CELESTIN FREINET (background information)
ARNO HOKKE (interview with a headmaster of a Freinet school in Hoofddorp, Holland)
PAULO FREIRE (background information)

Dirk Schouten

This text is one of the supplements to the MAP book. It can serve as background information.

While the MAP model bases its notions of communication in the work of Jürgen Habermas, its pedagogy is informed principally by the work of the French teacher Celestin Freinet and the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire. We only explore the main features of their life and work here. Further reading is outlined in the bibliography.


Freinet was born and raised on a farm in France where even as a young boy he was soon given his own tasks. He performed them well and was proud of the results. At school he learned to respect life and science, but the First World War also taught him about the other aspects of the world. He learnt, for example, the wisdom of Anatole France's words, "Someone thinks they are dying for their motherland, but they have actually fallen to satisfy the needs of industry."

He attended a Teacher Training College but had to go to the front when he was twenty. He was shot in the lung and spent many years in succession in hospitals. Eventually, at 24, he was appointed as a teacher in a small village school in Bar sur Loup in 1920. There was a distinct lack of resources and he noticed that the children in the overcrowded classrooms showed very little interest in the subject matter of the lessons. The things he had learned at college proved of little value to him. The headmaster wanted to teach him all the tricks he had learnt over the years, all the techniques for manipulating the children, but Freinet did not want to imitate the other teachers' approaches. He noticed that the children liked to do things outside the school, and to tie in with this Freinet started to take them on visits to small businesses in the neighbourhood and to go on nature walks. These experiences were brought back into the classroom and the results were used as the basis for texts, drawings, albums and further research. The motivation of the children rapidly grew and it became a routine habit for them to write down their experiences. It was here that Freinet started to develop the techniques of the 'free text'. This involved the use of the young children's perceptions, their own experiences and their spontaneous stories as the basis for drawings to which the teacher added some text. Gradually the children were able to progress to writing short essays themselves. Around 1923 Freinet developed the techniques of printing in school, which had a number of benefits. The written experiences of children (which could only be used in their own classroom until now) could now be distributed more widely in and beyond the school. Contacts with other schools were established and the printed material was exchanged between them and the experiences shared. The texts gave numerous possibilities for reading and writing lessons because they were based on their own experiences, recognizable to the children who had written them.

After developing the printing press techniques, Freinet decided to throw all the textbooks out of the school. The values and norms they expressed were influencing the children and at odds with his notions of education. The information offered was often fragmented and dispersed and this was contrary to Freinet's opinions that information should be offered in a significant connection to their experiences. Also the books offered nothing to Freinet's ambition: the development of critical adults who are able, in their own situation, to bear responsibilities for it.

Freinet was active in fighting Fascism and was arrested and imprisoned at the start of the second world war. After the war support for his work grew rapidly. The I.C.E.M. (Instutut Cooperatif de l'Ecole Moderne) was founded for the dissemination of materials and ideas and by 1982 had over 25,000 members. Freinet died on the 8th October 1966 aged 70 having spent much of his life advocating that the renewal of education could not be separated from the renewal of society.

The pedagogy which developed from this practice (and which is still practised in a number of schools throughout Europe) has the following main features:

1) Learning according to the natural method. Knowledge and skills can be learnt in a natural way. But before this can happen the child needs to be provided with a context for the learning which will make it worthwhile. This is not the same as learning something now which will be useful in the future. It has to do with learning things in real, immediately relevant situations. Learning to write, for example, is necessary when you wish to talk to people who are far away, or when you want to reach a lot of people. This method is fully elaborated in his work.

2. Trying out new possibilities in a tentative way (this is not the same as trial and error). Freinet encouraged his pupils to learn the sorts of skills they would need in their lives by trying for success in new enterprises. He knew that children can learn to be open to new opportunities in their lives and that they can draw on these life-skills to cope with new and difficult circumstances in this experimental, tentative way.

3. Freinet saw work as a fundamental human need which, when it is satisfied, is a source of self-fulfilment. In his work he ensured that children were offered work which was appropriate for their ability.

Such a short description does not do justice to a fully- elaborated educational system which helps to produce children who have been seen to do much better in secondary education in terms of their ability to organise, plan, and bring complex issues into the classroom. We would like to expand it by including an interview with the head teacher of a Freinet school in Holland and also by including "The Charter/Covenant of the Modern School" which was published in 1968 and contains the basic assumptions for Freinet education and its pedagogy. This is a translation from a Dutch version which in turn was taken from the original French.

