and threatened, that process 
I experienced so intensely over the course of a week, and I let no 
single meeting go by without expressing my concerns and suggest- 
ing tactics—tactics that would be consistent with the progressive 
strategic dream that animated the other participants, of course. It 
would be necessary (as I always told them, while they sat with fright- 
ened eyes, listening to my warnings, which seemed to them so 
unfounded) to be astute—wise as serpents. Some of them did not 



understand, and even reacted with annoyance when I told them it 
seemed to me that there was a big difference between what they 
were doing in the country, on the level of education, of culture, of 
the popular movement, of discourse, and the real power bases of 
their government. Not that they ought to limit themselves to doing 
just something. No, they ought to do a great deal. Only, they had 
better keep their eyes peeled when it came to the discrepancy 
just cited. 

It did not seem to me that the fine-tuned sensitivity and knowIl- 
edge of a good political analyst was needed to sniff the coup in the 
air, while I was “knocked for a loop” by the June 1973 “street corner 
coup’ in Chile. 

For example, in one of the meetings I had with the ministry 
technologists, someone from the police got in, and even asked me 
some rather provocative questions. After two sessions, one of the 
educators, a bit surprised, and disgusted, communicated the fact to 
me. I spoke to the coordinator, who replied that this would have no 
consequences. The educators with whom I was conversing were not 
discussing anything not public. Still, the presence of the police off- 
cial meant more than how he might be able to use what he heard 
us say: his presence betrayed the imbalance between power and the 
government. Finally: true, this was an official meeting, sponsored 
by the government and convoked by the minister of education; yet, 
the repressive organs held the real power, and had infiltrated the 
meeting to do some “policing.” It was as if—in fact it was actually 
the case—the reactionary forces running the country had, out of 
purely tactical considerations, permitted Peron’s return, but mean- 
while kept a very close eye on his government. 

I think I should not be off the mark if, now, so long afterward, I 
were to say that, in none of the workshops in which I participated, 
not even in the one I held with the political activists, did anyone 
agree with my observations. Sometimes, like the Chileans in the 
early months of the Christian Democratic government, they said I 
was still showing the scars of the trauma I had sustained on the 
occasion of the 1964 Brazilian military coup. 

The further they went with their programs, either in the universi- 
ties or in the popular regions, in various areas of endeavor, practi- 
cally all of these programs being in response to, and stimulating, 


popular curiosity, the more enraged the watchful forces of the coup 
became as they prepared the final debacle. 

I expressed, in my conversations, my serious concern for my hear- 
ers in terms of sheer survival—at least in the case of some of them, 
those whose political participation might be, or might have been, 
major, or more in view, those whose practice had closer visible ties 
with the popular classes, or those whose picture the repressive serv- 
ice might have elected to paint in stronger colors. 

Regrettably, my warnings were only too well-founded. The coup 
came after Peron’s death. It was violent and wicked. Some of my 
friends who had not seen any basis for my analyses had to leave the 
country in hasty secrecy, while others, unfortunately, disappeared 

To them, and to all of the men and women in Latin America, in 
the Caribbean, in Africa, who have fallen in the just fight, I offer 
my respectful and loving homage, in this Pedagogy of Hope. 

And now I shall bring my book to a conclusion, with a succinct 
report of the visit my spouse Nita and I paid to El Salvador in July 
of 1992. 

In El Salvador, the peasant men and women who had been strug- 
gling, all through these years—with weapons in their hands and, at 
the same time, with curious eyes for sentences and words, as they 
read and reread the world, as they fought to make that world less 
ugly and less unjust by learning to read and write words—had in- 
vited me to celebrate with them, in hope, an interval of peace in 
the war. They wished to tell me of what they were doing, and show 
me what they were doing. It was their way of rendering me homage. 

They were joined by their teachers, some of the liderangas in the 
battle, and the National University of E] Salvador, which bestowed 
on me its doctorate honoris causa. 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed was once more the nucleus around 
which our discussions revolved. Its basic theses were even more 
current and vital now than they had been at the time of its first 
editions in the 1970s. Not only had these peasant strugglers become 
familiar with adult literacy campaigns since then, as these campaigns 
were being conducted in the guerrilla encampments, but they saw 
Pedagogy itself, across the board, as a book of great import precisely 


for the historical moment in which they were living. I might put it 
this way: Pedagogy of the Oppressed was here the heart and soul of 
the literacy campaign being waged in favor of a reading of the world 
and a reading of the word—a reading that was at once a reading of 
context and a reading of text, a practice and a theory in dialectical 

It is even possible that what Nita and I saw in E] Salvador—first, 
guerrilla wars fusing militants together in their very differences, in 
function of their strategic objectives, militants who had matured in 
the crucible of suffering (radicals and not sectarians, then, educators 
with open, critically optimistic eyes); second, the Right, while unsat- 
isfied, nevertheless more or less well behaved; third, the needed 
presence and example of the United Nations, ensuring the peace 
accord—it is even possible that all of this might collapse, be undone, 
and that would be profoundly regrettable, from the viewpoint of 
how much all this is coming to mean for current history. 

What cannot be denied is that there is something relatively un- 
precedented in this experiment: Right and Left making mutual con- 
cessions in order to assure peace and thereby diminish the social 
cost—the suffering that overwhelmingly and almost exclusively be- 
falls the popular classes and then extends to broad middle sectors 
of society, and even, less rigorously and in a different way, the domi- 
nant classes. 

It could seem that the concessions being made by the dominant 
classes are indicative of a greater detachment on their part. After 
all, by continuing to fight they would suffer less than the popular 
classes. Indeed, it could seem that, in making their concessions, the 
dominant classes are demonstrating a spirit of magnanimity. After 
all, they have reasons for confidence in their strength, which, en- 
hanced by help from the outside, from the North, would crush the 
guerrillas, so that the dominant classes would have complete power 
over the country. 

I do not believe, however, in the magnanimity of the dominant 
classes as such{ T he existence of magnanimous individuals is possi- 
ble, and demonstrable—among members of the dominant classes— 
but not of the dominant classes as a class this «S the 

Historical conditions have simply place chat lass today in a posi- 
tion in which the peace accord has become a moment in the strug- 


gle, for them as for the popular classes under arms. It is a moment 
in the struggle, not the end of the struggle. The popular forces need 
to be—and I am sure that they are, to judge by what I heard from 
some of their leaders—on the alert, at the ready, eyes wide open, 
ready for anything. They must not “doze off,” as if nothing could 
happen while they “sleep.” They must not demobilize, fail to keep 
prepared, under pain of being crushed. 

At all events, this way of confronting the truce (nor is it a truce 
that is always explicit on the part of the parties to the conflict)— 
truce as a moment in the struggle, as an attempt at building or 
inventing a peace from which might result a different, democratic 
experiment—reveals or proclaims a new historical phase. But this 
is not a “new history,’ without social classes, without the struggle 
between them, without ideology, as if, suddenly, by some sleight of 
hand, the social classes, their conflicts, their ideologies, had sud- 
denly been swished away by the sleeves of some great magician’s 
black cloak. 

Such things do not occur, of course, especially in the domain of 
politics, except as engendered in the interplay of tactics in which 
two sides, in function of their respective strategic positions, measure 
their own stride against the steps taken by the other side. At bottom, 
the antagonists regard their reciprocal concessions as lesser evils, 
which could one day, in retrospect, for one side or the other, be 
seen to have been victories. 

If it had already been difficult, some years before, for the Left to 
take power with impunity, never mind the means by which it had 
done so, as in Chile, Nicaragua, or Grenada, now, after the decline 
of “realistic socialism’—which is not socialism, let me repeat—when 
conservatism had become even more bold the world over—then the 
limits on the Left, for the short term, have shrunken still further. 

Realistically, then, to strike a peace in El] Salvador, despite its 
obvious limitations, and despite, at times, larger concessions than 
one could have hoped to have to make, is the best way, because it 
is the only way, to make advances. It is the best way for the people 
to assert themselves, to win a voice, a presence, in the reinvention 
of their society, it is the best path to the lessening of injustice. For 
that matter, it is the best way of creating, and gradually consoli- 
dating, a democratic lifestyle, in which a process might appear that 


would even enable those accustomed to holding all power in their 
hands to learn that what seems to them to be a threat to their 
privileges—understood by them, of course, as inalienable rights— 
is only the implementation of the rights of those who have come to 
be forbidden to exercise them. A learning process might appear 
whereby the powerful would learn that their privileges, such as that 
of exploiting the weak, prohibiting the weak from being, denying 
them hope, are immoral, and as such need to be eradicated. It 
might be a learning process, at the same time, for the crushed, the 
forbidden-to-be, the rejected, that would teach them that, through 
serious, just, determined, untiring struggle, it is possible to remake 
the world. The oppressed may learn that hope born in the creative 
unrest of the battle, will continue to have meaning when, and only 
when, it can in its own turn give birth to new struggles on other 

And finally, it may be learned that, in a new democratic process, 
it is possible gradually to expand the space for pacts between the 
classes, and gradually consolidate a dialogue among the different— 
in other words, gradually to deepen radical positions and overcome 
sectarian ones. 

(In no way, however, does this mean, for a society with this sort of 
living experience of democracy, the inauguration of a history without 
social classes, without ideology, as a certain pragmatically postmod- 
ern discourse proclaims. In fact, the truth is just the opposite, or 
nearly the oppose eae as I see it, has a different, sub- 
stantially democratic way of dealing with conflict, working out its 
ideology, struggling for the ongoing and ever more decisive defeat 
of injustice, and arriving at_.a.democyatic socialism/ There is a post- 
modernity of the Right; but there is a postmodernity of the Left, as 
well, nor does the latter—as is almost always insinuated, if not in- 
sisted—regard postmodernity as an altogether special time that has 
suppressed social classes, ideologies, Left and Right, dreams, and 
utopias./And one of the basic elements of the postmodernity of the 
Left is the reinvention of power—and not its mere acquisition, as 
with modernity. 

his postmodern moment that we are living in the 1990s is not 
a time so utterly special that it knows no more social classes}—not 
in Switzerland any more than in Brazil, and certainly not in El 


Salvador. In fact, this is why one of the learning processes that a 
progressive postmodernity calls upon us to accept is the process of 
our apprehension that the total victory of the revolution in the pres- 
ent does not guarantee its existence in the future. A revolution can 
perish at the very height of its power, which it has simply acquired, 
and not reinvented, not re-created. In that case, it is lost on account 
of the excessive arrogance of its certitudes, and the inevitable lack 
of humility that such certitudes entail: it is lost by virtue of the 
authoritarian exercise of its power. It is lost by virtue of its 

Concessions, then, are the best way of coming to win, only if, 
sooner or later, they actually win the fight that is never over and 
done. Winning the fight is a process of which it can never be said, 
“We've won, period.” When this point is absolutized, the revolution 
is paralyzed. 

We visited various regions of the country, and participated in 
regional education seminars in two of them. We paid a visit to a 
lovely clearing in the forest, a kind of theatrical stage on which the 
guerrillas met, then as today, to engage in discussion, dreaming, 
self-appraisal, recreation. 

We attended a “culture circle” session at which armed activists 
were learning to read and write, learning to read words while doing 
a rereading of the world. The process of writing and reading the 
word, which is what they were doing in the course of their under- 
standing of discourse, emerged from, or was part of, a larger, more 
meaningful process—that of the taking up of their citizenship, the 
taking of history into their hands/ This is what I have always been 
for, this is why I have always fought for literacy compaigns that, 
being so acutely aware of the social nature of of the acquisition of 
language, I have never dichotomized from the political process of 
the battle for citizenship. /What I have never been for is a “neutral” 
approach to literacy, a sheer shower of syllables, which, to boot, 

would start right out with the language of the educators rather than 
with that of the educands. We conversed with the combatants, and 
with their comandante, in a climate of hope. 

In just such a climate of hope we spent nearly an entire day in a 
kind of new city, peopled by exiles who had managed to survive in 
a neighboring country. 


From the peak of an elevation, we descried a whole world to be 
built differently. 

We took lunch with the leader of the brand-new city-in-the- 
middle-of-nowhere, and he spoke to us of what this return to their 
country was coming to mean for all of them, men and women, what 
it meant to them to participate in the transformations that would 
be needed in order for El Salvador to change its “face,” and gradually 
become a less-wicked, less-unjust society, little by little more 
decent, more human and humane. 

This dream-——as far as we could gather from our conversations, 
and by reading the wonderful book by Ana Guadalupe Martinez, * 
one of the leaders of the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacién 
Nacional, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front or 
FMLN, as well as on the visit we made to Radio Venceremos (We 
shall prevail)—this dream is the utopia for which these Salvadoran 
militants had begun to struggle from the outset. But they had set 
out for the clash and the fray without ever scorning education and 
its importance for the battle itself. As far as was possible, they were 
avoiding both the illusions of an idealism that ascribes a power to 
education that it does not have, and the mechanistic objectivism 
that denies any value to education until after there is a revolution. 
I do not know that I have ever found, in popular groups, a stronger 
expression of a critical confidence in educational practice. The same 
must be said of their liderancas. 

