Paulo Freire

The Global Legacy

by Michael Adrian Peters (Volume editor) Tina Besley (Volume editor)
©2015 Textbook XXIV, 606 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 500


This collection is the first book devoted to Paulo Freire’s ongoing global legacy to provide an analysis of the continuing relevance and significance of Freire’s work and the impact of his global legacy. The book contains essays by some of the world’s foremost Freire scholars – McLaren, Darder, Roberts, and others – as well as chapters by scholars and activists, including the Maori scholars Graham Hingangaroa Smith and Russell Bishop, who detail their work with the indigenous people of Aotearoa-New Zealand. The book contains a foreword by Nita Freire as well as chapters from scholars around the world including Latin America, Asia, the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. With a challenging introduction from the editors, Michael A. Peters and Tina Besley, this much-awaited addition to the Freire archive is highly recommended reading for all students and scholars interested in Freire, global emancipatory politics, and the question of social justice in education.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword: The Understanding of Paulo Freire’s Education: Ethics, Hope, and Human Rights
  • Introduction
  • Moment 1: A Little About Paulo And His Life
  • Moment 2: The World’s Reading of Paulo With A Focus On The Reading of Concrete Context
  • Moment 3: Politicity, Dialogicity, And Hopeful Praxis: The Ethical Nature of Paulo Freire’s Theory
  • Notes
  • References
  • Reviewers
  • Introduction: Paulo Freire: The Global Legacy
  • Notes
  • References
  • Works By Paulo Freire, Listed By Publication Date
  • Section 1: Theoretical Perspectives—Reclaiming the Legacy
  • Chapter One: Reflections on Paulo Freire, Critical Pedagogy, and the Current Crisis of Capitalism
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter Two: Paulo Freire and the Continuing Struggle to Decolonize Education
  • The Betrayal of Multiculturalism
  • The Cultural Context
  • The Struggle For Our Humanity
  • Education As A Political Act
  • The Struggle In Tucson
  • Paulo: An Emissary of Hope
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Three: Equity as Critical Praxis: The Self-Development of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi
  • Introduction
  • Preamble
  • Historical Background
  • Contemporary Situation
  • Te Whare Wānanga O Awanuiārangi
  • What Is Unique About Us?
  • Critically Unpacking New Formations of Colonization
  • Enacting Critical Struggle
  • Equity And Critical Praxis
  • Transformative Praxis
  • Transforming Education
  • A. There Is A Need To Make And Lead Change Ourselves
  • B. There Is A Need To Centralize The Issue of Transforming
  • C. There Is A Need To Become More Literate About New Formations of Colonization
  • D. There Is A Need To Put Our Own Indigenous Languages, Knowledges, And Cultures At The Center of Our Education Revitalization
  • Conclusion—Our Struggle Is To Be Transforming
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Four: Paulo Freire and the Idea of Openness
  • Openness As A Virtue
  • A Pedagogy of Openness: The Work of Paulo Freire
  • Conclusion: Limits And Possibilities
  • Acknowledgment
  • References
  • Chapter Five: Freeing Ourselves: An Indigenous Response to Neo colonial Dominance in Research, Classrooms, Schools, and Education Systems
  • Introduction
  • The Current Context
  • Kaupapa Māori Responses
  • Acknowledgment
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Six: Humanization in Decolonizing Educational Research: A Tree of Life Metaphor
  • Introduction
  • The Tree of Life
  • The Research Study
  • Par And Indigenous Methodologies
  • A Tree of Life Metaphor For This Project
  • Protection—The shade of the Tree
  • Nourishment—the fruit of the Tree
  • Growth and Change
  • Wholeness
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • References
  • Chapter Seven: Warfare as Pedagogy: Shaping Curriculum From the Margins; A Freirean Counter-Narrative of War
  • “At Peace Now”
  • The Official Story
  • The Original Uncertainty
  • Pedagogical Warfare
  • A Site For Hermeneutical Conflict
  • A Culture of Fear
  • L’Enfant Et Les Sortilèges
  • Depersonalizing War
  • Moral Progress
  • Something Cultural
  • References
  • Chapter Eight: Paulo Freire’s Prophetic Voice at the Intersection of Liberation Pedagogy and Liberation Theology
  • Introduction
  • Paulo Freire—A Man of His Culture
  • A Historical Overview
  • The Former Christian Influences—Under the Shade of a Mango Tree
  • The Genesis of a New Church—Base Ecclesial Communities
  • The Prophetic Church—Committed To Transformation
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Nine: Social Emancipation and Human Rights
  • Human Rights And Subordinate Cosmopolitism
  • Emancipation And Multiculturalism: Approximations Between Paulo Freire And Boaventura Santos
  • Multiculturality And Education For Emancipation
  • References
  • Section 2: Reading the World
  • Chapter Ten: The Popular Education Network of Australia (PENA) and Twenty-First-Century Critical Education
  • Introduction
  • History of Popular Education Network of Australia (Pena)
  • Places And Spaces For Sharing Critical Pedagogy
  • Context: The Backdrop of Neoliberal Education Systems In Australia
  • The Future: Critical Pedagogy And The Legacies of Freire And Darder
  • Conclusions And The Future of Pena
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Eleven: Freire’s Legacy for Communities Seeking Change in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Introduction
  • References
  • Chapter Twelve: Autoethnography in a Kabyle Landscape
  • Introduction
  • Overcoming Fragmentation
  • Questions of Leadership And Knowledge
  • “Banking Education” (Freire, 1970)