1. Education is about development and growth, and not about regimentation, dependency or the accumulation of knowledge. We search for ways of working and resources, systems of organization and ways of living within the school and the society, securing development and growth as best we can. Supported by the work of Freinet and strong from our own experiences, we are clear about our influence on children and adults, but also on that of the educators, who will play a new role in society.

2. We are against any indoctrination. We do not presume to define in advance what the child we educate will become. We do not prepare the child for serving and continuing the world of today, but for the construction of a society that will guarantee their development in the best possible way. We refuse to form their spirit to predefined dogmas. We apply ourselves to making our pupils conscious and responsible adults, so they can build a world where war, racism, discrimination and exploitation will be banished.

3. We reject the thought that education could exist on itself, separated from the great political and social tendencies, which define it. The social and political background, the circumstances of life and work of the parents and the children are decisive influences in the formation of the younger generation. To educators, to parents and everybody who means well with the school we must point out the need to fight the social and political struggle at the side of the labourers/workers, so the public education can fulfil its excellent pedagogical task. In this spirit every Freinet worker shall act to their own ideological, philosophical and political preferences, so that the demands of education can combine with the greatest human ambition: the search for happiness, culture and peace.

4. The school of tomorrow will be the school of work. Creative work undertaken by groups from free choice, is the basis of the education of the people. It will provide us with the things we need to realise the potential of the children. Through work and responsibility a school will emerge that will be integrated into the social environment, from which it is now arbitrarily detached.

5. The school directs itself to the child. The child itself builds, with our help, on its own personality. It is difficult to learn how to know the spirit of the child, its striving and its desires and to base our pedagogical behaviour on this knowledge; still the 'pedagogie Freinet' has an effect of spiritual and pedagogical recovery, because it leans on free expression by the natural methods, because it prepares a helping/challenging environment. An environment with materials and techniques which admits a natural, vivid and cultural education.

6. Being on the move is the first condition to modernise the school by cooperation. In the Freinet movement there is no dogma or system we want to ask someone to endorse. On the contrary, we organize for all the departments, that are active in our movement, the continuous confrontation with ideas, research and experiences. We keep our pedagogical movement alive on the principles which have proved effective in group experiences: constructive labour, plain speaking, free activities in sympathy with the community, freedom to choose the work in the midst of a group with a discipline everybody agrees on.

7. The educators of the Freinet movement are the only ones responsible for the direction of the management of their cooperative efforts. Comrades are put into specific posts of responsibility only because the work demands it and with no other consideration. We must all pay constant attention to the progress of our movement since we need to maintain it with our efforts, our thinking, and our money, and since we shall defend it against anyone who would harm our common interest.

8. Our school movement wants to maintain bonds of friendship and to cooperate. Striving to do the work for the public state school as well as possible and to accelerate the modernization of education, we are in favour of, in all independence, a loyal and real cooperation with all those organisations that are engaged in the same struggle.

9. Our relations to the administration. We are willing to share our experiences in educational innovation to colleagues, in our work groups, on teacher training colleges, during practical courses on local or national level. But we wish to maintain our freedom by helping and criticising, as the cooperative way of working of our movement demands.

10. The 'Freinet pedagogy' is in its nature international. We try, according to the principle of cooperative task forces, to bring our efforts to an international level. It is a necessity of our work. We establish, without any other propaganda than our enthusiasm for our efforts, an international federation of movements of the modern school (Federation Internationale de Mouvements d'Ecole Moderne). It works according to the same system as the I.C.E.M. in France. The F.I.M.E.M. organises international congresses, one by one, in the affiliated countries.


Freinet's work is, above all, practical. Freinet called his practical work "techniques" because they are so easy to perform. But they can become mere tricks when used in a school system that is applying other pedagogical and social visions on education. The most important techniques are described below, in an interview with Arno Hokke, headmaster of the Freinetschool in Hoofddorp. This school is a normal state subsidised primary school.

Arno: "The techniques are developed to make the child's experiences the starting point for education. Also they organise classlife conveniently so that there can be self- government. Third, children learn from the experiences of other children, adults, cultures etc. which with the teacher adds depth and structure to education."

"Arno, when you read the 'Charter', It is easy to think 'No one can be against it'. Is there any opposition to the Charter?"