I cannot refrain from transcribing here the dedication I read 
on a piece of artwork on the occasion of my visit to the FMLN 

Paulo Freire 

With your education for liberation, you have contributed to the 
very struggle of the Salvadoran people for social justice. 

With gratitude and respect, 

FMLN, July 1992 

*Ana Guadalupe Martinez, Las cdrceres clandestinas (San Salvador: Central 
American University, 1992). 


The harshest difficulties, the wants and needs of the people, the 
ebb and flow of the process that depends on so many different factors 
for its solidification—none of this diminished in us, in Nita and me, 
the hope with which we came to El] Salvador, with which we lived 
a week in El! Salvador, and with which we left El Salvador— 

—The same hope with which I bring to its conclusion this Peda- 
gogy of Hope. 


Even before he had finished writing this book, Paulo Freire felt that 
certain points would require clarification—matters he was touching 
on only lightly, or perhaps doing no more than mentioning, without 
expansion, because considering them in depth would mean straying 
too far from the focus of the book's thematic interest. And so he has 
asked me to compose explanatory notes. 

It has been an immense joy for me to collaborate in a work of his, 
especially as it has meant writing about things I relish so much and 
have come to be so involved in, so passionately involved in, lo, these 
fifteen years and more: namely, the “fabrics” of the history of Brazil- 
ian education. 

Some of the notes may be extensive. I do go on. Others may seem 
superfluous to the Brazilian reader, but will be helpful to persons 
whose language is among those into which this book is already in 
the process of being translated. Persons, places, and things with 
which we are familiar here may be far less well-known to readers of 
other cultures and contexts, men and women of foreign lands. It 
could scarcely be otherwise, and I am sure that this state of the 
facts calls for a detailed explanation of certain things. 

I became more and more intensely involved in my notes every 
time I picked up this book, once again to immerse myself in it. I 
found myself reliving moments of my childhood, when I knew Paulo 
as a student at Oswaldo Cruz Boarding School. Later, in my youth, 
he was my “Portuguese teacher,” my language teacher. After I mar- 
ried Raul, I lived in Sao Paulo, where I would see him in my parents 


home, in Recife, and follow his work in the creation and application 
of the Paulo Freire Literacy Method. 

Then came the coup of 1964. From that time on, for a long while, 
I had only sporadic notice of him, in Chile, in the United States, 
and in Geneva, and of his pedagogical work, which was gaining in 
criticality and extension. 

I read him for the first time in Spanish. It was a strange experi- 
ence. It made me think: “So Brazilian, so Northeastern, so Pernam- 
bucan, so ‘Recifian’ a person—all the ways in which I have known 
him—and here I am reading him in a foreign language.” It was a 
strange thing, and I was surprised and frightened. But then, with 
the ears of my imagination, I would hear him, in that familiar voice, 
repeating the text in Portuguese, with his gentle tones, powerful 
conviction, and ingenious creativity. And these were Northeastern 

Finally there came his stories, so well told in the present volume, 
of the relationship he established, through the intermediary of Peda- 
gogy of the Oppressed, with his hearers and readers in the world 
outside. These things seemed less easy for me to grasp. But this was 
only seeming, since, after all, I had been able to understand his 
relationships, these experiences of his, here in Sao Paulo when I 
discussed Pedagogy of the Oppressed with my colleagues in the 
teaching profession. Our discussions awakened among us, too, re- 
flections, conclusions, and hesitations analogous to those he re- 
counts in the present book, as he communicates to us the feedback 
he has received from various groups on the five continents. 

Even without a face-to-face dialogue, then, there was a point in 
common between Paulo and me, and now, as I compose these notes, 
I feel I have become familiar with it. I am no longer a stranger to 
the things, events, and persons of which he speaks. And this, en- 
tirely apart from the fact that, over the last five years, I have indeed 
been physically present to, and experienced, these persons and 
things, in Paulo’s actual company, in Brazil and abroad. 

Writing these notes about the streets of Recife, about my father, 
Aluizio, about Oswaldo Cruz Boarding school, about Ariano and 
Taperod, or about what manha means, or about President Goulart— 
all of this has been fascinating to me, as has been, as well, the task 
of describing and analyzing what the pedagogical thought of Paulo 


Freire has meant for the history of education since the Second Na- 
tional Congress of Adult Education—or the Workers Party adminis- 
tration of Sado Paulo today and his incumbency as Municipal 
Secretary of Education—or the emotion-charged experience in po- 
litical pedagogy that was ours—Paulo’s and mine—in the form of 
the visit we paid to the new city of Segundo Montes in El Salvador. 

Composing these notes was no mechanical, or “neutral” task, 
then. No, there is no such thing here, and it would be impossible 
for me anyway—the way I am, the way I am involved in things and 
understand the world. These notes are charged with living experi- 
ence, with my grasp of the history of Brazilian education, and with 
my rebellion against the elitist, discriminatory authoritarianism of 
the colonial tradition and the Brazilian slavocracy, still alive and well 
among us. 

I am fed up with bans and prohibitions: bans on the body, which 
produce, generation after generation, not only Brazilian illiteracy 
(according to the thesis I maintain), but an ideology of ban on the 
body, which gives us our “street children,” our misery and hunger, 
our unemployment and prostitution, and, under the military dicta- 
torship, the exile and death of countless Brazilians. The ban on 
Paulo Freire’s body (along with his ideas), which was forbidden, for 
fifteen long years, in Brazil. The ban, the prohibition, imposed on 
him and on so many other Brazilians—which, by way of paradoxical 
reaction, led him to write Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the book that 
disallows all of the ban forms reproduced in Brazil down through 
the centuries and indicates the possibility of persons liberation. And 
it is all brought to completion in the present Pedagogy of Hope. 

These are the things that have stimulated me in writing these 
notes. And so I have committed to these notes my emotions, my 
knowledge of the history of Brazilian education—and especially, my 
reading of the world, whose orientation is in terms of this triangle: 
prohibition, liberation, and hope. 



1. One of the most important of Freire’s categories, the inspirer of such 
powerful reflections in Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Pedagogy of Hope, 
is the concept of “untested feasibility.” Little discussed, and, I daresay, little 
studied, this category embraces a whole belief in the “possible dream,” and 
in the utopia that will come once those who make their own history wish 
it so. These hopes are so characteristic of Freire. 

For Freire, human beings, as beings endowed with consciousness, have 
at least some awareness of their conditioning and their freedom. They meet 
with obstacles in their personal and social lives, and they see them as 
obstructions to be overcome. Freire calls these obstructions or barriers 
“limit situations. ” 

Men and women take a number of different attitudes toward these “limit 
situations.” They may perceive the barriers in question as obstacles that 
cannot be removed. Or they may perceive them as obstacles they do not 
wish to remove. Or they may perceive them as obstacles they know exist 
and need to be broken through. In this last case, they devote themselves 
to overcoming them. 

Here, there has been a critical perception of the “limit situation.” And 
so the persons who have understood it seek to act: they are challenged, 
and feel themselves challenged, to solve these problems of the society in 
which they live, in the best possible manner, and in an atmosphere of hope 
and confidence. To this end, these persons have separated themselves, 
epistemologically, taken their distance from, that which was objectively 
“unsettling” and “encumbering” to them, and have objectified it. Only 
when they have understood it in depth, in its essence, detaching it from 
its contingent factuality, from its sheer concrete “being there,” can it be 


seen as a problem. As something “perceived” and “detached” from daily 
, life, it becomes the “detached-and-perceived,” or the “perceived de- 
~ tached.” As such, it cannot, it must not, abide. Thus it comes to be a 
problem-topic—a topic that ought to be, must be, confronted. It ought to 
be, needs to be, discussed and overcome. 

To the actions required for breaking through “limit situations,” Freire 
gives the name, “limit acts.” The name suggests the direction of these 
“acts”: the defeat and rejection of the given, of a docile, passive acceptance 
of what is “there,” with the attendant implication of a determinate posture 
vis-a-vis the world. 

“Limit situations,” then, imply the existence of men and women directly 
or indirectly served by them, the dominant; and of men and women whose 
affairs are “denied” and “curbed,” the oppressed. 

The former see the problem topics in their concealment by “limit situ- 
ations,” and hence regard them as historical determinants against which 
there is no recourse—situations to which one must simply adapt. The 
latter, when they clearly perceive these challenging societal topics no 
longer in disguise, no longer in their concealment by “limit situations’— 
when these problems come to be something “detached and perceived’ — 
feel a call to mobilize, to act, and to uncover some “untested feasibility. ” 

These latter are those who feel it incumbent upon them to burst through 
the barrier in question. How? By solving, dissolving, through action ac- 
companied by reflection, these obstacles to the liberty of the oppressed. 
By removing the “barrier between being [o ser] and being-moreso [o ser- 
mais|,” Freire’s dream so dear. Of course, Freire represents the political 
will of all women and men who, as he or with him, have come to be workers 
for the liberation of men and women independently of race, religion, sex, 
and class. 

The “untested feasible” then, when all is said and done, is something 
the utopian dreamer knows exists, but knows that it will be attained only 
through a practice of liberation—which can be implemented by way of 
Freires theory of dialogical action, or, of course (since a practice of libera- 
tion does not necessarily make an explicit appeal to that theory), by way 
of some other theory bearing on the same ends. 

Thus, the “untested feasible” is an untested thing, an unprecedented 
thing, something not yet clearly known and experienced, but dreamed of. 
And when it becomes something “detached and perceived” by those who 
think utopian wise, then they know that the problem is no longer the sheer 
seed of a dream. They know the dream can become reality. 

Thus, when conscious beings will reflect and act for the overthrow of 
the “limit situations,” which have left them—along with nearly everyone 


else—limited to being-in-a-lesser-way, to being-less so, then the untested 
feasible is no longer merely itself, but has become the concretization of 
that which within it had previously been infeasible. 

We have these obstacles, therefore, in our reality, these barriers or 
boundaries, these “limit situations,” which, once they are “detached and 
‘perceived,” have not prevented some persons from dreaming the dream, 
\nonetheless prohibit the majority from realizing the humanization and 
concretization of 0 ser-mais, being-in-a-larger way, being-moreso. 

2. Colégio Oswaldo Cruz was in operation, under the direction of Alui- 
zio Pessoa de Aratijo, from 1923 to 1956, when, to his regret, and that of 
all who knew the results he obtained, and who had benefited from contact 
with him, the school was shut down. Beyond any doubt, it had been one 
of the most important educational activities in the history of education in 
the Northeast—indeed, we might say, with all justice and realism, in the 
history of Brazilian education. 

Known for its strict ethics, and the excellence of its instruction, Recife’s 
Oswaldo Cruz (which had no connection with the school of that name in 
Sdo Paulo), drew its student body not only from Recife and Pernambuco, 
from practically the whole Brazilian Northeast, over an area stretching 
from Maranhdo to Sergipe—from practically the whole Brazilian North- 
east—who sought an education there on the basis of their confidence in 
its principles and educational practices. 

As director (as well as Latin, Portuguese, and French teacher), Aluizio 
associated experienced professionals with himself from the various fields 
of knowledge. Yet he always welcomed the contribution of young, new 
teachers, as well. Paulo Freire is one of many examples. It was at Oswaldo 
Cruz that Paulo began his work as a teacher of Portuguese. Aluizio’s crite- 
rion for the selection of teachers was ever their professional competency, 
plus their serious dedication to the act of educating. 

Most of the professors of the faculties of nearly all of the departments 
that merged in 1946 to form the first Federal University of the State of 
Pernambuco, were chosen from among the teachers at Colégio Oswaldo 

An utterly committed educator, Aluizio built his Colégio into what for 
the time was an innovative and progressive educational institution. He 
introduced coeducation as early as 1924. It was likewise at this boarding 
school that students from other religious backgrounds, especially Jewish 
(Jews had no school of their own in Recife until the 1940s), received their 
moral and academic formation. 

Colégio Oswaldo Cruz had three science laboratories—for biology, phys- 
ics, and chemistry, respectively, housed in three amphitheaters the like of 


which many schools and colleges in the country still today may only dream. 
Its collection of historical and geographical maps, and its library, were up 
to date and of a high quality. There were bands, orchestras, choral groups, 
and, for the girls, ballet halls. Its students established student guilds and 
other organizations, and published newspapers and magazines. Examples 
of the latter would be the Sylogeu and the Arrecifes. 

