Language, experience and pedagogy: A tribute to Paulo Ferire1

Peter Mclaren, Tomaz Tadeu da Silva
Vol 10, Number 1, p.36
We would like to emphasize and extend an important area of the work of Paulo Freire, an area which remains generally unproblematized in the work of Freire's followers, especially in the United States. It is a problem which is particularly troublesome in the work of Freirean-influenced classroom teachers: that of the relationship between language and experience. We want to argue that sometimes there exists a problem with certain pedagogical approaches which, like Freire's, are grounded in the concept of student experience. Whereas memories often call for interpretation, direct experience is frequently thought to speak for itself. It is not uncommon to confront a self-styled Deweyan or Freirian educator who will, for instance, insist upon privileging experience over theory. While it is true, as Giroux notes, that 'Freire argues for a notion of cultural power that takes as its starting point the social and historical particularities, the problems, sufferings, visions, and acts of resistance, that constitute the cultural forms of subordinate groups' (1985: xxi), Giroux also points out that Freire (and Dewey for that matter) neither romanticizes experience nor fails to render experience problematic.