  • Frantz Fanon In A Kabyle Life Story Today
  • Reclaiming A Kabyle Voice
  • Speaking Kabyle In Academia
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Thirteen: Travellers in Time: A Critical Dialogue With the Gypsy Travellers of Lancashire
  • Introduction
  • The Cultural Context
  • The Pedagogy
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Fourteen: How the MST’s Educational Principles in Brazil Respond to Global Capitalism, Neoliberalism, and “Reactionary Postmodernity”
  • Introduction
  • “Globalizations”
  • Neoliberalism
  • “Reactionary Postmodernity”
  • Responses From The Mst’s Educational Principles
  • An Overview of the Mst’s Educational Work
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgment
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Fifteen: Enough Is Enough—(de) Constructing Measurement Through Exposing Aspects of the Australian Curriculum in Mathematics as a White-Centric Epistemic Location
  • Introduction
  • The Freirean Culture-Nature Dichotomy
  • Views From The Field—Defining Numeracy And Quantification In The Australian Curriculum In Mathematics
  • Experience, Reality, And Cultural Creations
  • Example One (Oh) One
  • Multi-Logicality—Defined And Epistemically Decentred
  • Numeracy And Indifference In White Western Curricula
  • Decentering Pedagogy, (Re)Defining Literacy And The Criticality of Enough
  • Hegemonics Two (Oh) Two—Dialogue, Praxis, And The Quantification of Enough
  • Hegemonic Utilisation, Indigenous Knowledges, And Numerical Epistemic Locations
  • Urbane Abstractions And The Storied Self
  • (De) Constructing Numeracy—When Enough Is Enough
  • References
  • Chapter Sixteen: Shattering Silence in Kinshasa—Reading the World With Freire Under the Mango Tree
  • Introductory Notes: Silence—Reading—Mango Trees
  • Shattering Silence
  • Reading the World
  • Under the mango tree
  • The Relevance of Paulo Freire Today
  • Under the mango tree with Paulo Freire (1)—subjectivity
  • Under the mango tree with Paulo Freire (2)—humanistic stance
  • Colonial Silence—“Africa” And The White Noise
  • A Brief Foray Into Congolese (Colonial) History
  • Aspects of silence in Congolese education
  • Lingala and its language policies
  • Under the mango tree with Paulo Freire (3)—dialogue
  • The binary of right and wrong
  • Material conditions
  • In-Conclusion
  • Under The Mango Tree With Paulo Freire (4)—Parting
  • References
  • Chapter Seventeen: Re-claiming Traditional Māori Ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing, to Re-frame Our Realities and Transform Our Worlds
  • Introduction
  • The History of Schooling For Māori
  • Framing Māori
  • Forced Identities
  • Re-Claiming
  • Re-Framing
  • Kaupapa Maori
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Eighteen: Pakistan in Praxis: The Development of a Peer Education Programme as a Tool Kit in Developing Young People for Critical Consciousness
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Developing An Appropriate ‘Tool Kit’
  • Conclusions
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Nineteen: The Changing Life Patterns of the Veddhas of Sri Lanka: Translocation from a Forest Environment to an Agricultural Settlement
  • Introduction
  • Veddhas and Theories About Their Origin
  • Original Way of Life
  • Theory of Cultural Invasion
  • Research Design
  • The Purpose of the Study
  • Research Questions
  • Research Site
  • Research Sample
  • Research Methodology
  • Discussion
  • Living Conditions
  • Economic Activities
  • Occupations
  • Occupations of women
  • Marriage, Children, and Family Life
  • Marital Relationships and Family Life
  • Children, Family Size and Child-Rearing Practices
  • Socio-Cultural Practices
  • Changes In Values And Ethics
  • Education Levels and Aspirations
  • Social Life
  • Conclusions
  • References
  • Chapter Twenty: On the Streets With Paulo Freire and Simone Weil, Talking With Gamilaraay Students About Hèlio Oiticica
  • References
  • Chapter Twenty-One: Teaching English for Academic Purposes in a Japanese Setting: Problematizing and Dialogizing Essentialist Constructions of Language Pedagogy, Culture, and Identity
  • Introduction
  • Why Academic Courses In English At This Time?
  • Reasons For Interest In English
  • Powerful Ideologies And Narratives Linked To English And Elt
  • Concerning Curriculum and Assessment
  • Concerning Narrow Conceptualizations of English and English Speakers
  • Concerning Particularized Conceptualizations of Internationalization and Globalization
  • In The Wake of Invasive, Top-Down Impositions
  • Concerning Academic Faculty
  • Concerning Teachers and Students
  • Concerning Equivocal Tropes of Internationalization and Traumatizing Pushes and Pulls
  • Resistance And Critical Reponses
  • Classroom Strategies
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Twenty-Two: The Customer Knows Best: The Opposite of the Banking Concept in the Case of the United Arab Emirates
  • Is Pedagogy of the Oppressed Universally Applicable?
  • Pedagogy of the Customer? Banking Education In The United Arab Emirates
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Twenty-Three: Freire, Sublative Hope, and Early Childhood Education in Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Part One: Sublation And Hope
  • Sublation
  • Sublative Hope
  • Part Two: Freire, Sublative Hope, And Early Childhood Education In Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Sublation at Te Awhina Marae
  • Concluding statement
  • References
  • Section 3: Education as the Practice of Freedom
  • Chapter Twenty-Four: A Freirean Approach to Internationalization in Higher Education Within the Context of Globalization
  • Introduction
  • Internationalization’s Response To Globalization
  • Internationalization And Social Transformation
  • Freire’s Pedagogy of Social Transformation