Students and teachers who had studied at Colégio Oswaldo Cruz in 
Recife included nationally and even internationally recognized scientists, 
jurists, artists, and politicians like (to name only some of the most outstand- 
ing) José Leite Lopes, Mario Schemberg, Ricardo Ferreira, Newton Maia, 
Moacir de Albuquerque, Claudio Souto, Ariano Suassuna, Walter Azoubel, 
Pelépidas Silveira, Amaro Quintas, Dacio Rabelo, Abelardo and Aderbal 
Jurema, Egfdio Ferreira Lima, Hervdsio de Carvalho, Fernando Lira, Vas- 
concelos Sobrinho, Odorico Tavares, Evandro Gueiros, Dorany Sampaio, 
Etelvino Lins, Armando Monteiro, Jr., Francisco Brenand, Lucflio Varejao, 
Sr., Jr., Ricardo Palmeira, Mario Sete and his sons Hoel and Hilton, Valde- 
mar Valente, Manoel Correia de Andrade, Albino Fernandes Vital—and 
as we have seen, both in the text and in these notes, the author of this 
book—individuals representing the most varied ideological vectors, but all 
of them persons of solid training and professional competence. 

Colégio Oswaldo Cruz, in the person of its director, had no fear of 
breaking with the elitist, authoritarian traditions of Brazilian society. Those 
who passed its portals knew no discrimination of class, race, religion, or 

3. Writing about one’s own father is not an easy job. But when you feel, 
when you know, that, throughout the nearly eighty-three years of his life, 
your father was a living example of the human qualities of generosity, solli- 
darity, and humility, without any sacrifice of his dignity, it becomes a pleas- 
ant, gladsome, and rewarding experience to speak of him. 

Said the daily newspaper of Aluizio’s father, Antonio Miguel de Aratijo, 
a physician: 

He was born at 4:00 A.M. on Wednesday, December 29, 1897. He was 
baptized February 21, 1898, by Father Marcal . . . (surname illegible), 
the godparents being Urbano de Andrade Lima and his wife, Dona [Ma- 
dame] Anna Clara Lyra Lima. 

Aluizio Pessoa de Araijo, born in Timbatiba, died in Recife November 
1, 1979. 

The Pernambucan educator received his academic and religious training 
in the (secular) Seminario de Olinda. After completion of the “major 


courses, to his parents sorrow, he cut short his secular formation and 
went to Rome to prepare for the priesthood. 

A few years later, on June 25, 1925, Aluizio married Francisca de Albu- 
querque, known as Genove, who had been his executive assistant ever 
since the opening of the (then) Gindsio (Gymnasium) Oswaldo Cruz. They 
became the parents of nine children, and had the joy of celebrating their 
fiftieth wedding anniversary, although it had to be without one of their 
children, Paulo de Tarso. 

The fact of having broken off his priestly studies and married instead 
was never an obstacle, in Aluizio, to a life ruled by the norms and principles 
of the Roman Catholic Church. On the contrary, he was now led to a more 
profound piety—a more authentic religiousness as the guideline of his 
private and professional life, which he lived by living his faith and prioritiz- 
ing those special qualities of his, generosity and solidarity. Over and above 
this, his earnest commitment to ethics and humanism led him to pursue 
an educational practice of extreme liberality with all men and women who 
sought, needed, and desired to study. And he did it with humility. 

From the 1920s right up to the early 1950s, as Recife had so few public 
(and therefore free) secondary schools, what Aluizio really did as Director 
and proprietor of the COC, as his boarding school was known, was to make 
his private institution for all intents and purposes a public one. Without 
ever having access to public funds, he granted scholarships, in his own 
educational establishment, to many a young person in need. 

And when he granted them, he granted them. Never did he permit his 
scholarship students to repay, in any way, shape, or form, what he had 
bestowed on them out of his personal generosity and in virtue of his social 
awareness of the fact that education was everyone's right. 

He never let these principles slip from his grasp. He was ever convinced 
that this was his “vocation” in the world. 

4. The secondary course was the target of legislative material from the 
outset of Getilio Vargas’s administration. This material took the form of 
two decrees—dated April 1931, and April 1932, respectively—the latter 
confirming and consolidating the systematization and manner of organiza- 
tion the former had prescribed for this branch of instruction, the second- 
ary level. 

Throughout Brazilian historical tradition, legislation concerning the 
schools had been handed down almost exclusively by way of acts of the 
executive power, bypassing the prescribed initiatives of the legislative 
branch or of civil society. This reform of the early 1930s, then, raised 
eyebrows—all the more so, inasmuch as, after losing the elections, Vargas 
had taken power, in November 1930, by means of revolutionary forces that 


rejected, more than anything else, the hegemony of the coffee, Sao Paulo, 
and mining aristocracy that had ruled the country throughout almost the 
whole republican era. 

Technically, it is true, this educational reform on the part of Vargas and 
his education minister of that time, Francisco Campos, was innovative. But, 
while a new departure in terms of method, it was flawed politically, and 
this flawed it through and through. It had not managed to escape the 
weight of tradition. It was excessively authoritian and centralized, and toad- 
ied to the elitist tastes and tone of the commanding minority of our society. 

The provisions of Vargas’s original educational reform prevailed until 
1942, throughout his incumbency, except for the period from 1937 on, when 
it was replaced by another, even more antidemocratic set of prescriptions. 

Secondary instruction was of a traditionally academic mold, and offered 
no professional or technical training. It was conceived merely as a bridge 
to higher education—quite a paradox in a country that was seeking to 
industrialize and had such a need for doing so. The secondary level was 
the branch of instruction enjoying the greatest prestige, and prerogatives 
thereunto accruing, in political society, as well as in the middle and upper 
echelons of civil society, where the still prevailing elitist dreams implanted 
by the Jesuits in the sixteenth century, with their style of education (in 
subjects called the “humanities”), lived on. 

The secondary course systematized in 1932, to which Freire refers, set 
up two instructional “cycles.” The First Cycle, called the Fundamental 
Cycle, was a five-school-year course, and enrolled pupils of both sexes 
beginning at the age of eleven, upon successful completion of quite a 
rigorious admissions examination covering carefully selected material. The 
Second Cycle, which was “college preparatory,” was two school years long, 
and was called the Complementary Cycle. Successful completion of the 
Fundamental Cycle was a prerequisite for enrollment in the Complemen- 
tary Cycle. | 

The Complementary Cycle was subdivided into three “sessions,” in func- 
tion of the particular “major” the individual high-schooler proposed to 
pursue at the university after successful completion of this Second Cycle. 
The three sessions, in both public and private high schools, all to be 
modeled on Colégio Pedro II—the official model for all secondary-educa- 
tion institutions in the country—comprised curricula in, respectively, pre- 
law, premedicine, and preengineering. 

As there was as yet no “normal” training for teachers at this time— 
university-level courses in education—all students inclining to a formation 
in the area of the human sciences, or envisaging a career in secondary 


education, were required to complete the “Pre-Law Secondary Cycle,” 
after which they would matriculate in a School of Law. 

This is what Freire did. Having no clear idea, as yet, when he enrolled 
in the Recife Faculty of Law, in 1943, of becoming an educator, let alone 
in 1941 when he began prelaw, still, he felt and knew that he wanted to 
be as close as possible to human problems. 

5. The SESI—Servico Social da Indtstria—was created by Law fetes 
9403 of incumbent President of the Republic Eurico Gaspar Dutra, June 
25, 1946. 

As it endowed the National Confederation of Industry with particular 
powers, enjoining upon it the responsibility of creating, organizing, and 
directing the new service, the legal act sets forth certain considerations in 
justification of the measure being taken. 

Succinctly, the following considerations had led the Executive power to 
enact the decretal: “The difficulties created for the social and economic 
life of the country by the burdens of the postwar period.” After all, it was 
the duty, while not the exclusive duty, of the state to “foster and stimulate 
cooperation among classes by way of initiatives tending to promote the 
welfare of working men and their families,” as well as to foster the requisite 
conditions for an “improvement in the pattern of life.” A further considera- 
tion was the availability of the National Confederation of Industry as an 
entity among the producing classes for “offering social assistance, as well 
as better housing, better nutritional and hygienic conditions for workers, 
and indeed, the development of a spirit of solidarity between employees 
and employers,” along with the fact that “this program, as an incentive to 
a sense and spirit of social justice among classes, will greatly contribute 
to the elimination from among us elements favorable to the germination 
of divisive influences prejudicial to the interests of the collectivity.” 

We see a portrait of the country. It will be interesting to analyze this 
material, and point out what the “letter of the law” does not say, that the 
spirit of the decree surely contains. 

First, the act is unacceptable by reason of its very form. 

It comes from the top down, down from the executive branch. Further- 
more, it is even more authoritarian than a simple decree would have been: 
it is what is called a law decree, that is, a decree that the chief of the 
executive branch, in this case the president of the republic, issues with 
the force of law, thereby arrogating to himself functions proper to the 
legislative branch and exercising them as if they were his own. 

Like other Brazilian presidents, Dutra used this mechanism in a manner 
so bare-facedly partial to Brazilian centralist authoritarianism that, happily, 


it has now been written out of existence in our bureaucratic apparatus 
of state. 

The document in question speaks of difficulties arising in the postwar 
era. Brazil could have emerged from the war years awash in wealth. After 
all, it had been among the countries that supplied stockpiles of various 
products essential to a war effort. 

Other considerations advanced in the document betray a terror of “com- 
munism.” They translate a fear that, one day, some Brazilian regime might 
be antagonistic to Northern capitalism, which was ordering all the witch 
hunts for “communists.” They camouflage the class struggle. At all costs, 
a clear awareness of the existence and nature of the class struggle must 
be prevented. 

It “asks” a calm, passive acceptance of the crying discrepancies in mate- 
rial conditions between owners and employees. “Assistance” is offered, in 
lieu of honest confrontation. 

Freire took a job with this government. On the face of it, that could 
seem a contradiction. But he learned, in this job. After all, he was dealing 
with working families of factory, farm, and fishing coast, and—most of all— 
he was doing so in a context of the relations imposed by management on 
labor. Thus was he enabled to formulate a pedagogical thinking that would 
be stamped with those salient characteristics of dialogue, criticality, and 
social transformation with which we become so familiar in this book. 

6. The Recife Law Faculty, today a department of the Federal University 
of Pernambuco, was always one of the political battlegrounds of the Brazil- 
ian scene. Many a new idea sprang into being there. 

Created along with the Saéo Francisco Square school of S40 Paulo on 
August 11, 1827, shortly after Brazil's declaration of independence from 
Portugal, this school of law, which initially operated in So Bento Convent 
in Olinda, was not established merely as a training ground for individuals 
who would come to compose the national juridical apparatus. It was the 
alumni of these two schools who, initially, actually forged the Brazilian 
apparatus of state. 

7. Freire had to leave Brazil and request political asylum when only 
forty-three years of age. He was obliged to live outside his native land, far 
from his nearest and dearest, for more than fifteen years. 

During his time of exile, he lost his mother and many of his friends. 
Among the latter were countless political activists who had been in charge 
of the “culture circles,” or monitors of the National Literacy Program. They 
were not to be spared the tortures and persecutions of the coming years 
of military dictatorship. 

Thus, paradoxically and ironically, Freire’s departure from our midst at 


the moment in which he was acting and producing so effectively, efficiently, 
and enthusiastically, occurred by reason of precisely these qualities in him. 

His “sin” was to have taught literacy for the sake of conscientizacado and 
political participation. For him, the purpose of literacy was to help the 
people to emerge from their situation of domination and exploitation. Once 
politicized by the act of reading the word, they could reread, critically, the 
world. Such was Freire’s understanding of adult education. His widely used 
“Paulo Freire Literacy Method” was based on these ideas, so that it con- 
veyed the reality of the unjust, discriminatory society we had built—a 
reality that needed to be transformed. 

The program on the drawing boards would have brought this to so many 
who had been denied the right to schooling. It was wiped out by the 
military coup of 1964. 

In the gruesome spirit of McCarthyism, and of the National Security 
Doctrine, inspired in the North, that had installed itself in Brazil, the 
military officers who had seized power destroyed or otherwise neutralized 
everything they could get their hands on that they understood to be 

In this “new’ reading of the world—old in its tactics of punishment, 
abuse, and prohibition—there was no room for Freire. 

He who so loved his country and his people was deprived of being-in 
his country and being-with his people. 

8. The State of Pernambuco is one of the smaller political units of the 
federation. Its territory is a narrow strip of land extending from the Atlantic 
Ocean to the border of the State of Piaui, and lying between longitude 35° 
and 41° west, and latitude 7° and 10° south. 

In terms of rainfall, humidity, vegetation, and temperature, it is consid- 
ered to be divided into three “zones.” Beginning on the coast: the Zona 
da Mata (“Wooded Zone”), Zona do Agreste (“Agrarian, Farming, Rural’), 
and Zona do Sertdo (“Hinterland,” the desert region). 

