As we attempt to analyze dialogue as a human phenomenon, we discover something which is the essence of dialogue itself: the word. But the word is more than just an instrument which makes dialogue possible; accordingly, we must seek its constitutive elements. Within the word we find two dimensions, reflection and action, in such radical interaction that if one is sacrificed—even in part—the other immediately suffers. There is no true word that is not at the same time a praxis. Thus, to speak a true word is to transform the world.
An unauthentic word, one which is unable to transform reality, results when dichotomy is imposed upon its constitutive elements. When a word is deprived of its dimension of action, reflection automatically suffers as well; and the word is changed into idle chatter, into verbalism, into an alienated and alienating “blah.” It becomes an empty word, one which cannot denounce the world, for denunciation is impossible without a commitment to transform, and there is no transformation without action.
On the other hand, if action is emphasized exclusively, to the detriment of reflection, the word is converted into activism. The latter—action for action’s sake—negates the true praxis and makes dialogue impossible. Either dichotomy, by creating unauthentic forms of existence, creates also unauthentic forms of thought, which reinforce the original dichotomy.
Human existence cannot be silent, nor can it be nourished by false words, but only by true words, with which men and women transform the world. To exist, according to the humanity that God created, is to have an effect upon his created world, to change that which is broken. The more God’s perfect world is understood, the world in its turn reappears to the enlightened believer as broken, requiring a reformation. Human beings were not created to be in silence, but in word, in work, in action-reflection.
But while to say the true word—which is work, which is praxis—is to transform the world, saying that word is not the privilege of some few persons, but the right of everyone. Consequently, no one can say a true word alone—nor can she say it for another, in a prescriptive act which robs others of their words.
Dialogue is the encounter between men, mediated by God and his word, in order to transform a broken world. Hence, dialogue cannot occur between those who want to distort the world and those who do not wish this distortion—between those who deny others the right to speak their word and those whose right to speak has been denied them. Those who have been denied their God-given right to speak their word must first reclaim this right and prevent the continuation of this dehumanizing Suppression.
If it is in speaking their word that people, transform it, dialogue imposes itself as the way by which they achieve a deeper significance of themselves as human beings (communicative beings created in the image of God). Dialogue is thus an existential necessity. And since dialogue is the encounter in which the united reflection and action of the dialoguers are addressed to the world which is to be transformed, this dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one person’s “depositing” ideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be “consumed” by the discussants. Nor yet is it a hostile, polemical argument between those who are committed neither to the reformation of a broken world, nor to the search for truth, but rather to the imposition of their own truth. Because dialogue is an encounter among women and men who can effect the world, it must not be a situation where some transform it on behalf of others. It is an act of creation; it must not serve as a crafty instrument for the domination of one person by another.
Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for all people. Love is at the same time the foundation of dialogue and dialogue itself. It is thus necessarily the task of responsible Subjects and cannot exist in a relation of domination. Domination reveals the pathology of love: sadism in the dominator and masochism in the dominated. Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to others. No matter where the suppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause—the cause of liberation. And this commitment, because it is loving, is dialogical. As an act of bravery, love cannot be sentimental; as an act of freedom, it must not serve as a pretext for manipulation. It must generate other acts of freedom; otherwise, it is not love. Only by abolishing the situation of Suppression is it possible to restore the love which that situation made impossible. If I do not love the world God created—if I do not love life—if I do not love people—I cannot enter into dialogue.
