Freire‘s ideas about education had a deeply philosophical origin. He believed, for instance, that the purpose of education was to help mankind recover its “lost” humanity and that education was a way to recognize the inherent dignity and intelligence of all people independent of social or economic status.
The maxim you mention can be understood as a call to remember that education must always be contextualized. Any decision a teacher makes must emerge from a preconceived set of assumptions about society, the nature of the individual, and education’s role in that society. Friere’s point is that teaching requires a certain consciousness about why we teach the way we do and an understanding of how curriculum and methodology connect to an overarching philosophical understanding of society and human potential.
When a teacher or potential teacher contemplates his/her future approach to pedagogical methodology, one of the first principles must be the establishment of the relation between education and “life purpose” – that is, what is the purpose of individual effort, why does a person try to learn something – to gain employment skills? To become a better person? To get to heaven? To survive? To understand the universe, physics, cause-effect logic? Etc. In other words, a teacher must know what teaching method will best apply to the desired end. That inquiry is basically a philosophy one, an inquiry into one’s Weltanschaung, one’s view of the world. The philosophical view that we are here to fulfill some destiny will suggest a different educational path from the view that we should create something never before conceived. A teacher, then, can teach “that that is” or “that that is not.” In language, for example, the teacher can teach the “rules” of grammar, or can teach poetic and creative deviations from the rules (Jakobsen or Cummings). Also, some philosophical attitude toward the mind-body connection must be established whenever a teacher wants to influence a student’s mind.