"Yes, there is opposition against the social and political side of it. Freinet is taking sides and a lot of people in education try to be neutral, whatever that may be. There is also opposition from the side of the teachers. 'Gee, should I dare to do this. I would be better to use a method that is much easier, predictable and gives me confidence. When I follow a method I will also be sure to have everything in the end'. Colleagues fear teaching without a method, without books'."

"What does a classroom look like? Why does it look that way?"

"We have work-corners in the classroom. When you let children work with their own experiences, not everyone in the whole class does the same. The group makes its own plans and splits itself into parts that do different research assignments. The results are brought to the general class meeting. When you work this way it means you have to create situations for a smooth running of the process. There is a reading corner, a printing corner, a play corner, a hobby corner. There is a technical corner for technical research, there is a creative corner, a corner for weighing and measuring where they work with balances/scales, a corner for free research where they perform research that lasts only one hour or so. For example: The use of light in school. They look into all the spaces in school and note where light is used and why. We ask them to give their opinion if they think the use of light is needed or not. It takes half an hour and after that a report is made. The same can be done with water. Or, like this morning, with the rats. When the children arrived, they saw the degu's (a kind of rat) have had five young ones. Is that normal? Two or three kids perform a search in the documentary centre. It takes a short time. They have to do teamwork and they enjoy it. With such a research you honour the interest of children."

"Why is there so much groupwork?"

"Society individualises us and there is no room for groups to form on a social basis, although the society asks for it. And education is done in a way that there is no room for groupwork. The legislation on primary education requires us, nevertheless, to prepare children for a society in such a way that they can participate in it. But on a content and process level education does not do very much about it. Young people often turn to crime but there is a way to prevent this by teaching them to make plans and to see that they keep them. To build social control in the class and to work with questions and complaints. When a few children work in a group and one is doing nothing, they complain: "He does nothing and I do all the work. We made plans for the tasks and I think it dishonest". Then there is a conversation. Are the plans ok? Maybe they are unclear, not on paper or the child in question is just being lazy. Then it is a question of talking to each other. Real and honest, exchanging views, listening to each other and seeing what we can do about it and what we want to do about it. That is a socialising process. In a lot of schools in Holland, this does not take place. And that's a great loss, especially when preparation for society is concerned."

"Why is life in the class organised the way it is?"

"A lot of time is spent on organising processes. We call it self-government. Children learn to make plans, but also to control them. These two are complementary. It is no use making plans and not controlling whether they are kept or not. It means that you can give children this experience in the organisation of the school and the organisation of the class. And that's a learning process. For example, on the materials shelf you will find the materials for use on that particular day. Staplers, paper, scissors, etc. It is very annoying when you need scissors to find out that they are not there but in one of the drawers belonging to a pupil. An arrangement is made for a fixed spot for the scissors and there is control to see if they are brought back. The same applies for the animals and looking after the plants. It is not only caretaking, but also seeing in time that sawdust is needed and food, because a shortage is foreseen. For all those kinds of things and the control of it a secretary is appointed who works with lists which show who has responsibility for what during that week. It is a democratic process. The secretary is democratically chosen and the role rotates. It can also mean organising the end of week meeting for the whole school on Friday morning. Every group has a presentation that is watched by the whole school. It can be a small play, a song, a showing of a piece of work they have done that week, or discussing a topic. Group 8 (age 12 and 13) organise this meeting completely, are masters of ceremonies and fix the theme of the closing.

With arithmetic you also have tasks. With children individual plans are made for the number of tasks they will perform in one week. As pupil and teacher together you both have to take responsibility to master the basic skills mentioned in the law at the end of the primary school period. So with each child you make a path, according to their personality, speed and abilities and their approach to learning (all of which is required by primary education legislation). It means in a class not every child is at the same spot. There are individual lines. So with every child you make plans on Monday morning on the amount of tasks. It can certainly happen that something gets in the way, but when you have a plan you know if this has happened and you can respond accordingly. It is noted down in their own overview and the teacher's. So all the work is noted, also when it has to be delivered or done. In this way no one can shirk. So there is control on plans and also what they have done is written down. If it is not written down it has not been done. Sometimes you give extra individual assignments when children do not master certain tasks. In that way you steer the process so the skill is mastered. It is a very flexible process and it can change every day."

"The basis of Freinet education is 'the free text'. What is it?"

