COD125 Paulo Freire’s ideas are not relevant to community work in ‘western’ settings!’ Discuss.

Paulo Freire as a Brazilian philosopher drew inspiration heavily from the social structures and influences that surrounded him, but this does limit the relevance and usefulness of his ideas to education and community work in Brazil. To assert that “Paulo Freire’s ideas are not relevant to community work in ‘western settings’” is to assume a great many things about ‘western settings’ and the relevance that the cultural origins of a theory have on its global relevance. The four key conditions that could make this critique accurate are that:

  1. That the concept of western settings or western society does not overlap and intertwine with eastern influences, society and settings
  2. That the Brazilian culture Freire’s ideas were borne out of has nothing in common with the culture and social structures of ‘Western settings’
  3. That students from different backgrounds in western settings are not linguistically disadvantaged
  4. That there is no oppression in western society

In this essay I will attempt to explain why all four assertions are incorrect and demonstrate the extent to which Freire’s ideas have influenced education and community development in ‘western settings’.

Firstly it is important to define what is meant by the term ‘western settings’. As this assertion is made from a community development perspective and Freire was primarily concerned with pedagogy of education and how knowledge relates to liberation and freedom, so it is fair to assume that the ‘settings’ referred to in this statement are of an educational, social and community development nature;

“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” (Freire 2000)

These settings can encompass a wide range of programs; from formal school systems and curriculums to support work and community interactions at a grass roots, or every day, informal, level. The emphasis on praxis in Freire’s work supports this assertion by reinforcing the notion that learning is not merely achieve through scholarly or academic theorizing;

“Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.”(Freire 2000)

The word ‘western’ as part of this statement can be taken in its cultural context as defined by the Oxford Press 2014; “Relating to or characteristic of the West or its inhabitants”, inhabitant of the West being defined as “Living in or originating from the West, in particular Europe or the United States”. (Oxford University Press, 2014). But are such terms as ‘western’ and ‘eastern’ helpful when discussing Freire? I would argue that the practice of dividing an increasingly globalised society into western and eastern social spheres is to create a false dichotomy, with the two spheres of society intertwining inextricably due to migration and globalized means of communication such as the internet. With this integration of eastern cultures into traditionally western societies (and vice versa) the notion of educational and community development settings having a singularly western orientation is becoming increasingly irrelevant. This increased irrelevance is best summarized by Martin Buber;

“The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.” (Hodes 1972)

Whether the eastern influences in this setting are contributed by the ‘teacher’ or by the ‘pupil’, or even in the greater community, the importance and influence of these differing perspectives and cultural backgrounds when opening an educational and developmental dialogue should not be underestimated.

“One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding.” (Freire 2000)

Paulo Freire’s Brazilian heritage could be considered to be vastly different from the typical heritage of a western educator or student, the reliance on dialogue rather than the educator broadcasting their knowledge to students in a one way stream of ideas and information theoretically renders these cultural and historical differences irrelevant when considering the value of Freire’s ideas. The key assumption that Freire makes about any given community is that each community will have their own priorities, valued knowledge and cultural backgrounds. It is from these community priorities that an educator can make knowledge relevant to the communities they work within. The first step in Freire’s educational strategy is listen to the community,  taking the lead from the community negates the notion of Freire’s theory being solely useful in an eastern setting as the educator is required to adapt their approach  to fit the ‘setting’ and community. Active listening is critical to Freire’s arguments and his theory of education takes its cues from the students, the notion of co-learning;

“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.” (Freire 1990)

To assert that Freire’s ideas are not applicable to a Western setting is to greatly underestimate the language barriers that exist in Western society. Most modern globalised societies are comprised of a vast variety of cultures and languages, in fact in London, U.K. alone 1.7 million inhabitants do not class English as their first language and 300,000 people do not claim to speak English at all (The Office Of National Statistics, 2013). In this time of multiculturalism and multiethnic societies to claim that students in western settings do not face the similar language barriers to their eastern counterparts is to take a very narrow view of what western society is, and to deny the struggles of a significant portion of the western population who do not have the “official language”, or commonly spoken dialect as their first language. This struggle it particularly poignant when the first language of a student indigenous to the land they inhabit has been supplanted by the process of colonisation, some examples from both western and eastern societies include;

