Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pedagogy of the Heart

Paolo Freire (1921-1997)
Under the Shade of This Mango Tree is the original title for Paulo Freires book Pedagogy of the Heart (1997). Freire is probably best known for his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed but he has also writen many other books on education. The special thing about Pedagogy of the Heart is that Freire, who is considered one of the most influential educators in the 20th century, wrote this book in the last few years of his life. The book is filled with his memories of his early life and with meditations which he called "under my mango tree". These meditations include discussions of solitude and community, the limits of rights, neoliberals and progressives, lessons from exil, the lefts and the rights, dialogism, and about faith and hope. The book is a door-opener for insight into the relationship between education and political struggle.

Freire was in the front line in the 1960's in Brazil in the war against illiteracy in the country. He was preoccupied with the vision that the poor end oppressed people of Brazil should not be feed with the ideals of the so-called rich world, but to give them the oppurtunity to find their own self-consciousness and conquer their own world. His thoughts has engaged educators all over the world. His methods were to meet the poor and oppressed were they live, build a relationship with them through dialogism, and to help them to understand their own situation. Liberation and conscious actions were important elements for Freire. He worked with the poor, the hungry and the illiterat. His engagement in these areas of Brazilian life made him a political threat to the totalitarian state which followed after the military coup (1964) in Brazil. He was imprisoned and later expelled from Brazil and lived in exile in Bolivia and Chile until he was able to move back to his home country in 1980. Freire has taught at both Harvard and Cambridge, and worked several years in Geneva, Switzerland.

Freire uses the title Under the Shade of This Mango Tree as a picture to uncover and discuss the mango tree as history, reflection, and as a connection to the world. He never lost faith in the capacity of human beings to build a better world together and believed that each moment in every individual's life is created as we take one step at a time, in dialog with each other. Under the shade of this mango tree is an opportunity to reflect critically through dialogical thinking, "asking myself questions, or talking to myself". This dialogical thinking, what can be called dialogism, is emphasized as a key cornerstone of modern education. He demands that the oppressed, educators and progressive governments alike engage in true dialogue. Dialogism becomes therefore fundamental not just to a democratic education but to democracy itself. The mango tree also represents location and connection for Freire, moving from the local to the global.

He notes that "it is not possible to make Brazilian society more and more democratic without starting by attacking hunger, unemployment, the health crisis, and that of education" (89) - a lesson and cornerstone we can each take in our struggles to create truly democratic states throughout the world. In the spirit of Freire, one of the most influential educators in modern times, it seems more important than ever to focus on history, reflection and connections to the world. When we organize dialogues with other researchers, teachers and students, we help each other to become more confident, critical and active researchers, teachers and students.
Kaare T. Pettersen

Literature: Freire, Paulo (1997). Pedagogy of the Heart. New York: Continuum

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