"The free text is a possibility for the child to express on paper their experiences, their feelings, their fantasies, their emotions, things that they do after schooltime, or in their own surroundings. We do not only talk about what you experience, but we also write about it and we read about it and make it accessible for others. It is important to do these things for the development of reading. They can always read what they once did or experienced. At the same time you can link it to their interest. Children who can write stories, according to this model, or in an earlier stage when they cannot write but tell stories, come to a kind of expression. The teacher writes it down, together with the children. It is a game they play together. For example, the child that saw young pussycats with the neighbours. When he arrived at school he was fascinated with it. He told it to the group. At once there was interest in it and the boy was overwhelmed with questions. Because that's the way it works if children are allowed to ask questions and if this possibility is not taken away in an early stage of their development. They ask 'why' questions. And 'What do they look like?' 'Are their eyes open?' 'Do they have tails?' 'How many are there?' When you give children this chance, texts have great interest. Parting from that interest of the story, the group indicates that they are going to work with it during the day. Language and writing is done with it. It goes very naturally. We have a method for it. Visualising the kernel notions of the story. We let the group decide what the kernel word is. In this case 'cat'. It is visualised with a drawing of a cat and under it we print the word 'cat'. And the 'a' in cat is the kernel sound for further language activities. A classroom conversation on more words with an 'a', for example. They are written on the blackboard by the teacher. You can do other activities with it like copying, or playing what sounds a word contains, because learning to read is learning to know sounds. From this notion language and reading is built up. In this case the 'a' sound. During the day you talk with them and form a few simple sentences that form a text. That is the expression of the boy's story they were interested in. They had questions about it, used the documentary centre and did some research about, for example, who had cats in the class. Whether they had young ones and what they did with them. In that way a text emerges which is reproduced with the help of a printing press or limograph (a very simple machine for reproducing drawings) because we do not work with text books. We do not have them, we make them ourselves. In this way every child has in the end of the day a reproduction of what is talked about and is done and made. The children typeset the text themselves, with letters of lead and job sticks and a way to imitate letters from paper into print.

Our critics say that our kids also make spelling mistakes, and they pay a lot of attention to it. But the thing is, when a child writes down a story or an experience, or a fantasy, they may make mistakes. That is tolerance of spelling. When you put your finger on it and ask a kid how you write that word they say 'Oh, yeah, of course it is with a 'c'!'. That's ok with me. When writing a story their pen is four or five sentences behind their thoughts and the pen literally bumps and lurches behind. That gives spelling mistakes. The kids are not alert to it at that moment. They are busy writing the story. The experience and the emotion are important. When they want to do something with the text it is time for correct spelling. They want it with no mistakes, certainly when it is printed."

"What is the natural way of reading?"

"When children have passed the early stages of education, at the age of about 4 they start with natural reading. But they cannot read so it is attached to drawings. Drawings tell stories and you have a broad scale of possibilities with it. Also children see texts from the other schools which write to us and they want to know what is written. That is a strong motivation for reading."

"What about free research?" "For example, this morning a child came in with a very little bird. Tomorrow it will be in the diary. What kind of bird it was and all kind of other details. So the school has a good documentary centre. Also it is important that children can leave school to do research and in that way orientate themselves in the word around them.

"What is school correspondence?"

The exchange of experiences and research is done in correspondence with groups in Hungary, Belgium and Brazil. Sometimes we look for groups to support them financially. The good thing about correspondence is that children explain to each other what amuses them, or things that have happened. It shows differences in background, culture, areas of development. We exchange videos, audiotapes, photo's, drawings, reports, research results. All with the question: 'How does this compare with your country?'. You get an answer to this and with that answer an enormous learning process starts. Reading is also encouraged, because you want to know what they think about it. Children are by nature curious. 'I want to read this'. Of course it depends on the group you correspond with. It is not always a success, but then you search for another group. Another advantage of correspondence is that it brings new ideas to the group and the group itself wants to give a good performance of their abilities. Also on a creative level. They learn to think differently about their situation. They question each other on light and water. In Brazil there is no electricity in the group we are corresponding with, but oil lamps. The tap in Hungary is something different than the tap with us. In Hungary there is only one tap in the house and not in several places. In Brazil the tap is just within walking distance. Corresponding is building a relationship with a comrade and you hear their experience which becomes your own. There is an emotional commitment. That is something different than geography where you learn that taps are scarce in Brazil. It is true, but no feeling is attached to it. And the kids learn by experiences, by feelings. And correspondence is a good medium for it."

