In the 1960s, educator Paulo Freire applied a revolutionary method of adult literacy that took into account the reality of each person and, above all, made them a critical citizen. In 40 hours of teaching, he managed to literate 300 people. When the military dictatorship was installed in Brazil, one of the first acts of the military regime was to persecute this Pernambuco pedagogue, who would celebrate his 100th birthday this Sunday. At that time, he led a team whose responsibility was to take his teaching method across the country. This plan was buried with the assumption of authoritarianism.
Freire intensely lived an educational militancy that transformed the reality of thousands of students around the world. Due to the military regime, he was imprisoned for 70 days and had to be exiled for 16 years. He passed through Bolivia, Chile, where he worked for five years at the Institute for Agricultural Development and the Ministry of Education, and Switzerland. During his years in Chile, he published his most famous book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”. He is the author or co-author of at least 23 other books. When he returned to Brazil, he taught at Unicamp and at PUC, was secretary of Education in São Paulo and created an institute that bears his name.
After 24 years of his death, he is still an international reference. He is the third most cited thinker in the world in universities in the humanities, according to a survey by London School of Economics. He also received the UNESCO Education for Peace award and has 29 doctoral degrees honoris causa delivered by universities in Europe and America. In 2012, three years after his widow – Ana Maria Araújo Freire – received his political amnesty, Freire was considered the Patron of Brazilian Education.
Because of his influence and for teaching so many people to have intellectual autonomy, in the last three years he has been pursued again by the government of retired army captain Jair Bolsonaro. It is his second persecution by authoritarian rulers. Since the 2018 election campaign, Bolsonaro has advocated “expunging Paulo Freire’s ideology” from schools. The president’s speech reflects on his militancy, which disseminates countless fake news against the educator, who died in São Paulo in 1997, at the age of 75.
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Something that Freire’s philosophy certainly combats, after all, is the dissemination of disinformation. “A student with a Freirean conscience reads a text and reacts, he doesn’t accept fake news, because he has a critical sense. will capture what is said [em uma mensagem falsa] and see what is behind it, with what interest it was produced, in what context”, said one of the scholars of the educator’s work to the G1 portal, researcher Kleber Silva, from the University of Brasília (UnB).
In May 1978, Freire himself summarized his thoughts in an interview with this periodical. “I could never admit the mystification that education is a neutral business. I think the opposite, that education is always a political task. There is, therefore, no political dimension to education, but it is a political act in itself. The educator is a politician and an artist; what cannot be is a cold technician”.
And why are the current government and its supporters so afraid of Paulo Freire? “An educator, who helps the student to understand himself as the protagonist of his own history, the history of his community and his country, will always be considered a danger by those who want to silence the voice of those who have never had a chance in the power dynamics of the State and society”, he says in an article published in Folha de São Paulo the doctor in education and retired researcher, Dagmar Zibas.
In the 1980s, when a student of Freire in a graduate course at PUC-SP, Zibas volunteered to be the educator’s secretary. She held the position for five years and says she was amazed to see how a person of such high status could relate with “such simplicity and empathy with anyone who approached her”.
Despite the strident stridentism against Freire, he remains on the rise in the country. This week, Judge Geraldine Vital, from the 27th Federal Court of Rio de Janeiro, accepted a request made by the National Human Rights Movement and prohibited the Government from “attacking against the dignity” of the patron of Brazilian education. If there is any institutional act against the figure of the pedagogue, a fine of 50,000 reais will be applied.
Finally, the educator seems to be more alive than ever, as highlighted by EL PAÍS columnist Xico Sá, in a text published on the 12th. the world did not fall into the foolishness of surrendering itself to the darkness of the new order”. This Sunday, the day of his centenary, Freire was honored with a doodle by Google.
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