History of Freinet Pedagogy
1. Freinet Techniques
Célestin Freinet was born on October 16, 1896 in Gars, a small French village close to the Italian border. Freinet graduated with a school-leaving certificate from a junior high school. With this certificate he could go on to qualify as an elementary school teacher but was not eligible for admission to a university. As a member of the French Communist Party in 1927, his publications constitute a radical critique of the traditional public education system (Oneness thinking, ahead of it's time). By the 1960s Freinet dwelt mainly on programmed learning and the expansion of his pedagogy to the secondary school level. He died in October 1966 and was buried in the little cemetery of Gars, his birthplace.
Freinet's approach was very practical since he integrated his ideas into his daily work in the classroom. In October 1924 Freinet introduced the technique of Learning Printing Technique. This meant that the children used a printing press to reproduce texts (computers now a days to share stories) that they had composed freely. The pupils wrote down their own personal adventures (scientific investigations), the incidents that they had experienced inside and outside the classroom, and so on. Usually these texts were then presented to the class, discussed, corrected and edited by the class as a whole before being finally printed by the children themselves working together to produce Manuals or Shared Stories. Freinet called this approach "Free Writing" ("Texte libre"). Later these texts would be assembled to create a Class Journal ("Livre de vie" or "Book of Life") and a School Newspaper ("Journal scolaire" or "Journal of a Scholar").
From 1926 on, the productions of his class, particularly the School Newspapers, were regularly exchanged with other elementary school classes in France, whose teachers were also involved in innovative teaching. Freinet calls this the technique of School Correspondence ("Correspondance scolaire or Correspondence Scoloar"). Later, this correspondence would spread throughout the world. The French teachers who used Learner Printing and others who were beginning to make and use movies and sound recordings with their classes came together in 1928 and founded the Public Educators' Co-operative (Coopérative de l'Enseignement Laïc, C.E.L.), soon to be known as "Freinet Pedagogy" or the "Freinet Movement". From 1932 they edited a magazine "The Proletarian Educator" (L'Educateur Prolétarien or "Educators Producing Offspring").
2. Freinet Techniques Continued
The Public Educators' Co-operative also initiated Self-Correcting Files ("Fichier autocorrectif") including hundreds of worksheets for such fundamental skills as grammar, spelling, math, geography, history, etc. Pupils use these files individually according to their needs and whenever they want to improve their performance. The overall co-ordination of class activities, and any problems affecting individual children or groups of children are regularly discussed and resolved in the Classroom Assembly ("Réunion coopérative", "Conseil") which consists of all the children in the class and the teacher.
Freinet's philosophy of education disturbed the local school authorities of his time and they tried to have "Célestin Freinet" moved to another school-district. Freinet refused to be transferred and left the public education system. In 1935 he founded an independent school. He applied and developed his techniques until 1940, imprisoned as a political agitator. Later released for compassionate reasons placed under house arrest in the Alps, where he eventually joined the resistance movement in 1943.
3. Freinet Techniques Continued
4. The Essential Concepts of Freinet Pedagogy
During his periods of detention at the time of the Second World War Freinet wrote his core works on pedagogy. Freinet's school movement reopened in 1945. A revival led to the Cooperative Institute of the Modern School (Institut Coopératif de l'Ecole Moderne - I.C.E.M.) in 1947. Their role developed ideas for pedagogical resources and activities, limited to the production of the actual pedagogical material. The Public Educators' Co-operative dwindled down to tasks revolving around the printing press and accessories, the Self-Correcting Files, the Working Library, etc. However the most important concepts that were left are the following:
1st Wave Between 1950 and 1954, Freinet was vigorously attacked by intellectuals of the French Communist Party, who accused him of a. promoting a notion of school based on an outmoded rural ideal, b. downplaying the role of the teacher, c. stressing process rather than content, d. exaggerating the importance of children's spontaneous behaviour thereby reinforcing principles dear to individualism rather than togetherness. In other words, the Communists criticized Freinet for creating illusions in teachers' minds, who are being encouraged to believe that they can change the realities of school life in a world dominated by capitalism. This conflict is better understood as a power struggle between the allegiance the unionized teachers.
