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Freire, Paulo

Brazilian educator and author (b. Sept. 19, 1921, Recife, Braz.--d. May 2, 1997, Sao Paulo, Braz.), sought to empower the world's oppressed through literacy programs that encouraged social and political awareness. In his seminal work, Pedagogia do oprimido (1970; Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1972), Freire argued that the passive nature of traditional education promoted repression; it was a system he likened to a bank, wherein a teacher deposited information--which Freire believed was largely false--and the student was simply the collector. Freire favoured a "pedagogy of liberation" that encouraged dialogue between teacher and student, enabling the pupil to ask questions and to challenge the status quo. He began refining his methods during the 1950s, when he taught literacy to peasants. The use of everyday words and ideas in his lessons proved highly effective--many of Freire's students needed only 30 hours of instruction before being able to read and write. In 1963 he was appointed director of the Brazilian National Literacy Program, and in this post he outlined a plan to educate five million Brazilians. Following a military coup in 1964, however, Freire was jailed for subversion. After his release he went into exile, traveling around the world to assist in the establishment of literacy programs and to teach at a number of universities. In 1979 he returned to Brazil, where he cofounded the left-wing Workers Party. He was made education secretary of Sao Paulo in 1988 but resigned several years later. Freire wrote more than 20 books, many considered classics in the field of education.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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