Evaluation and transformation

Section 6 of

Freire-inspired programs in the United States and Puerto Rico: a critical evaluation

by Blanca Facundo

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The word "evaluation" should entail no mystery. In its etymological origins, it had to do with values, through which humans determined the worthiness of whatever; something we do all the time throughout our lives. But there is no word that academia and/or the government cannot turn into a mysterious and complex "concept" that only duly certified professionals can or should handle. Thus, the word evaluation was (multiple choice): (a) re-defined, (b) confused, (c) revised, (d) prostituted, (e) all previous choices, (f) none of the previous choices, (g) who cares?

Our world is flooded with "surnamed" evaluations: process and product; formative and summative; quantitative and qualitative; goal-free; action-oriented; and so on. [1] External funding sources upon which, as stated, most of us came to depend, required an evaluation plan prior to considering us for funding. Further, evaluation plans had to be of such nature as to give a reasonable guarantee that they would produce an "objective" evaluation.

According to Sjoberg, [2] the meaning of evaluation was restricted during the sixties. The war-on-poverty programs created by the federal government and its cadre of profitably employed social scientists considered "evaluation" as a synonym for "determining the negative or positive impact of planned social intervention." Yes, we had to make an estimate in all proposals of "expected impact" and/or "intended outcomes," and to say how we were going to find out if, in fact, what we expected was attained. We had to be "accountable," to have well-defined goals and/or "measurable" objectives expressed in "operational" (i.e., measurable) terms. Remember: we did not have a clear idea of where we wanted to go, much less what to expect inventing our way through the implementation of a Third World pedagogy and philosophy of education in the United States.

We intended to work with a population which the United States establishment considers at best "difficult" if not impossible, hopeless or unreachable. The liberals of the system had nothing to lose and much to gain if we could reach these difficult populations with programs that, due to the grassroots nature of our operations and the scarce funds granted -- not to mention the naiveté of those of us who wanted to try -- would not prepare learners for admission to Harvard. At the most, we could get adult learners into community colleges and that is what community colleges were there for, anyway. In the meantime, both the government and private philanthropy could get a lot of mileage showing how hard they were trying to expand "equality of educational opportunities for all."

We learned to write evaluation plans, copied the least restrictive surnamed models available (mostly qualitative, process and/or action-oriented evaluations) [3] and again worded carefully what we wrote. However, we were trapped into the use of evaluation designs created by the very system in and against which we were working. We had to do what Sjoberg calls "determining the negative or positive impact of planned social intervention," according to what the funding sources determined to be positive or negative. I have already explained how, at least at the level of the shoulds, what we wanted was different from what most funding sources in the system wanted. Our definitions of positive or negative were different. But there are other roots for the discrepancy that I have not touched yet. "We" did not have the time to explore more issues and most did not feel the need to do it. I refer to issues of ontology and epistemology.

Different views on what is positive or negative stem from different ontological and epistemological assumptions, often unstated and based upon vested interests, assumptions that are considered as the truth and are seldom questioned. Let us briefly review the meaning of ontology and epistemology as relevant to our work and the evaluations we were expected to perform.

The word ontology denotes a philosophical quest, closely linked to metaphysics, which aims at discovering the essence of being and/or things. In our particular field of interest, ontology would lead us to ask questions such as: What is a human being? What is the nature (or essence) of reality? Are human beings inherently good, bad, or neither? Are we what we are due to simple biology (genetics, heredity, chemicals in our bodies?). Due to the influence of our social/ecological environment? Both? Neither? Is there such a thing as a "born criminal"? Are Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, genetically inferior in intelligence? Are the poor poor because they are dumb and lazy? Have things "always been this way" and, thus, not amenable to change? Or is reality something we make and thus can change? These and other questions, and our personal answers will give us a glimpse of our ontological views. Other questions, not so frequent, regarding ontology: is reality really out there? Or is it "inside our minds"? Would there be a tree if there were no one to name it, to identify it as a "tree"? In other words, would there be a reality if there were no humans to see, perceive, describe it? Is reality perhaps both "out-there" and "inside-us," the out interacting with the in by means of our nervous system? And so on. The questions are really endless.

