Friday, October 1, 2010

Updating pedagogy in a changing world

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

Centuries of wars, confrontations, struggles between peoples and class conflict have left us a bitter lesson. This primary and reductionist approach has not made us more human, nor brought us closer to each other, much less brought us much desired peace. We live in a permanent state of siege and full of fear. We have reached a historical stage that, in the words of the Earth Charter, "calls us to a new beginning." This requires a pedagogy based on a new awareness and an inclusive vision of the economic, social, cultural and spiritual problems that challenge us.

This new awareness, resulting from globalization, the earth and life sciences, and ecology too, is showing us a way forward: understanding that all things are interdependent and that not even the opposition is outside of a dynamic and open Whole. Therefore, it is not appropriate to separate but rather to integrate, to include rather than exclude, to acknowledge, yes, the differences, but also to seek convergence, and instead of win-lose, look for win-win.

This holistic perspective is influencing the educational process. We have an unforgettable teacher, Paulo Freire, who taught us the dialectic of inclusion and put 'and' where before we put 'or'. We must learn to say 'yes' to everything that makes us grow, in the large and in the small.

Friar Clodovis Boff accumulated extensive experience working with the poor in Acre and Rio de Janeiro. In line with Paulo Freire, he gave us a book that has become a classic: Como trabalhar com o povo ("How to work with the people"). And now, given the challenges of the new state of the world, he has developed a small decalogue of what could be a new pedagogy. It is worth transcribing and thinking about it, because it can help us a lot.

"1. Yes to the process of conscientization, the awakening of critical consciousness and the use of analytical reason (head). But also yes to the sentient reason (heart) where values are rooted and from which imagination and all utopias feed.

2. Yes to the 'collective' or social subject, the 'we' creators of history ("no one frees anyone, we free ourselves together"). But also yes to the subjectivity of each, the 'biographical I', the 'individual subject' with his or her references and dreams.

3. Yes to 'political praxis', transforming the structures and generating new social relations, a new 'system'. And yes also to 'cultural praxis' (symbolic, artistic and religious), 'transfiguring' the world and creating new meanings or simply a new 'living

4. Yes to 'macro' or societal action (including 'revolutionary action'), which acts on the structures. But yes also to 'micro', local and community action ('molecular revolution') as the basis and starting point of the structural process.

5. Yes to the linkage of social forces in the form of centralized 'unifying structures'. But also yes to linking in a 'network', in which through decentralized action, each node becomes the center of creation, initiatives and interventions.

6. Yes to the 'critique' of the mechanisms of oppression, the denunciation of injustice and the "work of the negative". But yes also to 'alternative' proposals, to positive actions that
establish the 'new' and herald a different future.

7. Yes to the 'historical project', the concrete 'political program' pointing to a 'new society'. But yes also to the 'utopian', to the dreams of 'creative fantasy', in search of a different life, in short, 'a new world'.

8. Yes to the 'struggle', to work, to the effort to make progress, yes to the seriousness of the commitment. And yes also to the 'free' as manifested in play, leisure, or simply the joy of living.

9. Yes to the ideal of being a 'citizen', of being a 'militant' and a 'fighter', yes to the one who gives him- or herself full of enthusiasm and courage to the cause of the humanization of the world. But yes also to the one who 'encourages', the 'partner', the 'friend', in simple terms, yes to the one who is rich in humanity, freedom and love.

10. Yes to an 'analytic' and scientific concept of society and its economic and political structures. But yes also the 'systemic' and 'holistic' vision of reality, seen as a living whole, dialectically integrated in its various dimensions: personal, gender, social, ecological, planetary, cosmic and transcendent."

1 comment:

  1. Leonardo, I’m simple man and you use great colorful language but I think I get it.
    I’ll tell you the same things but in a simple way, something that I learned in 1st year of physics.
    The theory of the communicating vessels has it all.
    The vessels have different types, different shapes, volume, etc. The fluid represents the life energy, the richness of life, money, natural recourses, etc.
    When you pour some of in any of the vessels, the level goes up in all of them in proportional way, no matter the shape.
    Why? Because they share a common link.
    The same, in a very moral society, resources would be allocated equally to all, no matter the color, shape or location of the individual, because we share a common link, our humanity and same origins.

    Upsss! I just invented communist physics !