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During the 100th anniversary of Paulo Freire, in light of the debates about his legacy and the possible question “what from his proposals should we follow, or not,” perhaps the most important thing to highlight would be: Paulo Freire did not want followers. The educator insisted: do not follow me, re-create me. In his books the reader finds ideas and tools – created according to the lemma of first reading the world in order to then read the word, and developed according to a practice – but there is nothing definitive, closed-up in itself there. It is up to the reader, based on his or her own problems, his or her own worldview, to reinterpret, to reinvent those things.

With this spirit, in this section we have gathered some dialogues concerning the work of Paulo Freire, theoretical paths and practices that pervade his work, perspectives for future applications. Also in the printed publication of this Ocupação you can get to know actions of this sort.

Paulo Freire discursando em 1991

Image: Márcio Novaes/Municipal Secretariat of Education Archive – Municipal Education Memorial


When Paulo Freire Learns

by Angela Biz Antunes

I got to know Paulo Freire mainly through books and by experiencing, as a teacher in the classroom, the educational policy during the time he was secretary of education of the city of São Paulo. Later, I had the opportunity to know him personally, working together with him at Instituto Paulo Freire (IPF). For me the most striking thing about him was how he was always open to the new. I think that he learned because he did not lock himself away in his own truths, in his decisions. I remember that proposals would arrive at the IPF for projects to be carried out in partnership with other institutions – sometimes, somewhat different from what we had defined as a priority. He was always willing to listen. He had curiosity. He was rigorous in his search to understand what was being presented. He challenged the speaker. He would verify with the speaker what he or she was saying: “What you are saying is that… Is that right?” His questions spurred reflection. After this process of listening, asking, problematizing and confirming, he would leave the meeting saying that he had learned new things. He himself would say to us: the meeting is pedagogical, we learn and teach at these moments, and it is also a time of training. Each meeting requires us to prepare. The dialogue demands rigor and seriousness.

When we look at his way of learning, Paulo Freire teaches us a lot. Thanks so much!

Angela Biz Antunes serves as pedagogical director of Instituto Paulo Freire. Formerly a teacher in the municipal and state public school system of São Paulo, she holds degrees in letters and pedagogy, with a master’s and doctorate in education from the College of Education of the Universidade de São Paulo (FE/USP). She is the author of various publications, including the book Aceita um conselho: como organizar os colegiados escolares.


Walter Kohan: to live philosophy, to coexist with Paulo Freire and to know how to dream

By Duanne Ribeiro

The author of Paulo Freire mais que nunca: uma biografia filosófica (2019), the philosopher Walter Kohan rereads Freire with five “principles” in mind: life, equality, love, errantry and childhood. Through these concepts, Kohan shows that Freire realized his thought in a way of living – it is philosophy as a way of life, as the thinker Pierre Hadot would define it. It thus arises as an integral part of existence in a practice marked by engagement with social justice, by affectivity focused on the other, by a capacity for discovery that does not fear making a mistake, and by unflagging curiosity. We asked Kohan to kindly grant us an interview where we could treat on these notions in his own career, maintaining the dialogue with Freire and indicating to the reader how to exercise these Freirean ideas.

Do you also seek to realize philosophy as a way of life as you point to in Freire? What are the differences and the proximities between your activity and his? In the book, you talk about how you abandoned a certain model of philosophy more bound up with erudition. How was the process of leaving off from that sort of thought and what steps can one take to go beyond it?

Yes, I seek that. It is a self-imposed requirement and a struggle to live as one thinks, and as we think differently about this demand, this leads us to live differently. It is a challenge. The comparisons are always inconvenient… Histories, times, very different contexts … Yes, I abandoned a certain way of relating with philosophy to open another: there were various inspirations, such as two creators of a program of philosophy for children, Matthew Lipman and Ann Sharp, who were important because they showed me practically another way of doing philosophy.

And then we go walking and opening the path to encounters. There are no steps to go beyond: as Paulo Freire said, taking inspiration from Antonio Machado, the path is made by walking. It is perhaps necessary to feed one’s own curiosity, one’s uneasiness, that is, one’s own childhood, which is a good companion for walking… And to have a certain dissatisfaction with the world. Here in Brazil we have many reasons to be dissatisfied and uneasy with the world in which we live.

Do you believe, as Paulo Freire did, that errantry is a “method”? I would like for you to comment on how this takes place in the Freirean work and in your career, and for you answer this question: in a society so intensely focused on success, how does one allow error, learn to err?