Epistemology is closely related to ontology. The former deals exclusively with knowledge: the origin, nature, methods and limits of human knowledge, hopefully coherently integrated into a theory. The relation with ontology, it seems to me, is based on the fact that our views on the "essence" of human beings and of reality will be necessarily related to our views on whether, why and how, humans acquire or develop knowledge. If we believe in "born criminals" the amount and kind of knowledge that we will grant to that particular human being will be the one that leads her or him into what s/he was born for. But epistemology gets more complicated, in that it seeks to encompass the standards or criteria by which we can reliably judge the truth or falsity of our knowledge (how can we know if what we believe to be true is, in fact, true?). Questions to explore our personal epistemological stand would be similar to the following: Can humans learn? If so, how, and how can we check on the truth of this knowledge, if it is possible at all? Are there limits to what we can know?

Granted, most people, especially those engaged in a struggle to survive, are not constantly exploring any of the ontological and epistemological questions I have offered as examples. We tend to be content with what we think is real, or true, and seldom examine the origin of the stands we take, whatever they are. But there is no question that we all do is based upon some kind of ontology and some kind of epistemology, even if we call it "common sense."

Paulo Freire expresses himself on these matters in his writings and dialogues. In fact, he denounces traditional or oppressive educational systems among other reasons because, although educational systems are based upon an ontology and an epistemology, these are not stated as such. Instead, says Freire, oppressors propagate ideas (Freire calls them "myths") as "truth" and this is done through a variety of manipulative techniques which are an obstacle to the development of critical thought. Examples of what Freire calls myths are statements made by the oppressive system explicitly or implicitly, such as: [4]

It should be evident to the reader that Freire, just by calling all the above "myths" strongly disagrees with every one of them. But, alas, Freire is not very clear in his alternative ontological and epistemological formulations.

Freire's ontology sees human beings as essentially historical beings (as opposed to "biological") that are unfinished entities and thus have a vocation to be more, to be free. Different from animals, humans inherit a historical and cultural world that is made by humans and which they are able to transform by acting upon it. Animals are programmed to adjust to their environment and cannot have a sense of history, much less "make" culture. Humans are special beings. Although conditioned by their environment they are not determined by it: they can act and transform reality. Reality, which is historical and cultural, not only biological, is both "out-there" (it exists) and "inside us" (what we make of it, the way we grasp it in our minds, how we see it and interpret it). Humans are beings capable of distancing themselves from their conditions, their reality; to submit these to critical thought; and to decide on appropriate courses of action to transform reality. The part of reality that is "inside us" is the consciousness we develop about the nature of the out-there reality. Early in his work, Freire distinguished between qualitatively different types of consciousness, ranging from magic to critical. This he has not frequently mentioned since the 1970s, so I will not discuss it.

Reality, for Freire, is historical and thus dynamic (as opposed to static). The human world and mind are in a never-ending process of becoming. If this is the case, how do humans learn or acquire knowledge? Freire's epistemology is not free of contradictions. He holds the human mind to be both active and social; and states that we learn through a process of abstraction: abstracting information from the out-there reality and reflecting upon it through the use of critical thought. But "true" knowledge only emerges when critical reflection is combined with transforming action and further critical reflection, in a never-ending process of these beings whose ontological vocation is to be more. [5] Knowledge is not a static given, but a constructed becoming. Freire rejects the idea that knowledge can be "poured into" the mind as if the mind were only a passive receptacle and as if knowledge were a static, finished thing.

It seems that group learning is more "true" than individual learning in Freire's thought. Freire does not account for the "true" learning of revolutionary leaders and/or those individuals in the upper social stratas that commit "class suicide," prior to their suicide, but I would like to raise the issue for the reader to reflect upon.

Freire admits that the social world into which humans are born does condition humans, but in this conditioning he sees the epistemological roots of human freedom: [6]

We are conditioned. How do I know it? Because I was able to go beyond the limits of condition. If I cannot see the conditions, I cannot say I am a conditioned being. What are the limits of this room? The walls. How do I know? Because I can't walk through them. Then I know. But if I say I am a conditioned being, this is also why I can go beyond. Secondly, it is this being conditioned that makes me free. I recognize it and I have to transform it, not just describe it. The way to change is historical. The process of knowing my own limits comes together with change. I cannot accept that we are beings of adaptation because we are historical beings. History is not just the past. It is also what is happening. My becoming, I am; but if I just am, I am not.