"The class paper?"

"Because we have no text books we look for a way to report our findings and the things we have been busy with in the group or in parts of the group. Just to read it, to give it to our correspondents with an accompanying letter and to the parents, so they can see what their child has done. It gives an impression of classlife, stories, poems, discoveries. And because you have no textbook, the development of learning has to be fixed. Every child has a space in the class paper and every child receives it. So you have to organise a way to multiply. It can be by print, by limograph or computer.

If you work with text books, you can show parents that their child has done pages 1 to 15. But because we have none the class paper is also a way to tell parents which subjects have been covered, what research has been done with the results. Depending on the amount of material it is a weekly or bi- weekly appearance.

It differs from the diary which we also keep. The diary has the function of writing things down so that you can read what has happened. But it is a more extended account than what you have done individually. Writing a text is a personal experience. This is writing about things that happen in the group and with the group. All plans are noted and checked. On one side it is a control, on the other side it is always accessible material about what happened in the group. The diaries are always kept."

"What about printing and multiplying?"

"We start in group three (age about 6). Before that we also print, but those are printdrawings, not connected with characters. So from group three onwards the proof press and the printing press are used, for group 7 and 8 ( 11 to 13 years) we use the computer, because they make such complicated texts that when you take out a few sentences for printing, you disrupt the content. So they step from press to computer because that's easier for big texts. The society changes and education has to act to it. You must be flexible and adaptive. Some Freinet schools swear by the printing press, but they are more Roman than the Pope because even by 1943 Freinet had seen the possibilities of film and the typewriter. The importance of printing is in the succession from natural reading to globalising to analysing and the other way around. It makes the material made by the children accessible to many. Also spelling is found in it. When they want to print something they want to do it without mistakes. The typesetting of the text must look perfect. No child accepts a print in which the sentences are not in line or the spaces between words look bad. Or when too much ink is used and the print looks dirty or blotchy. It is not accepted by the child themself. So, they learn how to compose a text. What you miss in method, you compensate with printing and multiplying.

"How does video fit in this picture?"

"Education is too much an affair between the four walls of the classroom. Education should be looking at society and seeing how things go. Working with video gives us opportunities to leave the classroom after the classmeeting to go outside the school, into the community and to find out how the council works, or to see how an eel is smoked, or what an imam does in a mosque, or to interview chambermaids in a hotel to see what kind of work they do, or to go to a catering company where they make the meals for airline companies and to ask them how many more employees they will need when Schiphol airport expands. They find out how much security there is in Schiphol and that you never realised it. You tape what you want to find out, cut it into a documentary and show it to the classmeeting and together you find out if you succeeded in reaching your goals. All kind of technical and creative aspects come into focus. And creative solutions have to be found for their real problems. Video is a complete experience, while in school they are busy with parts. They are busy with speech skills. How do you get an interview? They learn to make appointments with people. For example the director of Royal Dutch Airlines. Think of the skills you need to get hold of the director for half an hour because you want to know something on jumbo jets and the noise they make now and in the future. All those aspects together make audiovisual education into something worthwhile. It is indispensable in our education and in our school. It enriches. And it also gives possibilities to work in small groups. It is teambuilding and they have to structure their work. One disadvantage is when you are not flexible and you know a child will not do any maths this day. We make plans with those pupils when they can perform their tasks they miss when videoing."

"Even Freinet children leave school. What happens then?"

"First of all, we are a common primary school, with a normal subsidy like all primary schools. We stick to the rules and are being inspected in the same way as all other schools.

In secondary schools Freinet children can keep up well. The skills they master ensure that they have their own motivation for learning. They are busy for themselves and not for the teacher. When the children leave us we have to advise which sort of secondary school and which level they should go to. This is the same for all Dutch primary schools. But we are able to assess our children's needs correctly 90% of the time, whereas the national average is only 70%. This means that our children are more likely to get the secondary education they can cope with. Very few of our children drop out through an incorrect assessment of their self-esteem or capabilities.

We offer the same range of education for our primary children as is available in the rest of the country. And when they move on to secondary school we have a number of ways of finding out how well they perform. One major survey we conducted showed that there were no significant learning arrears. And that dispensed with most of the objections against Freinet education, such as "Do they learn anything with you?". Furthermore it showed that our pupils were critical. When an assignment was not clear, they asked for explanation and what was meant by it. With assignments that included groupwork Freinet children were quick at making plans, organising the work and dividing the tasks. When there are problems Freinet children try to solve them. They organise schoolparties and plan their homework better.