Errantry is not a method. I do not like methods. I prefer to think, at first, about the directions to walk in. You know that the word method comes from a Greek word meaning “path.” There is no path before the walk. It is necessary to walk with certain companions: the desire to want to leave somewhere; sensibility and attention to what appears before us along the way and to meanings that help us to walk without anticipating the walk’s destination. The most interesting walks are those whose endpoints we do not know, before we take that walk. Good company is likewise important.

Paulo also said that he did not have a method, although he had written about his method. He furthermore said: that each educator is his method, which is equivalent to saying that there is no method. Paulo Freire did not have a method, but he had curiosity and was politically committed to the oppressed people. This is nonnegotiable, but the path is open. Of course it is very difficult, nowadays, to live without a method, but part of the walk to confront a society that is destroying itself. How does one learn to make mistakes? By making mistakes. How does one learn all the other things – by experiencing them. When you discover a liking for making mistakes and for relating affirmatively with errantry – in both its senses, of erring and wandering – then every society will convince you that it is good to err and to wander.

You have described Paulo Freire as a “boy philosopher,” you talk about an eternal childhood that characterizes his personality. The definition of childhood that you give is: “Childhood as a way of experiencing time, of dwelling in the present, of presenting oneself as a curious, doubting, attentive, restless, questioning, expectant presence.” Do you believe that you have managed to incorporate this attitude, and how does this idea operate in you? What suggestions would you give to someone who would like to learn this way of being?

I try, I try… And very much… I take care to maintain my childhood alive, that childish time. As you said, it is not easy in our institutions, but I try. I work at the Rio de Janeiro State University (Uerj), where we created, more than 20 years ago, the Center for Studies of Philosophies and Childhoods. It is a group, in a public university, that carries out research, teaching and extension. And of course the group’s activity partly involves very adult processes such as calls for action, selection processes and accords. But I would say that the fundamental condition for participating in this group is precisely a certain relationship of intimacy with childhood. Of course childhood is something plural, this is why we are a center for childhoods, and each person cultivates and finds childhood in his or her own way… I would say, as a suggestion, to try to listen to and pay more attention to the childhoods. We can begin with the children, to pay attention to their way of inhabiting the world, to their relationship with things and beings, to their questions…

In the same sense as the previous questions, in another passage you say that you find yourself in a “state of learning,” which you learned with Paulo Freire and others. I would like you to talk about this state, how Paulo Freire helped you to arrive at it.

I believe that Paulo Freire refers to this in other ways, such as “being more,” “the brand-new viable thing,” “to have hope”… By “state of learning,” I want to say, especially to educators, that we have a tendency to think that we have things to teach; it is worthwhile to see ourselves as beings always open to thinking in another way, being in another way, living differently… Something akin to perceiving that we are very small beings, that our knowledge is very small in relation to the things we don’t know and that life can be an extraordinary learning adventure.

For two of the principles that you work with, love and equality, to me it seems difficult to pose questions like the previous ones: in those I asked about how to learn errantry, childhood, but in this case I do not know if these others can be taught. It is perhaps the old question of the Socratic dialogues (“Can virtue be taught…”). So, it is as though Freirean love and equality could only reach those who already believe in them even before reading him. Is that right? Or can we build bridges to these concepts?

It is an excellent question… It is difficult… Perhaps what we can do is to situate these principles in different places. Because equality is something that many say that we want to achieve in education. And of course it is important to struggle for some forms of equality. But there is a sort of equality that is necessary to situate at the beginning, as a starting point, if we want to affirm an education politically different from the established one. Something like believing that “any human being can learn anything if we offer the conditions for it,” that is, to confront the logic of those who are more and less able, those who put forward more and less effort, which is a logic that legitimizes and reinforces a society that lives on inequalities, exclusions, injustices.

It is necessary to believe in the equality of the abilities in order to talk as equals on the same level with our students. Love is also very complex… What is love? A feeling? Yes, but also a force, an energy, a belief, as stated by [French philosopher] Alan Badiou, that one can always be born into a new world, that difference exists before identity… Clearly your question still remains: can these things be taught? Can they be grasped? How?

Paulo Freire says that we should not follow him, but rather reinvent him. In a quotation that you include in your book, he even uses a stronger word: that we should destroy him. Beyond the immediate effects of these words, it does not seem simple to know what this means. What would you say is meant by reinventing the philosopher? How can one destroy Paulo Freire?