If there is only one correct way of understanding reality (the correct way, Freire repeatedly writes and says), and that is the reflecting-acting-reflecting process, which leads to "true" learning, can we say that those who do not use that particular way do learn? I guess Freire would respond with a "Yes, but..." (they learn myths, or they learn how to be oppressors, or they learn the wrong kind of things, a knowledge that is not liberating but oppressive).

What Freire poses is, ultimately, that everyone who does not think in the "correct" way is in serious ontological and epistemological trouble: he or she is not aware of the human ontological vocation to be more, of the human essence, and may therefore be engaged in a process of dehumanization. Pretty abstract, granted. But that is what Freire implies on the subject.

In his earlier writings, Freire depicted the oppressed as "dual, inauthentic beings, who harbored the oppressor within their selves, and who are escaping from freedom." For Freire this was a bleak but not hopeless situation. The pedagogy specifically developed for (although Freire says "with") the oppressed was deemed to be a first step along the way towards humanization. Once the oppressed learn that things can be changed they enter the right, human, world.

As in other aspects of Freire's thought, his epistemology and ontology are somewhat tainted or obscured through the use of adjectives such as "true," "correct" and "authentic." This may or may not suggest an extremely directive style (if not dogmatism) that readers can interpret as they wish within a broad spectrum of political options. Freire has not specified precisely where he intends his ontology and epistemology to guide the struggle for liberation, nor what liberation means, concretely, within a given economic and political system.

Freire's ideas have been assumed to be consonant with the rallying cries for "transformation" which emerged in the United States over the seventies, denouncing many of the things Freire denounces in his writings. Practitioners of Freire's ideas moved in an environment of what in the United States is deemed "progressive" sectors. It is important to examine -- even if briefly -- the phenomenon of the transformation movement, [7] in which liberating educators participated, even if only through association with transformationalists.

The "new" physics, available through the paperback books trade, has created havoc with all previous "Western" ontologies and epistemologies. The nature (or essence) of reality seems more and more elusive, closely resembling what the West has pejoratively considered "Eastern mysticism." This information, coming from what have traditionally been considered "hard" or "exact" sciences, has created among intellectuals a crisis pregnant with doubts: perhaps what we have considered "true" is just an illusion, a result of an arrogance grounded in ignorance; perhaps it is time for us to reflect critically (terms very much used by Freire) upon everything we have thus far accepted as "given," including Freire's relevance to our work.

No statistics are available as to how many United States citizens have joined networks which accept ideas such as the following, popularized by many new paperbacks:

These are just a few of the many ideas which are emerging and being lived at the United States grassroots, even if under the leadership of members of a progressive, mostly white, élite.

A search seems to be under way for new, "post" ideas: alternatives to liberalism, capitalism, socialism and communism are being sought, based upon the belief that none of these has been able to solve the major problems humanity confronts today. All of this occurs in a fluid, not formally organized movement, mostly through networking, [8] word-of-mouth and local initiatives, and heavily influenced by a mass paperback trade that brings out so many books on the subject each year that it is difficult to keep track of them. I deem it important to examine the political theory of this movement.

Drawing from the information and knowledge obtained through the new physics, a new program for the political transformation of the United States society is being informally and not very overtly drafted by what Gouldner calls the cultural New Class. It has been adopted by prominent leaders of the "radical" sixties. [9] Its bottom line is the belief that "personal revolutions can change institutions." [10] Activists must first work at transforming themselves. Once this is accomplished, "enemies disappear" because we become more tolerant of other's ideas, and because by transforming our consciousness we learn to channel our energies [power is energy] in a more constructive manner. A "revolution" is then under way.

It is part of this movement's political stand that the source of social conflicts is the inner human. Transformed humans will "coalesce into self-organizing groups" and will devise "ways to govern themselves without determining a boss or establishing a clear agenda." [11] Transformed humans, "knowing that changes of heart and not rational argument alone sway people, must find ways of relating to others at the most human and immediate level." This, for Marilyn Ferguson, means that these people should live by their principles, revive and revise the ethic of means and ends by considering that "means must be as honorable as ends," and going into political battle "stripped of conventional political weapons." [12] This because democracy "is not a political state but a spiritual condition." [13] As for "revolution": [14]

A revolution means that power changes hands, of course, but it does not necessarily mean open struggle, a coup, victor and vanquished. Power can be dispersed through the social fabric.