  1. Indigenous Australian dialect speakers and the Australian English Language
  2. Gaelic Irish speakers and the U.K. English language
  3. Amerindian dialect speakers and the Brazilian Portuguese language

It is also important to take into account the differing language elements of class, for example someone from a lower socioeconomic background may not be familiar with the same terms as someone from a high socioeconomic groups, and vice versa. These differing dialects and linguistic nuances can occur within a single language causing a division in access to knowledge. Whether the language barriers exist through officially recognised language differences or through cultural or subcultural division it is the assertion of Freire that without the educator being able to overcome these barriers in communication with their students they will be unable to help students to learn, and without education, learning and knowledge the students will be unable to achieve awareness and liberation. Simply put Freire links language to the relevance of learning, and relevance to the desire to act. In this way it is easy to see how the theories of Freire and those who draw inspiration from his teachings can have a profound impact on the operation and effectiveness of learning environments.

The final factor that negates the assertion that Freire has no relevance to western community development is the parallel between the roles of oppressor and oppressed in both western and eastern cultures. Freire poses this power structure of the oppressor; the people who have, possess and are privileged in society, and the oppressed; who have very little and are essentially there to work to maintain the comfortable position of the oppressors. This theory of social inequality has its roots in Marxist conflict theory, which advocates the struggle of the working class to achieve fulfilment and freedom. While the Marxist perspective of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat omit such notions as love and the complexity of modern capitalist structures, Freire is able to offer a more tempered and current approach to conflict theory, but the idea of class struggle is still very familiar. These themes of oppression are often represented in western settings in the form of;

  • Socioeconomic Divisions – The poor or uneducated being oppressed by the rich. Those from lower socioeconomic groups being put under so much pressure to survive that they are unable to focus on the possibility of bettering their situation, or the situation of their community, “…the oppressed, as objects, as “things”, have no purposes except those their oppressors prescribe for them.” (Freire 2000)
  • Racism and Cultural Divisions – The marginalisation of people based on ethnicity, culture, religion or nationality that is done through both overt discrimination and inequality but sometimes take the more subtle form of biased folklore, education and social constructs that only takes into account one, or a few limited perspectives, denying other cultures legitimacy, “Dehumanization, although a concrete historical fact, is not a given destiny but the result of an unjust order that engenders violence in the oppressors, which in turn dehumanizes the oppressed” (Freire 2000)
  • Young people as socially deviant – The orientation of social structures to benefit the established older generations and elite, dismissing youth and youth culture as illegitimate, “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” (Freire 2000)

One of the key western theorists who draw inspiration from the works of Freire is Henry Giroux and his ideas surrounding education and the ‘war on youth’. “He [Giroux] and Freire coedited a very influential series on education and cultural politics for Bergin and Garvey. Giroux has made ground-breaking contributions to numerous fields, including education, critical theory, youth studies, cultural studies, media studies, higher education and public pedagogy.”(Peters 2012). This close academic relationship with Freire has afforded Giroux a deeper understanding of how to address the inequalities and inadequacies within the education and political systems in his Canadian homeland.

“Pedagogy for me was central to proclaiming the power and necessity of ideas, knowledge and culture as central to any viable definition of politics, and the goal of living in a just world with others.” (Giroux, Peters 2012)

At the heart of the teachings of Freire is are such global and intrinsically human experiences such as oppression, communication breakdowns and the need to continuously learn from others. These collective human experiences are apparent in most modern societies, especially those that exist in a postcolonial or globalised state, both in western and eastern communities throughout the world. In this way Freire and those who have built upon his ideas such as Giroux have the potential to empower, educate and liberate both the marginalised and privileged aspects of society regardless of their traditional orientation as eastern or western.


  • Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2000.
  • Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Rowman & Littlefield, 1998.
  • Freire, Paulo, and Ana Maria Araújo Freire. EPZ pedagogy of hope: Reliving pedagogy of the oppressed. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2004.
  • Giroux, Henry A., Youth and the Politics of Disposability in Dark Times, lecture given at McMaster University, Canada, YouTube, McMaster Humanities, 2013.
  • Giroux, Henry A. “Paulo Freire and the politics of post colonialism.” Journal of Advanced Composition (1992): 15-26.
  • Horton, Miles and Freire, Paulo, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change, Temple University Press, 1990.
  • Hodes, Aubrey, Encounter with Martin Buber, Allen Lane, p. 135, 1972.
  • Leonard, Peter, and Peter McLaren, eds. Paulo Freire: A critical encounter. Routledge, 2002.
  • McLaren, Peter. Che Guevara, Paulo Freire, and the pedagogy of revolution. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000.
  • Morrow, Raymond Allen, and Carlos Alberto Torres. Reading Freire and Habermas: Critical pedagogy and transformative social change. Teachers College Press, 2002.
  • The Office for National Statistics, Language in England and Wales, 2011, the National Archives, United Kingdom, 2013.
  • Oxford English Dictionaries Online,, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Peters, Michael A. 2012. “HENRY GIROUX ON DEMOCRACY UNSETTLED: FROM CRITICAL PEDAGOGY TO THE WAR ON YOUTH.” Geopolitics, History and International Relations 4 (1): 156-174.

READING JOURNAL COD125 COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT MURDOCH UNIVERSITY: Learning liberation: a comparative analysis of feminist consciousness raising and Freire’s conscientization method

Reading Material: Learning liberation: a comparative analysis of feminist consciousness raising and Freire’s conscientization method, Butterwick, Shauna J., The University of British Columbia, [1987], pp.18-26

The effects of the changing Brazilian culture on Freire’s outlook are the initial key point being addressed in this chapter with the turbulent events happening in his own country certainly effecting the shaping of his philosophy. With poverty rife and a series of revolutions, reforms and other changing in the political landscape changing Brazil drastically since the 1500s, the author is very keen to make it clear the immense impact that this political and cultural environment had on the emergence of Friere’s ideas of education and community.

Despite being drawn to Marxism, Friere’s catholic background is cited as a preventing him from becoming fully radicalised. Finding a comfortable space for his thinking between the two very different schools of thought led him to the concept of phenomenology in studying social issues that is the objective study of socialisation without necessarily quantifying human class, struggle and issues through economic and production means like Marxist theorists would.

The Conscientization method according to Friere is “natural because unfinishedness is integral to the phenomenon of life itself, which besides women and men includes the cherry trees in my garden and the birds that sing in their branches.”(Freire 1998). This theme of unfinishedness and the unfinished nature of the world and all within it is a reoccurring theme throughout his work but it is not really touched upon in this chapter which largely focuses on the origins of Friere’s work and how it impacts on political, community and education issues which Friere is adamant are all interlinked. Although his idea of the unfinished person is linked to education; “Education does not make us educable. It is our awareness of being unfinished that makes us educable.” (Friere 1998). This is implying that education is not possible without the desire to improve oneself and the acceptance that we are always in constant need of bettering ourselves. This knowledge and education according to Friere ultimately leads to freedom, liberation and better society.

In this notion of awareness leading to political change and liberation Friere takes on a more Marxist view point with an emphasis on empowering those who are marginalised in society, with education playing a pivotal role in achieving the equality and freedoms that may not be afforded to those who are not born into a privileged position in society. This emphasis on awareness is accompanied by strong links to community and reaching out.

In this account of Friere’s life it is easy to see where his ideologies changed and were challenged; from his middleclass upbringing through to his time as a welfare official and witnessing life for the more marginalised members of the society he lived in. Friere’s theories appear to be a patchwork of ideas and philosophies carefully selected from a wide variety of sources to create a theory of community and society that places the emphasis on social and historical change though education without the hopelessness that often accompanies Marxism.

What questions does this reading raise?

