Reinventing Freire in the 21st century:


This year we remember three centennials that inspire many progressive educators around the world. First, 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of Summerhill, one of the first experiments (if not the first) on school democracy in the world. Second, this year we celebrate the 100th birthday of Edgar Morin, a French sociologist and philosopher who dedicated his life to the pursuit of social justice and made insightful contributions to the role of education to promote democracy, equality, social transformation, and sustainability (see, for instance, Morin 2002). Third, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Paulo Freire (1921-1997), one of the most influential educational thinkers of the second half of the 20th century. Given space constraints and the theme of this special issue of CICE, in this paper we will focus on the connections between some of Paulo Freire’s ideas (particularly those related to citizenship education and school democracy) and a process known as School Participatory Budgeting.

“I don't want to be followed; I want to be reinvented”, Paulo Freire said on several occasions. It is in this spirit that we approach this paper. Inspired by Freire’s ideas, and especially by his practice as an educator in Brazil (both before his exile and after his return), in this paper we discuss the recent development and expansion of a process known as School Participatory Budgeting (School PB). This model emanates from Freire’s project of Escola Cidadã, which constitutes an interesting school- or district-wide experience from the global south that can be adapted to many contexts. Since its modest origins in Brazil, School PB has now been taken up in other cities and states across the US (e.g. Chicago, New York) and in many other countries across the globe, from Argentina and Mexico to Colombia, Spain, Russia, France, Italy, Zambia, South Korea, and Portugal. We argue that School PB aligns well with Freire’s ideas on dialogue, participation, collaboration, creativity, student agency, and change. In this paper we focus on the experience of School PB in Arizona, not only because it was in Arizona where the first School PB process in the U.S. was designed and implemented, but also because it has been a place for continuous experimentation and innovation.