Célestin Freinet (1896-1966), the inventor of “active pedagogy” and the “new school”, is the pedagogue and theorist who has best combined different pedagogical currents and synthesized them into an approach that is more open, less normative or systematic than others. He always draws on his own concrete experiences of learning autonomy with his class. He was a “practitioner-theoretician”, who always thought in terms of practice and was very committed to sharing skills, at the international level.
He considered that school is the privileged place for the transformation of the world and personal emancipation, that school is a full part of society. He built it through an openness to free expression, to experimentation with no stake in success, to individualized rhythms, to autonomy, to peer transmission, to principles of cooperation, to benevolence, to questioning the teacher’s system of domination over pupils, to the appropriation of technical tools (printing, radio, cinema, etc.) to produce content that goes beyond the school.
There is in the tool, in its use, in the work it supports, the essential element of learning on which the value of education will depend.
The Freinet pedagogy had an unprecedented influence on all continents from the 1940s onwards, in the educational field as well as in the fields of psychology, politics, popular education and organizational management. The “Freinet method” is quite precisely related to the pragmatist philosophy (John Dewey). Paradoxically, it has had far more influence around the world than in France, a country that still legitimizes, at the state level, an authoritarian educational culture.
The Freinet spirit and method are, in my opinion, extremely effective in resolving the challenges of the contemporary world, which is full of digital tools and uses that need to be creatively appropriated in order to be the bearers of freedom, human development and democracy.
Interview of Benoît Labourdette by Jean-Yves de Lépinay (11’37s, 2020).
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