April 25, 2011
Celebrating the work of Paulo Freire
By Betty Rice
To those who teach and work in education, the name Paulo Freire is a familiar one. Freire, the Brazilian educator whose lifelong body of work connected education and issues of social justice for all, is considered a leader in critical pedagogy. Centres have been established around the world to promote and continue his work, and although Freire passed away in 1997, his legacy and teachings live on through those who knew him and continue to educate others on his philosophy that teachers are learners who have as much to gain from their students as the students do from them.
The education faculty’s Shirley Steinberg connects with Freire’s teachings. As the new director and chair of the Werklund Foundation Centre for Youth Leadership Education, Steinberg says Freire has been the inspiration for her research throughout her teaching career. “My work is grounded on Freire’s notion of critical pedagogy, a way of looking at how power works, specifically issues of oppression and marginalization in education,” she explains.
Steinberg is the co-founder of The Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy at McGill University and also maintains the freireproject.org website, a global network of teachers and grassroots educators who are engaged in socially just and equitable education.
“In my new position as the Werklund Foundation Chair, I will continue my work and direct it to working with marginalized youth, the study of youth and how society views youth,” says Steinberg. “Critical pedagogical work in a youth context will include research and teaching specifically in youth studies, looking at youth in poverty, new immigrant youth, indigenous youth, GLBT youth, and youth leadership.”
Steinberg’s work and connection to Freire was recently recognized by the Paulo Freire Democratic Project based at California’s Chapman University College of Educational Studies. She was awarded its annual Social Justice Award—an award recognizing individuals whose life work both exemplify and push forward the legacy of Paulo Freire.