The first, where you can still see a little of the Atlantic Forest that 
covered it at the time of the Portuguese invasion of American lands in 
1500, has torrential rainfall, blistering temperatures, and high humidity. 
Even today it is the zone of the canebrakes, in the Portuguese tradition 
that made the region that nation’s most abundant source of wealth in the 
sixteenth century. 

It was the Portuguese colonial adventure that occasioned the deforesta- 
tion of so much of this zone. Slave labor drove the mills, and felled the 
trees to make room for the brakes, and now sugar (until then thought of 
as a “spice”) could pour into the welcoming arms of European markets, 
thus sealing the fate of this zone—ecological destruction. 


As we move a few kilometers away from the maritime strand, climatic 
conditions modify, with sparser vegetation and diminishing rainfall, all the 
way to the border of the Zona de Sertdo. 

Vegetation in the Sertdo is limited exclusively to cactaceous plants, espe- 
cially the mandacaru or Peru cereus, and xiquexique, other cacti, yielding 
what we call a caatinga—the stunted, spare forests we have in the North- 
east. Daytime temperatures soar, under a blazing sun, in a blue, cloudless 
sky, and plummet at night. 

There are no trees at all, and of course rainfall is a rarity. The frequent 
droughts of the Zona de Sert4o may last months, even years. 

The secas, as we call them—the droughts—leave the riverbeds empty 
and the populations hungering and thirsting. The soil that has served for 
“subsistence farming” splits agape, to receive the misery—the dead live- 
stock and all the hopes—of a folk who now know they must migrate to the 
Southeast of the country or die. 

9. The jangada, the little boat that dots the lovely seascape of Northeast- 
ern Brazil, is a catamaran used by small deep-sea fishers to make their 
living. At sunset, they sell the days catch—all that they have harvested 
from the generous sea of tepid waters that wash the shore in that region 
of Brazil. Not that the catch is taken “for free.” No, the risks are great, and 
the toil most arduous. 

A fragile vessel, the jangada is constructed of a light, porous wood that 
floats so high in the water that the little craft will tend not to sink even if 
it is awash. 

It is composed of five logs of jangada wood, each some four or five 
meters in length, joined together to form its ballast by several sticks of 
tough, hard wood running across them from one side of the one-and-one- 
half to two-meters-wide vessel to the other. 

The jangada has a big cloth sail, traditionally white, which the wind 
“hits” to propel the raft over the water. It carries almost no paraphernalia 
other than the fishing trap and the sail—only a rustic wooden tiller, a creel 
(the samburd, a round wicker basket to hold the fish after they have been 
retrieved), and a wooden dipper used to keep the sail wet and impermedvel, 
or “wind-proof.” And an anchor—as rustic as everything and everyone else 
in the jangada, a stone tied to the end of a rope of caroéd fibers that stops 
the jangada where the jangadeiro wants it to stop, wherever his intuition 
tells him that it will be here that he will find the riches of the sea that are 
the object of his quest. 

10. The fishers of the Northeast call it pescaria de ciéncia (scientific 
fishing), their rudimentary elementary method of deep-sea navigation that 
consists of the following. The fishers select three points of reference. Two 


of them will be, for instance, a hillock, or the steeple of a church—anything 
that stands out from the landscape at a distance. The third will be the 
edge of the coast itself, the waterline. These three points enable the fisher 
to head for the open sea on a course as nearly vertical as possible with the 
coastline, and several kilometers in distance, as he navigates with the naked 
eye, keeping equidistant from the two previously chosen inland points. 
Then, at this spot where he has come, from where everything on shore 
merges into a single, vague point, and where his intuition and sensitivity 
have told him, “Ah, this is it. . . this is a good place,” he lowers his trap. 
Several days later, without having left any sign for himself (or for strangers) 
of how his creative wit has served him here, he sails to the same spot and 
draws in his net and his catch. 

The “hand tool” employed amidst this scientific cognition of his (this 
concept of an isosceles triangle), the instrument applied between his two 
acts of “measuring” and determining the right point for gaining the fruits 
of the sea, is the covo, or wicker fish trap. Constructed of flexible, but 
tough forest vine, or cipd, the covo is a large box attached to a stone that 
drags it deep down into the water. The covo floats at this underwater point, 
which the fisher has selected, for the time needed to fill with the fish, 
prawn, and other “fruit” that enter there, never to leave again for the 
freedom of the immense sea waters. 

The techniques are very rudimentary, of course. But they are the effort 
of common sense, of the reading of the world done by the humble folk of 
the seashore, to make of observation and experience the route to a knowl- 
edge analogous to our own scientific cognition. 

Cognition like this “scientific fishing” is the object of study of UNICAMP 
ethnoscientist Marcio D’Olme Campos, who works among the fishers of 
Sao Paulo state, although in terms of different conceptions from those set 
forth here (see note 36). 

11. Caicara is the name we in the Brazilian Northeast give to a shelter 
built from fibers of the coconut trees growing along the ocean, which serve 
to protect fishing boats and their equipment. It is also a place where the 
fishers gather to talk and to rest between stints on the open sea. 

12. When an “educator,” parent or teacher, obliges a victim to extend 
his or her hands, palms up, and beats them, generally with a palm switch, 
the assailant inflicts more than pain. The stripes (“to pay you back,” the 
child hears) nearly always swell up, in the aftermath of this disciplinary 
act, into enormous “cakes’—as the people call them, due to the fact that 
they rise like cakes in an oven. 

13. The military governments of Brazil were headed by the following 
officers: General Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco, from April 15, 


1964, to March 15, 1967; from the latter date to August 31, 1968, when 
illness obliged him to resign, General Arthur da Costa e Silva; replacing 
him on that date, a military junta composed of General Aurélio Lyra Ta- 
vares, Brigadier General Marcio de Souza e Melo, and Admiral Augusto 
Rademaker Grunerwald, to October 30, 1969; Emilio Garrastazu Médici 
from that date to March 15, 1974; Ernesto Geisel from then to March 15, 
1979; and Jodo Batista Figueiredo, from this last date to March 15, 1985. 

14. It will be well for us to indicate the current (September 1992) struc- 
ture of education in Brazil since the enactment of the new Law of Direc- 
tives for and Foundations of National Education by the National Congress. 
Drafted and implemented in 1971, during the harshest times of the mili- 
tary dictatorship, the created three scholastic levels were the First Degree, 
lasting eight school years, and comprising the old primary school and gym- 
nasium curriculum; the Second Degree, of three or four years, depending 
on the branch of courses in which the student is enrolled; and the Third 
Degree, known as the “upper’ level, the university level, offering curricula 
of three to six years duration. 

In Brazilian historical tradition, regular instruction included elementary 
or primary instruction, the middle level (secondary, commercial, normal, 
agricultural, industrial, and nautical), of which six branches only the first- 
named, the secondary, was not geared to training in a particular trade, but 
was college preparatory; and the upper level, which we cannot call the 
university level, because the oldest institution of that level of instruction 
among us recognized as such is the University of SAo Paulo, created by the 
government of Sdo Paulo State in 1934. 

The primary schools to which Freire refers were those that, of course, 
offered the first level of instruction, and officially were supposed to educate 
all children between seven and ten years of age. 

15. “Meridionate them” [suled-los]. Paulo Freire has used the term 
sulear-se—which does not actually exist in dictionaries of the Portuguese 
language—to call readers’ attention to the ideological connotation of the 
terms orientar-se, to “orientate oneself” (lit., point oneself to the east, 
get one’s bearings from the east), orientagdo (orientation),” nortear-se (a 
synonym for orientar-se, but in terms of the north rather than the east), 
and suchlike derivatives of the Portuguese words for “east” and “north.” 

The North is the First World. The North is on top, in the upper part of 
the world. The North lets knowledge “trickle down” to us in the Southern 
Hemisphere, where we “swallow it without checking it against local con- 
text” (cf. Marcio D’'Olme Campos, “A Arte de Sulear-se,” in Interacdo 
Museu-Comunidade pela Educagéo Ambiental, Manual de Apoio ao Curso 


de Extensdo Universitdria, ed. Teresa Scheiner [Rio de Janeiro: Uni-Rio / 
Tacnet Cultural, 1991], pp. 59-61). 

The first thinker to alert Freire to the ideology implicit in terms like 
these, calculated to mark different levels of “civilization” and “culture” 
between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, between the “creative” 
hemisphere and the “imitative” one (and mark them quite to the positivist 
taste), was the physicist we have just cited, Marcio Campos, who is cur- 
rently working in ethnoscience, ethnoastronomy, and “ambiential edu- 
cation. ” 

Let me quote the words with which Campos himself, in the book just 
cited, sets forth his conception and denunciation of the pretended intrinsic 

superiority of intelligence and creative power of the men and women of 
the North: 

Universal history, and geography, as understood by our Western society 
in its scientific tradition, mark out certain spaces and times, periods and 
eras, on the basis of internalistic, indeed ideological reference points 
very much to the taste of the central countries of the planet. 

Many are the examples of this state of affairs, which is imposed on the 
education of the peripheral countries—that is, the countries of the Third 
World—as a perfectly casual, textbook kind of thing, a matter of sim- 
ple information. 

In our instructional materials, we find the earth represented on globes 
having the north pole at the top. Maps and their legends likewise respect 
this convention, which the Northern Hemisphere finds so appropriate, 
and are displayed in a vertical plane (on a wall) instead of a horizontal 
plane (on the floor or on a table). Thus, folks in Rio are heard to say that 
they are going “up” to Recife; and for all anyone knows they might think 
there is a north on every mountain peak since “north is on top.” 

In questions of spatial orientation, especially with respect to the cardi- 
nal points of the compass, the problems are equally grave. The “practical” 
rules taught here are practical only for persons situated in the Northern 
Hemisphere, who, in their particular situation, will want to septentrio- 
nate (north-ate) themselves so to speak, by analogy with the word orien- 
tate (east-ate), meaning getting one’s bearings from the east. 

The imposition of these conventions on our hemisphere establishes 
confusion with respect to the concepts of above and below, north and 
south, and, above all, principal and secondary, and upper and lower. 

At any local reference point of observation, the rising sun, appearing 
in the direction of the east, founds an orientation. In the Northern Hemi- 
sphere, the polestar, Polaris, the North Star, founds a septentrionation. 
In the Southern Hemisphere, the Southern Cross is the perfectly ade- 
quate basis for a meridionation (or south-ation). 

Despite all this, the practical rule that continues to be taught in our 
schools is the rule of the north: that is, you mentally place yourself with 


the rising sun to the east on your right, with the west on your left, the 
north straight ahead “up there,” and the south behind you, “down here.” 
This thoroughly flawed practical rule provides a corporeal schema that, 
at night, leaves us with our back to the Southern Cross, the fundamental 
constellation for the act of meridionation. Would it not be better for us 
to position ourselves with the east on our left? [Emphasis added] 

Having cited this lengthy, but indispensable, passage, I should like to 
call attention to a few words in it that, few as they are, nevertheless say a 
great deal, and say it very powerfully. They are not abstract words; rather, 
they imply a particular behavior, and an attitude adopted by the person 
who exhibits the behavior. A person practicing this behavior and adopting 
this attitude does so because he or she has acquired them concretely. 

Let us carry Professor Campos's observations and denunciations a bit 
further, then. Let us ask ourselves, with the purpose of stimulating our 
own reflection: To be “left with our back to the Southern Cross’—to turn 
our back on, to turn around so that we are “left with our back to,” the 
Southern Cross, which is the cross on our flag, the symbol of Brazil, a 
reference point for us—will this not betoken an attitude of indifference, 
contempt, disdain, for our own capabilities to construct, locally, a knowl- 
edge that would be ours, and would bear on things local, things concretely 
ours? Why is this? How has it arisen and perpetuated itself among us? In 
favor of whom? In favor of what? Against what? Against whom, this manner 
of reading the world? 

Would not that “thoroughly flawed practical rule” be one more form of 
alienation infecting our signs and symbols, by way of a knowledge devel- 
oped to the point of producing a cognition that turns its back on itself, 
and turns, with open heart, gluttonous mouth, and head as hollow as a pot 
(waiting to be filled by signs and symbols from elsewhere), so that we end 
up as a continent of knowledge developed and produced by men and 
women of the North, the “summit,” the “upper part,” the “top”? 

16. General Eurico Gaspar Dutra was President of the Republic from 
January 31, 1946, to January 31, 1951, in the period immediately following 
the dictatorship of Gettlio Vargas—which the general, alongside so many 
civilians and other military had helped to build from 1930 onward, when 
the cowboy politician began his struggle for the power that he finally won 
and held onto for fifteen years. 

