Thursday, October 26, 2017

Cleaning out some files: Paulo Freire, philosopher

In clearing out some files in my old filing cabinet, I had come across some interesting articles that were required reading for a philosophy of education course I had taken eons ago.

In the clearing out process, there remained a little pile of articles on Paulo Freire, that I caught my attention and I wanted to read again, which I managed to do this evening.

Freire seems to be a mixture of liberation Catholic, revolutionary, educator of adults for literacy, Marxist dialectician, critic of traditional arrangements, colonialism and promoter of just society helper of the poor and oppressed.  There seems to be a little Freire for everyone, and certainly I can find a lot of places where I sympathize with him, from what I can glean.

Never having lived in conditions of poverty myself, I can probably not grasp the breadth and depth of his passion and vision. I have been to northern Canadian aboriginal reserves that might provide some similar conditions.  There was hunger, poor education, despair and isolation.  My father was a refugee, and I know terrible conditions from stories told in the family.  I am only one generation away from the family having had nothing and running for their lives.  But the family was not spiritually dead or impoverished, partly because the great works had been passed down, because people knew things by heart and because they were Christians.  There, I disagree with Freire's emphasis on letting go of  what he calls "banking" education.  This is a grave mistake.  And also Dewey was wrong on a lot of things.  (This is why we have American presidents who can't speak English, in the land of sects.)

However, as a Lutheran, I also see that in some sense Freie is a "Lutheran".  Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther posted theses to be debated that highlighted the oppression of the church by the Roman Catholic hierarchy.  A great revolution of sorts resulted. Humanistic education and freedoms of the university, literacy, including biblical literacy, a proper care of souls in the congregation and social assistance were brought about.

Portuguese  Catholicism may have brought something to Brazil, that Freire knew  in his day that was wrong, but that had been let go in other places quite some time before. But bringing in a type of Marxist communism or National Socialism (Nazi's), any sort of leader-focused revolution toppling existing orders of society have proven to be some of the most oppressive systems ever invented by man.  The next elite fights its way to the top, inevitably quite quickly to oppress now without conscience or impediment. We did not know some particular horrors before these leaders and revolutionaries invented them in their great reflective creativity.  They became monsters.  We must see this with clear eyes.  There is something very wrong with the theories. We may let go of Catholic hierarchy and of edicts from Rome and councils, but as Luther said, we must not let go of the word of God.  Where we abandon it, we get into deep trouble.  In some places, a Catholic political party has stood in the way of oppressive alternatives.  There are all sorts of scenarios.

The poor we always have with us, and we should deeply involve ourselves in the troubles and needs of this world and our neighbors. This is true.  Love cannot just be a word or theory.  Freire is right, there.  But some of the centuries old Reformation ideas already came to grips with some of these issues without jettisoning what was right from before.  It was a conservative revolution.

In briefly checking the history of Brazil on Wikipedia, I see that it interestingly concludes with this point about the changing religious landscape:

Until recently Catholicism was overwhelmingly dominant. Rapid change in the 21st century has led to a growth in secularism (no religious affiliation). Just as dramatic is the sudden rise of evangelical Protestantism to over 22% of the population. The 2010 census indicates that fewer than 65% of Brazilians consider themselves Catholic, down from 90% in 1970. The decline is associated with falling birth rates to one of Latin America’s lowest at 1.83 children per woman, which is below replacement levels. It has led Cardinal Cláudio Hummes to comment, "We wonder with anxiety: how long will Brazil remain a Catholic country?"[47]

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If I get around to it, I would like to read more about his ideas on adult education and literacy.

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