Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2014)


Even before he had finished writing this book, Paulo Freire felt that certain points would require clarification—matters he was touching on only lightly, or perhaps doing no more than mentioning, without expansion, because considering them in depth would mean straying too far from the focus of the book’s thematic interest. And so he has asked me to compose explanatory notes.

It has been an immense joy for me to collaborate in a work of his, especially as it has meant writing about things I relish so much and have come to be so involved in, so passionately involved in, lo, these fifteen years and more: namely, the “fabrics” of the history of Brazilian education.

Some of the notes may be extensive. I do go on. Others may seem superfluous to the Brazilian reader, but will be helpful to persons whose language is among those into which this book is already in the process of being translated. Persons, places, and things with which we are familiar here may be far less well-known to readers of other cultures and contexts, men and women of foreign lands. It could scarcely be otherwise, and I am sure that this state of the facts calls for a detailed explanation of certain things.

I became more and more intensely involved in my notes every time I picked up this book, once again to immerse myself in it. I found myself reliving moments of my childhood, when I knew Paulo as a student at Oswaldo Cruz Boarding School. Later, in my youth, he was my “Portuguese teacher,” my language teacher. After I married Raul, I lived in São Paulo, where I would see him in my parents’ home, in Recife, and follow his work in the creation and application of the Paulo Freire Literacy Method.

Then came the coup of 1964. From that time on, for a long while, I had only sporadic notice of him, in Chile, in the United States, and in Geneva, and of his pedagogical work, which was gaining in criticality and extension.

I read him for the first time in Spanish. It was a strange experience. It made me think: “So Brazilian, so Northeastern, so Pernambucan, so ‘Recifian’ a person—all the ways in which I have known him—and here I am reading him in a foreign language.” It was a strange thing, and I was surprised and frightened. But then, with the ears of my imagination, I would hear him, in that familiar voice, repeating the text in Portuguese, with his gentle tones, powerful conviction, and ingenious creativity. And these were Northeastern qualities.

Finally there came his stories, so well told in the present volume, of the relationship he established, through the intermediary of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, with his hearers and readers in the world outside. These things seemed less easy for me to grasp. But this was only seeming, since, after all, I had been able to understand his relationships, these experiences of his, here in São Paulo when I discussed Pedagogy of the Oppressed with my colleagues in the teaching profession. Our discussions awakened among us, too, reflections, conclusions, and hesitations analogous to those he recounts in the present book, as he communicates to us the feedback he has received from various groups on the five continents.

Even without a face-to-face dialogue, then, there was a point in common between Paulo and me, and now, as I composed these notes, I feel I have become familiar with it. I am no longer a stranger to the things, events, and persons of which he speaks. And this, entirely apart from the fact that, over the last five years, I have indeed been physically present to, and experienced, these persons and things, in Paulo’s actual company, in Brazil and abroad.

Writing these notes about the streets of Recife, about my father, Aluizio, about Oswaldo Cruz Boarding school, about Ariano and Taperoá, or about what manha means, or about President Goulart—all of this has been fascinating to me, as has been, as well, the task of describing and analyzing what the pedagogical thought of Paulo Freire has meant for the history of education since the Second National Congress of Adult Education—or the Workers Party administration of São Paulo today and his incumbency as Municipal Secretary of Education—or the emotion-charged experience in political pedagogy that was ours—Paulo’s and mine—in the form of the visit we paid to the new city of Segundo Montes in El Salvador.

Composing these notes was no mechanical, or “neutral” task, then. No, there is no such thing here, and it would be impossible for me anyway—the way I am, the way I am involved in things and understand the world. These notes are charged with living experience, with my grasp of the history of Brazilian education, and with my rebellion against the elitist, discriminatory authoritarianism of the colonial tradition and the Brazilian slavocracy, still alive and well among us.

I am fed up with bans and prohibitions: bans on the body, which produce, generation after generation, not only Brazilian illiteracy (according to the thesis I maintain), but an ideology of ban on the body, which gives us our “street children,” our misery and hunger, our unemployment and prostitution, and, under the military dictatorship, the exile and death of countless Brazilians. The ban on Paulo Freire’s body (along with his ideas), which was forbidden, for fifteen long years, in Brazil. The ban, the prohibition, imposed on him and on so many other Brazilians—which, by way of paradoxical reaction, led him to write Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the book that disallows all of the ban forms reproduced in Brazil down through the centuries and indicates the possibility of persons’ liberation. And it is all brought to completion in the present Pedagogy of Hope.

These are the things that have stimulated me in writing these notes. And so I have committed to these notes my emotions, my knowledge of the history of Brazilian education—and especially, my reading of the world, whose orientation is in terms of this triangle: prohibition, liberation, and hope.

Ana Maria Araújo Freire