On the other hand, dialogue cannot be an act of arrogance; rather, it must be imbued with humility. Dialogue, as the encounter of those addressed to the common task of learning and acting, is broken if the parties (or one of them) lack humility. How can I dialogue if I always project ignorance onto others and never perceive my own? How can I dialogue if I regard myself as a case apart from others—mere “its” in whom I cannot recognize other “I”s? How can I dialogue if I consider myself a member of the in-group of “pure” men, the owners of truth and knowledge, for whom all non-members are “these people” or “the great unwashed”? How can I dialogue if I start from the premise that defining what the world should be is the task of a Preeminent elite and that the presence of a free people in history is a sign of deterioration, thus to be avoided? How can I dialogue if I am closed to—and even offended by—the contribution of others? How can I dialogue if I am afraid of being displaced, the mere possibility causing me torment and weakness? Self-sufficiency is incompatible with dialogue. Men and women who lack humility (or have lost it) cannot come to the people, cannot be their partners in accepting God’s created world. Someone who cannot acknowledge himself to be as mortal as everyone else still has a long way to go before he can reach the point of encounter. At the point of encounter there are neither utter ignoramuses nor perfect sages; there are only people who are attempting, together, to learn more than they now know.
Dialogue further requires an intense faith in humankind (created in the image of God), faith in their power to make and remake, to create and re-create, faith in their vocation to be more fully human (which is not the privilege of an elite, but the birthright of all). Faith in people is an a priori requirement for dialogue; the “dialogical man” believes in others even before he meets them face to face. His faith, however, is not naive. The “dialogical man” is critical and knows that although it is within the power of humans to create and transform, in a concrete situation of alienation individuals may be impaired in the use of that power. Far from destroying his faith in the people, however, this possibility-strikes him as a challenge to which he must respond He is convinced that the power to create and transform, even when thwarted in concrete situations, tends to be reborn. And that rebirth can occur—not gratuitously, but in and through the struggle for liberation. Without this faith in people, dialogue is a farce which inevitably degenerates into paternalistic manipulation.
Founding itself upon love, humility, and faith, dialogue becomes a horizontal relationship of which mutual trust between the dialoguers is the logical consequence. It would be a contradiction in terms if dialogue—loving, humble, and full of faith—did not produce this climate of mutual trust, which leads the dialoguers into ever closer partnership in the fullness of their relationship within the Body of Christ to which Jesus Christ is the only legitimate Preeminent head. Conversely, such trust is obviously absent in the anti-dialogics of the banking method of education. Whereas faith in humankind is an a priori requirement for dialogue, trust is established by dialogue. Should it founder, it will be seen that the preconditions were lacking. False love, false humility, and feeble faith in others cannot create trust. Trust is contingent on the evidence which one party provides the others of his true, concrete intentions; it cannot exist if that party’s words do not coincide with their actions. To say one thing and do another—to take one’s own word lightly—cannot inspire trust. To glorify the equality of believers and to silence the people is a farce; to discourse on the fullness of our humanity in Christ and to negate people is a lie.
Nor yet can dialogue exist without hope. Hope is rooted in men’s incompletion, from which they move out in constant search—a search which can be carried out only in communion with others. Hopelessness is a form of silence, of denying this broken world and fleeing from it. The dehumanization resulting from an unjust order is not a cause for despair but for hope, leading to the incessant pursuit of the humanity denied by injustice. Hope, however, does not consist in crossing one’s arms and waiting. As long as I fight, I am moved by hope; and if I fight with hope, then I can wait. As the encounter of women and men seeking to be equal humans in the Body of Christ, dialogue cannot be carried on in a climate of hopelessness. If the dialoguers expect nothing to come of their efforts, their encounter will be empty and sterile, bureaucratic and tedious. It is hope, not despair, which makes for a successful reformation.
Finally, true dialogue cannot exist unless the dialoguers engage in critical thinking—thinking which discerns an indivisible solidarity between the world God created and the people and admits of no dichotomy between them—thinking which perceives true reality as a process of God’s work and guidance, as transformation, rather than as a static entity—thinking which does not separate itself from action, but constantly immerses itself in temporality without fear of the risks involved. Critical thinking contrasts with naive thinking, which sees “historical time as a weight, a stratification of the acquisitions and experiences of the past,” from which the present should emerge normalized and “well-behaved.” For the naive thinker, the important thing is accommodation to this normalized “today.” For the critic, the important thing is the continuing transformation of reality, in behalf of the continuing humanization of men according to God’s purpose as revealed in his word. For naive thinking, the goal is precisely to hold fast to this guaranteed space and adjust to it. By thus denying temporality, it denies itself as well.
