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?

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. [http://infed.org/mobi/martin-buber-on-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?

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