LINGUIST List 8.718

Wed May 14 1997

All: In Memoriam: Paulo Freire

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. alan harris, Paulo Freire

Message 1: Paulo Freire

Date: Mon, 12 May 1997 14:21:36 -0700 (PDT)
From: alan harris <>
Subject: Paulo Freire

by Eric Pace

Paulo Freire, a radical Brazilian educator known for his
methods of using everyday words and ideas to teach
illiterates to read -- and to be skeptical about
prevailing social and political systems -- died on
Friday in Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paolo. He was
75 and had lived in Sao Paolo since 1981.

The cause was a heart attack at the hospital after he
was admitted there on Thursday after an earlier heart
attack, said his stepson Eduardo Hasche.

Freire refined his education methods beginning in the
late 1950s during literacy campaigns among peasants in
the poverty-stricken northeast of Brazil. He propounded
them in his best-selling 1970 book, "Pedagogy of the

In teaching literacy, he wanted to generate among his
students what he called "a critical comprehension of
reality." In applying his techniques, he and his many
disciples made use of terms like "land" and "hunger,"
which they selected because the words related to the
student's political and social setting, when they taught
reading and writing to workers and peasants.

As Jerome Karabel, a professor of sociology at the
University of California, Berkeley, wrote in 1994,
Freire became "known worldwide for his advocacy of
education for 'critical consciousness,' " and he
espoused a "pedagogy of liberation, which holds that
students should be active participants and not passive

In 1989, not long after Freire was named education
secretary of Sao Paolo, the site of Brazil's largest
school system, he said in an interview: "We want to
create schools where questioning is not a sin. It's no
sin to make a critical study of Brazil's reality. A
small percentage own land. Most people don't."

Freire was named to his post after a politically
congenial mayor took office in Sao Paolo, which had 12
million inhabitants at the time. He held the Sao Paolo
post for three years.

Despite Freire's worldwide renown, his Brazilian
professional world collapsed in 1964, after a right-wing
military coup in his homeland. He was jailed as a
subversive and spent 15 years in exile. Brazil stayed
under military rule for two decades -- during which the
government banned his theories on education.

During his exile, his ideas came to be better known
outside Brazil. He was received with respect at an
International Symposium for Literacy in Persepolis,
Iran, where he observed in a paper, "It is not
systematic education which somehow molds society, but,
on the contrary, society which, according to its
particular structure, shapes education in relation to
the ends and interests of those who control the power in
that society."

His exile years were spent mainly in Geneva. He also
established literacy programs in Chile and Nicaragua and
in nations of Portuguese-speaking Africa, and lectured

He returned permanently to Brazil under a political
amnesty in 1980, his stepson said.

By the latter 1980s, Freire's techniques had been put
into use in the United States by black, Hispanic and
feminist organizations carrying out literacy programs or
training teachers. And Consolidated Edison and some
other corporations had sometimes used his methods in
education programs for new employees with relatively
little education.

Monday, John Devine, the director of the School
Partnership Program at New York University, a
collaborative venture between that university and inner-
city high schools in New York, said, "We place graduate
students into inner city schools where we try to
exemplify some of Paulo Freire's principles."

After returning to Brazil from exile, he was professor
of education for some years at the Catholic University
of Sao Paolo, and his stepson Hasche said he was a part-
time lecturer there at his death. Other posts he held in
Brazil included serving for a time as general
coordinator of the national plan for adult literacy.

His affiliations outside Brazil included serving as a
consultant to Unesco, and working in Geneva for the
World Council of Churches' Office of Education.

He wrote two dozen books, including "Education for
Critical Consciousness" (1973, Continuum).

His first wife, the former Elza Maia Costa de Oliviera,
died in 1986. He is survived by his second wife, the
former Ana Maria Araujo, whom he married in 1987; two
sons, Joaquin and Ludgardes; three daughters, Madalena,
Cristina and Fatima; four stepchildren, including
Hasche, who lives in Manhattan; and eight grandchildren.
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