This website, dedicated to Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (1921-1997), consists of a collection of reviews of his books and links to other pages on Freire. The books are listed in chronological order. When the book has been translated into English, the first date refers to the original publication. 

The website was created by Daniel Schugurensky, Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology, The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT).

We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change (1980)

By Myles Horton and Paulo Freire

Edited by Brenda Bell, John Gaventa, and John Peters

Review by Kathleen Rogers (OISE/UT), 2004

                 Se hace camino al andar”… “we make the road by walking” (Horton & Freire, 1990, 6), is a perfect title and beginning for this conversational book by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire.  The style of this “spoken book” makes it easy to read and brings the reader to a more personal level with the authors.  The story-telling format and the sharing of childhood experiences gives the reader a rare view of these well-known educators and what motivated them along their paths.  In this review I will outline the general content of each chapter and add my reflections, then finish with a critique of the effectiveness of the overall style of the book. 

                In chapter one, Horton and Freire discuss the format of the book and how they will proceed with their dialogue.  They introduce the setting and talk about their perspectives on book writing.  This introduction is essential in order for the reader to understand what follows, since this format is not common.  The authors do not outline specific sections of the book at the beginning; rather they let the conversation flow in an order that seems natural at that time.  This is effective in creating the feeling of a free and comfortable dialogue, although it does result in a lack of clear structure. 

                The second chapter, “Formative Years,” is a delight for readers who, like myself, enjoy hearing others’ childhood stories and how they got to be where they are today.  This section gives an in-depth background on the context in which Horton and Freire grew up and the major influences on their lives.  Some of the points highlighted in this chapter include Freire’s concept of “reading words and reading the world” (p. 31), Horton’s emphasis on the importance of learning from the people and from each other (p. 41), Freire’s distinction between “having authority and being authoritarian” (p. 61), and their agreement that education is not neutral (p. 64).  The stories provided by both authors to illustrate these points constitute rich examples for the reader, from which we can also reflect back on our own histories to identify how we came to hold the ideas we have today. 

                The third section, “Ideas,” gives the reader an overview of some of the theories and perspectives of the authors.  A few of the main ideas outlined in this chapter include Horton’s articulation of the importance of having a broad vision of where you are going (p. 100) and Freire’s similar concept of the need to have political clarity as an educator (p. 101).  Another important point is the authors’ articulation of the difference between educators and organizers, with both Horton and Freire identifying themselves as educators (pp. 115-119).  Also explained is the role of the educator, not as an expert, but as one who intervenes in order to help people to develop their capacity to make decisions (pp. 125-138).  This chapter is effective in outlining some of the main theories espoused by the authors, but is not explicit whether there are any differences in their opinions.  It may have been useful to clearly highlight a concept and then have each author specifically comment and explain his position.  Also, one important factor that was not explained is that these educators are targeting different audiences. Horton was educating those already involved in social movements in some way, while Freire was typically working with the general public (p. 184).  I feel that this could be more clearly stated in order to explain the different approaches and theories of these two educators. 

                “Educational Practice,” chapter four, is an overview of many concepts and methods in education, two of which are Highlander’s approach of ‘doing’ an idea and reflecting on it afterwards (p. 164), and Freire’s approach of teaching people how to analyze by focusing on a particular content (p. 172).  It is also important to note the differences between Freire and Horton in relation to the term ‘education. Whereas in Freire’s definition education includes working within the school system as well as outside of it, Horton’s definition refers to “education in contrast to schooling” (p. 182).  I have mentioned only a few concepts from this chapter as there were many theories highlighted with most of them only briefly mentioned.  I found the breadth of theories quite overwhelming and many of them were not clearly elaborated.  Although much of this section was enlightening for me, the lack of clear distinction between these ideas and practices left me unsure of the differences and similarities of the authors’ approaches.  This section that, according to the title, is a focus on practice, often reverts back to a discussion of theories and ideas.  I finished this chapter with a feeling that I would like to hear more of the actual methods and techniques used by Horton and Freire in their work as educators. 

                Chapter five is about “Education and Social Change” and explores the debate surrounding working inside versus outside of ‘the system,’ referring to both the school system and the dominant system in society.  Horton says that “reform within the system reinforced the system, or was co-opted by the system” (p. 200).  Here he is referring to the school system, as is clarified later in the chapter (p.203).  In contrast, Freire believes that educators should “fight against the system taking the two fronts, the one internal to the schooling system and the one external to the schooling system,” which is the social system (p. 203).  In this section Freire also examines the use of education for social change in the Base Christian Community movement, as well as during and after the Nicaraguan revolution (pp. 209-221).  In this section I found Freire’s thought processes somewhat difficult to follow.  In a previous chapter he actually refers to his circular way of talking and explains, “(T)his is my way of working, of thinking.  First I try to make a circle so the issue can’t escape” (p. 156).  This explanation reminds me that different cultures have various forms or styles of speaking.  An awareness of these differences is useful when reading through this book, as Freire’s style of talking may be unfamiliar to some readers. 

                “Reflections” is a beautifully spoken conclusion that considers the motivations of Horton and Freire in their work.  The themes of love and laughter are highlighted in the exploration of these authors’ processes of becoming who they are. 

                From my own reflections, I will mention some of the advantages and drawbacks of the style of this book.  As I previously noted, the style of this ‘spoken book’ is accessible and personal in its easy-to-read format through personal stories and natural conversations.  Some of the disadvantages of this style include a lack of clarity when outlining the content and format of the book.  I was left with a desire for clearer expression of theories and methods, and especially for more clarity on the difference between these educators’ approaches.  My sense was that Horton spoke more frequently than Freire and when the latter did speak, I found that it was often theoretical without many concrete examples.  One possibility would have been to outline the topics or themes they wished to cover and then address them in a logic order.  Yet, I recognize that although this could perhaps bring more clarity to the book it would, undoubtedly, take away from the natural flow of the conversation. 

Overall, this book is an important addition to the literature on popular education and adds to the few writings by Horton and the many by Freire.  It is an important piece for conveying the history, motivations and thoughts of these influential educators.

      Other reviews for this book    Back to Main Index 

     DS Home Page     Submit a review