Is it truly possible to be wholly objective when it comes to social liberation and freedom when they are such emotional subjects?

Is education the only catalyst for liberation?

How would Freire’s thinking have been different if it was not mediated by Marxist theories?



This is an evaluation made by DADAA Inc. of the immersive sensory theatre experience, Sensorium Theatre’s Oddysea performances and residency within primary and secondary schools that cater to children with a variety of disabilities. The company Sensorium Theatre has utilized the concept of dramaturgy which they define as “the art of shaping a story into a form that can be acted, emphasising interaction and expression” in a previous performance in 2012.

The value of a creative activity for disabled students is evaluated using DADAA’s six evaluation criteria which were used in this report to display the value of a sensory theatre residency in a school environment. DADAA refers to this evaluation criteria as the “Six key dimensions of value” and they are enjoyment, engagement, sensory stimulation, positive responses and behaviours, independence/autonomy and tailored experience. Whilst most of these are easy to evaluate through observation, due to the different ways that some children with disabilities react to stimuli and experiences the evaluation team found it particularly necessary to observe the performance in person as well as reviewing video footage of performances.

The feedback from the students was on the whole positive, but the sensory theatre experience was not without its apparent challenges, with some children responding adversely to certain aspects of the performance. The multisensory approach however, utilises aspects of all 5 basic senses, whilst problematic for some children, allowed the performers to find ways to interact with children who were severely disabled and unable to engage with verbal and visual aspects of the experience. Some of the children were also quite apprehensive but the presence of familiar faces such as teachers and carers seems to have had a comforting effect an also helped the performers to identify windows to interaction with children who may at first not be willing or able to be involved  in the performance experience.

When addressing the six dimensions of value defined earlier DADAA found that the program covered five of the prescribed values but lacked evidence of the performance tailoring experiences to each child. As a performance the benefits of the sensory theatre experience seem to engage with a wide variety of children with a wide variety of needs but this style of creative experience is not easily tailored to individual children as the performers are attempting to interact with a group of children rather than one on one consistent interaction. DADAA states the “tailored experience is tailored to individual needs/preferences of each child which makes it more likely of engagement”.

As there is very little documentation of sensory theatre due to it being relatively new in the sphere of disability education support but the benefits of sensory activities have been well documented with the importance of sensory play being explained thus; “Since all learning in the brain ultimately stems from sensory stimulation, the importance of our senses and of providing ample and appropriate opportunities for stimulation are apparent. For some children with special educational needs (SEN)” (Gascoyne, Sensory Play, Play in the EYFS 2011). So this sensory theatre experience looks to be a beneficial trend in Special Needs Education and associated services.

What questions does this reading raise?

Are there longitudinal studies of the long term effects of these sensory theatre practices?

How could similar programs be implemented that cater to adults? How would the program need to be modified?

How could these programs fit into a long term care and recreation program?

READING JOURNAL COD125 COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT MURDOCH UNIVERSITY: ‘Martin Buber on education’, the encyclopedia of informal education

Reading Material: Smith, M. K. (2000, 2009) ‘Martin Buber on education’, the encyclopaedia of informal education. [ Retrieved: 21st October 2014]

This article offers not only an explanation of the theories of Buber in relation to education but also some insight into how the man himself practiced his teaching principals when communicating and educating his own pupils through the accounts of Aubrey Hodes. Buber came from a Jewish background in a time when being a Jewish Austrian citizen was particularly challenging with the ominous spectre of the Third Reich in the 30s and 40s and the heated political debate that accompanied the Zionist movement throughout his lifetime. The article cites that his relationship to his faith and how it related to his philosophical theories went through a series of changes throughout his lifetime, with early mysticism and acceptance of traditional teachings giving way to more controversial dialogue based philosophies and approaches.  This latter stage of his thinking was condemned in certain sections of the Jewish community for his willingness to open the door to dialogue with the German population so soon after the fall of Hitler’s regime.

