The Scamp and the Brazilian

Despite my reluctance in the philosophy class, I am enjoying the final assignment. I have been tasked with picking a philosopher and not only really getting comfortable with their philosophy, but connecting that philosophy to my teaching and my everyday life.  I’ve known since the first day of class that I was a critical thinker and that I wanted to dive into the life of my favorite Bazillion critical thinker Paulo Freire.


photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

I have been utilizing Freire’s theories in my teaching philosophy for years. He played a major role in the theoretical underpinnings of both of my masters. and I know that he will be well utilized in my dissertation that has yet to be written. I love his views on literacy and teaching students to take charge of their education and become global citizens for change. More often than not, I am teaching my students how to write, and how to use those skills to do research and to take an active role in their learning. I’m still new to teaching, and still trying to find my footing in how much power I give my students while meeting the curricular standards set by the college.

In the course of my research I found a book called Letters to Cristina ( The book is a series of letters Freire wrote to his niece exploring his life and work in a deeply personal and profound way.  I had only planned to skim the book to get a general sense of what his early life was like and how that might have affected his views on literacy and education later in life, and so far, I have read every word.  I am amazed at the passion that flows off the page, and the deeply reflective nature that he took all the way to his death in the late 90s. He grew up in poverty, and recognized that he was not in a position to succeed in life, and that he was going to have to work hard if he was going to make something of himself. He carried that drive and determination to everything that he did, and then developed a method of teaching that allowed people to not only learn to read quickly, but also gain a sense of empowerment in the progress they made in their reading abilities, and use that feeling of empowerment to register to vote and make changes to their place in society. Freire was exiled in  60s for his beliefs, and his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed ( used in American schools of education and was circulated in South Africa during the Apartheid in an effort to rally the people to fight for change.

Reading his letters, and reading the underlying passion that is in those letters made me question my passions. At 26 years old, I am not sure I have ever had that level of passion for anything except the well being of my mother and my need to travel. One of those causes is important, but one of them is extremely self serving. The program that I am in now is preparing me to go into the world of community colleges and be a leader. I want to be the type of leader that Freire was; the type of leader that fights for the underdog and gives up his own rights and freedoms to make sure that those being oppressed have a voice.

My ultimate goal in life is to run a literacy program, whether it be a nonprofit or at a college or university. I want to work with adults as well as children, and if I get my way, I want it to be global. That way I can help people learn to read, and satisfy my wanderlust at the same time. I’m young, and still have plenty of time to find my passion, but I feel like I am already behind when I read Freire’s work. While I am not trying to be one of the great minds of this century (Although I happen to think my mind is pretty freaking awesome), I would like to be able to make a difference in one person’s life.

I’m not sure what else I will discover in the course of my research, but since I am still riding the high of the A on my dissertation, I am feeling very good about the way the paper will come together. I’m hoping that good feeling will also stay with me during my qualifying exam this summer…..anything is possible, right?

In the meantime, I will try to get in the mindset of one of the greatest minds of the 20th century, and start doing some good in the world.

The Scamp Gets Philosophical

This weekend I have the house to myself, and instead of having a raging party like most kids home alone for the weekend would do, I took the time to crack open my books and do my first homework assignment. Technically the book should have been read during the summer, and while I was writing my dissertation, the book sat on my dresser and collected dust.

I don’t want to read the book. In fact, I cleaned the house today just so I wouldn’t have to read it. The book is a freshman level philosophy book to get us to start thinking about the philosophical ideas that underpin our own teaching practices. I’ve known that answer since I started teaching, and while I am sure it will change over time,  right now I feel good about the old dead white guys whose theories have shaped my teaching. The one thing that worried me about the books and the presentation that we got in class on Tuesday, is that while my school of thought is part of the presentation, the theorists and scholars mentioned on the slides are not the big names in the field. In fact, the names that I expected are not even anywhere on the list. I recognize that I am partial to the theorists that I know, and I am looking forward to learning about the men listed on the slide, but I have to write a final about the theory of my choice and who is a part of it, and I am worried that all of the research I have collected for the last two years to use in my dissertation for CSUF may now have to be expanded to include theorists and ideas that I don’t necessarily like.

While trying to sort out how I felt about teaching, I thought about whether or not the same theories apply to the way I am outside of the classroom. I have recently had the chance to reconnect with two people who are very important to me. One of them lets me ramble and talk nonsense and then helps me sort through the issues and look at things logically. She is the one who best understands philosophy, and has lived a life full of adventure, so I feel that she understands most of the angles that I am coming from. The other one, well, that one asks me hard questions that force me to really think about myself and why I make the choices that I do.It is from conversations with him that I really think about myself….which makes me uncomfortable most of the time.  He has a strong scientific mind, and looks at the world in a way I can’t see. We live a strange existence together, but it works, and I get to exercise my mind in the process.

The thing is, my philosophy is pretty much the same. I’m a critical thinker through and through. I spend a lot of time questioning and analyzing everyone and everything around me, and I do it too so I can get the answers that I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Now if only I can use that as a justification for being difficult, or being a hermit….no one notices if you get stuck in your head or ask too many questions if you are a hermit.

Time to get past chapter 4 in the book. The house is clean, I have surfed the Chive and the Berry, and emptied my brain of all non school related thoughts, I will go back to trying to be a good student.