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Twenty-Five: A Dialogue About Dialogue: Freire and Bakhtin Talk Pedagogy in Response to Percy’s “Problem”
  • Percy’s “Problem”
  • Freire And Bakhtin On Dialogism
  • Pedagogical Orientations of Bakhtin And Freire
  • Returning To Percy
  • Taking Stock
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Twenty-Six: Voices of Resistance: Positioning Steiner Education as a Living Expression of Freire’s Pedagogy of Freedom
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Education For Freedom: Steiner Meets Freire
  • Critical Pedagogy, The Pedagogy of Freedom And Love In The Time of Neoliberalism
  • Young Women As A Force of Change
  • The Voice of Resistance
  • Resistance To The Myth of Separation And The Myth of “Not Knowing”
  • Resistance To Anonymity And Prescriptive Living
  • Resistance To Displacement And Fear
  • Resistance To Dissociation, Loss of Voice, And Lack of Freedom: Belonging And Becoming
  • Concluding Comments
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Twenty-Seven: Bilingual Education, Culture, and the Challenge of Developing Freirean Dispositions in Teacher Education
  • The Setting
  • Bilingual Education, Culture, And Freirean Dispositions
  • Conceptual And Practical Obstacles To Developing Freirean Dispositions
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Twenty-Eight: A Contribution to Perspectives on Educational Partnerships for Social Justice
  • Introduction
  • Partnerships As A Third Way Neoliberal Agenda
  • Hegemony of Ideology
  • Freirean “Partnerships”—Solidarity, Struggle—As Alternative
  • Final Thoughts
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Twenty-Nine: Working for the World
  • Working For The World
  • The Loss of Freire’s Concept: Freedom As Technology
  • Free To Choose? Education As Palliative
  • A Problem of Freedom
  • References
  • Chapter Thirty: Education as an Aesthetic Exercise in Everyday School Performances
  • Introduction
  • A Glimpse of the Everyday School Experiences In A Hong Kong School
  • Constructivist Learning And Everyday School Performances
  • Drama As Method For Critical Discovery
  • Suspending Typified Roles In The Dramatic Elsewhere
  • Re-“Imaging” And Repositioning The Self And The Other Through Drama
  • Toward A Dialogic Pedagogy
  • Concluding Remarks
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Thirty-One: Decolonizing Ways of Knowing: Communion, Conversion, and Conscientization
  • Introduction
  • Talking Back To The Oppressor: Three Moments of Bafflement
  • The First Tale: “Why Have You Taken So Long?”
  • The Second Tale: “I Don’T Trust You”
  • The Third Tale: “It’s Not Proper Research Though, Is It?”
  • Decolonial Praxis: Freire, Fanon, And Du Bois
  • References
  • Chapter Thirty-Two: Music Education as a “Practice of Freedom”
  • Learning To Ask The Question: What Does It Mean To Educate?
  • Freirean Epistemology
  • Teaching As A Political Act
  • The Exercise of Freedom
  • Banking Education Versus Problem-Posing Education
  • Critical Dialogical Praxis And Music Education In New Zealand
  • Multiplicity of Practices
  • Transformative Music Education
  • Self-Reflexivity And Scepticism
  • Praxis Versus Methodolotry
  • An Example From The Classroom
  • Concluding Thoughts
  • References
  • Chapter Thirty-Three: Activism, Reflection, and Paulo Freire—an Embodied Pedagogy
  • Introduction
  • Methodology And Context of the Chapter
  • Freire’s Activism
  • The Language of Possibility
  • Action, Reflection, And Praxis
  • A Living Pedagogy of Activism
  • Freire And “NaïVe” Activism
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • Chapter Thirty-Four: Entwining Three Threads: Working Within and Through a Culturally Responsive Pedagogy of Relations
  • Introduction
  • Historical Context
  • Current New Zealand Context
  • Te Kotahitanga: A Kaupapa Māori Response Within A Mainstream Setting
  • Positioning Our Narratives
  • Te Miro Pango : Iti’s Story
  • Te Miro Mā: Dawn’s Story
  • Te Miro Whero: Working Within A Relationally Autonomous Partnership
  • Power Is Shared Within Non-Dominating Rela-Tionships of Interdependence: Tino Rangatiratanga
  • Culture Counts: Whakapapa
  • Learning Is Interactive, Dialogic, And Spiraling: Wānanga
  • A Vision Is Shared: Kotahitanga
  • Conclusion
  • References
  • Chapter Thirty-Five: Freire’s Theory as a Reference to Teaching Practice in Adult Education
  • Introduction
  • Teaching Practice By Freire: Adult Education Teacher Training And The Incursion Into The School
  • The Organization of Teaching Practice In Adult Education Studies
  • Strategies For Didactic-Pedagogical Orien-Tation
  • Strategies For Pedagogical Mediation In The Teaching Practice of Literacy
  • Final Thoughts
  • References
  • Chapter Thirty-Six: Freire and Skinner: Is There Space for a Dialogue on Education?
  • Introduction
  • Freire And Skinner: Is There Space For A Dialogue On Education?
  • Background
  • Paulo Reglus Neves Freire (1921–1997)
  • Education
  • Knowledge
  • The Role of the Teacher
  • Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904–1989)
  • Education
  • Knowledge
  • The Role of the Teacher
  • Comparisons Between Freire’s And Skinner’s Proposals
  • Initial Reflections
  • References
  • Chapter Thirty-Seven: Appropriate/Critical Educational Technology Within Freire’s Framework, Towards Overcoming Social Exclusion
  • Introduction
  • Objectives
  • Where Are We?
  • Freire’s Framework Applied To Virtual Education
  • Analysis of Some Factors To Promote A Socio-Technological And Pedagogical Inclusion Mediated By Technologies
  • What Should We Do?
  • More Than Proposals, Concrete Actions
  • A Possible Anticipation of Ambitious And Feasible Thoughts In Freire’s Frame-Work
  • Some Open Recommendations
  • References
  • Contributors
  • Name Index