Only dialogue, which requires critical thinking, is also capable of generating critical thinking. Without dialogue there is no communication, and without communication there can be no true education. Education which is able to resolve the contradiction between teacher and student takes place in a situation in which both address their act of cognition to the object by which they are mediated. Thus, the dialogical character of education as the practice of freedom does not begin when the teacher-student meets with the students-teachers in a pedagogical situation, but rather when the former first asks herself or himself what she or he will dialogue with the latter about. And preoccupation with the content of dialogue is really preoccupation with the program content of education.
For the anti-dialogical banking educator, the question of content simply concerns the program about which he will discourse to his students; and he answers his own question, by organizing his own program. For the dialogical, problem-posing teacher-student, the program content of education is neither a gift nor an imposition—bits of information to be deposited in the students—but rather the organized, systematized, and developed “re-presentation” to individuals of the things about which they want to know more.
Authentic education is not carried on by “A” for “B” or by “A” about “B,” but rather by “A” with “B,” mediated by the Head of the church (Jesus Christ, in conjunction with the work and guidance of the Holy Spirt)—a divine work which impresses and challenges both parties, giving rise to views or opinions about it. These views, impregnated with concerns, doubts, hopes, or hopelessness, imply significant themes on the basis of which the program content of education can be built. In its desire to create an ideal model of the “good man,” a naively conceived humanism often overlooks the concrete, existential, present situation of real people. Authentic humanity consists in permitting the emergence of the awareness of our full humanity according to the work of our Creator, as a condition and as an obligation, as a situation and as God’s progressive sanctifying work. We simply cannot go to our fellow believers in the banking style, to give them “knowledge” or to impose upon them the model of the “good man” contained in a program whose content we have ourselves organized. All the educational plans of the Preeminent Suppressors fail because they are designed according to their own personal views of reality, never once taking into account (except as mere objects of their actions) the actual situation of all believers being equal in Christ to whom their program was ostensibly directed.
For the true Bible-directed educator and the authentic reformer, the object of action is the reality to be transformed by them together with other believers. The Suppressors are the ones who act upon the people to indoctrinate them and adjust them to a reality which must remain untouched. Unfortunately, however, in their desire to obtain the support of the people for transformative action, reformation leaders often fall for the banking line of planning program content from the top down. They approach the laity with projects which may correspond to their own view of the world, but not to that of equal brothers and sisters in Christ. They forget that their fundamental objective is to fight alongside their fellow believers for the recovery of their stolen humanity, not to win them over to their side. Such a phrase does not belong in the vocabulary of reformation leaders, but in that of the Suppressor. The reformer’s role is to liberate, and be liberated, with the people—not to win them over.
In their political activity, the dominant elites utilize the banking concept to encourage passivity in the suppressed, corresponding with the latter’s “submerged” state of consciousness, and take advantage of that passivity to “fill” that consciousness with religious slogans which create even more fear of freedom. This practice is incompatible with a truly liberating course of action, which, by presenting the Suppressors’ slogans as a problem, helps the suppressed to “eject” those slogans from within themselves. After all, the task of the reformers is surely not that of pitting their slogans against the slogans of the Suppressors, with the suppressed as the testing ground, “housing” the slogans of first one group and then the other. On the contrary, the task of the reformers is to see that the suppressed become aware of the fact that as dual beings, “housing” the Suppressors within themselves, they cannot be truly human.
This task implies that reformation leaders do not go to the people in order to bring them a message of “salvation,” but in order to come to know through dialogue with them both their objective situation and their awareness of that situation—the various levels of perception of themselves and of the world in which and with which they exist. One cannot expect positive results from an educational or religious action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding.
The starting point for organizing the program content of education must be the present, existential, concrete situation, reflecting the God-directed aspirations of the people of God no longer being Suppressed by the Preeminent elite. Utilizing certain basic contradictions, reformers must pose this existential, concrete, present situation to the people as a problem which challenges them and requires a response—not just at the intellectual level, but at the level of action.
