Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

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Paulo Freire is probably the most influential writer on educator in the tweentieth century. His book Pedagogy of the Oppressed touches on a very sensitive note of education and the oppressed in the society.

The book Pedagogy of the Oppressed is comprised of 4 chapters, an introduction and a preface.  The first chapter revolves around oppression and how to overcome it.  Freire thinks that people who are oppressed could actually be scared of freedom. “Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion.” To attain freedom there must be praxis or putting into action the theories.

The second chapter discusses “banking” in education.  “Banking” means students are being treated as empty bank accounts that open to the deposits of the teacher.  Freire was against this approach because it could lead to dehumanization of students and teachers. It also encourages opression in society.  Freire instead suggested that there should be mutual approach in learning that recognizes the fact that people, both students and teachers, are incomplete. People must be made aware of the incompleteness so they can strive to be more human or conscientization.  Education becomes an instrument to shape the person and society.

The third chapter is about “the essence of education as the practice of freedom” and dialogue or combinedly termed as dialogics.  Words combine reflection and action and true words can effect change. Dialogue should be carried out with respect and cooperation to arrive at an understanding thereby changing the world.

“Authentic” education should make us of dialogue between student and teacher.  Freire believed that limitations in dialogue between the colonized and colonizer causes dehumanization to the parties sinvolved. True dialogue is not possible. Consequently, preventing transformation to occur.

The fourth and last chapter suggests that dialogics is the method to free the colonized.  There should be cooperation, unity, organization and cultural synthesis.  The opposite of dialogics is antidialogics which use force, conquest, manipulation, cultural invasion and divide and rule. Freire states that populist dialogue gives rise to revolition. Hindering the dialogue only dehumanizes.  This is called dichotomy.  Dichotomy can also be used in student-teacher and colonizer-colonized situations.

Based on the summary we can see that there are five main points on which Paulo Freire’s stressed on his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  First is the importance of dialogue.  Dialogue to be effective Paulo insists that it should be done with respect.  The need to work with each other instead of against each other is crucial to make the dialogue a success.

The second point of contention is praxis or informed action.  Dialogue being the basic requirement for understanding is best manifested by an informed action.

Third, the pedagogy of the oppressed or pedagogy of hope is comprised of educators who worked with the oppressed.   To advance the cause of the oppressed there is a need for conscientization or consciousness that can change reality.

Fourth, educational activities must occur in the experience of the participants. Stressing the importance of words that can influence changes in the world is an example of this aspect.

Fifth, metaphors based on Christian teachings.  For instance, teachers and students should transcend divisions.  This can be achieved when learners improved in their understanding or consciousness.  The biggest factor in achieving this transcendence though is the teacher. They must live the ‘Easter experience’ or ‘class suicide’. This means that the educator must ‘die’ or detach himself from being the unilateral educator of the educatees to become the educator-educatee of the educatees-educators. Therefore, the learning experience is not concentrated on the students alone but both teacher and students must mutually learn from the experience.  Each contributing something to the other for deeper understanding.  Thus, both assuming the role of educator-educatees.  

Ordinary people can use the teachings of ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ in day to day living by stressing the importance of dialogue, with emphasis on respect of both parties, in resolving conflicts as well as making oneself understood.  It is important that there is willingness to listen to each other before true dialogue can occur.

The Pedagogy also teaches us that everyday of our lives is a learning experience. The learning does not stop at the classroom but instruction goes on in the real world.  The teacher also learns something from the student. The acquisition of knowledge is a shared experience not solitary one.  Also, action should be based on informed decisions. It is important to know the facts and weigh things before acting out in a tough situation.


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