Thanks to the Administrators at the Centre for Global Studies in Education, University of Waikato, Courtney White, Sabrina Van Saarloos and Maggie Lyall for editorial assistance in preparing this manuscript.

We are grateful for the continued excellent support from the Peter Lang team.

Thank you to the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia for sponsorship funding assistance for the conference ‘Paulo Freire: The Global Legacy,’ from which this work is derived. ← xi | xii →

← xii | xiii →



The Understanding of Paulo Freire’s Education: Ethics, Hope, and Human Rights



It is an honour being here for the first time in New Zealand, in Oceania, invited by the University of Waikato, to receive this tribute to my husband Paulo Freire for the legacy he left to the world, and to speak about this legacy. It is a joy which I will never forget.

Before I begin, I want to thank the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia and the Centre for Global Studies in Education of Waikato University for organising the event and for the invitation. In addition, I would like to thank the support from the Faculty of Education, Waikato University, and Peter Lang Publishing, New York. Furthermore, I want to express nominally my gratitude to Professor Tina Besley and Professor Michael Peters of Waikato University.

I want to thank all of you who have come from different parts of the world to honour my husband. I regret that Donaldo Macedo cannot be with us. He is Paulo’s and my great friend, and undoubtedly an authority when it comes to my husband’s ideas.


My subjectivity as a living partner has never allowed me to escape from the rigorous objectivity of the facts. Speaking of Paulo’s grandeur and integrity, his personal ← xiii | xiv → virtues in his subjectivity, we will find the explanation of his theoretical comprehension. His virtues are evident in his knowledge of education and in his fundamental theoretical concepts.

Therefore, I must begin by speaking of the congruence1 between Paulo’s feelings, his thinking, his behaviour, and his writing. Then, I will continue addressing his prudence in his boldness, his tolerance in respecting the different, and even his antagonists. Yet, it is important to speak of his perennial good humour even in the face of difficulties and adversities, of his enormous patience in his immense impatience, of his almost limitless generosity in giving himself to his peers, of his strength in resisting the irresponsible and those who practised misdoings, and of his humility in not whining or complaining or indulging in self-pity.

I acknowledge his childlike and spontaneous curiosity. He never gave up in the face of discouragements. He was never satisfied to conform to those intellectuals who said, “It must be so…this and only this truth forever.” His common sense always challenged the nonsense of those continually repeating, “It must be so, because it has always been thus.” I acknowledge his moral force that enabled him to understand the fragility of men and women without condemning them. I acknowledge his deliberate decisions and readiness to love, and to be in solidarity with people of all nations, colours, religions, ages, and sexual orientations.

He displayed intense passion in all events and circumstances of his daily living, and demonstrated above all his faithful communion with those who suffer because they are dehumanised. He firmly believed that from the oppressed one could build a better world. The values he lived were true, whole, and complete, born out of compassion for those marginalised, excluded, and oppressed.

Paulo was totally lacking in prejudice, anger, and desire for revenge or vindictiveness. He devoted his life to practising the awareness that enables men and women to transform themselves from being oppressed objects of elitist and authoritarian societies, into those who are indeed the subjects of history, thus enabling them to pronounce their world. They have studied and reflected, and therefore have the possibility of positioning themselves as critical subjects in society. As they become more and more critical, and engage more authentically in ethical and political struggles, they can ultimately transform the society where they live, which has previously oppressed them.