The idea is to find a refuge for the person, which is deemed as nonexistent in capitalist societies or in "the old revolutionary mass movements." [15] The call is for total decentralization, based on the idea that "power in the brain is decentralized." [16] Thus, self-help networks, considered to be "non-ideological" are seen as key to social transformation. [17]

Whenever I find these ideas in the United States, I cannot help but think that they are just one more luxury afforded to the well-to-do U.S. citizens by the international expansion of U.S. capitalism, at the expense of the economy and social well-being of the Third World. Ferguson's statement that [18]

until technology freed us from the struggle to survive few had the time or opportunity to look within to explore the psyche [emphasis added]

makes me ask: about who is Ferguson talking? What percentage of the entire population of the Earth has been "freed from the struggle to survive"?

The whole rationale is based upon the power of knowledgeable individuals to transform themselves and, thus, to transform "culture." Very close to Paulo Freire's first theoretical formulation, class suicide and all. Yet, in the United States it is not a matter of joining the lot of the oppressed: it is a matter of increased personal (individual) growth and cultural capital coupled with a "vocation": [19]

A kind of collective sense of destiny -- not a mapped-out myth but a search for meaning, a tacit understanding that people and learners believe in something beyond material success, beyond nationalism, beyond quick gratification.

Freire's class suicide is individual. The U.S. transformation movement believes itself to be integrated by individuals acting out of a "collective sense of destiny," whereby humans can transcend material concerns. I cannot help but ask if transformationalists expect hungry humans to transcend hunger.

The U.S. transformation movement, different from Freire, rejects sharp dichotomies, at least overtly: [20]

We are so indoctrinated by our right/wrong, win/lose, all/nothing habits that we keep putting all our half-truths into two piles: truth versus lies, Marxism versus capitalism, science versus religion, romance versus realism... Partial viewpoints force us into artificial choices.

For a hungry person, I would remind "transformationalists," the question "to eat or not to eat" is far from being an artificial choice. I see no provisions in the transformation movement for what Kolakowski called elementary situations, in which choices are not only crystal-clear, but also very pertinent and urgent. Ultimately, the U.S. transformation movement may have been financed by the dispossessed of the Third World. The élites in many Third World countries have allowed or sought the penetration of U.S. capital, perhaps wanting to have a chance at the very same "exploration of their inner psyches" that is so much taken for granted in the United States.

The movement does "heal" the cultural new class in the United States from the pain, frustration and alienation caused by its struggle against the old class. I have experienced the glowing feelings of sharing, well-being, warmth and affection that are transmitted among transformationalists. Yet, perhaps because I was born and raised in a colony, and because my cultural capital, acquired in adulthood, is coupled with many childhood reminiscences of unbelievably cruel stories of poverty and exploitation, I cannot help myself from thinking that all those nice feelings are only one more privilege afforded by my class position, and that the whole transformational thing may very well be very selfish, self-centered and a sort of anesthesia not only against the confusion produced by U.S. society, but also against the much more cruel conditions in which most humans live in the world. If we "crossed the bridge" towards inner growth, who paid the bill? Will those who have not had the luxury of being freed from the struggle for survival want to cross the same bridge? Who is going to pay their bill?

What if, what we are really talking about is the existence of two nations, two cultures, two different world views: that of the élite, within which a civil "war" is being waged; and that of "the people," everywhere? Whose culture are we talking about? What about the culture of those who are still, because they have no other choice, struggling to survive? Are we saying that "ours" is better?

Let us review what Fritjof Capra has to say on the subject: [21]

The social movements of the 1960's and 1970's represent the rising culture, which is now ready for the passage to the solar age. While the transformation is taking place, the declining culture refuses to change, clinging ever more rigidly to its outdated ideas. Nor will the dominant social institutions hand over their leading roles to the new cultural forces. But they will inevitably go on to decline and disintegrate while the rising culture will continue to rise, and eventually will assume its leading role. As the turning point approaches, the realization that evolutionary changes of this magnitude cannot be prevented by short-term political activities provides our strongest hope for the future. (My emphasis.)