In October 1945 Dutra was one of the dictator's overthrowers. As soon 
as he was elected president, he initiated, ironically enough, the period we 
refer to as that of our Brazilian “redemocratization.” 

17. Vasco da Gama is an overcrowded “popular” or lower-class neighbor- 
hood of the then peripheral zone of Recife. 


18. In the Northeast, we use the word here translated “yard” [oitdo] to 
designate the stretch of ground running along the side of a house, between 
the house and the wall of the property on which it has been built. Or the 
area running along the side of any building. 

For example, when we say “no oit4o da igreja’” (in the oitdo of the church), 
we are referring to the little stretch of ground running along the sides of 
the church, not the front churchyard or any yard that may lie behind 
the church. 

A house with oitées livres, then, as the Portuguese reads, is one that 
has been built in such dimensions as to leave a space—not necessarily a 
very big space, although it could be a quintal, or real yard, too—between 
the house and the wall at the edge of the property on which the house has 
been erected. 

19. In the 1950s, “Arno-brand appliances” were the symbol of the pur- 
chasing power of the Northeastern middle class, which in those postwar 
years was very limited, especially by comparison with that of its equivalent 
in the United States or many European countries—or, for that matter, with 
that of southeastern or southern Brazil itself. 

This “poor” middle class of the Northeast of those days sought to salvage 
some prestige, and respect for its purchasing power, by purchasing and 
using at home a line of name-brand electrical appliances produced in Brazil 
under the trademark Arno. Anyone who could afford an Arno blender, 
vacuum cleaner, or egg-beater—and when they could, they were careful 
not to hide the fact!—felt and esteemed themselves to be privileged mem- 
bers of the modest Northeastern middle class. 

20. Jaboatdo, a city just eighteen kilometers from Recife (and merging 
with its outskirts today) was felt in the 1930s to be lying quite a distance 
from the Pernambucan capital, due to the precarious conditions of access 
to it—almost exclusively by train, on the British-owned Great Western 

It was there that the Freire family moved in the hope of better days to 
come, having been plunged into poverty, like so many other Brazilian fami- 
lies, by the New York stock market crash of 1929. 

It was from Jabotao too, that, after having lost her husband in 1934, 
Tudinha Freire “traveled” daily to Recife in hopes of obtaining scholarship 
money for her son Paul. Each evening that she returned with her “I didnt 
get it,” her cadet seemed to see his chances of a university education slip 
further away. 

Desperate, Tudinha made one last attempt, and early in 1937, received 
a yes from Aluizio Pessoa de Araijo. 

Chancing to pass along Dom Bosco Street, she noticed a sign, on the 


building at number 1013, which read, “Gindsio Oswaldo Cruz” (Oswaldo 
Cruz gymnasium, or secondary school). Only in the 1940s was the institu- 
tion renamed Colégio Oswaldo Cruz (Oswaldo Cruz boarding school). She 
entered the building and asked to speak with the director. And Tudinha's 
request was promptly granted—on one sole condition, “that your son, my 
newest pupil, likes to study.” 

It was in Jaboatdo, where he lived from the age of eleven to twenty, that 
Paulo became acquainted with a world of difficulty, in which one lived on 
scant financial resources. There were the difficulties arising from his 
mother’s untimely widowhood, when society was much less open to a 
woman's working outside the home than it is today. And there were the 
difficulties he felt personally, “skinny, bony little kid” that he was, in fend- 
ing off the hostility of a world that had such little sympathy for the weak 
and impoverished. 

But it was also in Jaboataéo that he learned to play soccer, which was an 
exciting experience for him. And it was there that he swam in the Jaboatao 
River, where he watched poor women, squatting, and washing and beating 
against the rocks either their own families clothes or those of more wealthy 
families, for whom they worked. It was there, again, that he learned to 
sing and whistle—things he still loves to do today to relieve the weariness 
that comes from intellectual activity, or from the tensions of everyday life. 
He learned to dialogue in his “circle of friends,” and learned sexual appre- 
ciation for, “falling in love with” and loving, women. Finally, it was there 
in Jaboatao that he learned and assimilated—with a passion!—his studies 
of both the popular and the cultivated syntax of the Portuguese language. 

Jaboatao, then, was the space-time of a learning process, and of intense 
difficulties and joys in life—all of which taught him to strike a harmonious 
balance between having and not having, being and not being, capability 
and incapability, liking and not liking. Thus was Freire molded in the 
discipline of hope. 

21. I should like to call the reader's attention to the names of Recife 
streets. They are picturesque, regional, lovely, romantic names, nor have 
they gone unnoticed by intellectuals, poets, and sociologists (for example, 
Gilberto Freire). 

The names are not always cheerful ones, but they almost always contain 
a preposition, and tell a little story. We may read them on the blue, white- 
lettered signs of centuries-old Recife: Rua das Crioulas (Street of the Native 
Women), Rua da Saudade (Street of the Longing, for home), Rua do Sol 
and Rua da Aurora (Street of the Sun and Street of the Dawn; these are 
the streets running along the Capibaribe River in the middle of town, 
one along the west bank, the other along the east bank), Rua das Gracas 


(Thanksgiving Street), Rua da Amizade (Friendship Street), Rua dos Mir- 
acles (Street of the Miracles), Corredor do Bispo (Bishop’s Way), Rua das 
Florentinas (Street of the Florentine Women), Praca do Chora Menino 
(Square of the Little-Boy-Weeping), Rua dos Sete Pecados (Street of the 
Seven Sins) or Rua do Hospicio (Hospice Street), Rua dos Martirios (Street 
of the Martyrs), Beco da Facada (Stab Alley), Rua dos Afogados (Street of 
the Drowned), and so many others. 

Rua da Imperatriz (Empress Street), so familiar to all Recifians, which 
runs from the intersection of Rua da Matriz (Womb) with Rua do Hospicio, 
across Ponte da Boa Vista (Bellevue Bridge, we might say) and becomes 
Rua Nova (New Street) is actually—something few of us know—Rua da 
Imperatriz Teresa Cristina, named in homage to the consort of the second 
and last Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II. 

22. Massapé, or massapé, according to the “Aurélio” (Aurélio Buarque 
de Holanda Ferreira, Novo diciondrio da lingua portuguesa [Rio de Ja- 
neiro: Nova Fronteira, n.d.|, derives most probably from the words massa, 
“mass” or “dough,” and pé, “foot.” If this is its etymology, this clay would 
receive its name from the powerful clutch it applies to the feet of anyone 
attempting to walk in it. Peculiar to the Brazilian Northeast, massapé is 
calcareous, almost always black, and ideal for sugar-cane cultivation” (Aure- 
lio, p. 902). 

23. A pinico or penico is a chamber pot, a small vessel used in a bedroom 
at night as a urinal before homes had modern bathrooms with flush toilets. 

The popular strata use the expression pinico do mundo (the world’s 
chamber pot) by analogy for regions of Brazil of extremely high annual 

24. A badoque or bodoque is a slingshot—a crude, homemade weapon 
frequently built by children and consisting of a forked stick fitted with a 
rather broad rubber band between the prongs. The elastic strip is drawn 
like a bowstring, then released to launch a small stone from the center of 
the strip. It is used as a toy, or, especially among the poorer populations 
of the rural zones, for hunting birds for food. 

25. The use of the word “archeology,” here, is obviously metaphorical— 
as, for that matter, it is so typically of the Freirean taste for figurative 
language. The term is used by analogy with its literal meaning. Freire is 
speaking here of the archeology he is practicing upon the emotions of his 
past. Reliving these emotions, he executes an analysis that searches, that 
veritably “digs” into the particular emotions that have caused him to suffer, 
to fall into depression. 

This archeology, then, is not the one French philosopher Michel Fou- 
cault is referring to when he uses the term. 


96. Anyone from the Northeast of Brazil—or of Africa, Freire adds— 
knows the scent of earth. 

In Recife, to whose soil the educator is referring, when the hot, humid 
topsoil is rain-soaked, it exudes a strong scent of moisture and heat, remi- 
niscent of the scent exhaling from a woman's body—or a man’s, for that 
matter—when stimulated by the sensuality of tropical climes. 

27. Freire had been friends with Paulo de Tarso Santos ever since the 
latter had invited him to head a national literacy program. 

The 1961 Law of Directives for and Foundations of National Education, 
with its decentralizing tendencies, had a certain inhibiting influence on 
campaigns of national scope. But one evening President Joao Goulart at- 
tended a literacy course graduation, in Angicos, Rio Grande do Norte. 
There he had the opportunity to observe how well Freire’s team worked. 
And so he conceived the notion of breaking with the new orientation in 
educational policy and assigning all initiatives in educational practice to 
the responsibility of federal agencies alone. 

With the government taking this décision, the sensitivity of Paulo de 
Tarso, now minister of education—known today, as well, for the beauty and 
expressiveness of his painting, to be seen where Brasilia stands as a symbol 
of the early, rebellious years of the 1960s—led him to create the Programa 
Nacional de Alfabetizacgdo, the National Literacy Program. 

It fell to Freire, then, to coordinate that program, which was supposed 
to teach five million Brazilians to read and write in two years. Every indica- 
tion was that this would bring about a shift in the balance of political 
power—as indeed was the intention of the approach being used. After all, 
the Paulo Freire Method now being officially implemented sought not to 
impart literacy mechanically, but to politicize the persons learning to read 
and write. 

With this societal swerve to the left in prospect, the conservative elite, 
enlisting the support of certain sectors of the middle class, proclaimed the 
Paulo Freire Method, now being officially implemented, “highly subver- 
sive.” And of course it was, although not from the perspective of the 

The dominant, ignoring the real needs of the people, which called for 
greater seriousness in the business of education, were in dismay—at the 
method, its author, and Goulart’s populist government itself. 

With the military coup of April 1, 1964, one of whose main targets was 
to keep the people from acquiring use of the written language, the program 
was quashed, and its mentors persecuted. The method had failed to retain 
the alienated and alienating characteristics of earlier literacy campaigns. 


For many of Freire’s associates, then, as for himself, the choice was prison 
and torture, or exile. 

28. Cidade-dormitério (bedroom city) is a Brazilianism denoting munici- 
palities most of whose families have their breadwinner going to work every 
day in another town, generally to neighboring cities that are larger or 
whose employment opportunities are more abundant. These working peo- 
ple return from their distant tasks so late each day that it is already time 
to retire for the night. 

Freire has obviously used the term as a metaphor, meaning that, at that 
moment of which he speaks, intellectuals were scurrying to Santiago from 
various parts of the world, seeking to enhance their own politicization, and 
to discuss “Latin Americanness’ and the Christian Democracy of Chile. 

29. Manha (wiles, craftiness) expresses a certain quite Brazilian behavior 
in which, unwilling or unable to confront another person, or some bother- 
some or difficult situation, a person attempts to camouflage the fact or 
situation with the strategem or artifice of idle gossip, or noncommittal, 
casual chatter that is neither positive nor negative with respect to the 
matter under discussion. The purpose of the “wily one’ is to stall for time, 
and thereby manage to draw some advantage for himself or herself without 
being explicit about that intent. The person exercising manha plays with 
words—-and often enough, plays make-believe with his or her own person— 
in a superficial, false engagement that seeks to escape the reality of the 

In Freire’s understanding, manha is all of this, and one thing more: a 
necessary defense tactic in the cultural and political resistance of the 

30. Josué de Castro, a celebrated Pernambucan physician, after careful 
research of the diets of the Northeastern populations, has drawn up what 
came to be called the crab diet. The name comes from the fact that the 
crab is the typical crustacean of the lands of the mangroves, and one of the 
most important sources of nutrition for the most impoverished strata of 
the population of these areas. It is found in abundance where it likes to 
live best, alongside the palafittes, the pile structures built over the sloughs 
where the mangroves grow, and its meat is of high nutritional value. 

Castro's most important book, known throughout the world, is Geografta 
da fome (Geography of hunger). Shockingly realistic, it paints the portrait 
of the hunger and the struggle for survival of the populations in the Brazil- 
ian Northeast to whom survival is forbidden. 

31. Minas Gerais (General Mines) is one of the federated units or states 
of Brazil, and is located in the Southeast (latitude 14°-22°, longitude 41°- 
51°). Its name derives from the fact that, within its present territory, toward 


the middle of the eighteenth century, the great gold deposits were discov- 
ered, as well as, later, those of many other precious metals. 

32. PUC-SP is the familiar abbreviation, amoung us Brazilians, for the 
Pontificia Universidade Catdélica de S40 Paulo: Sao Paulo Pontifical Catho- 
lic University. 

33. What we call a favela, in Brazil, here translated “slum,” is an agglom- 
eration of shacks inhabited by the poor and originally constructed of dis- 
carded building materials, old lumber, sheets of zinc, scrap iron, and so on. 
Until very recently, favelas were entirely without running water, electricity, 
sewer systems, refuse collection, or public transportation. 

