Some weeks ago, I checked out Learning to Question: A Pedagogy of Liberation, by Paulo Freire and Antonio Faundez, from the library at the college where I work. Yesterday, after having the book sit around unread since I’d taken it home, I decided the time was right and opened it up.
I’m not far enough along in the text to be able to comment on the ideas espoused by the authors. It’s the form of the book that’s got me inspired and thinking.
Learning to Question is a spoken text. The authors—longtime friends and political exiles who were interested in the role that education could play in helping the masses critically examine society and empower themselves in the process—transcribed a series of conversations they had on a wide range of pedagogical, sociological, and philosophical subjects. Thus, the text wasn’t edited in the way most books are. It preserves the spontaneity that occurs when two individuals speak their minds.
We are so used to thinking about “books” in certain ways. Books are many pages of words on paper which never existed as actual speech. The language and thinking are always the language and thinking of writing. In almost every case, the creative process is slow and recursive. Even when most traditional books are coauthored, the writers are careful to speak in one consistent stylistic voice throughout the text.
I did a bit of Googling on Freire and Faundez and found that they are considered radical thinkers. (By the way, I don’t use “radical” in any sort of judgmental way.) Their goal, as the title of their book makes clear, is to question everything and to foster critical thinking in others. Given that they are interested in shaking things up, in questioning even those foundational ideas which are often considered sacred, wouldn’t it be strange for them to record their thoughts in the usual way and give them to us in a traditional package?
It occurs to me that part of the authors’ mission is to demonstrate that a “book” can be more than just a book—that it can be more than fossilized words on paper; that it can be infused with the dynamism that can only exist between two minds playing ideas off one another in a spontaneous fashion. They also want us to realize that there is great power in dialectical thinking.
The book is a reminder of what creativity is and the power it holds. The speakers deconstructed the concept of “book” and creatively reimagined and reconstructed it. While reading their work, I’m mindful that I’m having a new kind of reader experience.
As you go forward in your creative endeavors, don’t be afraid to do what Freire and Faundez did. They demonstrated that rules are meant to be broken. They did something new and beautiful. It’s a lesson we can all benefit from.
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