Monday, August 17, 2009

Love, Love, Love: Part 1

I've been working on research surrounding Paulo Freire's concept of radical love in relation to teaching. I presented a bit of this at the AATE Conference last week. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share some short installments of the research (a work in progress.)
“It is impossible to teach without the courage to try a thousand times before giving up. In short, it is impossible to teach without a forged, invented, and well-thought-out capacity to love. (Freire, 1998, p.3)
If you’d have told me two years ago that I’d be writing a research paper on love, I might have laughed. And while I still consider it amusing to ponder the subject, I find it important, difficult, intriguing, and critical to discover what love means in my own practice as a teaching artist—if it means anything at all.

Paulo Freire’s writings, philosophy, and practice have deeply influenced my pedagogy and practice as a drama educator. Peter McClaren (2000) maintains that Freire’s “unshamed stress on the power of love” (p. 171) makes him unique among other progressive and leftist educators. Freire (1998) argues, “It is impossible to teach without the courage to try a thousand times before giving up. In short, it is impossible to teach without a forged, invented, and well-thought-out capacity to love" (p. 3). But what is a thoughtful capacity to love? What does Freire mean? How does love relate to my own pedagogy?

In A Natural History of Love, Diane Ackerman maintains:
As a society, we are embarrassed by love. We treat it as if it were an obscenity. We reluctantly admit to it. Even saying the word makes us stumble and blush. Why should we be ashamed of an emotion so beautiful and natural? Love is the most important thing in our lives, a passion for which we would fight or die, and yet, we’re reluctant to linger over its name. Without a supple vocabulary, we can’t even talk or think about it directly. On the other hand, we have many sharp verbs for the ways in which human beings can hurt one another…. Our vocabulary of love and lovemaking is so paltry that a poet has to choose among clich├ęs…. Fortunately, this has led to some richly imagined works of art. It has inspired poets to create their own private vocabularies. (p. xix)
How appropriate is it that we, as teaching artists, theatre practitioners, actors, and educators explore and create our own vocabulary of love? Or are we too, ashamed of something that appears to be too gushy, silly, or emotional?

“Whoever sets out to write about love is taking the biggest risk of his or her life.” (Isn’t it Romantic, 2004, p. 17). I write this paper is because I want to know what love means for Freire, other educators, and me. Perhaps my exploration of my own definition of love will help you to agree, disagree, and ponder the meaning and concept of love within your own educational practice.

Up next: Freire’s concept of radical love and the roots of applied theatre.