Paulo’s many values and beliefs are grounded in the principles of human rights.

I met Paulo when I was only four years old, and he had just received a scholarship donated by my parents2 so that he could enroll in high school. He had lost his father, and his family had lost almost all their belongings. They moved from Recife3 to Jaboatão,4 where Paulo encountered many of his greatest sufferings, but where he also learned to fight for life and take an interest in social injustices that ← xiv | xv → afflicted the majority of Brazil’s population. He studied hard, and earned a law degree.

He was a teacher of the Portuguese language before becoming the major educator of our country. Today, Paulo is the Patron of Brazilian Education. With this title, the greatest and most important among hundreds of others that Paulo received in life, or after his death, the country of Brazil recognises him as the greatest educator in all our history. Further, our educators, in acknowledging him as Patron, have benefited immeasurably themselves, as has the quality of the education they provide. We all win. The Brazilian Nation wins!

My relationship with Paulo lasted many years and had various nuances. I was his student, his friend, his student again in my master’s degree, and finally, “when we changed the nature of our relations,” his wife. We shared together ten years of affectionate, sexual, and intellectual maturity. Ten years of unlimited confidence in each other; of deep friendship; of unending fascination; of untainted admiration; of total openness and honesty of one towards the other. We never hid from one another our dreams, desires, doubts, sorrows, joys, frustrations, and disappointments.

We experienced wonderful things, and we experienced difficult things. All of these taught us to love above everything else and in all circumstances. We loved each other deeply. We gave ourselves to each other, to the full realisation of our lives.


Paulo understood that in order to become a good educator, we must cultivate and nurture our virtues. We are not born with them, but we are born with tendencies toward good or evil.

Our genetic heritage, our family environment, our school environment, and other opportunities that our society gives or denies us are what enable us to be what we are, and what we will become. We are not born determined to be this or that, but we become conditioned for this or that. It is up to us, within our freedom, and our autonomy as subjects, to make our own choices and educate ourselves about the virtues, and to perfect them or not. Paulo took the ontological path to fight for ethical behaviour, guided by virtues. He educated himself according to the principles of Greek arête.

Paulo’s coherent legacy was that of a humanist educator. He understood that the act of knowing does not originate only in the brain, where it is said the intelligence of the world is processed—the “house” or the place of the logic of discernment. He used to say, “I do not know only by using my head, or only by using ← xv | xvi → my intelligence. My knowledge comes from the confluence of things emanating from my whole body, without compartmentalisation. Knowledge comes from the emotions, feelings, and other sentiments that go through my body, and because of my body, and also because of my mind. It is my body that tells me about what I must reflect. It is my body that becomes restless, that mobilises me for the search of knowledge. When I look repeatedly at the same thing, when my skin gets the chills, when my breast beats frenetically, my heart almost tells me, ‘pay attention to it.’”

It is my body that tells me there is something that needs to be unveiled, to be made known, and to be shared socially. Indeed, there are signs in my body that warn me. “Paulo, focus your reflection on what makes you restless and uneasy.” Thus, it is the conscious body that when instigated, provoked, and unsettled, leads to reflections that enable the establishment of an immaterial field of receptivity, where new knowledge can be “housed.”

This new knowledge is still intuitive. It becomes possible then, in the light of reflexive reason, to sort out and systematise this new knowledge. This is how one produces knowledge—new knowledge. We do not discern only with the head, but with the whole body and everything it has, everything it processes, and everything it produces—emotions, feelings, experiences, intuitions, fears, terrors, joys, questions, myths, doubts, certainties, uncertainties….

Nobody acquires new knowledge because one has read, repeated, and memorised what was read. In order to know, we have in ourselves our primary and own condition of human existence, the knowability, i.e., the possibility created by us across thousands of years.

Starting from the gesture, the grunt, the cry, we stand up, walk, and the brain says, “I do, because I want to, intentionally.” The very act of doing-thinking-doing has made available to us the conscience of the world, and the spoken languages, and then the written languages, through which we communicate today. In other words, with this millennia-long process, we have created in ourselves the knowability, we have created the ability to understand the reality, and thus we are able to create the romance, the poetry, the arts, the religions, the sciences, and the philosophies.

We have created the capacity to act on them, change them, and improve them. With knowability, we have the power to organise ourselves for social life that made, for example, this event possible, so that we can pay tribute to men like Paulo Freire.

We have turned ourselves into cognisant beings, beings capable of knowing, who constantly seek to know more, from the necessity and the curiosity to learn more. True knowledge implies apprehending the fact, the phenomenon, the object, so that we appropriate what we need to know, what we wish to know.

Another important understanding is the presence of one of many subjectivities open to what is new, stripped of the prior “givens,” and open to the authentic and true act of knowing. We do not learn alone, but in communion with others. This ← xvi | xvii → original knowledge, being historical, is always being replaced by new knowledge, through the dynamism of all sorts of technologies, and the human desires to continually improve.