Again, let us ask, the rising culture of whom? The declining culture of whom? "Inevitable" decline? Sounds as deterministic as Marx's "inevitable" defeat of capitalism and the withering away of the state! Which representatives of the rising culture will assume "the leading role"? If the whole thing is inevitable, would not it be sufficient to sit down and just wait for it to happen? Is this some sort of political escapism (in Kolakowski's terms) or a political strategy of the new cultural class?

Capra envisions that the new forces will, at some point, "assert themselves decisively in the political arena," by coalescing into new political parties. These will include "environmentalists, consumer groups, feminists, ethnic minorities, and all those for whom the corporate economy is no longer working." [22] Note the similarity of the expected composition of the new parties and what Gouldner has called the strategies of the Cultural New Class.

As previously implied, we should consider that perhaps the transformation movement will not have resonance or will not make any sense for many Third World countries with which we are in solidarity. If, in fact, transformationalism is a leisure concern of a new class in a technologically and scientifically "overdeveloped" country, this will probably be the case, even among the élite of Third World countries.

Lacking any study to examine the issue, I will offer two anecdotes of situations I observed in Cuba, between our Cuban hosts and a group integrated by U.S. progressive citizens. The U.S. people were explaining the harmful effects of refined white sugar in the human body -- the very same sugar upon which the Cuban economy depends. The U.S. visitors could hardly drink the syrupy black coffee that their Cuban hosts love and offered. They were torn between their beliefs on the harmful effects of sugar and their wish to be polite to the Cubans. The second anecdote refers to the inconvenience of our Cuban hosts, running around at the last minute to change their menus in order to accommodate these bunch of strange people who insisted on vegetarian diets -- even if very politely -- and refused to eat meat (an item highly valued in the Cuban diet). There were many such instances. Because I speak Spanish, I could overhear the comments of the Cuban people whenever there was a discrepancy between their expectations and what the visitors from abroad wanted or were interested in.

I would suggest that it would be the same with the "inner" Third World of the United States, with everyone who does not belong to the cultural new class, anywhere. Ivan Illich insists on reminding us that: [23]

The rich and schooled and old of the world try to share their dubious blessings by foisting their pre-packaged solutions into the Third World.

I am persuaded that our immersion in the U.S. society did not allow us to examine the extent to which our practice in Freire-inspired programs was impacted by the transformation movement. It was assumed that Freire's ideas were consonant with transformationalist ideas and practices. But we were working with a "Third World" in the United States, and the possible dissonance between Freire's ideas and practices and those of the transformationalists was -- to my knowledge -- never explored. I have just touched the surface of both Freire's and the transformationalists' political programs. The theme deserves further study and a great deal of discussion among practitioners of Freire's ideas in the United States, particularly when we are engaged in evaluating our practice. Let us turn briefly to what Freire recommends should be done in the area of evaluation.

Most of the statements on evaluation made by Paulo Freire, at least those available in the United States, range from 1968-69 (the Pedagogy of the Oppressed) to 1977-78 (Pedagogy in Process: Letters to Guinea-Bissau). Practical advice, interpreted as "how-to's", is not available in any of the sources. Freire's comments and suggestions would probably be unacceptable to most funding sources in the United States. Even if useful for conducting internal evaluations (within projects, not for public release), they are still not specific enough.

Evaluation is described by Freire as: [24]

An action in which A & B evaluate together a practice that has taken place or which is taking place; based upon certain objectives above all political [emphasis added] which illuminate the practice that is being submitted to evaluation; with the purpose of attaining a greater effectiveness in the next practice.

In these evaluations, says Freire, "nothing should be hidden, neither accomplishments nor errors. The true error is to hide any error."

The phrase I emphasized in the above quote confronts us with the first problem in "officially" using Freire's ideas on evaluation within the United States context. While we accept Freire's contention that the objectives of any educational program are essentially political, the system and most of its sources of funding most certainly do not. [25] They are political, but also in power and they define reality as they please, calling it "the truth" and then teaching it in schools and through the mass media. We are not granted that luxury. We must be reformists helping the powers that be to sustain the "this-is-a-wonderful-country" slogan, by assisting those that the system has neglected.

