I say, "If they thought about it." because Freire understood a fundamental fact about the lives of the illiterate third world poor: they don't think about it. They are so submerged in their daily lives that they have little or no awareness of the possibility for change, much less what they might do to bring about change. They view their condition as natural, the will of God, or determined by fate. Freire referred to Brazil's illiterate poor as a "culture of silence." In initiating a literacy campaign in an area, he found people to whom others turned for help. He invited them to
become the first members of his class, which he referred to as a “culture circle.” The first meetings concentrated on a
process he called conscientization. He showed participants pictures (line drawings), which he called
, and led a discussion about them, an activity he referred to as
The first picture was of a farmyard with animals and a well. There is a man and woman holding a book. They are appa
rently taking. Freire asked, "Who made the well?” “Why?” “What material did he use?" "Who made the tree?"
"How is the tree different from the well?" "Who made the pigs, the bird, the man?" "Who made the house, the hoe, and
This and further codifications elicited discussion of the following ideas: 1. People can make culture; animals cannot. Proper communication between people is dialogue between equals. People can communicate both orally and graphically.
2. In the participants’ culture a father teaches his son to make a bow and arrow and to hunt with it through direct
—teaching by showing. In the owners’ culture father
also teaches his son how to hunt with a gun, but there is a lot of explicit language involved. A gun is so complex that the technology for making it must be written down. The more advanced a people's technology is, the greater the power they have. Education, technology, and power are closely related. 3. Both cats and men are hunters, but cats cannot make tools (cannot make culture) or modify their hunting activities. Men can do both. These observations lead to a discussion of instinct, intelligence, liberty, and education. 4. The participants are able to make clay pots. They can decorate the pots with representations of flowers and
meaningful symbols. These are graphic representations that stand for something else. If they can “read” these
representations, they can learn to read printed texts.
5. The participants’ culture
is their own. They create it. They engage it in. They can modify it. They can step back and think about it and how they create it and engage in it. Freire did not believe he was teaching the participants things they did not already know. The discussion was designed to encourage the participants to talk about these things, something that in their submerged state they rarely did, something, in fact, that their culture did not encourage. The first words the coordinator taught the participants to recognize
were “generative words”
. They generated discussions of the social and political realities of the lives of the people in the district.
would prompt a discussion of people's value in relation to their work, and the relationship between manual, technological, and mental work.
prompted a discussion of housing, health, and education in the slums
problems that needed solutions rather than conditions that must be silently accepted. Under these circumstances it doesn't matter so much what "method" you use to teach reading and writing. What matters is that the participants want what the teacher has, and so they cooperate and work in exchange for the teacher's
knowledge. That’s the
real school paradigm
as opposed to the
make believe school paradigm
where students offer so much resistance that the teacher asks less and less of them until they cooperate enough to make it appear they are
“doing school.” The latter is too often what is found in American working