Reformers must never merely discourse on the present situation, must never provide the people with programs which have little or nothing to do with their relationship with the Lord, who is there amid their preoccupations, doubts, hopes, and fears—programs which at times in fact could increase the fears of the Suppressed consciousness. It is not the reformer’s role to speak to their fellow believers about their own view of the world, nor to attempt to impose that view on them, but rather to dialogue with the people about their view and ours, always in the context of being founded upon the word of God. We must realize that their view of the world, manifested variously in their action, reflects their situation in the world. Educational and religious action which is not critically aware of this situation runs the risk of not connecting with fellow believers.
Often, educators speak and are not understood because their language is not attuned to the concrete situation of the people they address. Accordingly, their talk is just alienated and alienating rhetoric. The language of the educator, like the language of the people, cannot exist without thought; and neither language nor thought can exist without a structure to which they refer. To communicate effectively the educator must understand the structural conditions in which the thought and language of the people are dialectically framed.
It is to the reality which mediates men, and to the perception of that reality held by educators and people, that reformers must go to find the program content of education. The methodology of that investigation must likewise be dialogical, affording the opportunity both to discover generative themes and to stimulate people’s awareness regarding those themes. Consistent with the liberating purpose of dialogical education, the object of the investigation is not persons (as if they were anatomical fragments), but rather the thought-language with which men and women refer to reality, the levels at which they perceive that reality, and their view of the world, in which their generative themes are found.
It is as transforming and creative beings that humans, in their permanent relations with reality, produce not only material goods— tangible objects—but also social institutions, ideas, and concepts. Through their continuing praxis, men and women simultaneously create history and become historical-social beings. Because—in contrast to animals—people can tri-dimensionalize time into the past, the present, and the future, their history, in function of their own creations, develops as a constant process of transformation within which epochal units materialize. These epochal units are not closed periods of time, static compartments within which people are confined. Were this the case, a fundamental condition of history—its continuity—would disappear. On the contrary, epochal units interrelate in the dynamics of historical continuity.
An epoch is characterized by a complex of ideas, concepts, hopes, doubts, values, and challenges in dialectical interaction with their opposites, striving towards plenitude. The concrete representation of many of these ideas, values, concepts, and hopes, as well as the obstacles which impede the people’s full humanization, constitute the themes of that epoch. These themes imply others which are opposing or even antithetical; they also indicate tasks to be carried out and fulfilled. Thus, historical themes are never isolated, independent, disconnected, or static; they are always interacting dialectically with their opposites. Nor can these themes be found anywhere except in the human-world relationship. The complex of interacting themes of an epoch constitutes its “thematic universe.”
Confronted by these generative themes in dialectical contradiction, persons take equally contradictory positions: some work to maintain the structures, others to change them. As antagonism deepens between themes which are the expression of reality, there is a tendency for the themes and for reality itself to be mythicized, establishing a climate of irrationality and sectarianism. This climate threatens to drain the themes of their deeper significance and to deprive them of their characteristically dynamic aspect. In such a situation, myth-creating irrationality itself becomes a fundamental theme. Its opposing theme, the critical and dynamic view of the world, strives to unveil reality, unmask its mythicization, and achieve a full realization of the human task: the permanent transformation of reality in favor of the liberation of God’s people.
In the last analysis, the themes both contain and are contained in limit-situations; the tasks they imply require limit-acts. When the themes are concealed by the limit-situations and thus are not clearly perceived, the corresponding tasks—people’s responses in the form of historical action—can be neither authentically nor critically fulfilled. In this situation, people are unable to transcend the limit-situations to discover that beyond these situations—and in contradiction to them—lies an untested feasibility.
