by Pamela Ezell and Chandra Jenkins, Ph.D. students

Can this world be saved? That’s the question Dean Don Cardinal pondered aloud when he welcomed a full house to the symposium, “Teaching Critically and Democratically in Times of Crisis,” in the Bush Conference Center on Saturday morning. His answer, as he surveyed the nearly 300 students, educators and activists present, was yes. “Days like this give me hope,” he said.

Moments later Dr. Ana Maria “Nita” Araujo Freire, received a Distinguished Scholar Award on behalf the Paulo Freire Democratic Project here at Chapman University.

Nita, an author and scholar who wrote and worked side by side with her husband, visited Chapman from Brazil, and spoke on the topic, “The Presence of Paulo Freire at Chapman University.” Nita’s visit at Chapman and the title of her paper were especially powerful since it was during this visit that she made an official donation to the Paulo Freire Archive at Chapman’s Leatherby Library. The event also marked the signing by the president of Brazil of the law that the only existent location of Paulo Freire’s handwritten papers and documents outside of Brazil is the Paulo Freire Archive at Chapman.

Her remarks concluded with a description of Paulo: “He felt, seized, listened, analyzed and systematized all that was there to be seen and thought… He was able to see what nobody had…He was a prophet… The prophets here are those who are founded in what they live, what they see, hear and apprehend…Paulo Freire lives at Chapman University. He lives within the hearts of men and women who love life!”

Nita’s speech was the start of a day-long symposium featuring distinguished scholars from across the country. ­­Dr. Donaldo Macedo, from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, spoke about the “obscenities” of $27,000 desserts and $10,000 martinis in a nation that argues about raising the minimum wage by pennies and dimes. “We are talking about radical pedagogy in the George Bush room,” he said, to laughter from the crowd. Later he added, “You don’t need to be courageous, you just need to be honest.” Donaldo shared several personal memories of Paulo, including Paulo’s advice to him, “Never allow the child within you to die.” He concluded his remarks with, “There’s no education without social justice. There’s no education without ethics.” Chapman professor Dr. Tom Wilson, Director Emeritus of the Paulo Freire Democratic Project, connected the day’s conversation of critical pedagogy to the current discussion regarding Common Core and the revolutionary aesthetic of the 1960s.

The afternoon session carried the theme of politics and pedagogy being connected through the presentation of Dr. Alma Flor Ada, from the University of San Francisco. Alma exhorted the crowd through the reminder that “Education is not neutral.” Dr. Richard Kahn, from Antioch University, spoke to the crowd about the ways in which education can become more inclusive of all beings on the planet, not merely humans. Dr. Antonia Darder, from Loyola Marymount University, discussed the ways that radical consciousness can be enlightened through the relationship with fellow workers. These relationships, however, are most effective in their action when they are grounded in a deep love of fellow workers. Dr. Peter McLaren, current Director of the Paulo Freire Democratic Project, challenged the listeners to follow the radical example of socialist community and action exemplified by the life of Jesus of Nazareth depicted in the Christian scriptures.

The day ended with a toast, led by Dean Charlene Baldwin, to dedicate the Paulo Freire Archives and the new contributions, before a final ceremonial action. The group followed in a processional to the bronze bust of Paulo Freire on Chapman’s campus, where they heard a final reading of the words of Paulo Freire.

The general feeling of the crowd of nearly 300 was that the day offered great conversations and insightful thoughts on the meaning of Paulo Freire’s work in today’s education climate. After this successful day, many participants are excited for what will hopefully become a regular event on Chapman’s campus.

Nita gazes at Paulo's bust

Dr. Nita Freire and the bust of her late husband, Paulo Freire.