The first favelas were erected toward the end of the last century, by 
communities of emancipated slaves. Unemployed, possessing no tools or 
skills, they invaded the hilly areas of the large cities, at first, to settle 
there. Later, abandoned in the streets, they wandered to the inner city 
for survival. 

Many of the favelas that swell the large Brazilian cities are no longer 
among the hills (which have become the bourgeoisie’s favorite place to 
live). Now they are to be seen along streets or streams, as well, or on 
private urban terrain they have occupied in their “invasion of the land,” or 
under viaducts—indeed, in any abandoned area in which they find it possi- 
ble to install themselves, in small or large family groups, and gain a feeling 
of being closer to employment and/or civilization. 

Brazil's largest favelas are to be found scattered across the hills of Rio 
de Janeiro, where the first emanicipated slaves came in large numbers. 
The Roginha favela counts more than 500,000 inhabitants. Despite the 
huge number of shacks, and the promiscuity that translates their inhabi- 
tants abandonment by society, even the denizens of the favelas are gaining 
politicization, often enough with the assistance of pastoral teams of the 
Catholic Church, and are beginning to organize in neighborhood associa- 
tions that vindicate their right to public services. 

In the Roginha favela, as in so many others, violence and hostility is on 
the increase—in response, it seems to me, to the centuries-old exclusion 
from social life of those Brazilians who have been obliged merely to “mark 
off the days of their lives.” 

Such is the revenge wrought by the oppressed on their oppressors. Today 
we are paying the price: in our favelas we have one of our most serious 
social problems, and it calls for urgent, definitive solutions. 

Among the solutions would be agrarian reform. Brazil is just as colonial 
today as it was in the sixteenth century, when it was divided into huge 
estates called latiftindios—the hereditary “captaincies’—in the naive hope 


entertained by Portugal that these “lands that grow anything you plant” 
could become a populated, productive region. 

The immense latifindios, barren and uninhabited, each the private do- 
main of a single family, are preventing the creation in our country—which 
is one of the few modern capitalist nations in the world, and, incredibly, 
the eighth economic power worldwide—of a more humane, more rational 
distribution of these vast expanses (not that such a distribution has ever 
been seriously attempted). 

In reality, the authorities today, especially the mayors, have to deal with 
these clandestine clusters of shacks, the eyesore of nearly all of the large 
cities of Brazil. City hall is faced with the task of providing decent living 
conditions for the persons who are obliged to live there. 

A determined political will must strike an alliance with technological 
solutions. Given Brazil's current economicosocial structure, it will be im- 
possible to do away with the thousands of favelas scattered across the 

In the city of Sdo Paulo, the current municipal adminstration is at- 
tempting to improve the conditions of the favelas—but only of those that 
have sprung up on terrain solid enough to bear the physical weight of a 
large number of homes and persons. Favelas that have been erected on 
terrain vulnerable to landslides and caveins are discouraged. The favelas 
are no longer the stopping-off place once used by the migrants on their 
way to establish themselves in the economic life of this metropolis. 

As we all know today, politicians and plain citizens alike, the favela is 
the only available space in the city of Sao Paulo for working families that 
have arrived in recent years. Saturated and swollen by a population over- 
flow (the census says around 10 million, but the actual population is over 
12 million) the city is simply out of room. And so the newcomers have 
been obliged to go to live among the destitute, outcast, old residents of 
the favelas, who were condemned to live in them more than a century ago. 

The favelados, the favela people, of the city of Sao Paulo have mounted 
a campaign for the legalization of their homes and, and of their occupation 
of the land on which these homes stand. Nowadays most of the dwellings 
are of brick or cement block, and are roofed with tiles. Countless are 
the societies of “Friends of the Neighborhoods” who set up adult literacy 
programs in collaboration with the Municipal Secretariate of Education, 
and at the same time lobby municipal authorities with a view to obtaining 
other public services. 

The goal of the favelados, then, is to make their de facto possession of 
their homes a de jure ownership. They feel that this would make it possible 
to urbanize the favelas, and thus improve their public services. A large 


number of Sado Paulo favelas now have water, electricity, and in some cases, 
a sewer system. 

The Sado Paulo municipal budget is the third largest governmental bud- 
get in the country (after the federal budget and that of the state of which 
it is the capital, Sao Paulo State). So Paulo is a dynamic pole of the national 
economy and the cultural center of the nation. Paradoxically, it is also home 
to a population, according to city hall records (1992), of some one million 
favelados, in 1,790 favelas. 

34. Like the favelas, the cortigos (beehives) represent more than just a 
housing problem. They are symptomatic of even broader and more serious 
social problems. 

Corticos are houses inhabited by a number of families at once, each 
family leasing some little part of the house or building in order to make 
their home there. They may lease them from the owners themselves, or 
(more commonly) from intermediaries who sublet them. 

The first cortig¢os were old mansions, standing in the center of town, 
where affluent families once lived. The latter, obliged to move to a better 
neighborhood far removed from the great problems of the inner city, where 
violence now reigns, have abandoned their antique dwellings with their 
numberless rooms of all sizes to the lower or very-low-middle classes to 
make their homes in. Today the cortigos have spread practically all over 
the city, and consist, often enough, of far more modest houses than those 
noble old mansions. 

Promiscuity is rampant, of course, as are the great risks generated by 
the absence of hygienic living conditions, and the precarious physical con- 
dition of both the aristocratic old mansions and the new corticos. 

Estimates by the municipal housing secretariat, SEHAB-HABI, indi- 
cate, for Sao Paulo, in 1992, 88,200 “beehive” homes, housing a total of 
three million persons. 

Sometimes a family does not even have an entire apartment to itself. It 
may share it with other families, occupying it in eight- or twelve-hour shifts, 
especially in the inner city, where the “beehive clientele” is to be found. 

The city of Sao Paulo, like nearly all large Brazilian cities, has part of 
its population living in these conditions, imposed on them by an unjust 
distribution of the national income. 

35. The upper-middle and upper-class neighborhoods of the city of Sao 
Paulo known as the Gardens, which were originally divided into Jardim 
América, Jardim Europa, and Jardim Paulista (Garden America, Garden 
Europe, Garden Sao Paulo), today form a single whole. Their long, tree- 
lined boulevards, with their trees, sidewalks, lawns, and gardens, are lined 
with great, lovely, well-constructed houses set amidst huge, flowery gar- 



dens, and apartment buildings where good taste, comfort, and luxury are 
in abundance. 

The Gardens are at the opposite extreme from the favelas and the 

36. Ethnoscience is the name used for their practice by the team of 
Unicamp researchers (of the University of Campinas, at Campinas in Sdo 
Paulo state) to which Marcio Campos belongs. These investigators ply their 
various sciences under a common “ethnoscientific” umbrella. What they 
have in common is that they do precisely an ethnography of the cognition 
and technology (hence an “ethnotechnology”) of various distinct cultural 
contexts. Ethnoscience, then, is an academic science practiced upon an- 
other science, that of another culture. Its practitioners study, for example, 
various native groups of the territory of Brazil, as well as the caicaras (here 
denoting the coastal dwellers themselves) of SAo Paulo State, and thereby 
create a body of knowledge that articulates the science and technology of 
these peoples with the culture that is theirs as well. 

The focus of these scientists’ research is on how these peoples, who live 
by fishing, gathering, farming, and hunting, construct their knowledge 
and develop their techniques of production and extraction. This knowledge 
and these techniques are based on observations, perceptions, and ex- 
periences, which in turn are systematized by these peoples, thus com- 
ing to form, in the understanding of the ethnoscientists, genuine scien- 
tific knowledge. 

More conservative academicians regard this knowledge as no more than 
a kind of common sense, and hence prescientific knowledge. The eth- 
noscientists reject this interpretation, arguing that, on the contrary, the 
cognition of these peoples is authentically scientific, in a sense analogous 
to the scientific character of the cognition systematized in universities. 

(' The two “productions of knowledge” differ only in their argumentation, 

premises, methodology, and consequently, in their distinct manners—both 
valid—of reading the world. \Whereupon, from these distinct readings of 
the world, distinct cognitions constantly emerge whose vehicle is an aware- 
ness of the historical situation—not the prehistorical—of each individual, 

d every people. 

Accordingly, ethnoscientists defend, from their scholarly position in the 
broader world, the preservation not only of our planet's biological diversity, 
but of its sociocultural diversity as well. Indeed, the latter supports the 
former,| which in turn is overwhelmingly composed, by reason of their 
geographical predominance, of the peoples of the tropical forests. 

37. Freire calls Rio de Janeiro simply “Rio,” which is how we usually 
refer to the city. Celebrated for its matchless beauty, bounded by the sea, 


the mountains, the forests, and a lagoon, Rio is one of the most important 
cities of the country from a politico-economico-cultural viewpoint. It had 
been the capital of Brazil ever since the colonial period, all through the 
shift of the dynamic economic pole from the Northeast, with its sugar 
production, to the Southeast with the initiation of the “mining cycle,” 
when, in 1960, the seat of government of the union was transferred to 
Brasflia, that creation of the courage of President Juscelino Kubitscheck 
combined with the talents of Oscar Niemeyer and Lticio Costa. 

During one period of the military regime, Rio de Janeiro, the “Wonder 
City” (as we Brazilians all style it in homage, when we are not “singing” its 
actual name), was a city-state, known as Guanabara. 

38. Ariano Suassuna, today a member of the Brazilian Academy of Let- 
ters, and a brilliant alumnus of Colégio Oswaldo Cruz, was born in Ta- 
pero, in the very center of the state of Paraiba, in the hinterland or desert 
region, not far from the Serra da Borborema. 

For all his funny name and pale skin, Ariano is one of those Northeast- 
erners who are glad to be alive, who are caught up in a “taste” for being. 
He is a lover of the heat, the rocks, the dry soil, the scrubby vegetation— 
but especially, of the wisdom and shrewdness of his native region. 

His works deal with the uncultured—the illiterate or semiliterate. They 
tell of the dry earth, and the austere men and strong women who forge 
their personhhoods in the fire of aggressiveness. They are tales of persons 
with calloused hands, and feet discalced by poverty and split by the dryness 
of their bony, skinny bodies, which, for days and years, have been out in 
the merciless glare of the sun. They expound the naughty wiles and talent 
for deception by which these men and women keep at arm’s length from 
oppression and the oppressor. 

Arianos tales, recounted in the ingenuous speech of the personages of 
his Autos (Acts, that is, officially documented actions of a solemn person- 
age), in a popular lingo, and in the context and situations that so well 
characterize the Brazilian Northeast, have burst the barriers of that region 
to conquer the nation and the world, ever since the publication of a work 
he composed while still very young, his finest and best loved, the Auto da 
Compadecida (Act of the compassionate woman). 

39. Freire uses the expression interdicado do corpo (interdiction of the 
body) in quotation marks because he is referring to a category that I am 
exploring in my research on the history of Brazilian illiteracy. 

I have learned through my investigations that the Jesuit-style domination 
employed to subdue the Indian, the colonist, or the black, at the beginning 
of Brazilian colonization, and render them docile, with a view to swelling 
the coffers of the Portuguese crown (and later that of the Society of Jesus 

a oe ay a -—_——-  —_ —_——_- se = 


itself, which had come here with the official mission of “instructing and 
catechizing the Indian”) was so efficient that the dominant class adopted it 
as one of the mechanisms it applied in order to reproduce the society of 
the few who have knowledge and power, and the many who remain ex- 
cluded and prohibited from being, knowing, and “being able.” 

I have dubbed this ideology the “ideology of the interdict of the body,” 
letting corpo (body) stand, as we do in our language, for the person as the 
self. The reason I have called it this is that it explains the phenomenon of 
absence from the privileged space of the school in terms of the intrinsic 
inferiority, the incompetency, of those who do not occupy that space. Thus 
it camouflages (as does any dominant ideological discourse, being the voice 
of the dominant class) the authentic reasons for these prohibitions. The 
actual reasons for these interdictions, and for this ideological discourse, 
stand in dialectical relationship with the political and economic context 
of our society, by virtue of the manner in which that society produces 
its existence. 

A social organization such as ours, which was always colonial, even after 
political autonomy (1822), and which still preserves the telltale signs of a 
colonial society—a society molded concretely and historically of values, 
behaviors, hierarchies, and preconceptions whose guidelines are discrimi- 
nation, authoritarianism, and elitism—will necessarily be founded on pro- 
hibitions and interdicts. 

Thus, from the dawn of Brazilian history down to our very day, these 
prohibitions have managed to reserve Brazilian illiteracy for the strata of 
lesser social value. Included today are, especially, black women and men, 
and white women of the popular strata. 