As students they are aware of their planning skills and critical reading. They do not read a 500 page book completely but they extract the important elements and can really do it. But all developments in society also occur with us. Freinet children are surgeons and streetcleaners and everything inbetween. I like it that way because I do not want an elite school. But, what strikes us is that many children end up taking a leading role in society. They can organise.

We are not the only Freinet school. In Holland there are about ten. In France there are numerous Freinet schools, and almost in every country of the world you will find Freinet teachers. The funny thing is that it is more common than the Montessori system, but less well known.

Now I am glad the interview is over. I can go home for an hour and have a meal. At seven tonight I shall need to be at school again. Freinet education asks more than 40 hours per week."

PAULO FREIRE (1921 -1997)

Freire talks of education as a form of revolutionary activity - a profoundly political and dangerous act. If that sounds extreme we must remember that his work was developed in Latin America as literacy programmes for Peasants, first in Brazil, (where his work got him locked in a five-foot by two-foot prison cell when the army came to power in 1964) and later in Chile. His work has since been adapted for use in North America, Africa and Europe. His first major work was The Pedagogy of the Oppressed where he oulines the importance to him of the term "praxis":

"It is only when the oppressed find the
oppressor out and become involved in the
organized struggle for their liberation that they
begin to believe in themselves. This discovery
cannot be purely intellectual but must involve
action; nor can it be limited to mere activism,
but must include serious reflection: only then
will it be a praxis." (Freire 1972. p41)

Now of course the students and pupils which this booklet is for are not oppressed in the way that Brazilian peasants were oppressed by the junta. Nor are they illiterate. But there is an extent to which their teachers are still concerned with literacies, and with helping their pupils to come to terms with a variety of dominant (and often dominating) cultural practices. The parallels between Latin America and our own society are justified in the Foreword to the English version of The Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Richard Shaull:

"Our advanced technological society is rapidly
making objects of most of us and subtly
programming us into conformity to the logic of
its system. To the degree that this happens we
are also becoming submerged into a new
'culture of silence'. (p13)

This may sound deterministic but we should give it the benefit of the doubt since it was written over twenty years ago. And indeed some of Freire's early writings are irritating to read for his insistence on using "he" throughout, and some other problems of the sexism which he now acknowledges, and apologises for. (Any of you have shared this difficulty with his work should read an article by bell hooks in a recent book which attempts to recontextualise Freire in the light of Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, etc.) (hooks 1993)

Those of us who go along with the new orthodoxies of media education, in which we claim to be helping our students to become "critically aware" or "critically autonomous" or "critical practitioners" would do well to read some of the basic tenets of Freire's work. These include the following:

1) A commitment to dialogical education, as opposed to banking education.

Freire describes the conventional approach to learning (where the teacher is the privileged holder of the information which is passed down to the students) as "banking" education and he considers it oppressive. It consists he says, of

an act of depositing, in which the students are
the depositories and the teacher is the
depositor. Instead of communicating the teacher
issues communiques and 'makes deposits' which
the students patiently receive, memorize, and
repeat. This is the 'banking' concept of
education, in which the scope of action allowed
to the students extends only as far as receiving,
filing, and storing the deposits. (45/6)
"In the banking concept of education,
knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who
consider themselves knowledgeable upon those
whom they consider to know nothing.
Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a
characteristic of the ideology of oppression,
negates education and knowledge as processes
of enquiry." (46)

In opposition to this Freire advocates dialogic education in which the teacher is an equal partner of the students in a shared development of learning. This is important for:

"If the dichotomy between teaching and learning
results in the refusal of the one who teaches to
learn from the one being taught, it grows out of an
ideology of domination." (Freire 1978. p9)

2) Theory and practice are inseparable in any useful education.

This is another of the central principles of praxis. Any attempt to separate the two results in education becoming merely intellectual or merely activist. Education is primarily a critical activity and Freire insists that

"The task of the critical educator is to provide
the conditions for individuals to acquire a
language that will enable them to reflect upon
and shape their own experiences and in certain
instances transform such experiences in the
interest of a larger project of social
responsibility." (McLaren, 1993, p. 49)

3) The need for the subjects to be relevant to the students' everyday lives and to have an impact upon them.

