The purpose of this blog, generally speaking, is to start a dialogue among public school educators, administrators, parents, students, supporters, and even thoughtful detractors of all kinds on fundamental aspects of pedagogy, both on a practical everyday level and on larger philosophical and ideological levels. Inspired by my recent discovery of Paulo Freire’s now-classic 1970 educational text, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and a discussion about this discovery with a fellow educator, this blog views the concept of pedagogy as much more than simply one’s teaching style or method. As Stanley Aronowitz and Donald Macedo have shown, for Freire, pedagogy also signified “a philosophy or social theory” that by its very nature cannot be neutral because the process of education is essentially directive and should always be geared toward transformation. “Freire’s pedagogy,” Aronowitz explained, “is grounded in a fully developed philosophical anthropology, that is, a theory of human nature, one might say a secular liberation theology, containing its own categories that are irreducible to virtually any other philosophy.”
As a beginning, myself and a collaborator will engage ourselves in an active, close, and deep reading of Pedagogy of the Oppressed in order to gain a firm understanding of Freire’s pedagogy. After each chapter, or perhaps even in the midst of a particular chapter, we will post our thoughts, interpretations, and analyses with the aim of figuring out the best ways to apply, or not apply, Freire’s teachings to our daily classrooms without depoliticizing his revolutionary democratic pedagogy. As we begin to transform our approach to the classroom, periodic blogs will be written as a way for us to self-critically evaluate our own performances and as a way to share our experiences with interested readers. It is our hope that through the process of blogging we can learn how to imbue our students to develop a love of true freedom and the critical consciousness necessary for them to be subjects as opposed to objects within our current moment and the moments to come—empowered people who know and act on life rather than stifled people who are known and acted upon.
In order to actualize these hopes in concrete ways, one of Freire’s major concepts, and the title of this blog, will have to be grappled with, namely, the concept of conscientizacao. Translated from Portuguese by Myra Bergman Ramos in the 30th anniversary edition of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, this term “refers to learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of society.” Just how this concept will translate to today’s world-historical situation, the local level where we teach, and the lives of our students is yet to be known, but it is one of the driving forces underlying our blog and our goals for today’s public education students.