Some people have taken this in an excessively literal way [laughter]. Your questions are very interesting. And for that very reason, difficult to answer and interesting to be left open. And to accompany them with other questions: reinvent him to what end? To what extent does this reinvention help us to face the challenges of the moment we live in? You know the word invent comes from a Latin word venire, which means “to come,” coupled with in, meaning “into”; an invention is what we create, but also what arrived inside. So that something comes in, it is necessary to open the doors, the windows of the house, to make space and to give a time… So I don’t want to destroy Paulo Freire, but to live with him; so that he can help us to think and help us to discover who we are. 

Finally, I would like you to comment about paths that you believe are open for whoever wants to work with Paulo Freire. In your book, you talked about the principles that make us return to Paulo Freire today. Perhaps the question here would be: how to think about Paulo Freire tomorrow? In your own work, have you carried out something in this sense?

It is very difficult to think about another time that is not the present. I feel that today the life and work of Paulo Freire have an extraordinary power; they are very generative… The problems that we face today are updated versions of some problems that Paulo Freire already faced, but tomorrow is very far away… How can we know what we will face tomorrow? We dream, this is what we can do in the present, to have hope, to dream, to love… We must leave tomorrow to tomorrow; we already have enough in today.

Walter Kohan is a professor with the State University of Rio de Janeiro (Uerj). In philosophy, he holds a post-doctorate degree from the University of Paris 8, in France, a PhD from Iberoamericana University, in Mexico, and a BA from the University of Buenos Aires (UBA), in Argentina. He is dedicated to philosophy of education, childhood and the teaching of philosophy, among other themes. Other works of his can be seen on the website of the Autêntica publishing house. Also see the interview “Why Read Paulo Freire in Times Of Pandemic,” on the Agenciamentos Contemporâneos channel, and the masterclass “What It Means to Think (Today) with Paulo Freire,” given by him at the College of Education of the University of São Paulo (FE/USP).


Seek the Dream

“[...] for me, it is impossible to exist without a dream. The question that is posed, first, is whether the dream is historically viable. Second, if the dream’s viability requires a bit of time and space to walk. Third, if it requires an even longer space to walk and to become viable, it is the case of learning how to walk and, in walking, to also learn to make the dream come true, that is, to seek the paths of the dream.”

(“Essa escola chamada vida,” interview of Paulo Freire and Frei Betto conducted by Ricardo Kotscho, page 86)


Seção de vídeo

Dialogues with Paulo Freire: the health of the worker

Dental surgeon Adriana Palú comments on the health of the worker in the health area in the context of the pandemic and states that the decisions are taken in a verticalized way, not considering the reality of that individual. She points out that, according to Paulo Freire’s proposals, these decisions should not be verticalized, as they should arise from reality, dialoguing with the individual’s context, with a debate based on lovingness, a fundamental precept for the educator.


Paulo Freire and Positive Discipline: A Posthumous Dialogue

by Fernanda Castello Branco

Even though Paulo Freire never cited the term positive discipline in his bibliography, we find points in common between his thinking and this approach based on the ideas of Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler (1870–1937). Positive discipline as well as Freirean theory espouse a humanist, respectful and inclusive education. But are there other points in common? How do they differ?

Beginning on a hunch, we talked with Bete P. Rodrigues,* a teacher for more than 30 years who has translated seven books of the series Disciplina positive [Positive Discipline] as well as other materials of the Editora Manole publishing house, with the aim of understanding what we can “read” from these two sorts of thinking that seek, overall, the human being’s autonomy.

How do you present positive discipline to someone who has never heard of it?

Positive discipline is a socioemotional approach based on the ideas of Alfred Adler and initially developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen – the author of the book Positive Discipline, a bestseller released in the United States in the early 1980s. It concerns a nonpunitive and nonpermissive approach that offers practical tools to parents and teachers who want to develop life skills in their children and students, and to deal with the challenging behaviors of children and adolescents. Positive discipline is based on mutual respect, and thus recommends a gentle but strong leadership, while emphasizing the importance of a connection (of belonging and importance) between adults and children.

It is effective in the long term because it considers the child’s beliefs that underlie his or her behavior, and focuses on the development of personal power and autonomy. It is a nonpunitive approach because it does not believe in the long-term effectiveness of punishments. At the moment when punishment is applied to a child or adolescent, it might appear to work, but the consequences are disastrous: children who are mistreated in their childhood grow up to become adults who are fearful, insecure, rebellious, revengeful, sneaky adults with low self-esteem, etc. It is also not a permissive approach – Adler, more than 100 years ago, already criticized the dangers of overprotection, because spoiled children do not manage to develop social feelings: they become dependent and despotic, waiting for society to attend to their selfish desires.

