Ed­u­ca­tion ‘is po­lit­i­cal’

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - BOOKS -

In 1964, a mil­i­tary coup put an end to Freire’s lit­er­acy ef­fort. He was im­pris­oned as a traitor for 70 days. Af­ter a brief ex­ile in Bo­livia, Freire worked in Chile for five years for the Chris­tian Demo­cratic Agrar­ian Re­form Move­ment and the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the United Na­tions. In 1967, Freire pub­lished his first book, Ed­u­ca­tion as the Prac­tice of Free­dom. He fol­lowed it with his most fa­mous book, Ped­a­gogy of the Op­pressed, first pub­lished in Por­tuguese in 1968.

Based on the pos­i­tive re­cep­tion of his work, Freire was of­fered a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor­ship at Har­vard Univer­sity in 1969. The next year, Ped­a­gogy of the Op­pressed was pub­lished in Span­ish and English, vastly ex­pand­ing its reach. Be­cause of po­lit­i­cal feuds be­tween Freire, a Chris­tian so­cial­ist, and suc­ces­sive au­thor­i­tar­ian mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ships, the book wasn’t pub­lished in Brazil un­til 1974, when Gen­eral Ernesto Geisel be­came the dic­ta­tor pres­i­dent be­gin­ning the process of a slow and con­trolled po­lit­i­cal lib­er­al­i­sa­tion.

Af­ter a year in Cam­bridge, Mas­sachusetts, USA, Freire moved to Geneva, Switzer­land to work as a spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion ad­vi­sor to the World Coun­cil of Churches. Dur­ing this time Freire acted as an ad­vi­sor on ed­u­ca­tion re­form in for­mer Por­tuguese colonies in Africa, par­tic­u­larly GuineaBis­sau and Mozam­bique.

In 1979, he was able to re­turn to Brazil and moved back in 1980. Freire joined the Work­ers’ Party (PT) in the city of São Paulo and acted as a su­per­vi­sor for its adult lit­er­acy project from 1980 to 1986. When the PT pre­vailed in the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions in 1988, Freire was ap­pointed Sec­re­tary of Ed­u­ca­tion for São Paulo.

Freire died of heart fail­ure on May 2, 1997 in São Paulo. (From Wikipedia) The book is a col­lec­tion of chap­ters from some of Freire’s best known books, trans­lated into Maltese.

Freire is a world-fa­mous au­thor mar­ry­ing con­cern for adult lit­er­acy and so­cial con­cern. He ex­plains that all ed­u­ca­tion is po­lit­i­cal and, where ed­u­ca­tion says it is apo­lit­i­cal, it is be­ing po­lit­i­cal just the same.

His the­o­ries were con­di­tioned by the par­tic­u­lar his­tor­i­cal cir­cum­stances he lived through, in a South Amer­ica hov­er­ing be­tween army dic­ta­tor­ships and ex­treme left-wingers.

One would have thought that Malta is too dis­tant from South Amer­ica for Freire’s the­o­ries to make it to this coun­try. But that is not so. His close links with Catholic the­olo­gians of the Lib­er­a­tion The­ol­ogy school fil­tered through to the Maltese ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem, even to this day. Peo­ple like Si­mon Mer­cieca have been re­cently com­plain­ing that our ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem is too much a mix of Marx­ism and Lib­er­a­tion The­ol­ogy.

My main problem, how­ever, is other: I was once here: I thought that it was im­por­tant to trans­late books into Maltese (in my case, the­o­log­i­cal books). It didn’t work, de­spite all the has­sle in­volved. Those who would be in­ter­ested to read such books could well do so in the orig­i­nal. And mean­while the cost of trans­lat­ing and pub­lish­ing a trans­la­tion are pro­hib­i­tive.

In this book, the trans­la­tors of the chap­ters are well-known names. Prob­a­bly, for them, the task of trans­lat­ing the chap­ter ex­pressed a com­mit­ment to an ideal. Peo­ple like Al­bert Mar­shall, Joseph Agius, Charles Flores, Al­bert Cal­lus, Rose Marie Caru­ana, and Vic­tor Laiviera, among oth­ers.

There is also an­other is­sue: be­ing a philoso­pher and a the­o­rist of ed­u­ca­tional prac­tice, Freire tends to use tech­ni­cal terms that can­not be trans­lated into Maltese ex­cept by var­i­ous words de­rived from Ital­ian, which ren­ders the chap­ters quite dif­fi­cult to di­gest.

Nev­er­the­less, one also un­der­stands why the book had to be in Maltese. Freire spoke of bring­ing ed­u­ca­tion to the peo­ple, the il­lit­er­ate and those with­out any for­mal ed­u­ca­tion. And in Malta’s case this had to be only in Maltese.

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