The act of knowledge, according to Paulo’s theorising, requires, therefore, these three elements: the subject or cognisant subjects; the cognisable objects; and the dialectical and dialogical relationship between these two elements.

It is our cognisability, or knowability, built up by us, and within us, across the millennia, that allows us to apprehend the fact, the event, and/or the phenomenon or thing. Then, we appropriate to ourselves the object that was unveiled. Then, and only then, do we learn what was previously sought.

For Paulo, the dialogue is founded in the loving relationship established between cognisant subjects, and the objective possibility of knowing through questions: Why? For what purpose? What? And for whom? Against what? Against whom? How? Where? When? These questions and answers successively generate awareness, and new questions and unveilings. It is a process similar to Socratic maieutic, but differing from it because, in the Freirean dialogue, one does not seek only the ready-knowledge that needs only to be “discovered.” The Socratic maieutic is idealistic, and the dialogue denies the Freiran reading of the world.

The knowledge that can be given only objectively between subjectivities in the reading of the world of concrete things, while it provokes and establishes inside us a relationship of dialogue between one another, is, at the same time, and conversely, an act in which knowledge is absolutely individual and subjective. It occurs in introspection.

Understanding the process of acquisition of knowledge, Paulo denounced the “banking” model education, in which the educator tries to deposit content in the students’ empty minds, an act that precludes objectivity/subjectivity. Instead of theorising education as “banking”, Paulo proposes the concept of critical education—education that is problematical, inquisitive, transformative, dialogic, dialectic, and liberating.

Furthermore, according to Paulo, our critical awareness of the world tells us that we know, and can know more. In the continuous dynamic of departing from the practice of what is known, and seeking the theory that explains it, and practising again, brings with it the learning, the common sense, the institutions, and the emotions. This is what Paulo called “the right thinking, the need to think the practice, to practice better, and to learn more, and to learn better.”

If for Paulo, all true knowledge derives from thinking the practice of everyday life, lived in common sense and in intuitive sense, and if true knowledge derives also from the critical reading of the world, then we are speaking of the concrete social, political, anthropological, and religious contexts in which one lives, practises, and thinks. Thus there is no way to escape the fact that Freirean theory embodies a policity, an “anthropolicity,” and an ethnicity, and consequently an “aestheticity” ← xvii | xviii → in understanding the act of seeking knowledge, of reading the world, and of acting in it.

And so, education for Paulo is a critical-ethical-political-educational activity, which involves an awareness that enables engagement in the struggle for political and social participation, and in the critical reading of the world, for the transformation of the world.


In the era of neoliberalism, it is customary to honor intellectuals who are exclusively rational, rationalist, or pragmatic. Pragmatics is beholden to a capitalist market economy. However, Paulo was truly a humanist intellectual, an educator with ideas absolutely connected to his “Northeastern Brazilianity,” influenced by aspects of phenomenology, Marxism, and personalism. He was a humanist critic who never feared acknowledging that his knowledge came from his emotions, from his feelings, and from his commonsense intuitions. This motivated him to seek the ‘raison d’être’ or ‘reason for being’ of objects that could be known through reflection. Unlike the neoliberals, Paulo maintained that there is no such thing as neutrality in the choices, of options and actions, or in ideologies and practices, be they from the right or from the left. Paulo was a humanist critic who embraced the ethics of life because he was in favor of the destitute, the restricted, and the oppressed.

He was against the oppressors, oppressive conditions, and oppressive relations, which were the focus of his denunciations, and replaced with the announcement of a new man and a new woman living in a new society, more just, more fraternal, and more ethical, a society that respects human rights and upholds democracy.

In the era of economic globalization, which is supported by postmodern philosophies and by the most profound and rapid technological changes that history has known, a new “ethics” was established, the ethics of the market. According to the principles of this ethics, “human values” are dictated by market needs, and, as we know, this adopts values that serve the interests of those who have the capital and not the values inherent in more authentic human needs.

Today’s ethics have become corrupted by a new and imperative paradigm of a highly technologised world that destroys, dehumanises living conditions and social relations. This “ethics,” the “ethics of the market,” is wrong. It is an ethic that is responsible for the concentration of income with the few, while the majority experience unemployment, hunger, and all different sorts of miseries that are “globalised” by the ease with which one corrupts and is corrupted, and by the lack of solidarity with and respect for others. This ethic is responsible for the disparities ← xviii | xix → that increase every day between those who have, know, want, can, desire, aspire, and achieve their wishes and those who cannot (or are not able to) achieve any of these things, and those who cannot even have the right to dream.

The ethics of life embedded in Paulo’s understanding of the world counteracts the ethics of the market because it has as its ultimate principle the respect for life and aims to dignify life. It is a fundamental requirement of democracy. The “ethics of the market,” which denies the ethics of life, is essentially an unethical positioning. It hurts, mistreats, ages the youth, kills children, and steals the humanity of millions of men and women. It promotes death and not life. It is the “ethics” that despises values and virtues that characterise the humanity of men and women.