The approach to education favoured by Buber is one with an emphasis on sharing and communicating via an open dialogue rather that a single perspective. He explains this through the concept of I-You relationships in which both parties are not experienced as singular, or separate but is experienced as an ebb and flow of ideas, concepts and communication that can be expressed through attentive silence as well as verbal communication. By contrast the I-It form of relationship is one of two separate entities, where ideas and concepts may be broadcast and verbalised but in which there is not genuine dialogue and fluid communication. These relationships allow distance and distinction between parties, denying the chance for relation to result from the encounter.

The term encounter is also explored as Buber has a very clear interest in the concept of the encounter. This is defined by Smith as being “an event or situation in which relation (Beiziehung) occurs”. This “relation” is seen as the connection and communication of ideas and concepts from which all worthwhile and creative endeavour is born, hence Buber’s statement that “all real living is meeting.

Buber’s focus on an open exchange of ideas or meeting of mind is a stark contrast to the Marxist and conflict theories of education in which struggle is the means of social betterment and progress, rather than being a struggle between class, Buber cites and exchange of ideas and dialogue between individuals. Buber focuses on cohesive community concepts that rely on active and receptive community builders that form the foundations of society, fostered through character building and ethical education. The concept of those who a self-serving and closed to other viewpoints gaining power within the community and the consequences of such a situation are not adequately explored. But the intention of the theory is clear; only through dialogue and ethical education can the educator fulfil their primary role of creating a social responsible individual through encouraging the pupil’s “instinct for communion”. Informal learning and setting an example for students is also cited by Buber as being particularly helpful in educating and encouraging social responsibility, his dedication to this theory is evidenced by Hodes firsthand account cited in the article.

What questions does this reading raise?

Is Buber describing a theory that is far too passive to implement real social change?

If I-it relationships cannot be moved towards I-You relationships without the willingness and active attentiveness of both parties how can Buber’s approach be applied to everyday social work?

READING JOURNAL COD125 COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT MURDOCH UNIVERSITY: Radical and Marxist Approaches in Modern Social Work Theory: A Critical Introduction

Reading Material: Payne, Malcolm, 1991, Radical and Marxist Approaches in Modern Social Work Theory: A Critical Introduction, pp. 201-223, London: MacMillan

The article endeavours to explain the key points of Marxism, the importance of the influence of “mode of production”, how it relates to social work, some of its failings and how it differs from more historically traditional methods and approaches to social work. One of the first key points made is that radical social work takes issue with many of the assumptions and practices that traditional theories of social work and its criticisms include the oversimplification of complex social issues, the privatization of problems and victim blaming, and the tendency of traditional social work to reinforce the “oppressive social order”.

Criticisms made by Marxist theories are not just limited to the theories behind social work but also to the method of their applications citing many social work roles as being “fragmented” thus being unable to address the full scope of the problem. Concerns are also raised about the effect of social work funding and how the interests of the parties, both government and private, effect the methods and scope of the community work. The concern links in with the potential interference from those in power to inhibit any social change that could adversely effect their interests. This is not just limited to those funding the social work initiatives but also to the social workers themselves who may find their job in jeopardy if their advocacy of the best interests of their clients in the working classes interferes with the interests of funding of governing bodies.

This potential comprise of the priorities of social work is also addressed further in the article in relation to class struggle. The concept of class struggle is asserted as being the bourgeois attempts to maintain control and the proletariat struggle to change the system. According to Marxist theories there is no neutral ground in this struggles, social workers need to be constantly striving to be catalysts for positive change and elevation of the working classes or they are accepting the status quo and effectively supporting the hegemony of the bourgeoisie.

According to this article it is in the best interests of the ruling classes to perpetuate the myth of the close family unit in order to secure the future of labour but to also alienate and individualise problems keeping the working classes non unified and relatively powerless to challenge the status quo. Social work as an extension of the power of the ruling classes is essentially seen to be, in Marxist theory, is designed to reinforce these values and reign in any nonconformists to these ideals. This theory is useful in as far is it helps to reveal some of the factors that can adversely affect the implication of community development strategies but it fails to take into account the individual motivation of social workers, clients and governing people, with no room afforded for personality, moral and values and how they affect the operation of society.

