Sunday, March 13, 2011

Did Paulo Freire Write Poetry? "I Like Being Human"

Let me say at the outset that the verses that follow are by Paulo Freire, but in their original form they are presented as prose not poetry in his last book Pedagogy of Freedom, Chapter 3, "Teaching is Not Just Transferring Knoweldge." (The video at the end of this post is one of his last interviews before his death in 1997)

As I read this book, I am struck increasingly by how his philosphy had become as much a spiritual message as a political-pedogogical philosophy. I see in his final book, much more so than I saw in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the view of him presented by bell hooks in Teaching to Trangress in which she associates his thinking with that of Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

From Pedagogy of Freedom by Paulo Freire:
"I Like Being Human"
(reset from prose into a traditional poetic form by N.A.)

I like being human, being a person,
precisely because it is not already given as certain,
unequivocal, or irrevocable that I am or will be
"correct," that I will bear witness to what is authentic,
that I am or will be just, that I
will respect others, that I will not lie
and thereby diminish the value of others
because of my envy or even anger of their
questioning my presence in the world.

I like being human because I know
that my passing through the world is not
predetermined, preestablished.
That my destiny is not a given
but something that needs to be constructed
and for which I must
assume responsibility.

I like being human
because I am involved with others
in making history out of possibility,
not simply resigned to fatalistic stagnation.
Consequently, the future is something
to be constructed through trial
and error rather than inexorable vice
that determines all our actions.

I like to be human
because in my unfinishedness I know
that I am conditioned. Yet,
conscious of such conditioning,
I know that I can go
beyond it ...

Paulo Freire (September 19, 1921 – May 2, 1997)
I am learning that like most visionaries, Freire was a polarizing figure. His Marxist leanings have caused some to discount his pedogogical philosophy, I think, and never to read it with an open heart.

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