Paulo Freire and CommonAction

“The future isn’t something hidden in a corner. The future is something we build in the present.”- Paulo Freire

CommonAction is staffed by myself and a small team of consultants. Together, we travel across the US to train, consult, and lead organizations in their efforts to engage their communities. Separately, I work with individuals to coach them on personal engagement, or the sustained connections we maintain within ourselves.

The work of Paulo Freire informs all of this. My team is comprised of powerful thinkers and meaningful actors, and Freire’s work is a common beacon in all of our educations. Following is a bit about him that I took from the Rage and Hope website. I encourage you to go there to learn more about him and critical pedagogy.

Paulo Freire’s lifework is a testament to Critical Theory. His insights into what he called “the culture of silence”(Freire, 1998b, p.14) led him to take an active role in social reform.
A long-time adult educator and native of Brazil, Freire worked to help the disposessed peoples of urban and rural Brazil to find a voice. In 1964, following a military coup, his work was considered a threat to social order. Freire was arrested and exiled. It was during his time in prison that he began his first book, Educacao como a Pratica da Liberdade, or Education as the Practice of Freedom. 

He continued working with the poor while living in Chile, and later as a professor at Harvard’s Center for Studies in Education and Development and was also Fellow at the Center for the Study of Development and Social Change. In 1970, he published his first work in English,which outlined the foundation of his principals, Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

  • Man’s onotological vocation is to be a Subject who acts upon and transforms his world, and in so doing moves toward ever new possiblities of fuller and richer life individually and collectively.
  • Every human being, no matter how “ignorant” or submerged in the culture of silence he or she may be, is capable of looking critically at the world in a dialogical encounter with others.
  • Provided with proper tools for this encounter, the individual can gradually perceive personal and social reality as well as the contradictions in it, become conscious of his or her own perception of that reality, and deal critically with it (Freire, 1998b, p. 14).

In 1979, Freire was invited to return to Brazil, where he joined the faculty at the University of Sao Paulo. In 1988, he became the Minister of Education for Sao Paulo, enabling him to institute reform thoughout most of Brazil. 

Freire’s work has inspired others worldwide to join in the fight for social reform, cautioning them not to see his philosophy as methodology, but rather to reinvent the philosophy to fit their reality. Freire died in May, 1997, but his work continues today through the voices of others who carry the message.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

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