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Peter Roberts

The work of the Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire (1921–1997) has been extraordinarily influential. Freire’s ideas have been taken up not just by educationists, but also by scholars and practitioners in a wide range of other fields, including theology, philosophy, sociology, politics, women’s studies, nursing, counseling, social work, disability studies, and peace studies. In educational circles, Freire is regarded as one of the founding figures of critical pedagogy. He is best known for his adult literacy programs in impoverished communities and for his classic early text: Pedagogy of the Oppressed. As a writer, he was most prolific in the last ten years of his life. His work advances an ideal of humanization through transformative reflection and action, and stresses the importance of developing key epistemological, ethical, and educational virtues, such as openness, humility, tolerance, attentiveness, rigor, and political commitment. The themes of love and hope figure prominently throughout his work. Freire was opposed to authoritarian, technicist, and neoliberal pedagogical practices. He argued that education is a necessarily nonneutral process and favored a critical, problem-posing, dialogical approach to teaching and learning. While acclaimed by many, Freire also attracted his share of criticism. He responded to some of the key questions raised by others, while also leaving open a number of areas of inquiry for further investigation.