Freire sees evaluation as a "formative effort" (in the United States, formation is understood as "training"); [26] an effort that must be grounded into (or coupled with) "an investigation of new forms of action..." Evaluation is supposed to problematize the educational practice (to consider it a problem to be examined). The value of this activity is that those who engage in it have to stand before (and presumably outside of) their educational practice to confirm whether, in fact, they are doing what is best, or to agree upon areas in which their actions must be "rectified." [27]

Freire touches upon attitudes appropriate to an evaluation process. He believes that, in conducting an evaluation, there are two attitudes that should be excluded: (1) easy euphoria in the face of accomplishments, because euphoria leads to idealizations; and (2) negativism in the face of errors and mistakes, because this attitude invalidates experience by denying that we can learn to improve our practice by learning about our errors. [28]

I propose that in the United States "easy euphorias" tend to be the rule in the evaluations submitted by projects to funding agencies. Errors and problems are played down, lest funds are cut. Donors expect success (even when they say the contrary): an account of how the monies they granted enabled funded projects to accomplish such and such wonderful things, preferably stated in quantitative terms. It is wise to mention one or two "minor" problems, of course. But you better make sure that your reports confidently express that you have taken -- or are in the process of taking -- adequate measures to "solve" the identified problems. "Problem-posing" has no chance with U.S. funding sources unless accompanied by problem-solving.

In terms of financial survival, the kind of honesty for which Freire seems to advocate would be suicidal for a private, non-profit organization at the U.S. grassroots. Not only for the reasons stated, but also because, by definition, these institutions are considered to be "academically" inferior and having very little chance of developing a program of excellence.

This has created problems among the programs themselves, as there is very little inclination to share "what is really happening" with outsiders: [29]

Sharing the process is one thing; sharing the results is quite another. We are living in the United States... Here people keep two sets of books. We all do that. I think the most important reason to do an evaluation is to ultimately improve the interactions between all the participants in a program, to share in the process of growth. It can be enormously valuable for one project to know what processes have been used in other projects in their evaluations; it can be helpful to know what problems other projects have run into in developing their process. It is my opinion that it is less useful to know the results. Each project is unique, each project has its own specific goals, its own structure.

If an evaluation is done with the intent of sharing the results with outside groups, given the society in which we now live, the results will probably be less honest, and therefore less useful.

The above is a representative statement of what members of liberating education projects expressed in personal sessions throughout our collective interaction between 1978 and 1984.

Contrast the "someone-out-there-is-watching-us" attitude, which is evident in the above statement, with what Freire considers to be an appropriate climate for evaluation: [30]

The climate that characterizes our study meetings cannot be any other but of critical curiosity; that of a search in which we defy ourselves.

Freire's desirable climate was present in some liberating education projects, but only when there were no "outsiders." Informal evaluation seminars were held (the second of the two sets of books). But, for the most part, that was "inside" information and project people had to trust you before you could even get close to it.

Freire sees in evaluation a means to maintain political clarity, because it facilitates the development of a coherence between educational practices and "the project of a new society." [31] This was written for Guinea-Bissau, where Freire believed there was a government-sponsored project for a new society. In the United States, as Tom Heaney has stated, we do not quite have a project yet: what we have is "a vision being formed." If this is the case, the goal of political clarity and of coherence between educational practices and the political goal is almost unattainable.

The format or structure most frequently mentioned by Freire for conducting an evaluation is the seminar: [32]

Evaluation seminars (... ) confirm, deepen or correct the visions of some of the points which were already discussed in a meeting during which we prepared for the practice.

Freire advises to hold "permanent evaluation seminars in which all meet to share in the evaluation, re-enforcing accomplishments and discarding what are identified as errors." [33] He also recommends the use of recorders to tape group discussions. In his opinion, tapes would constitute an important collection of documents both to analyze the development of the work being conducted, and to be used in evaluation seminars by different (other) groups. [34]

In the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire briefly describes evaluation seminars conducted by a working team engaged in preparations for a literacy program. After investigating the target community, the team would meet as a way to "decode" the reality that the team members had apprehended. It was a means for integrating the bits and pieces of the segmented reality each team member saw and, thus, an action that would result in a new analysis of the global (coherently integrated) situation of the community, pointing out the identified primary and secondary contradictions which affected community residents. [35] Yet, Freire does not hold his particular evaluation preferences as the only way: [36]

It is possible, however, that you may be already utilizing or thinking to utilize a different evaluation method. That is not important. (My emphasis.)

What is essential is, first, that a permanent evaluation be made on the work being conducted and, second, that evaluation never be considered as a means to prosecute (or criticize in a negative way).