Ultimately, the “ethics of the market” in which money becomes a god prohibits others from accessing and maintaining material goods. It commands, trains, oppresses, and forces people to exploit their brothers and sisters. It supports imperialist countries, and those who forged them, or joined them. Its “agenda” is conquest, cultural invasion, manipulation, and division, all of which are opposed to a dialogical action theory (Freire, 2011).

So, we must ask ourselves: Do we, or do we not, need to create a new social organisation from the ethics of life, which could establish the humanism that enables people to be truly alive and who actively care for each other? Do we want an ethics of life that can inhibit and dismantle what is destroying the environment, and can promote the being concerned for the planet and all human beings, especially those who, across the millennia, have strived to construct a social life characterized by tolerance, fraternity, and solidarity? “Is the dream over?”

Did neoliberalism, by declaring the end of history and the class struggle, ever consider, along its destructive pathway, the possibilities of reinventing a new society more ethical, or better yet, truly ethical? Has Paulo’s possible dream been definitively erased by the cynical pragmatism, the selfish, usurpation, devastation, and misrepresentation of truths by those who command, order, enact, oppress, marginalise, and exclude the historical and ontological destiny of the great majority of the world’s population?

The growing interest in and adherence to Freirean’s praxis by numbers of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Maoists, and their motivation to build a new world in which the ethics of life, dedicated to liberation, are guiding the world toward to new social behavior of their citizens.

The “philosopher of liberation,” Enrique Dussel (2000), believes that the ethical-political-anthropological comprehension of Paulo’s education embodies the essence of the ethics of liberation because in it “human life is the content of ethics.”

“Freire is not just a pedagogue, in the specific sense of the term, he is more. He is an educator of ‘ethical-critical consciousness’ of the victims, the oppressed, the condemned of the earth, in the community” (Dussel, 2000, p. 427). Paulo Freire is ← xix | xx → “the pedagogue of an ethical-critical conscience” (Dussel, 2000, p. 487, footnote 161, emphasis mine).

We have no doubt that Paulo’s understanding of education, enshrined in the essence of the ethics of life, has enabled the comprehension of what Dussel calls the “Ethics of Liberation”, Paulo Freire’s understanding of the impossibility of separating the concrete contexts of education as a practice for freedom and the process of liberation and transformation and life itself, as proposed by the “Ethics of Discourse.” This ethic, in contrast with the ethics of life, understands education from a subjectivist view, which positions education as formation or as training or recycling of knowledge within a formal and universalist ethics that serves to maintain the status quo.

The issue of ethics always worried Paulo. In the last years of his life, he was devoted to thinking about it, and he intended to write, systematising his worries in the face of the calamities within an unethical world. His writing would have announced the redeeming of our humanity as a contribution from our presence in the world. I believe he would have been speaking of ethics that underlie the true human rights present in all his work, and implicitly or explicitly built in each of his words. In Paulo’s view, the word is like “palavração” (word + action): Word is already action.

Therefore, Paulo’s theory of knowledge is neither simply a progressive ideology nor a simple literacy methodology, as many claim. Paulo’s theory is a theory of knowledge that incorporates an ethic that denies the ethics of discourse, but especially the ethics of the market. On the contrary, there is within Paulo’s work an ethics of life that proposes a liberating education, an emancipatory education that allows the autonomy of subjectivities, grounded in respect for human rights.

I think I should say a few things about three premises of Paulo’s theory. I have chosen: the Politicity, Dialogicity, and hopeful Praxis that are related dialectically. I see them as representing the unity in his theory and representing the constitutive ethical nature of his theory.

People need to become aware of dehumanising facts that “limit” their lives. The educator or the militant should and must challenge these “limit situations,” and act in ways that respect the dignity of all people. This implies educators should become committed to overcoming social injustices of all sorts and act in solidarity with the oppressed who are excluded from the educational process, and from the opportunities to participate in the destiny of their country. The educator should ← xx | xxi → share in taking risks with the oppressed and excluded so that they can abandon the magic, mythic, or ingenuous understanding of their world to appropriate a critical awareness which Paulo Freire’s dialogical action theory provides. This critical consciousness allows the voiceless to pronounce their world, thus creating the possibility to restore the ontological humanity denied to the oppressed.

Educators should create an affective and restless atmosphere in their classrooms that helps students collaboratively and joyfully search for, create, and re-create knowledge with epistemological curiosity and scientific rigor. Educators also need to love the act of teaching and the school’s curriculum. However, they are not obliged to love all pupils equally, but to respect and take care for them with equity.

The lovingness, as understood by Paulo in the pedagogical context, is a fundamental component of human rights, because it points to the need not only of respect and tolerance for differences, but also to exercise loving care and generosity toward the dignity of all participants.

  • c.   Hopeful Praxis can be understood as a lifelong and positive outlook on enhancing the quality of life, and achieving personal fulfillment, but realising that complete achievement of these things is difficult, but possible, which Paulo repeated without tiring over the last years of his life. In engaging in life’s struggle, one must trust and have faith in oneself and others; one must be humble and understand human striving to do better and to become more.