In general terms, what do you see in regard to dialogue between Freirean thought and positive discipline?

There are many points in common: both positive discipline as well as Freirean theory encourage a humanist, respectful and inclusive education, they focus on socioemotional development and, especially, on the human being’s autonomy. For example, both Paulo Freire as well as Alfred Adler saw education as an opportunity to break away from the oppression of individuals. And they also espouse a “reflective” action. Freire criticized the so-called banking-style education, in which the teacher is a conveyor of knowledge, and the student, a mere receiver. He emphasized that an authoritarian education (represented by the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed) needs to be broken for us to achieve autonomy.

Paulo Freire explained that humanization is “the process of becoming more fully human as social, historical, thinking, communicating, transformative, creative persons who participate in and with the world.” And he believed that educators should “listen to their students and build on their knowledge and experiences in order to engage in […] personalized educational approaches that further the goals of humanization and transformation.” This citation is in one of the most important books written about socioemotional education: Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning.1 Positive discipline also focuses on the socioemotional development of children and adolescents.

What word, in your point of view, combines the two lines of thought – that of Paulo Freire and that of positive discipline?

Autonomy. And also social awareness. Perhaps Alfred Adler did not use the word autonomy in his books (positive discipline does!), but he espoused the development of human beings through “social responsibility” or through a “sense of community.” Adler coined the German word gemeinschaftsgefühl, which means a real concern for a person and a sincere desire to make a contribution to society.

For his part, Freire created the movement of critical pedagogy, carried out an internationally renowned work in the teaching of literacy to adults and, through his work, is recognized worldwide as a philosopher and educator. He defended the praxis of “reflection and action of men on the world to transform it. Without this, it is impossible to overcome the oppressor-oppressed contradiction.”

And what differences do you see between the two currents of thought?

Alfred Adler, Rudolf Dreikurs, Jane Nelsen, Lynn Lott and most of the positive discipline authors are from the field of psychology and from a social-historical-cultural context very different from Freire’s. Adler and Dreikurs were Viennese who immigrated to the United States. Nelsen and Lott were Americans. Positive discipline focuses on mothers and fathers, as well as educators.

For his part, Paulo Freire is a Brazilian, from Brazil’s Northeast, who began his professional career as a teacher and acted strongly in education and in politics, having also been exiled. He focused on pedagogy and on the training of educators, as he believed in the power of education to strengthen oppressed people and to allow for the development of personal autonomy.

They are, therefore, authors from different backgrounds and theoretic bases, but the two currents have the same humanist outlook and focus on social transformation.

Just as Paulo Freire’s thinking ranges beyond the borders of pedagogy, being applicable to various areas of knowledge, how do you see that expansion of activity in positive discipline? It should be of interest to all of us, right?

Adler, Dreikurs, Nelsen, Lott and other thinkers in the field of positive discipline traveled a lot internationally, giving lectures and promoting a respectful education not only at home and in classrooms, but in society as a whole and in all types of relationships.

Freire became the Protector of Brazilian Education and is the author of the third most-read book in the world in the area of education: Pedagogia da autonomia [Pedagogy of Autonomy]. His works are referenced around the world. Adlerian psychology has seen a recent boom due to the spread of the ideas of positive discipline (which is currently in more than 70 countries and 50 languages).

“The process of becoming more fully human as social, historical, thinking, communicating, transformative, creative persons who participate in and with the world.” Educators, he argued, must “listen to their students and build on their knowledge and experiences in order to engage in … personalized educational approaches that further the goals of humanization and transformation.” (Freire citado em Salazar, 2013, p. 126). Salazar, M. (2013). A humanizing pedagogy: reinventing the principles and practice of education as a journey toward liberation. Review of Research in Education, 121-148.

*Bete P. Rodrigues has been a mother for 24 years and teacher for more than 30. With a BA in letters from Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (PUC/SP), she holds an MA in applied linguistics from the same university. She is currently a lecturer, parenting coach and education consultant, and a professor since 2006 in the Socioemotional Practices and Positive Discipline course at PUC/SP. She has long experience as a teacher, coordinator and pedagogical director in different contexts (language schools, private and public schools, NGOs). She is certified by the Positive Discipline Association as a trainer in positive discipline for professionals in education and health professionals and has translated seven books of the Disciplina positiva series and other materials published by Editora Manole.



“Paulo always said: I am never certain about my certainties. Changing is not shameful, knowledge is historical.”

Ana Maria Araújo Freire, Paulo’s widow, in a statement to Itaú Cultural