In the above quote Freire apparently means that the selected method for evaluation is not important. If, in fact, that is his meaning, I strongly disagree. Methods, like facts, do not stand by themselves. They are based upon political preferences, an epistemology and an ontology (theory) that, if different from those of who are being evaluated, may fail to understand what is being evaluated. In the land of "surnamed" evaluations, one must choose very carefully which method to adopt, within those accepted by the "authorities" upon which the financial lives of our programs depend. In fact, some evaluation methods may force an institution to move along directions that ultimately can destroy what it was all about when it started. [37]

The simple, informal, defyingly honest evaluation Freire advocates is simply not relevant for the evaluation "trap" we face in the United States. It may be considered useful in the "internal" activities of a program or institution, if and when there is a guarantee that results will not be made public. The premise upon which liberating programs operate is "out there, no one understands what we are doing." It may be mistaken, but the premise is there and cannot be denied.

Among ourselves, as opposed to "out there," we thought we knew what we were doing. But we did not. Our assumptions were wrong: the theory of Paulo Freire was not transferable from the context of northeast Brazil to the "inner Third World" of the United States. What in effect we tried to do was to push Freire's theory to its outer limits, and when we reached the outer limits, Freire was not there any more. We cannot blame Paulo Freire for this. It was our own doing. We needed to believe in something to fight our own apathy and alienation in the United States, and perhaps to confront "the old class" with a theory we arrogantly thought it could not understand. This was to give us some time to realign our forces after the noisy sixties.

We became immersed, as members of the cultural new class (Anglos and minorities alike) in the transformational movement and failed to see that, despite similarities, it may be quite different from the theory formulated by Freire.

We underestimated the power of the old class, not only to understand, but also to coopt our work. We took its money to work against it, and were most effectively neutered. We did not even realize it until it was too late. A good political lesson from which we have to learn if we are to begin a new. But in order to do this, we also need to examine the lessons that can be drawn from Freire's experiences in Guinea-Bissau.


Notes to Section 6: Evaluation and Transformation

1. The basic labels are "qualitative" and "quantitative," within which all others are categorized. The qualitative/quantitative dichotomy has produced an extensive bibliography. For an introduction, see Ray C. Rist's "Overview" in Workshops Exploring Qualitative/Quantitative Research Methodologies in Education (Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development, July, 1976), Vol. I.

2. Gideon Sjoberg, "Politics, Ethics and Evaluation Research," in Marcia Guttentag and Elmer L. Struening (eds.) Handbook of Evaluation Research, Vol. 2 (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1975), p. 34.

3. For good sources on qualitative research see Robert Bodgan and Steven J. Taylor, Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods. A Phenomenological Approach to the Social Sciences (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1975). Also, see Michael Quinn Patton, Qualitative Evaluation Methods (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1980).

4. Paulo Freire, Pedagogía del Oprimido ("Pedagogy of the Oppressed") (Montevideo: Tierra Nueva, 1970), pp. 182-83.

5. Michael Mathews, "Knowledge, Action and Power," in Mackie's Literacy and Revolution, pp. 82-92, has described the ontology of Paulo Freire as a "process ontology,"

6. Blue Series, Side 1.

7. For a general introduction to the subject, the following two books are excellent: Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point. Science, Society and the Rising Culture (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982); and Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy. Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980's (Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, 1980), specifically Chapter 6, "Liberating Knowledge: News from the Frontiers of Science," pp. 145-87, and Chapter 7, "Right Power," pp. 189-240. For ongoing accounts, see Mark Satin's journal New Options.

8. For a very good explanation of the phenomenon of networking see Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps, Networking: The First Report and Directory. People Connecting with People, Linking Ideas and Resources (New York: Doubleday and Company, 1982), specifically Chapter 1, "Discovering Another America," pp. 1-9.