Like Freinet, Freire sees the importance of grounding childrens' education in their own experience. In the development of practical media work this involves ensuring that they have somthing to say, that they have a language to say it with and that they have a voice. The job of the teacher is not to provide them with any of these, but to help them consolidate the three elements for their own particular purpose.

4) The task of education is to free the oppressor and the oppressed from the tyranny of oppression.

This remains an important principle for Freire. It is no good replacing one form of oppression with another or taking power and then oppressing the oppressor. It is no good becoming what Freire calls "sub-oppressors" either, as is the case with many teachers. The purpose of a radical, critical education is to identify oppression and work for its eradication.

"This then, is the great humanistic and historical
task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and
the oppressors as well" (21)

One important point is that praxis (the mixture of practice and theory through reflective action) is not just a method. It is not something you can do one Wednesday and not the next, it is a commitment to an approach. And it includes a praxis for the teacher, too, one in which we must practise what we preach. If we believe in a democracy where all non-oppressive views are valid, then we must make room in our classes for the views and values of our students. We must pay more than lipservice to notions of "empowerment" by ensuring that we don't just value education as a source of future, potential empowerment but as an arena where students really are given power now. And we believe we have a particular opportunity to do this through practical media work. But we must combine our theory and our practice if we are to succeed.

There is another element of Freire's pedagogy which is of particular interest to us here, and that is his use of photography. Freire's approach to adult literacy is unusual in that it doesn't begin with a set of words which the students must learn how to spell. That, says Freire would be futile and irrelevant to the needs of the people in the class, and it would avoid the important political dimension of education. Instead he advocates that ducation begins with discussion groups looking at drawings or photographs of different settings in their neighbourhood. He calls these "codifications". They may be pictures of people in the street, of houses, of work places, schools or factories. The group then "decode" these by talking about them, guided by the facilitator who asks them questions: What is going on? What are these people thinking? What do you think about these things? These are meant to be "problem-posing" questions which tackle the issues not the participants and which gradually encourage the group to express their real concerns and thoughts about their world.

The project leaders then identify key or "generative" words from these discussions, break them down into syllables and use these as the basis for their literacy work, rather than some spurious exercise:

"The banking approach to adult education, for
example, will never propose to students that
they consider reality critically. It will deal
instead with such vital questions as whether
Roger gave green grass to the goat, and insist
upon the importance of learning that, on the
contrary, Roger gave green grass to the rabbit.
The 'humanism' of the banking approach masks
the effort to turn men into automatons - the
very negation of their ontological vocation to be
more fully human." (Freire, 1972, p.48)

In post-literacy work the same device of using photographs as a stimulus is reatained by Freire, but instead of using it to identify "generative words" the project leaders use it to draw up "generative themes". A particularly clear description of this process can be found in Gerri and Colin Kirkwood's account of an Adult Learning Project in Edinburgh (Kirkwood, 1989). Here photographs were used as an integral part of developing and sustaining groups of residents learning through a range of projects in their community. They "decoded" photographs of their neighbourhood, identified their common themes and concerns and worked together with project staff on (amongst other things) a study of local play facilities, the development of a Skills Exchange Programme, a Parents' Centre, and workshops for writers and photographers (who in turn provided material for more decoding sessions).

The MAP model proposes a very similar use for much of the audio-visual material it generates. Groups work together, with the support of facilitators, to produce "codifications" - videos or photographs or audio recordings which address issues of concern to others in the community. Discussions of these at screenings or exhibitions in classrooms, offices or community centres can then help people to recognise their own response to these issues and identify actions and changes. Nor do these need to conform to the facilitators views, indeed Freire gives an excellent example of how one group made their own sense of a photograph:

"In one of the thematic investigations in
Santiago, a group of tenement residents
discussed a scene showing a drunken man
walking on the street and three young men
conversing on the corner. The group
participants commented that 'the only one there
who is productive is the souse who is returning
home after working all day for low wages and
who is worried about his family because he
can't take care of their needs. He is the only
worker. He is a decent worker and a souse like
"The investigator had intended to study aspects
of alcoholism. He probably would not have
elicited the above responses if he had presented
the participants with a questionnaire he had
elaborated himself. If asked directly, they might
even have denied ever taking a drink
themselves. But in their comments on the
codification of an existential situation they could
recognize, and in which they could recognize
themselves, they said what they really felt." (89
- 90)