In sum, limit-situations imply the existence of persons who are directly or indirectly served by these situations, and of those who are negated and curbed by them. Once the latter come to perceive these situations as the frontier between being and being more human, rather than the frontier between being and nothingness, they begin to direct their increasingly critical actions towards achieving the untested feasibility implicit in that perception. On the other hand, those who are served by the present limit-situation regard the untested feasibility as a threatening limit-situation which must not be allowed to materialize, and act to maintain the status quo. Consequently, liberating actions upon an historical milieu must correspond not only to the generative themes but to the way in which these themes are perceived. This requirement in turn implies another: the investigation of meaningful thematics.
Generative themes can be located in concentric circles, moving from the general to the particular. The broadest epochal unit contains themes of a universal character. The fundamental theme for the particular church epoch, when the Roman emperor Constantine decreed the legalization of Christianity in 313 AD, up to our current day is that of ecclesiastical Suppression—which implies its opposite, the theme of liberation, as the objective to be achieved. In order to achieve God’s full humanization, which presupposes the elimination of dehumanizing Suppression, it is absolutely necessary to surmount the limit-situations in which people are reduced to things.
Within the smaller circles, we find themes and limit-situations that are Suppressive, such as the uplifting and development of those who are Preeminent at the expense of the underdeveloped laity; which cannot be understood apart from the relationship of dependency.
The broader epochal unit contains, in addition to the universal theme, its own particular themes, its own limit-situations. Within yet smaller circles, thematic diversifications can be found, divided into areas and sub-areas, all of which are related to the whole.
Such themes that touch upon the Preeminent Suppression within the church that we find in the Bible would include Jesus, apostles, pastors, deacons, elders, bishops, ordaining, and ruling.
Within these sub-units, the greater, more universal themes may or may not be perceived in their true significance. They may simply be felt—sometimes not even that. But the nonexistence of themes within the sub-units is absolutely impossible. The fact that individuals in a certain area do not perceive a generative theme, or perceive it in a distorted way, may only reveal a limit-situation of Suppression in which people are still submerged.
In general, a dominated consciousness which has not yet perceived a limit-situation in its totality apprehends only its epiphenomena and transfers to the latter the inhibiting force which is the property of the limit-situation. This fact is of great importance for the investigation of generative themes.
Wealthy and middle-class Christians often demonstrate this type of behavior, although in a different way from Christians who are less materialistically blessed. Their fear of freedom from Preeminent Suppression leads them to erect defense mechanisms and rationalizations which conceal the fundamental, emphasize the fortuitous, and deny concrete reality. In the face of a problem whose analysis would lead to the uncomfortable perception of a limit-situation, their tendency is to remain on the periphery of the discussion and resist any attempt to reach the heart of the question. They are even annoyed when someone points out a fundamental proposition which explains the fortuitous or secondary matters to which they had been assigning primary importance.
When people lack a critical understanding of their reality, apprehending it in fragments which they do not perceive as interacting constituent elements of the whole, they cannot truly know that reality. To truly know it, they would have to reverse their starting point: they would need to have a total vision of the context in order subsequently to separate and isolate its constituent elements and by means of this analysis achieve a clearer perception of the whole.
Equally appropriate for the methodology of thematic investigation and for problem-posing education is the effort to present significant dimensions of an individual’s contextual reality, the analysis of which will make it possible for him to recognize the interaction of the various components. Meanwhile, the significant dimensions, which in their turn are constituted of parts in interaction, should be perceived as dimensions of total reality. In this way, a critical analysis of a significant existential dimension makes possible a new, critical attitude towards the limit-situations. The perception and comprehension of reality are rectified and acquire new depth. When carried out with a methodology of conscientização the investigation of the generative theme contained in the minimum thematic universe (the generative themes in interaction) thus introduces or begins to introduce women and men to a critical form of thinking about their world.
