After I wrote Paulo Freire’s Philosophy of Education and the ‘Politics of Capoeira’ students and friends became more curious to discuss his work. His method has been a frequent topic in classes, trips, and e-mail conversations. Looking for resources in English I found some bits and pieces of interviews, seminars, and websites that might help those still not familiar with his theories and methods while searching for his books. For those who have been looking at issues of hierarchy, ethics, ‘culture shock’, and group/style rivalry, these sources may come in useful.
Hierarchy, cultural differences, and paradigms of group management (community development versus corporatism) has been constant in these chats and emails. Freire calls for a more horizontal practice of education; an approach in which both teacher and students are aware of the complementary nature of their roles. He argues for education as a libertarian practice against oppressive structures. I believe our art would be better tuned with its early principles if more people could teach according to his methods and philosophy of education. The majority of the people I have been talking to do not understand how our institutions would work without hierarchy and/or a business orientation. They also struggle to understand what would be the role of our Mestres within a ‘Freirean’ paradigm.
By advocating a more horizontal approach to education Freire does not deny the teacher’s authority. Instead he argues against authoritarian methods of education. In his view, a ‘de-politicised’ education can only foster the ruling classes and their money-driven agendas. I believe there is a lesson here for us in Capoeira. A true Mestre is a wise person to whom we can refer to in moments of difficulty; is an authority in Capoeira. His guidance will save us time and energy in our paths. But this should never imply an authoritarian attitude within our groups.
It is true that most westerners struggle to understand Capoeira; its lack of ‘written rules’, and communitarian values. Coming from developed countries and more structured societies it seems easier to conform with consumerism. Some Mestres realise this cultural shock and take it as an opportunity to establish more hierarchical and profitable structures in their groups.
Our challenge, however, is to overcome westernisation (consumerism, individualism, high-competitive and celebrity-like behaviour, etc.) in the global diffusion of Capoeira freeing both Mestres and students from such a shallow relationship with the art. Groups cannot endure with a business-like orientation only without subverting the libertarian philosophy of the art. On the other hand, most honest and community-driven Mestres struggle to make a living out of their craft. They dedicate a life-time to their groups and communities so that students can decide when (or how often) they will attend the group’s activities. Often these Mestres’ effort are not acknowledged by the majority of their students. In a world in which most people have already conformed to the oppressive, individualist and consumerist structures (and are not very open to change), these honest and open-minded educators are always risking their life-time work allowing more flexible approaches within their groups.
Again, in regards to this situation in Capoeira Mestre Paulo Freire can be an example for us. In his books and lectures he always fought for better living and professional standards for teachers; without which, he says, there is no education of quality. I believe this to also be true within Capoeira.
Reference note: Pedagogy of the Oppressed was translated into many languages. The English version is from Penguin Books, and it can be easily found in libraries or ordered from book shops.
Paulo Freire on wikipedia – http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulo_Freire
The Freire Project (website) – http://freireproject.org/
The Freire Project (youtube channel) – http://www.youtube.com/user/FreireProject