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Célestine Freinet

Biography of Célestine Freinet
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Célestine Freinet Biography

Célestine Freinet was born in 1896, on October 15, in a small village in the French Maritime Alps, and died in 1966 in Vence, after referring to knowledge and education. He spent his youth working in the fields, shepherding the flocks and this is remembered by Elisa, his wife: “the pastoral experience will be for Célestine the leitmotiv of his educational experience” (Elise Freinet, 1977). Freinet studied the complementary course of Grasse and later entered the normal school of teachers in Nice. At that time, the war of the fourteenth began and Freinet is forced to serve, the reason why he is seriously wounded in a lung when he was only 19 years old. That is why he received the Legion of Honor and the War Cross, and he went from hospital to hospital during four years of convalescence. He would never recover from his lung and his bad breath.

From 1920 onwards, he began to work in a small-town school where he developed his pedagogical activity. He started by introducing the printing press to the school and started a national movement with press articles. He also participated in international congresses of the “new education” and met teachers such as Ferrière, Claparède, Bovet, and Cousinet. Although it would not take long to get away from the traditional pedagogy and the new education (despite having good relations with its members) to investigate pedagogy in general.

At the political level, he was also very active since he was part of the union and the communist party. In 1925, he traveled to the USSR as a union delegate and there he met Krupskaia, the education minister, and wife of Lenin. In March 1926, he married Élise Lagier, governess, and artist, with whom he will have a daughter, Madeleine, in August 1929. Meanwhile, he worked in a traditional school where he was disappointed because the students get bored due to the school routine.

“Boys and girls learn by working. In this way, they build their own learning. The natural and universal way of learning is experimental scoring.” Célestine Freinet

In 1928, he and his wife Elise had already started a fundamental part of their work: printing, inter-school correspondence, the school cooperative and, at the national level, the secular education cooperative. Their project generated different problems in their jobs and their villages and that is why they dedicated themselves full-time to their secular teaching movement (which began producing material and editing pedagogical documents). In this way, they developed the experimental free school, between 1934 and 1935, and with the help of political friends and the leftist press managed to build a school in Vence where “The majority are children of Parisian workers, social cases from Social Assistance, children of mostly teachers enrolled for health reasons and, in isolation, four or five students from affluent families who trust us”(Elise Freinet, l968).

But after the Second World War came and Célestine Freinet was a known communist, for which he suffered a time in a concentration camp but managed to leave to participate in the resistance. After the war, they continued with their project and Freinet dies a little before turning 70 years old. In this way, his work was continued by his wife, who died in 1938. In 1958, with the aim of coordinating the movement on an international scale, the International Federation of Modern School Movements (FIMEM) was founded based on his research and beliefs in education.

Célestine Freinet and his wife conceived the school as a place of social renewal to establish a popular society where the school had a conscious relationship with other social areas such as family and politics. His idea revolved around natural education around the life and day-to-day activities and was guided by principles such as motivation, expression, and socialization. It was very important because it helped to constitute a modern pedagogy that dealt with learning in a more human way, from a groping approach to knowledge, to turn that knowledge into something to talk among their peers and end up joining the game with work.

“Give children the freedom to choose their work, to decide the timing and pace of this work, and everything will have changed.” Célestine Freinet

His technique is known as “the typography of the school” in which the classes produce various elements and techniques to create texts, drawings, correspondence, files and what he calls “book of life” where children narrate their stories and that of the class. Its function was for children to express themselves and communicate spontaneously, changing the relationship between school and life, something more useful and practical in a personal and social way. His most representative work is typography in the school. The collective work and the active method also usually represent their work. In that based his invention: to take communication and creativity to a place that, although it seems strange, had left it aside to focus on memory and repetition. Likewise, his idealism is criticized as a free education based on intersubjectivity.

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