Hope for Paulo is more than a state of mind or one of the theological virtues. To him, hope reaches beyond these conceptions. Hope is a result of the incompleteness of human existence. It belongs, therefore, to our ontological nature. From that incompleteness comes the possibility of education. Or, putting it another way, education allows us to constitute ourselves as human beings of human existence, which is much more than simple animal life. Hope is, therefore, an ontological ← xxi | xxii → human quality that justifies education. Hopelessness is the contradictory moment of hope.

Authentic humility that has no relationship with humiliation is the virtue that reinforces and reaffirms tolerance and caring. Acceptance without complaint of life’s difficulties as well as its successes is authentic humility. The arrogance of many educators lacking in humility could be overcome if the reductionist dichotomies between teacher and learner, and between the all-knowing and the ignorant, could be rejected. Paulo’s humble understanding informs us that people learn in communion with others.

Paulo’s humility is evident in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. More and more people from all over the world came to tell him: “Professor, your work is brilliant, masterful…. It has changed my life.” When he said this to me, Paulo commented: “If I had not focused on my humbleness I would have lost myself…. I would have lost my ontological positioning, the purpose for which I had written this book.”

Paulo’s greatest example of humility was to insist that people should not repeat or follow him, or try to re-create him. They could have him as a reference, if they wanted, but they needed to appreciate that he never thought he had said nor done everything.

Paulo and his theory of knowledge, which he preferred to call, humbly, “a certain critical understanding of education” is characterised by an attitude toward respecting and dignifying life, through enabling the liberation and empowering of historical subjectivities. His theory of knowledge has always been at the service of the oppressed and excluded. His theory was constructed from his feelings, emotions, intuitions, wariness of truisms, and his “recifenses”6 experiences, and reflections on the works of philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, and educators from the ancient Greeks to the modern and postmodern eras.

In conclusion, Paulo’s words that pronounce the world have within themselves their own liberating ethical force. They are deliberately imbued to the very core with Paulo’s humanistic ethics. The word to him is liberative praxis, because in them, in his words, lead toward truth, understood as the dynamics of ethical praxis. Ethics for Paulo is truth. Paulo’s understanding, education, and his epistemology based on his more radical ethics have permeated his studies of pedagogical, political, anthropological, philosophical, and sociological theories since his childhood and adolescence. All these understandings have equipped Paulo to propose his ethical paradigm for liberatory education that enables us to transform our societies for the better.

If today the world tries to understand its violence, lack of ethical decency, and naturalness with which it behaves toward a large measure of people facing hunger, disease, illiteracy, and wars, I would say that many people are looking to Paulo for his humanist understanding, soaked in rebellion and sweetness. They are looking ← xxii | xxiii → to Paulo and his ethics of life, the ethics of liberation that sees in all people dignity, happiness, and justice.

That is what, I believe, we gathered here have sought, in the legacy of my husband Paulo Freire.

Thank you.

São Paulo, October 27, 2012.

Hamilton, Waikato University, November 26, 2012.

Ana Maria Araujo Freire, PhD in Education by Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, is the widow and the legal successor of the educator Paulo Freire’s work, Patron of the Brazilian Education.


  1.  Words in italics are from the original text in Portuguese. Translator’s note.

  2.  Aluízio e Genove Araújo, the owners of Oswaldo Cruz School in Recife.

  3.  Recife is the capital and largest city of the state of Pernambuco, in the Northeast of Brazil. Currently the population of the city is 1,536,934 (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statics —IBGE—IBGE, 2010). Translator’s note.

  4.  Jaboatão is a part of the Recife metro area. Currently the population of the city is 650,000 (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statics—IBGE—Census IBGE, 2010). Translator’s note.

  5.  Paulo Freire valued the spontaneous curiosity that may become epistemological curiosity based on critical thinking.

  6.  Things or people that come from Recife, the birthplace of Paulo Freire. Translator’s note.


Freire, P. (2011). Pedagogia do oprimido. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Paz e Terra.

Dussel, E. (2000). Ética da Libertação na Idade da Globalização e da Exclusão. Petrópolis, Brazil: Editora Vozes.

Translators of Nita Freire’s keynote presentation and this foreword

Ana Lúcia S. Ratto

Débora B. Agra Junker


Vin and Ted Glynn ← xxiii | xxiv →

← xxiv | xxv →



Paulo Freire: The Global Legacy


XXIV, 606
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
emancipatory politics social justice education
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. XXIV, 606 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Michael Adrian Peters (Volume editor) Tina Besley (Volume editor)

Michael A. Peters is Professor of Education at Waikato University, New Zealand and Emeritus Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is Executive Editor of Educational Philosophy and Theory, Policy Futures in Education, E-Learning & Digital Media and Knowledge Cultures, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand. His most recent books include Obama and the End of the American Dream (2012) and Education, Philosophy and Politics: Selected Works (2012). Tina Besley is Professor of Education at Waikato University, New Zealand and Adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her four books on Michel Foucault have been critically acclaimed. In 2009, her book Subjectivity and Truth: Foucault, Education and the Culture of Self (Peter Lang, 2007), co-authored with Michael A. Peters, was awarded the American Educational Studies Association Critic’s Choice Award.


Title: Paulo Freire
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630 pages