In the events however, that Christians perceive reality as dense, impenetrable, and enveloping, it is indispensable to proceed with the investigation by means of abstraction. This method does not involve reducing the concrete to the abstract (which would signify the negation of its dialectical nature), but rather maintaining both elements as opposites which interrelate dialectically in the act of reflection. This dialectical movement of thought is exemplified perfectly in the analysis of a concrete existential, “coded” situation. Its “decoding” requires moving from the abstract to the concrete; this requires moving from the part to the whole and then returning to the parts; this in turn requires that the Subject recognize himself in the object (the coded concrete existential situation) and recognize the object as a situation in which he finds himself, together with other Subjects. If the decoding is well done, this movement of flux and reflux from the abstract to the concrete which occurs in the analysis of a coded situation leads to the supersedence of the abstraction by the critical perception of the concrete, which has already ceased to be a dense, impenetrable reality.
When an individual is presented with a coded existential situation (a sketch or photograph which leads by abstraction to the concreteness of existential reality), his tendency is to “split” that coded situation. In the process of decoding, this separation corresponds to the stage we call the “description of the situation,” and facilitates the discovery of the interaction among the parts of the disjoined whole. This whole (the coded situation), which previously had been only diffusely apprehended, begins to acquire meaning as thought flows back to it from the various dimensions. Since, however, the coding is the representation of an existential situation, the decoder tends to take the step from the representation to the very concrete situation in which and with which she finds herself. It is thus possible to explain conceptually why individuals begin to behave differently regarding objective reality, once that reality has ceased to look like a blind alley and has taken on its true aspect: a challenge which suppressed Christians must meet if there is to be a reformation.
In all the stages of decoding, people exteriorize their view of the world. And in the way they think about and face the world—fatalistically, dynamically, or statically—their generative themes may be found. A group which does not concretely express a generative thematics—a fact which might appear to imply the nonexistence of themes—is, on the contrary, suggesting an extremely dramatic theme: the theme of silence. The theme of silence suggests a structure of mutism in face of the overwhelming force of the limit-situations.
It is important to emphasize that the generative theme cannot be found in people, divorced from reality; nor yet in reality, divorced from people. It can only be apprehended in the human-world relationship. To investigate the generative theme is to investigate people’s thinking about reality and people’s action upon reality, which is their praxis. For precisely this reason, the methodology proposed requires that the investigators and the people (who would normally be considered objects of that investigation) should act as co-investigators. The more active an attitude men and women take in regard to the exploration of their thematics, the more they deepen their critical awareness of reality and, in spelling out those thematics, take possession of that reality.
Some may think it inadvisable to include the people as investigators in the search for their own meaningful thematics: that their intrusive influence (the “intrusion” of those who are most interested—or ought to be—in their own education) will “adulterate” the findings and thereby sacrifice the objectivity of the investigation. This view mistakenly presupposes that themes exist, in their original objective purity, outside people—as if themes were things. Actually, themes exist in people in their relations with God’s created world, with reference to concrete facts. The same objective fact could evoke different complexes of generative themes in different epochal sub-units. There is, therefore, a relation between the given objective fact, the perception women and men have of this fact, and the generative themes.
A meaningful thematics is expressed by people, and a given moment of expression will differ from an earlier moment, if they have changed their perception of the objective facts to which the themes refer. From the investigator’s point of view, the important thing is to detect the starting point at which the people visualize the “given” and to verify whether during the process of investigation any transformation has occurred in their way of perceiving reality. (Objective reality, of course, remains unchanged. If the perception of that reality changes during the investigation, that fact does not impair the validity of the investigation.)
We must realize that the aspirations, the motives, and the objectives implicit in the meaningful thematics are human aspirations, motives, and objectives. They do not exist “out there” somewhere, as static entities; they are occurring. They are as historical as human beings themselves; consequently, they cannot be apprehended apart from them. To apprehend these themes and to understand them is to understand both the people who embody them and the reality to which they refer. But—precisely because it is not possible to understand these themes apart from people—it is necessary that those concerned understand them as well. Thematic investigation thus becomes a common striving towards awareness of reality and towards self-awareness, which makes this investigation a starting point for the educational process or for cultural action of a liberating character.
