Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Pedagogy of the oppressed

In this book, the Brazilian author Paulo Freire depicts a critical understanding of education. Being a teacher myself, I have to say that this book really touched me and gave me the material I needed to consider the primary questions I had to answer.

Key concepts : oppressors and oppressed

In the first chapter, P. Freire describes society in his terms, making a clear distinction between the oppressors and the oppressed. The oppressed are forced to live in a world they didn’t create and in which they do not know the codes. They are voluntarily kept ignorant by the oppressors, who surprisingly, only represent 1% of the population.

Freire gives the remedy to this situation which he calls “concientizacao”. This is the educating process through which the oppressed discover and accept their condition and try to find the way out of it. From the very first pages of the book, it is made clear that without consciousness, there is no possible progress.

This process of liberation is not seen as a gift or a self-achievement though, but as a mutual process. Great importance is given to the synergy effect and how crucial it is to have a “group consciousness” and to take action in order to educate others by an horizontal fraternity (meaning within a same social group, which is in fact, the only fraternity alive).

In chapter 2, he focuses on the system of education, comparing it to the banking system. This analogy is in fact, extremely relevant in so far as there is the will to “fill” what is considered “empty”. This harsh but accurate statement led him to say “education ss suffering from narration sickness”.

Technically, vibrant and young spirits are kept sitting for 7 hours a day, having to remain quiet and listen to “the person who knows” in a classroom where any breach of discipline no matter how stupid the teacher is, is punished (that’s my personal thought here, for which I have undergone my hierarchy’s anger this year and throughout my scholarship).
Moreover, the ability of the learner is evaluated with figures that are of major importance to society. The higher the mark, the better and the lower the worse.

Paulo Freire endeavors to find concrete solutions, underlining the fact that education is a mutual and world-mediated process, in which everyone as experience to share. The truth is : most of the things we learn at  school will be forgotten within a month and more importantly, that we have rarely used it in our daily lives. On the contrary, the most important things we have learnt are processes like cooperation, unity, organization development and synthesis learnt primarily outside school from experience.

Chapter 3 concentrates on dialogue.
Dialogics is the system that should be used in teaching. It consists in a dialogue form of teaching inherited from the church and has the quality to consider the learner as a reflecting and mature subject. Together, the learner and the teacher will search for a theme to study and define in what practical situations it can be used. The author defines the quality subject (which arouses intellectual curiosity) as “the generative theme”. To debate and learn from these theme, on which everyone has an opinion and knowledge, the investigative style is proposed. An investigation suggests that a group, in which everyone as a precise role will make the best of each member’s ability to find a solution. This kind of work is designed to awaken critical consciousness.

Chapter 4 depicts the actual opposite of the dialogical system
And its terrible development to this day. A synthesis of cultural invasions and conquests to this day is made, which beautifully highlights the strategies of manipulation utilized to keep 99% of the people enslaved and oppressed.

Just like Shi Zu Freddie Lee did, I highly encourage anyone to read this book and learn more about Paulo Freire, who has proven to be one of the freshest thinkers of our contemporary time.

“Young people have the right to express the way they do and it is beautiful. But they have to learn the dominant way of speaking, the cultivated one. In order to fight injustices, one must be able to speak both languages: the one of the oppressors and the one of the oppressed” – Paulo Freire.

Todai Ling


  1. A dialogic network of learners (with particular base values) is exactly what I'm hoping will come out of the online aspect of FMK/ zen martial arts. As the director of a post-secondary program that operates out of an indigenous knowledge/ value system, the pedagogy of the oppressed is pretty much my life. What I've found, however, is that it's very important to transcend (eventually) the anger that originally comes with consciousness/ awareness of the history and context. Many academically oriented members of the oppressed get caught in the anger, because ever since the post-modern critique was launched (40 years ago) this anger has become increasingly rewarded. And the problem is, caught in this, the oppressed learner never commits much to really exploring different ways of knowing or alternative skills to what is provided by the mainstream, I disagree with Friere's assertion that the language and literate tradition of the oppressors should necessarily be learned, or that giving a nod to the validity of other ways is enough. To really learn the language/ literature of another is to embody its values, and that is the trap. What I try to do in my program is host courses that are either entirely anchored in our indigenous knowledge, theories, methodologies, etc... Or, present the mainstream approach/ theories to students and have them work at successfully identifying both its benefits and its shortcomings by critiquing from the basis of our own paradigm

  2. Thank you very much for your reply Ryan.
    It is funny because what you are talking about is exactly the point where I am now, having started spiritual learning two years ago. The anger starts arousing and is only controlled through physical training.
    I'd like to use Osho's metaphor about spiritual development since its pretty relevant. "At first, you are a camel, and you always conform to everything. WHen you get a glance of truth, you then become a lion. You will never be a camel again, you are always fighting and you feel very alone. But then another state has to come, the one of "the child". You feel like a rebirth and must find concrete solutions (what you describe as "different ways of knowing and alternative skills")". These three stages are very traditionnal and are refered to, in Japanese martial arts as "SHU - HA - RI" but it's in fact present all over the world, hidden in traditions. Since I'm only beginning to discover a few things, I hope the interaction with FMK will provide the ressources to find more about it and become more fully human.

  3. That is a pretty good metaphor for the process I'm familiar with

  4. Thank you for the post, I loved it. I really enjoyed reading the conversation between you and Ryan as well. I really enjoyed that book & I'm glad to see that you enjoyed it as well.

  5. Thanks for the post... It was a nice read for me...


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