The Jesuits’ reading of the world, during the period of their missionary 
work in Brazil (1549-1759), which was inaugurated under the regime of 
King John III, exaggerated the extent of incest, nudity, and cannibalism as 
practiced here—natives ways of being—and introduced the notion of sin, 
inculcating an internalized spirit of obedience, subservience, submission, 
hierarchy, imitation, example, and Christian devotion—European values— 
which counterbalanced the notion of sin in a dynamic tension. This is the 
origin of what I have come to call the ideology of the “interdict of the 
body.” (Cf. Ana Maria Aratjo Freire, Analfabetismo no Brazil, cited in 
Paulo Freire’s text, above.) 

40. “Brazil’s slavocratic past” is still extensively present, in the aristo- 
cratic discrimination among the various social classes, and in race and sex 
discrimination (although no longer in discrimination based on religion, 
which still prevailed among us until a few decades ago). 

Brazil comes to be considered by the “culture of the North,” which is 


the culture that allows its knowledge to “drain” down the throats of us 
dwellers of the Southern Hemisphere—one of the territories discovered 
by the white, civilized European. 

In 1500, Brazil was indeed “conquered” by Portugal, and the victors 
hung their flag between the altars and masses of the Catholic fathers and 
the naked Indians, who by now had been stripped of their taboos and their 
alleged “art of oppressing and exploiting.” 

There was created, then, in these American lands, a colony, which would 
have the function of producing whatever the world division of labor were 
to require of it. 

Thus, if it was economically inviable to go to the Orient in quest of 
spices, the latter would have to be extracted here (in the Amazon region) 
or produced here (in the Northeast). 

With the selection of what was to be produced in the immense expanses 
of fertile lands (sugar), with Holland’s capacity to produce the machinery 
needed in the manufacture of this consumer product in such demand in 
Europe, and with Portugal's experience, meager but adequate, in that 
manufacture, only one problem remained. Who would work on the cane 
plantations, and who would mill the cane in the machines? And who would 
stir the hot syrup in the caldrons with wooden sticks from the Atlantic 
Rain Forest, then dense and luxuriant in the Brazilian Northeast, while 
it thickened? 

The solution was found in black slavery. Thus, the colonizers went in 
quest of the citizens of Africa, purchasing them—as cogs in the wheels of 
the sugar machines—from the Dutch, who for a time plied the black slave 
trade between Africa and Brazil. From 1534 to 1888, when slavery was 
abolished, thousands of blacks entered Brazil—an estimated average of five 
thousand souls per year. (I have said “souls,” since the Jesuits who came 
here in 1549 regarded the blacks as creatures without souls.) 

Despite the fact that they were the “engine masters” heaviest invest- 
ment, in this colonial enterprise, the slaves were not on that account han- 
dled with care. 

It is recorded by our historians that the useful life span of this black 
“coal” that fueled the sugar production of the first Brazilian centuries was, 
on the average, seven years of slave labor. 

Women, less used for the heaviest work, were house slaves, many of 
them, performing domestic service in the great houses—those in which 
the lord and his family resided. 

It was common, in the era of a slavocratic economy in Brazil, for a white 
man to “mate. with his black slave women, whether merely to “possess” 


many women, or to enlarge the most valuable element in the legacy they 
would hand on—their slaves—by way of their own descendants. 

Thus, a society formed in Brazil that, beginning as elitist and authoritar- 
ian, became discriminatory as well, losing all or nearly all respect for 
person-to-person relationships—especially, I reassert with the author, for 
relationships between different sexes, races, and classes, and above all 
between wealthy whites over poor blacks. 

41. Quilombo, in its acceptation in this text, has a strong political conno- 
tation. A quilombo is a place where the black slaves of Brazil took refuge, 
building there, together, in complete solidarity and community, an all but 
self-sustaining city. Thus, they founded a genuine culture of resistance to 
the barbarizing oppression of slavery. 

Décio Freitas, ranking scholar of the black question among us, declares, 
in his Palmares: a guerra dos escravos (Palmares: the slaves war): “As long 
as there was slavery in Brazil, the slaves revolted, and expressed their revolt 
in armed protests whose repetition is unparalleled in the history of any 
other country of the New World” (p. 11). 

I must warn that official historiography omits such an interpretation. It 
denies its realism. It has “reasons” for not understanding and not accepting 
the incontestable factuality of the political and revolutionary content of the 
slave revolts. 

These specious objections only betray an authoritarian, discriminatory 
rot or rancidity that the blacks, ever the vanquished of our history, have 
been obliged to accept in silence. 

Today, black movements, still timid, are appearing here and there in our 
country. Under the leadership of certain black men and women, some 
blacks are coming to accept their blackness and to value it. Thus they are 
forging a new time and a new space for the black race in Brazil. Without 
ever ceasing to be Brazilians, in heart and mind, these men and women 
are purposely accentuating the cultural marks of their African heritage. 
The silence of centuries is at last finding a voice, as Brazilian blacks begin 
to assume themselves historically—take responsibility for an autonomy in 
the conduct of their own concrete history. 

The slave rebels of the sixteenth century rebelled not only in order to 
preserve their African heritages; they likewise struggled, for over a century, 
against slavery as a system, of which they were the greatest victims whether 
they had a clear and critical awareness of it or not. 

The black republic of Palmares, the most important of the quilombos, 
established in the South of the Captaincy of Pernambuco, was an example 
of a productive economy and exemplary social organization of blacks who 


had risen against the slavocratic labor regime on which, along with the 
latifandio and the sugar monoculture, the colonial economy rested. 
Freitas ends his bruising, beautiful, and highly significant study on the 
black insurrections, whose life was from the late sixteenth to the late seven- 
teenth century in the Northeast—the most economically dynamic region of 
Brazil in colonial times, thanks to its sugar production—with these words: 

Every quilombo that appeared on the summit of a wooded ridge consti- 
tuted an obscure little epic. Evaluated as a whole, and in historical per- 
spective, the guilombos assume the dimension of a great epic. 

They did not achieve success in their attempts to transform society, 
but they did exhibit the specificate predicate of the epic: the heroic 
action through which human beings assert themselves as such, indepen- 
dently of success or failure. These rustic black republics manifested the 
dream of a social order founded on an equality of siblingship, and are 
therefore integral to the revolutionary tradition of the Brazilian people. 

Palmares was the most eloquent manifestation of the antislavery dis- 
course of Brazilian blacks throughout nearly three centuries of slavery. 
The resolution taken at Serra da Barriga to die rather than accept reen- 
slavement expresses the essence of the message that the Palmares blacks 
send from the depths of their night. After all—to cite the Hegelian 
reflection—“The master is master only in virtue of the fact that he pos- 
sesses a Slave that recognizes him as such” (Décio Freitas, Palmares: a 
guerra dos escravos, 2nd ed. [Rio de Janeiro: Graal, 1978], p. 210). 

42. The authoritarian discriminations of Brazilian society ultimately pro- 
claim the illiterate incapable of thinking, deciding, or choosing, so that 
they ought not to be accorded the right to vote. Indeed, we hear, anyone 
elected by the illiterate would also be uncultivated, and equally “harmful 
to the nation.” 

Those who think in this way ignore the fact that the illiterate are pre- 
cisely illiterate with respect to reading and writing, not orally, and that 
the reading of the world precedes the reading of the word, as we learn 
from Freire himself. 

Our historical tradition, arising as it does from the slave mode of pro- 
duction prevailing in colonial times, molds us to an authoritarian, elitist, 
discriminatory society, as I have asserted in several of these notes to 
Freire’s book. 

In the Brazilian Empire, only “good men” voted—that is, male property 
owners. The first republican constitution, of 1891, having excluded the 
illiterate (along with beggars, women, and the noncommissioned military) 
from voting, dialectically perpetuated an inexperience with democracy, 


and within that, an inexperience with choosing and voting. Women voted 
and could be elected to office only from 1933 on. 

Only with the 1985 elections did the illiterate win their suffrage. They 
might vote if they wished: they were not, however, obliged to do so, as were 
all literate citizens of Brazil, native or naturalized, from the age of eighteen. 

Beginning with the 1989 elections, the right to vote was extended to 
young persons from the age of sixteen up—provided, of course, they knew 
how to read and write. 

In the presence of this historical tradition of “aristocratic, elitist rancid- 
ity,” one readily appreciates the dismay, rejection, and fear prevailing, in 
any phase of the electoral process, in a Brazilian election. 

43. Luiza Erundina is Mayor of Sao Paulo, and the “Petist” administra- 
tion is the government she as a member of the Petist party has formed for 
the management of that immense city. The word Petist derives from the 
protogram for Partido dos Trabalhadores, Workers Party: PT, pronounced 
“pay-tay. ” 

The PT is both a new political party, and a novel one in terms of its 
orientating ideologies. It maintains a doughty, committed militancy, with 
the result that the degree of its intervention and participation in the na- 
tional political scene (and not only in that of municipalities where it has 
had its candidates elected to the prefecture) waxes by the day. 

44. To the extent permitted by the Constitution, the Municipal Educa- 
tion Secretariate of S4o Paulo prioritizes primary instruction: eight school 
years, maintained in 355 schools. It also conducts a secondary school, and 
many (324) nursery schools. It maintains no institution of higher education, 
and only five “special education” schools, which are exclusively for the 
hearing-impaired and comprise both the primary and secondary levels. 

In Brazil, the federal, state, and municipal governments all maintain free 
instruction, in accordance with the wherewithal and priorities of each, on 
the higher, secondary, and primary levels. 

I speak of priorities because there is nothing to prevent (and it actually 
occurs) a state of the federation from maintaining primary and secondary 
schools (Sao Paulo State is the best example), or a municipality from offer- 
ing instruction at all three levels: higher, secondary, and primary. The 
federal union itself only very rarely offers instruction below the univer- 
sity level. 

Let us observe that this official instructional network—regular, and in 
various special purpose modalities, supletivo (supplementary)—is further 
complemented by private systems, which also offer instruction on the three 
levels instituted in the country. 

These private establishments are monitored and financed by the various 


government offices for education on all three levels of government, besides 
being subject, of course, to the principles, objectives, and finalities im- 
posed by the Law of Directives for and Foundations of National Education, 
which sets standards for all Brazilian schooling. 

45. The authoritarian, centralizing power tradition so familiar to Brazil- 
ian society has of course extended itself to all facets of that society. Educa- 
tion could scarcely have expected to be an exception. 

In 1961 we saw the first law voted by the National Congress for the three 
levels of instruction. From 1822 to 1961, all matters concerning education 
had been determined by decrees and “law decrees,” with the exception of 
two pieces of legislation that instituted, in 1827, the “law courses’ and the 
“schools of primary letters” in Brazil. Up until 1961, then, the disciplines 
and their curricula, their objectives, their standards, and especially their 
content—or their programs, since content was more commonly referred 
to up until then—were determined by legally binding regulations of vari- 
ous kinds issued by the Minister of Education with the endorsement of 
the President of the Republic. 

Only with the enactment of the 1961 Law of Directives for and Founda- 
tions of National Education did local officials and the instructional institu- 
tions themselves receive official authority to engage in determinative 
deliberations on instructional matters. Heretofore local discussion had 
been permitted only by way of exception and/or solely within the letter of 
the law. 

This experiment in the democratization of instruction, unprecedented 
in extent and depth, was initiated during the democratic administration of 
Mayor Luiza Erundina, thanks to the administrative skills, authority, and 
competence—professional, pedagogical, and political—of Paulo Freire. 

The arduous, difficult task in question, to be performed without the old 
authoritarian, interdicting “rancidities,” but also without going to the other 
extreme of permissiveness and “spontaneism’—constant concerns of 
Freire—was carried out, with enthusiastic concurrence on the part of all 
involved, in Paulo's tenure from January 1, 1989, to May 27, 1991, as 

unicipal Secretary of Education. 

[ Thus, the content of the courses pursued by the students of the Sao 

aulo city schools, which have taken with alacrity to the new democratic 
experience of self-management, takes its point of departure in community 
needs and experience, which latter are thereupon subjected to cognitive 
exploration by teachers specializing in the various fields of knowledge, all 
working simultaneously. 

An interdisciplinary approach to studies, and the choice of themes to be 
investigated, as part of the democratization of instruction, have yielded 


excellent results in terms of the acquisition of knowledge in itself scientific 
but based on a starting point in the commonsense knowledge that the 
children bring with them to school. In fact, the children come to perceive 
(and this is basic for their formation) the unity prevailing in the plurality 
of things, as well as the importance of a minute interpretation of each of 
the various parts of the universe within the totality. 

During his term as head of the Sao Paulo Municipal Education Secreta- 
riat, through the implementation of an authentically democratic approach 
to management, Freire has demonstrated that decentralization is not only 
possible, but desirable. A democratic decentralization is found to occasion 
the active reinforcement of decisions that need to be taken in function of 
the desires and needs of the various communities, and in terms of the 
social classes of each, throughout the immense metropolis that is the city 
of Sao Paulo. 

