Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“Like Paulo, become a threat, become a threat to the system!” exclaimed a very excited NYU Professor couple of years ago. (No, he wasn’t talking to Muslims; he was simply addressing a group of student-teachers).

Imagine the teaching power of a person who is banned and exiled from a country for teaching. Yup, that’s it. And no he wasn’t teaching his students how to make bombs, either. He was simply banned for his Educational Philosophies. Now that’s power.

Paulo Friere, was banned from Brazil and lived in exile for most of his life. One wonders, why and how he was able to cause so much fear among authoritarian governments?

“In Brazil, peasants who participated in the cultural circles not only acquired tools to unveil structures of domination, but also acquired literacy skills in a record time of 40 days. Thus, the reason that led to the cancellation of the literacy project and to Freire's imprisonment was clearly not its inefficiency, but the military government's fear of its potential political implications. Upon being expelled from Brazil, Freire found political asylum in Bolivia, but after three weeks another coup d'etat forced him to seek refuge in an effervescent Chile, where a few years later he would witness yet another military intervention and a new exile. These experiences played an important role in his political radicalization.”

Excerpts taken from different sources but mostly from here:

1. In 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed,' Freire examines the authoritarian educational system, and labels its practice as 'banking education.' In this model, the teacher is the subject of the learning process, and the learners are its objects; the role of the teacher is to deposit contents in the mind of the learner, as if it was a tabula rasa to be filled with information. Hence, the teacher is considered as knowledgeable and the student as ignorant. This oppressive model, says Freire, mirrors the attitudes and practices of an oppressive society in which to be is merely to have. He also deplores the dogmatic approach of authoritarian revolutionary leaders who do not want to waste time in dialogue, thinking that such time could be better used to 'reveal the truth.' For Freire, this 'vanguardist' approach is as banking and reprehensible as the education model carried out by the elites.

2. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

3. Paulo Freire recognized through this experience that learning which affirms the dignity of people can enable even poor men and women to become producers of culture, ready to overcome the culture of silence. The central objective of this method was to create a new level of awareness, to bring about a new consciousness among the people.

4. In opposition to the banking model, Freire proposes a liberatory or emancipatory one, based on a horizontal relation between teachers and learners (co-intentionality), on critical thinking and on social transformation. In Freire's model, the teacher becomes a facilitator, the traditional class becomes a cultural circle, the emphasis shifts form lecture to problem-posing strategies, and the content, previously removed from the learners' experience, becomes relevant to the group. For Freire, literacy implies as much the acquisition of language as a political process of citizenship, in which people take history into their hands. Hence, the departure point of any educational process is not the world of the teacher, but the world of the learner. He also suggested that a critical analysis of reality could start with a critical reading of the official curriculum. He pointed out that teachers and students alike tend to consider the curriculum as something given, a neutral content to be transmitted, without understanding that education is a political act. The more teachers and students challenge this naive perspective, the easier it becomes to engage in a critical analysis of social reality.

[to be cont'...]