Freinet educators have subscribed to certain myths about Freinet, some of which were nourished by the accounts of his life written by Elise, his wife and lifelong partner. He invented Co-operative Learning and Child-Centred Techniques. Some see him as a pedagogical genius who created all of his techniques out of thin air however seen in the context of the international New Education movement., some of the pedagogical practices that were already known before Freinet :
Freinet's approach to Learning through Work may be contrasted with the concept of the German Georg Kerschensteiner, the Russian Pavel Petrovic Blonskij and the Swiss educator Adolphe Ferrière. Kerschensteiner wanted to educate working-class children with manual work because he believed that a more abstract approach to learning would not fulfill the socially relevant virtues of behaviour and performance. While Blonskij tried to integrate school into factories in order to enable children to deal with a modern industrial culture, Ferrière placed greater emphasis on a spiritual approach through which the child's energies should be channelled and nourished.
Freinet's concept of Learning through Work focuses on work as the process of spontaneous re-organization of life in school and society. According to him, work is the basis of every human activity, indeed of the very development of a human being. Therefore productive work is an ongoing principle of teaching and learning. While the children are developing their texts with the techniques of Learner Printing, and producing their journals, exhibitions, and so on, they are in a constant learning process. This concept also distinguishes Freinet from the proponents of creative pedagogy popular in the USA.
8. Co-operative Learning
Freinet's emphasis on Co-operative Learning was rooted in his own experiences as a founder of agricultural co-operatives. He was also aware of British experiments with school communities. At the same time he participated in debates about the French organization called Central Office of School Co-operatives (Office central de la Coopérative scolaire à l'Ecole), founded by B. Profit in 1923, and which still exists.
9. Natural Method
The Natural Method is a general learning theory based on the empirical tradition (data collection and statistical analysis) of sensational and associational psychology in the 19th century. It is also influenced by German "Gestalt-Psychologie". This method implies an intuitive and direct perception of the learning object, which activates the basic sensorial functions. Therefore, this deductive procedure allows us to integrate abstract notions (all around information, verses traditional repeating). The Natural Method is applied to reading, writing, and basic math. In this context, printing is an appropriate technique for a global as well as an analytical approach to the development of language (study and have faith).
The conclusion is that the real genius of Freinet lies not so much in the creation of the above techniques but in the synthesis and articulation of these various approaches and procedures. Most of the well-known educators of the New Movement wrote their most influential expository works between 1900 and 1930. Freinet was a late comer to the New Education scene. He founded his own school in 1935 and wrote his core works during the Second World War. However, the scientific epistemologist Thomas Kuhn believes that newcomers like Freinet, often have the opportunity to stimulate paradigm shifts and create new theories. This may also explain why Freinet is less well-known than the major figures of the New Education Movement. He published his major works at a time when the impetus of New Education was slowing down. Spécialists of the New Education Paradigm;
10. A Child-Centered Pedagogy
The New Education has to be seen in the Romantic tradition of the philosophy of education. These educators recommended a return to the origins of childhood which is regarded as "innocent" and full of promise. The effort to adapt the child to modern, industrial society through school is essentially an act of corruption. Only "natural education" offers a way to resolve these problems by introducing community-based activities such as manual labour and craft work. They are considered as more healthy and formative. Freinet's pedagogy stands in this tradition when he praises manual work and puts children's needs and desires above all.
Nevertheless, Freinet's commitment to a radical political philosophy meant that he did not drift into the reactionary tendencies that typified many of his many of his contemporaries inside the New Education movement. From the beginning of his professional life, his main interest always was to improve the social and cultural situation of working-class children. Instead of waiting for a broader revolution he believed that changes are possible in classroom right now. Nowadays Freinet pedagogy is still a very strong, international movement covering the whole range of school levels from kindergarten to university and adult education. The numerous celebrations of the centenary of Freinet's birth bear eloquent testimony to the enduring relevance of his pedagogy in today's troubled times.
For further reading visit http://www.freinet.org/icem/history.htm
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