This website, dedicated to Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1921-1997), consists of a collection of reviews of his books and links to other pages on Freire. The books are listed in chronological order. When the book has been translated into English, the first date refers to the original publication.
The website was created by Daniel Schugurensky, Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology, The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).
Edited by Brenda Bell, John Gaventa, and John Peters
Review by Kathleen Rogers (OISE/UT), 2004
“Se hace camino al andar”… “we make the road by walking”
(Horton & Freire, 1990, 6), is a perfect title and beginning for this
conversational book by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire.
The style of this “spoken book” makes it easy to read and brings the
reader to a more personal level with the authors.
The story-telling format and the sharing of childhood experiences gives
the reader a rare view of these well-known educators and what motivated them
along their paths. In
this review I will outline the general content of each chapter and add my
reflections, then finish with a critique of the effectiveness of the overall
style of the book.
In chapter one, Horton and Freire discuss the format of the book and how
they will proceed with their dialogue.
They introduce the setting and talk about their perspectives on book
introduction is essential in order for the reader to understand what follows,
since this format is not common.
The authors do not outline specific sections of the book at the
beginning; rather they let the conversation flow in an order that seems natural
at that time. This is
effective in creating the feeling of a free and comfortable dialogue, although
it does result in a lack of clear structure.
The second chapter, “Formative Years,” is a delight for readers who,
like myself, enjoy hearing others’ childhood stories and how they got to be
where they are today. This
section gives an in-depth background on the context in which Horton and Freire
grew up and the major influences on their lives.
Some of the points highlighted in this chapter include Freire’s concept
of “reading words and reading the world” (p. 31), Horton’s emphasis on the
importance of learning from the people and from each other (p. 41), Freire’s
distinction between “having authority and being authoritarian” (p. 61), and
their agreement that education is not neutral (p. 64).
The stories provided by both authors to illustrate these points
constitute rich examples for the reader, from which we can also reflect back on
our own histories to identify how we came to hold the ideas we have today.
The third section, “Ideas,” gives the reader an overview of some of
the theories and perspectives of the authors.
A few of the main ideas outlined in this chapter include Horton’s
articulation of the importance of having a broad vision of where you are going
(p. 100) and Freire’s similar concept of the need to have political clarity as
an educator (p. 101). Another
important point is the authors’ articulation of the difference between
educators and organizers, with both Horton and Freire identifying themselves as
educators (pp. 115-119). Also
explained is the role of the educator, not as an expert, but as one who
intervenes in order to help people to develop their capacity to make decisions
(pp. 125-138). This
chapter is effective in outlining some of the main theories espoused by the
authors, but is not explicit whether there are any differences in their
opinions. It may have
been useful to clearly highlight a concept and then have each author
specifically comment and explain his position.
Also, one important factor that was not explained is that these educators
are targeting different audiences. Horton was educating those already involved
in social movements in some way, while Freire was typically working with the
general public (p. 184). I
feel that this could be more clearly stated in order to explain the different
approaches and theories of these two educators.
“Educational Practice,” chapter four, is an overview of many concepts
and methods in education, two of which are Highlander’s approach of
‘doing’ an idea and reflecting on it afterwards (p. 164), and Freire’s
approach of teaching people how to analyze by focusing on a particular content
(p. 172). It is also
important to note the differences between Freire and Horton in relation to the
term ‘education. Whereas in Freire’s definition education includes working
within the school system as well as outside of it, Horton’s definition refers
to “education in contrast to schooling” (p. 182).
I have mentioned only a few concepts from this chapter as there were many
theories highlighted with most of them only briefly mentioned.
I found the breadth of theories quite overwhelming and many of them were
not clearly elaborated. Although
much of this section was enlightening for me, the lack of clear distinction
between these ideas and practices left me unsure of the differences and
similarities of the authors’ approaches.
This section that, according to the title, is a focus on practice,
often reverts back to a discussion of theories and ideas.
I finished this chapter with a feeling that I would like to hear more of
the actual methods and techniques used by Horton and Freire in their work as
Chapter five is about “Education and Social Change” and explores the
debate surrounding working inside versus outside of ‘the system,’ referring
to both the school system and the dominant system in society.
Horton says that “reform within the system reinforced the
system, or was co-opted by the system” (p. 200).
Here he is referring to the school system, as is clarified later in the
chapter (p.203). In
contrast, Freire believes that educators should “fight against the system
taking the two fronts, the one internal to the schooling system and the one
external to the schooling system,” which is the social system (p. 203).
In this section Freire also examines the use of education for social
change in the Base Christian Community movement, as well as during and after the
Nicaraguan revolution (pp. 209-221).
In this section I found Freire’s thought processes somewhat difficult
to follow. In a
previous chapter he actually refers to his circular way of talking and explains,
“(T)his is my way of working, of thinking.
First I try to make a circle so the issue can’t escape” (p. 156).
This explanation reminds me that different cultures have various forms or
styles of speaking. An
awareness of these differences is useful when reading through this book, as
Freire’s style of talking may be unfamiliar to some readers.
“Reflections” is a beautifully spoken conclusion that considers the
motivations of Horton and Freire in their work.
The themes of love and laughter are highlighted in the exploration of
these authors’ processes of becoming who they are.
From my own reflections, I will mention some of the advantages and
drawbacks of the style of this book.
As I previously noted, the style of this ‘spoken book’ is accessible
and personal in its easy-to-read format through personal stories and natural
of the disadvantages of this style include a lack of clarity when outlining the
content and format of the book.
I was left with a desire for clearer expression of theories and methods,
and especially for more clarity on the difference between these educators’
approaches. My sense
was that Horton spoke more frequently than Freire and when the latter did speak,
I found that it was often theoretical without many concrete examples.
One possibility would have been to outline the topics or themes they
wished to cover and then address them in a logic order.
Yet, I recognize that although this could perhaps bring more clarity to
the book it would, undoubtedly, take away from the natural flow of the
Overall, this book is an important addition to the literature on popular education and adds to the few writings by Horton and the many by Freire. It is an important piece for conveying the history, motivations and thoughts of these influential educators.