Category: philosophy

This is a follow-up to Reading Freire: Prefaces and Introduction. See all Reading Freire posts here.

When I was deep in my literature review of rural politics in the Philippines, a friend with ties to radical leftists in the Philippines mentioned a book, a sort of bible for people of his persuasion, called Philippine Society and Revolution by Amado Guerrero. It was an appealing read, as I have (sort of) a soft spot for the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Philippines. I had heard from many people in the Philippines, especially the poor, that Philippine Army was an ‘enemy of the people’ and that the NPA at least had the right intentions. I’m also well aware that the existing social order of the Philippines is held together partly by violence.

But like the first chapter of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I couldn’t finish Philippine Society and Revolution. Both stand as historical or anthropological source material more than any sort of social science. As social science, it’s simply wrong. The models employed do not fit the real, empirical world I live in. They’re rife with intellectual shortcuts and expounding the most extreme cases as being the typical scenario. The primary shortcut is to find a single target struggle against, anthropomorphizing an Other that’s responsible for a wide range of problems. For Freire, it’s the unnamed Oppressor. For Guerrero, it’s the United States.

Development Education Inequality philosophy Uncategorized

This is the first section of a Reading Freire series.

One of the ‘a-ha!’  moments of my academic career came during a crusades class during my undergraduate years where I was saddled with some dozen or so books on the reading list. I was frozen with terror throughout much of the first quarter of that class, until the professor told me I wasn’t expected to read all of them. I was to mine them for the information I needed. I think it was at about that time I developed my “read the introduction, read the conclusion, go back and read the interior parts that go over the parts you either don’t agree with, don’t understand, or just want to learn more about” formula.

That later evolved into a second strategy of coming to rely on secondary sources – people describing what other writers are arguing. Why wade through the density of Foucault or Bourdieu when you can have someone else unpack the theory spread over several books into a few chapters? This sits alongside a notion that no one idea is so brilliant that it takes more than a hundred pages to explain.

But I’m walking back a little bit on that now. There are a few books that I want to read in full. The one that has stood out the most is Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. My thesis right is now about Southern farmers mired in poverty. How could I justify a PhD with a subject like that without seriously engaging the totality of Freire? And so I downloaded a PDF and the journey begins. And I’ve decided to more-or-less live blog it.

Development Education Inequality philosophy Uncategorized

I watched a Satish Kumar lecture yesterday and walked away distinctly unimpressed. I’ll start with where we agree, move on to where I was repulsed, and then conclude with some lighter territory of where I just disagree.

The Convention on Modern Liberty: Satish Kumar
Satish Kumar

Where we would agree – and by we, I mean most education researchers and educationists – is that “education” is a bigger concept than just teaching, though it is often stripped to that essential characteristic. He discusses how the latin root of education is educare, which means to bring out. He then takes an (unacknowledged) page from Freire and slams the “banking” view of learning. OK, fair points so far.

People and institutions often lose sight of the bigger picture, sometimes even teaching gets reduced to schooling and focuses on all the institutional roles schools and universities play.  I was in a Philip Altbach seminar a few weeks ago and a faculty member noted that his entire analysis of the role of world-class “center” universities focused on their role as research producers – where did he think the role of teaching and learning fit in? Altbach replied that teaching was difficult to measure but that they were trying new metrics but was interrupted, with a bout of collective laughter, when the questioner repeated “teaching and learning.”

Education philosophy