The extension of Marxist approaches to social work to include Feminist and non-sexist social work shows allows the article to draw parallels between the struggle of the working classes against the ruling classes and the struggle of women in society against the oppression of a traditionally male dominant society. Part of the discussion in relation to non-sexist social work addresses the issue of whether men can undertake feminist social work. The importance of including a feminist approach in Social Work in emphasized by explaining the established sex roles of the genders and how these roles have impacted and marginalized women in a way that, because of the ingrained and socially accepted nature of these roles, may not be immediately apparent to men.

What questions does this reading raise?

If it is impossible for Social workers to serve both as an ambassador for the “ruling class” and as an advocate for the “working classes” can effective state supported social work even exist according to Marxist theories?

Does this mean that social work in a capitalist society must be subversive in order to truly benefit the working classes? If not where do we draw the line between useful Marxist social work approaches and counterproductive self-defeating theorizing?

As this paper was written over 20 years ago how has the role of women changed? Have gender roles merged or are the same oppressive structures still seen to be in place?

Reading Journal COD125 Community Development Murdoch University: Kura, yeye, boorda, Nyungar boodier nidja boodjar : community development and indigenous communities

Reading Material: Collard, L. and Palmer, D. Kura, yeye, boorda, Nyungar boodier nidja boodjar : community development and indigenous communities. Keynote address at the National Community Development Conference. Sheraton Hotel, Perth. [March 23, 2001], Published by Local Government Community Services Association of Australia

The key point this article makes is that indigenous and non-indigenous people within Community Development initiatives need to work together, drawing on their respective experiences and expertise to create an effective and relevant service for the community. The idea of “going along together” ties in with ideas such as collaboration, co-operation and communication. The exchange of knowledge and ideas between cultures and traditions, with respect and consideration given to preserving the Nyungar language and traditions is seen to be hugely beneficial to communities. There is particular emphasis on language, which is the foundation for effective communication and cross cultural interaction, and the very strong assertion that Nyungar language is NOT a dead language; it still functions in daily life and alongside Nyungar cultural practices and those non indigenous people working within Nyungar communities need to be mindful of this.

Another point made, relating to the Nyungar language is that it is essential when working within Nyungar communities to at least make an effort to learn some of the language. Learning the language is not just the key to effective communication but also demonstrates to the community you are working with that you acknowledge the historical and cultural significance of their community. This language is not just limited to indigenous words but also the turn of phrase, stories and nuances of the way that the community interacts and communicates. This can relate to the traditions, conventions and morals practiced and upheld in the community.

Whilst many of the points raised could potentially be applied to a wide range of indigenous communities it is important to look at the unique needs and cultures of each indigenous community on a case by case basis. Unfortunately not all indigenous languages as a thoroughly documented and preserved as the Nyungar language. Wiradjuri, the indigenous community of the region I live in all but lost much of their language and traditions, there has been a “revival” in recent years with a great deal of effort being made by community leaders to document, teach and preserve the language (Wiradjuri Condoblin Corporation, 2009). There are however less resources readily available to the non-indigenous and indigenous population, but it is possible to get a cursory knowledge of selected words and phrases with a little research.

This potentially limiting geographic element aside, and it probably does need to be pushed to the side as this article does essentially deal with a very specific community with a very specific cultural heritage, the emphasis on a joint approach to community development with both indigenous community workers and non-indigenous community working participating in an ongoing dialogue with an emphasis on language is one that is also advocated in “Indigenous languages in education: what the research actually shows” (Charles E. Grimes, Ph.D. 2009), but Grimes also warns of the damage that poorly administered language and culturally collaborative measures can do to community perceptions. The work being carried out within the community needs to be very mindful of the needs of that community and need to be carried out in ongoing consultation with the community in question.

What questions does this reading raise?

What resources are currently available to those looking to learn the local indigenous language?

In what other ways can non-indigenous people take the initiative in regards to indigenous cultural recognition and understanding?

What government and community programs use the “two-way schooling” approach?

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