- Paulo Freire
Paulo Freire Born September 19, 1921
Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil
Died May 2, 1997(aged 75)
São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Nationality Brazilian Occupation Educator, author Known for Theories of education Influenced by Jean-Paul Sartre, Erich Fromm, Louis Althusser, Herbert Marcuse, Karl Marx, Ivan Illich, Mao Zedong, Antonio Gramsci, Frantz Fanon Influenced Peter McLaren, Henry Giroux, Joe L. Kincheloe, Shirley R. Steinberg, Antonia Darder, Augusto Boal
Freire was born September 19, 1921 to a middle class family in Recife, Pernambuco. Freire became familiar with poverty and hunger during the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1931 the family moved to the less expensive city of Jaboatão dos Guararapes, and in 1933 his father died. In school he ended up four grades behind, and his social life revolved around playing pick up football with other poor children, from whom he learned a great deal. These experiences would shape his concerns for the poor and would help to construct his particular educational viewpoint. Freire stated that poverty and hunger severely affected his ability to learn. This influenced his decision to dedicate his life to improving the lives of the poor: “I didn't understand anything because of my hunger. I wasn't dumb. It wasn't lack of interest. My social condition didn't allow me to have an education. Experience showed me once again the relationship between social class and knowledge" (Freire as qtd in Stevens, 2002) .
Eventually his family's misfortunes turned around and their prospects improved.
Freire enrolled at Law School at the University of Recife in 1943. He also studied philosophy, more specifically phenomenology, and the psychology of language. Although admitted to the legal bar, he never actually practiced law but instead worked as a teacher in secondary schools teaching Portuguese. In 1944, he married Elza Maia Costa de Oliveira, a fellow teacher. The two worked together for the rest of their lives and had five children.
In 1946, Freire was appointed Director of the Department of Education and Culture of the Social Service in the State of Pernambuco. Working primarily among the illiterate poor, Freire began to embrace a non-orthodox form of what could be considered liberation theology. In Brazil at that time, literacy was a requirement for voting in presidential elections.
In 1961, he was appointed director of the Department of Cultural Extension of Recife University, and in 1962 he had the first opportunity for significant application of his theories, when 300 sugarcane workers were taught to read and write in just 45 days. In response to this experiment, the Brazilian government approved the creation of thousands of cultural circles across the country.
In 1964, a military coup put an end to that effort. Freire was imprisoned as a traitor for 70 days. After a brief exile in Bolivia, Freire worked in Chile for five years for the Christian Democratic Agrarian Reform Movement and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. In 1967, Freire published his first book, Education as the Practice of Freedom. He followed this with his most famous book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, first published in Portuguese in 1968.
On the strength of reception of his work, Freire was offered a visiting professorship at Harvard University in 1969. The next year, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was published in both Spanish and English, vastly expanding its reach. Because of political feuds between Freire, a Christian socialist, and successive authoritarian military dictatorships, the book wasn't published in Brazil until 1974, when General Ernesto Geisel became the then dictator president beginning the process of a slow and controlled political liberalisation.
After a year in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Freire moved to Geneva, Switzerland to work as a special education advisor to the World Council of Churches. During this time Freire acted as an advisor on education reform in former Portuguese colonies in Africa, particularly Guinea Bissau and Mozambique.
In 1979, he was able to return to Brazil, and moved back in 1980. Freire joined the Workers' Party (PT) in the city of São Paulo, and acted as a supervisor for its adult literacy project from 1980 to 1986. When the PT prevailed in the municipal elections in 1988, Freire was appointed Secretary of Education for São Paulo.
In 1986, his wife Elza died. Freire married Maria Araújo Freire, who continues with her own educational work.
Freire died of heart failure on May 2, 1997 in São Paulo.
- King Baudouin International Development Prize 1980. Paulo Freire was the very first person to receive this prize. He was nominated for the prize by Dr. Mathew Zachariah, Professor of Education at the University of Calgary.
- Prize for Outstanding Christian Educators with his wife Elza
- UNESCO 1986 Prize for Education for Peace
- Honorary Doctorate, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, 1996, along with Augusto Boal, during their residency at the Second Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference in Omaha.