9. Among them, Jerry Rubin. See Ferguson, Aquarian Conspiracy, p. 206.

10. Ferguson, Aquarian Conspiracy, p. 192.

11. Ibid., p. 202. The ideal is very non-directive, as evidenced in this quote.

12. Ferguson, Aquarian Conspiracy, p. 205.

13. Ibid., p. 207.

14. Ibid., p. 213.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid., p. 215.

17. Ibid., p. 218.

18. Ibid., p. 222.

19. Ibid., p. 225.

20. Ibid., p. 229.

21. Capra, The Turning Point, p. 419.

22. Ibid., p. 418. It is interesting to note that in this point Ferguson and Capra disagree. According to Ferguson, "Because political parties are precisely the kind of conventional structure that is not working well, it seems unlikely that any will emerge from the... social movements now afoot. The energy expended to launch a, new party and field candidates against entrenched parties would divert energy from enterprises with a better pay-off," Aquarian Conspiracy, p. 221. Ferguson has more faith in the possibility of transformed individuals being elected to key positions and transforming them from within "in every corner of government, human beings conspire for change" (p. 235). She further trusts that federal funding will give "legitimacy" to the movement!

23. Illich, History of Needs, p. 66.

24. Paulo Freire, Cartas a Guinea-Bissau. Apuntes de una experiencia pedagógica en proceso (México: Siglo XXI, 1977). (Hereinafter referred to as "Letters,") p. 174.

25. "Political" in this context means the web of ideas and explanations (ideology) used by the ruling groups and those who dispute their power in order to interpret and to describe reality: the ruling groups, to sustain the status quo; the others to bring it down or to transform it. Ideology, as a synonym of political, is a much used and abused term which is coming to mean "the thought of my opponent." Fernand Dumont, Las Ideologías (Buenos Aires: El Ateneo, 1978), p. x. The meaning of ideology and its role in the politics of "who gets what, when and how" (a definition that some would describe as an ideology), is a very complex subject much debated in progressive circles. In the debate, the distinction between theory, science, ideology and politics becomes more and more blurred. "Today, the debate about the concept of ideology is at an impasse. The dogmatists believe that science can be freed right now from all ideology. The hypercritics believe that knowledge is only raw appearance, and that so-called science is merely the ideology of this society." Henri Lefevre, The Survival of Capitalism. Reproduction of the Relations of Production (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1976), p. 68. See note 15 in Section 2. Political, in the U.S. power structure, is deemed (preached as) separate from the role of education, in which the ideological control of the ruling class is not admitted as such, but as "the truth." If the truth is questioned, those who question it are accused of being subversive (as indeed they are). However, the semantic reaction to subversive in the United States equates the word to "Communist," and "anti-American." Herein lies the problem. The objective of an educational program in the United States cannot be stated as "political" because this is meant by the system to be understood as "pertaining to party politics" and/or "being Communist," neither of which is accepted as the "proper" role of education in the United States.

26. "Formation" in Freire refers to a long process of personal and collective development which uses the "correct" way of knowing: acting for transformation, reflecting upon the action as a means to act again, and so on. "Training" refers to the acquisition of skills and "static" knowledge within a short period of time, in a mechanical way devoid of introspection or reflection (critical thought). Formation is political in the sense of "correct" politics; training is equated to domination, in Freire's thought. This created serious problems for practitioners seeking to "train" Freirian educators. See Phyllis Noble, Formation of Freirian Facilitators (IRCEL Product #1), Chicago, Latino Institute, 19&3.

27. Freire, Letters, p. 132.

28. Ibid., p. 42.

29. "Some Thoughts on Evaluation," submitted informally by a member of the network in March, 1982.

30. Freire, Letters, p. 108.

31. Ibid., p. 137.

32. Ibid., p. 33.

33. Ibid., p. 41.

34. Ibid., p. 132.

35. Freire, Pedagogía, p. 140.

36. Freire, Letters, p. 132.

37. Specifically, methods aimed at determining quantitative elements within which quantitative "growth" is considered to be an indicator of success. An institution caught in this trap strives "to increase the number of" (graduates, illiterates made literate; applications for admissions; enrollment, etc.), and does not consider the impact of growth upon its institutional objective of "participatory democracy." A participatory meeting of 200 persons must be conducted in a manner quite different from a meeting in which only 20 persons must participate. Further, growth usually means more staff and perhaps a bureaucratic structure (or the burning out of a workaholic small staff which tries to cover all the bases); not to mention the need for an increase in incomes, for which funding agencies do not provide. Staff members have to use a special person who will work full time as fund-raiser or assign this task to a person already overburdened by administrative duties. In any case, the work of this person will separate her/him from the rest, creating communication problems in the institution. As a result, the jobs of fundraisers and administrators are not understood and are often despised in liberating education programs.