MY LIFETIME FOCUS REMAINS THE HUMANITIES. AFTER MANY YEARS OF ACADEMIC WRITING AND A TWO-YEAR LAYOFF FROM BLOGGING, I HAVE RE-KINDLED MY INTEREST IN THE NONFICTION GENRE. I ENJOY POSTING A GREAT DEAL ABOUT THE HUMAN CONDITION FROM MY PERSPECTIVE AND WELCOME ALL COMMENTS FROM READERS.
In the mid-1990s, I was asked to teach a graduate course entitled Critical Thinking for a new Masters Degree program Israel College. It was quite a new experience for me, since my students were Israeli citizens, but about 85% of the class was Jewish, while 15% of the class was Israeli Arab.
Being cognizant of the age-old conflicts in the Middle East region, I wondered how I could teach a graduate-level class with the logical built-in discord that the critical thinking syllabus required, without becoming embroiled in conflict. I was pleasantly surprised, and the program was a huge success.
Retrospectively, I owe much to Brazilian educator/philosopher, Paulo Freire, for my successful venture.
Freire, who died in 1997, was one of the most influential educational thinkers of the twentieth-century. He was born in Recife, Brazil, in 1921, and after a brief career as a lawyer, he taught Portuguese throughout most of the 1940s. By the 1960s, however, he became active in adult education.
Freire quickly gained international recognition, but following a military coup d'etat in Brazil, he was jailed and ultimately forced into a fifteen-year exile. He returned to Brazil in 1979.
Freire's most well known work is Pedagogy of the Oppressed. In this work, he argued for system of education that emphasizes learning as an act of culture and freedom. He saw education as a political process, and developed a system workable for the masses of uneducated citizens of several South American nations. His work in Chile was particularly successful.
I do not subscribe to all Freire’s theories, but I do credit him for his brilliance, his work toward the education of the poor, and for helping me discover common ground upon which several classes of Israeli citizens of mixed cultural backgrounds were able to share positive intellectual experiences for two semesters about fifteen years ago.
I always learn from my students, but my experience among bright students capable of enlightening debate over concepts like ignorance and the culture of silence ranks up there with my most memorable academic recollections. I owe much to that special group of people I was able to serve so many years ago.