Delegating his authority to the secretariat’s technological teams, Freire 
encouraged the formation of a number of deliberative bodies whose pur- 
pose would be to address various matters impinging on the main core of 
the act of educating, the act performed by that municipal organ that is 
the school. 

These bodies are made up of pupils, teachers, directors or principals, 
superintendents, counselors, and mothers and fathers, together with all of 
the support personnel in the schools—in other words, everyone involved 
in the educational process. 

46. Freire could have cited a work he had already written, before 1960 
(the date of the text at hand), as evidence of his concern for content from 
his earliest writings onward. 

I refer to the “Theme Three Report” he developed, which was presented 
by the Pernambuco Commission, and then included as well in the Second 
National Congress of Adult Education, held in Rio de Janiero, July 6-16, 

I recently read a paper in the Mining Symposium on the Thought of 
Paulo Freire held in Pocos de Caldas, September 3-6, 1992. I showed 
that, by way of that 1958 composition, Freire marked his entry into the 
history of Brazilian education. The revolutionary thesis he presented at 
that adult-education congress was that important. 

That Report of Freire, I am certain, was the seed of all of his other, later 
works; but it had a value in itself, as well. 

I also declared, there at the beautiful little spa near the hydromines of 
Minas Gerais State, that, in my view, when he published Pedagogy of the 
Oppressed in 1970—ironically in English in the United States rather than 


in his native Portuguese—he established his place in the universal history 
of education. 

That book, which became revolutionary the moment it came into the 
hands of its first readers, is revolutionary, first, by virtue of the manner in 
which its author had come to understand the pedagogical relationship be- 
tween human beings and the world. And it is revolutionary in that it opens 
up. to those human beings the opportunity they have for liberation for 
them all, once they take up their histories for reflection—“detach” their 
problems and confront them. Thus, the once seemingly unfeasible be- 
comes, through the dream, “untested feasibility’: the dreamers of the 
dream—the oppressed—liberate themselves and their oppressors alike 
(see note 1, above). 

The problem themes to be studied, to be reflected on, and to be con- 
quered by each society, will obviously consist in the experiential content 
of the lives of those men and women who, in communion, exercise a praxis 
of liberation. 

Now, with Pedagogy of Hope, Freire expounds and plumbs his favorite 
analytical themes more maturely. Objectively, after all, these themes need 
to be analyzed as elements of the body of a critical, liberative pedagogy. 
And in this new book we are led to understand the author's pedagogical 
thinking even better, through the critical seriousness, humanistic objectiv- 
ity, and engaged subjectivity which, in all of his works, are always wedded 
to a creative innovation. Thus, Freire bequeaths us not only Pedagogy of 
Hope, but a pedagogy of hope steeped in “dialogicity,” utopia, and the 
human liberation. 

But let us return to the Theme Three Report, whose subject, as pro- 
posed by the Ministry of Education, which scheduled and sponsored the 
event, was: “The Education of Adults and Marginal Populations: Favelas, 
Mocambos, “Beehives,” Foreign Enclaves, and So On.” In an altogether 
new pedagogical language, most progressive and innovative for the era, 
Paulo Freire proposed that the education of adults in the zones of the 
mocambos (shacks hidden in the woods, constructed of thatched Brazil 
satintail and clay and covered with dried coconut straw) ought to be based 
on students awareness of the reality of their everyday lives, and must never 
be reduced to simple mechanical, uncommitted literacy. The content, then, 
ought to arise out of that experience and that reality. 

In the body of his address, Freire spoke of the importance of the pro- 
grams of the literacy courses, as content was more commonly called in 
those days. I shall transcribe here a part of his “Conclusions and Recom- 
mendations,” which constitute a synthesis of his whole discourse, and 


thereby not only provide us with a condensation of his ideas, but indicate 
solutions as well. 

The programmatic content, then, which ought to be democratically se- 
lected by the parties participating in the act of educating for literacy, within 
a broader proposal, of educating, was specified as follows: 

E. That the program of these courses—always in conformity with local, 
regional, and national reality—be developed with the participation of 
the educands in some of its aspects, at least in flexible concerns admitting 
of adjustment: 

1. Hygienic, moral, religious, recreational, and economic aspects of 
life in the local area 

2. Aspects of regional and national life, especially when they bear on 
the development of the country 

3. Development and utilization of local democratic leadership 
- 4, Creation of new attitudes toward the family, neighbors living close 
by, the broader neighborhood, and the municipality. These attitudes 

ought to be based on a spirit of solidarity and understanding. [Empha- 
sis added. | 

As early as the 1950s, then, Freire was building a dialectical relationship 
among three elements: literacy education, study content, and the political 
act of educating, with this third element “imbedding’” the other two. 

47. Bate-papo (chewing the rag, chewing the fat) is a Brazilian colloqui- 
alism denoting a noncommittal, amiable, desultory, or even inconsistent 

48. As a work of basic importance for the rifts in countless societies of 
our time, Pedagogy of the Oppressed has been subjected to embargos and 
interdicts in various parts of the world. 

This was the case, for instance, in the 1970s in Portugal, Spain, and 
Latin America, where extremely authoritarian government actions bereft 
of all popular legitimation proscribed Pedagogy of the Oppressed as “tares ’; 
weeds sown amidst good wheat. 

I have in my files a dossier on the interdict imposed in Portugal on this 
work of Freire’s, where institutions languished under the Salazar yoke up 
to the Carnation Revolution in 1974. 

These documents, of which I shall now present a summary analysis, 
show that, on February 21, 1973, the Office of Information Services, an 
organ of the Secretariate of State for Information and Tourism, in its Oficio 
(Order) no. 56-DGI/S, “respectfully besought” the Director General of 
Security, “for the welfare of the Portuguese nation,” to “be at pains that 
the publication” of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire, published 
by Joao Barrote, be “distrained” or seized, inasmuch as the Information 


Office had ascertained that the work in question was “a book of political 
theory, and experiment in the mentalizagao |mentalization, an attempt to 
instill a particular mentality, to brainwash] of the people with a view to 
inciting a social revolution.” 

The document concedes that Pedagogy of the Oppressed is not “neces- 
sarily” a work “of a Marxist nature,” but insists that this work of Freire 
exhibits “a great deal of [Marxist] influence.” 

Portuguese authorities likewise “understood” that, as the edition was a 
limited one, and the language of the book “inaccessible,” the danger within 
the Portuguese nation itself was not great. They overlooked the fact that 
underground copies were being circulated; nor can the language limitation 
have been very considerable, as we may gather from the testimony of 
Portuguese subjects in the African colonies, whose experiences and suffer- 
ings enabled them to understand Freire’s language and proposals alto- 
gether adequately. 

49. Thiago de Melo, the Amazonian poet who sings the praises of the 
Amazon River—“Water'’s Native Country’ —with such beauty and creativ- 
ity, lives today by the water’s edge, twenty-four hours from Manaus by boat. 

He lives on, he lives with, he lives from, he lives for that rio-mar, that 
“ocean of a river,” that he so loves—as he loves the Amazon rain forest, 
which is just as full of surprises. 

Amidst the flora and fauna, the pororoca (din of the river waters crashing 
into the Atlantic), flooded forests, and copper-colored caboclas (mixed-race 
Indian-and-white men and women) in that extraordinary, exuberant, and 
exotic scenario, Thiago de Melo lives his life, awash in that world of millions 
of lives. 

Decades ago, in the 1960s, while serving as a Brazilian cultural attaché 
in Chile, he hosted a group of Brazilians in his home—almost all of them 
exiled from the country next door—and invited Paulo Freire to explain the 
approach the latter had been using in his adult-literacy programs in Brazil. 
Afterwards, Thiago composed one of his most intensely moving poems. 

He had not been able to sleep after the meeting. Freire’s concept of 
adult education had been too exciting, too astonishing for him. The next 
morning, on that summer's day of 1964, in solidarity with the numberless 
folk of his race and kind who were then prevented from reading the word, 
he composed his “Cangao para os poemas da alegria” (Ballad for the poems 
of gladness). It appears as an appendix in Paulo Freire’s Educacao como 
pratica da liberadade (Brazilian edition). 

He composed it in order that his glad wonderment at the creation of 
the method, mingled with his sorrowing wonderment that Freire could 
have been considered subversive, might proclaim the wonderment of hope. 


00. Brazilian President Joao Belchior Marques Goulart took power as 
head of state on September 7, 1961, after a surprising turn of events had 
brought him hurrying back from China to Brasilia, capital of Brazil and 
seat of government of the union. 

As vice-president-elect, he had had to cut short his official visit to China 
in order to be sworn in as president of the Republic, following the unex- 
pected resignation of Janio Quadros, a mere seven months after the latter 
had taken office amidst great hope and enthusiasm on the part of the 
Brazilian people who had elected him. 

Goulart, another of our populist rulers, erroneously regarded as a Com- 
munist, was under the watchful eye of the military, the dominant Brazilian 
class, and the Northern “owners of the world,” throughout his incumbency. 

His indecisive measures for a grassroots reform, necessary though they 
were for the country—and in the interest of the subordinate strata and 
therefore of progressive sectors—left those of the political Left almost as 
dissatisfied as those of the Right, who considered that President Goulart 
had gone too far in his concessions to “those people.” 

Strikes, including by navy personnel and sergeants of the national army; 
the emergence of peasant organizations, especially the peasant leagues; 
educational and popular cultural movements; attempts at a land reform to 
deal with the latiftindios improdutivos, or enormous unproductive land 
tracts; social legislation in behalf of farm workers; tactless, inflammatory 
speeches by members of his administration, some of them delivered from 
the public reviewing stands of the streets; a National Adult Literacy Pro- 
gram that responded to the interests of the social strata excluded from 
the schools for centuries; the public apology of the agricultural minister, 
Carvalho Pinto, which did manage to subdue some of the wrath of the 
right—along with other considerations—unleashed the military coup. 
Mounted in the name of the subversion (?) of inflation (100 percent a 
year then; now 1000 percent!), and corruption (|!!), the coup signaled the 
beginning of a strangling of the Brazilian people and nation that went on 
from April 1, 1964, to March 15, 1985. 

51. For the National Literacy Program, see notes 7, 27, 49, above. 

52. This “city” is called Segundo Montes, and is named for one of the 
Jesuits murdered in San Salvador a few years ago by the forces of estab- 
lished power. 

The residents of this locality recounted to us that they themselves had 
had to seek refuge in Honduras, for long years, having fled the massacres 
perpetrated by the national army against women, children, and men not 
all of whom were engaged in the revolutionary struggle. This is how it was 
in Perquin, where more than two thousand simple peasants were crammed 


onto a little piece of ground and murdered, as an example and warning to 
all: Desist from the struggle or die. Desist from the struggle to be-moreso, 
from the battle for more being. 

The survivors had then made their way, in anguish and distress, to the 
neighboring country. Now, in the company of gentle, peaceable United 
Nations troops—for they had come on a mission of peace—these same 
survivors, ten years older, had trudged for days upon end, traversing moun- 
tains and valleys, in anxiety and affliction, returning to their country to 
rebuild it. 

They had returned to their Province—Morazén—not far from where 
they had come. But now they abandoned their former, blood-drenched 
locality for another point—a place where, between the forests and the 
mountain winds, they might build a place of life, and not of death. Thus 
arose the town of Segundo Montes. 

They plant crops, breed barnyard animals, discuss their social organiza- 
tion, sing their songs, provide literacy courses for their adults, and educate 
their children. They are women and men who, reading the world with 
humanity and justice, are creating a different world, and they keep their 
eyes on Segundo Montes, “the Father.” 

That Jesuit and five of his companions were roused in the middle of 
the night to suffer the agony of knowing they were being lined up to 
be “executed.” 

As the order had been given to leave no witnesses, the woman who did 
the domestic work in the Padres house, like her fifteen-year-old daughter, 
found no mercy. 

This massacre, an inhuman tactic if there ever was one, had been pre- 
meditated by the forces in power as a form of intimidation. After all, the 
murder of Archbishop Romeo, shot dead as he celebrated mass in San 
Salvador Cathedral, had not sufficed. 

The rightist government hoped that, with the massacre of the Jesuits, 
all the guerrilla forces of the left would surrender. Instead, they grew 
stronger still. 

Segundo Montes, native of Spain, martyr of E] Salvador, lives on. He 
lives in the Viva! his people shout every few minutes in praise of those 
to whom they would do homage. And he lives in their longing, in their 
irrepressible desire for the education of which they have such need and 
which they love, as they cry out, in a chorus that rings like thunder: “Viva 
la educatién popular!” 



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