The real danger of the investigation is not that the supposed objects of the investigation, discovering themselves to be co-investigators, might “adulterate” the analytical results. On the contrary, the danger lies in the risk of shifting the focus of the investigation from the meaningful themes to the people themselves, thereby treating the people as objects of the investigation. Since this investigation is to serve as a basis for developing an educational program in which teacher-student and students-teachers combine their cognitions of the same object, the investigation itself must likewise be based on reciprocity of action.
Thematic investigation, which occurs in the realm of the human, cannot be reduced to a mechanical act. As a process of search, of knowledge, and thus of creation, it requires the investigators to discover the interpenetration of problems, in the linking of meaningful themes. The investigation will be most educational when it is most critical, and most critical when it avoids the narrow outlines of partial or “focalized” views of reality and sticks to the comprehension of total reality. Thus, the process of searching for the meaningful thematics should include a concern for the links between themes, a concern to pose these themes as problems, and a concern for their historical, cultural, and Biblical context.
Just as the educator may not elaborate a program to present to the people, neither may the investigator elaborate “itineraries” for researching the thematic universe, starting from points which he has predetermined. Both education and the investigation designed to support it must be “sympathetic” activities, in the etymological sense of the word. That is, they must consist of communication and of the common experience of a reality perceived in the complexity of its constant “becoming.” This, however, cannot just be a humanistic endeavor because as such, it will never uncover reality. Without God’s word anchoring this process, it will always lead to a twisted view of reality.
The investigator who, in the name of humanistic objectivity, transforms the organic into something inorganic, what is becoming into what is, life into death, is a person who fears change. He or she sees in change (which is not denied, but neither is it desired) not a sign of life, but a sign of death and decay. He or she does want to study change—but in order to stop it, not in order to stimulate or deepen it. However, in seeing change as a sign of death and in making people the passive objects of investigation in order to arrive at rigid models, one betrays their own character as a killer of life.
Here it is important to repeat: the investigation of thematics involves the investigation of the people’s thinking—thinking which occurs only in and among people together seeking out true reality (a reality absolutely grounded upon the word of God). I cannot think for others or without others, nor can others think for me. Even if the people’s thinking is superstitious or naive, it is only as they rethink their assumptions in action that they can change. Producing and acting upon their own ideas, especially as they relate to Biblical truth—not merely surrendering to those of others—must constitute that process.
People, as beings “in a situation,” find themselves rooted in temporal-spatial conditions which mark them and which they also mark. They will tend to reflect on their own “situationality” to the extent that they are challenged by it to act upon it. Human beings are characterized by always being in a situation. And they will be more of the human they should be when they more and more, not only critically reflect upon their current existence, but critically act upon it.
Reflection upon situationality is reflection about the very condition of their existence: critical thinking by means of which people discover each other to be “in a situation.” Only as this situation ceases to present itself as a dense, enveloping reality or a tormenting blind alley, and they can come to perceive it as an objective-problematic situation—only then can commitment exist. Humankind emerge from their submersion and acquire the ability to intervene in reality as it is unveiled. Intervention in reality—historical awareness itself—thus represents a step forward from emergence, and results from the conscientização of the situation. Conscientização is the deepening of the attitude of awareness characteristic of all emergence.
Every thematic investigation which deepens historical awareness is thus really educational, while all authentic education investigates thinking. The more educators and the people investigate the people’s thinking, and are thus jointly educated, the more they continue to investigate. Education and thematic investigation, in the problem-posing concept of education, are simply different moments of the same process.
In contrast with the anti-dialogical and non-communicative “deposits” of the banking method of education, the program content of the problem-posing method—dialogical par excellence—is constituted and organized by the students’ view of the world, where their own generative themes are found. The content thus constantly expands and renews itself. The task of the reformation teacher working on the thematic universe revealed by their investigation is to “re-present” that universe to the people from whom she or he first received it—and “re-present” it not as a lecture, but as a problem.
It is hoped the people whose thematics are being investigated will come to share a critical perception of the world, which implies a correct method of approaching reality in order to unveil it. And critical perception cannot be imposed. Thus, from the very beginning, thematic investigation is expressed as an educational pursuit, as cultural action.