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192 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1968
Freire's answer to this problem is to question the 'giving' involved. Instead, he conceptualises a radically different model of learning where the 'teachers' and 'students' collaborate and commune with each other in investigating reality, approaching it not as lectures but in the form of problems to be solved.
"[T]he master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change."In general, Freire's ideas oppose hierarchies; whether between leaders and people or between theory and praxis; towards a radical, possible, transformative change.
The oppressors do not perceive their monopoly on having more as a privilege which dehumanizes others and themselves. They cannot see that, in the egoistic pursuit of having as a possessive class, they suffocate in their possessions and no longer are; they merely have. For them, having more is an inalienable right, a right they acquired through their own "effort", with their "courage to take risks". If others do not have more, it is because they are incompetent and lazy, and worst of all is their unjustifiable ingratitude towards the "generous gestures" of the dominant class. Precisely because they are "ungrateful" and "envious", the oppressed are regarded as potential enemies who must be watched.Paulo Freire wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed in 1960s Brazil, but his critical theories extend to any society today whose heart beats to the drum of capitalism and consumerism. The book is eminently quotable and makes it point much better than I ever could, so in the spirit of dialogue (which is an instrument of liberation!), I will allow my own thoughts to dialogue with those of Senhor Freire.
The means used are not important; to alienate men from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.I hear echoes of Marx in the background, and Freire's nods to his Latin American communist brethren come as no surprise. The first step to changing this socially unjust order is to recognise its existence.
The pedagogy of the oppressed is an instrument for their critical discovery that both they and their oppressors are manifestations of dehumanization.The pedagogy of the oppressed is akin to a commitment to social justice, resulting in an eventual transformation of an existing, unequal power structure. It all begins with education. Freire very meticulously outlines his theory of what education should be, in marked contrast to what it is: an oppressive form of "education" (read: indoctrination), which he terms the "banking" concept of education, because the teacher simply deposits tidbits of knowledge (or cash) into the student's head (bank account) without actually teaching the student to fish (sorry, these metaphors are tricky little buggers).
Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence.What we need is a pedagogy that is "problem-posing", that engages students in dialogue and teaches people to ask questions. The goal of this broad-canvas curriculum is the gradual awakening of a critical consciousness. There is a criticism looming: are we not still using an us-them, teacher-student framework? The "teacher" in this scenario is engaged in the process alongside the "students", and is just as likely to come from the ranks of the oppressed as the oppressors, as everyone's consciousness is distorted by this oppressive power structure. It is key, however, for the leaders of the transformation to have unshakable trust in the people's inherent capabilities.
Self-depreciation is another characteristic of the oppressed, which derives from their internalization of the opinion the oppressors hold of them. So often do they hear that they are good for nothing, know nothing and are incapable of learning anything−that they are sick, lazy, and unproductive−that in the end they become convinced of their own unfitness.Whether the message is direct or veiled, the end result is the same: the oppressed person knows their place, and is liable to stay there unless something can halt this chain of negative actions and reactions.
But almost always, during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors, or "sub-oppressors". The very structure of their thought has been conditioned by the contradictions of the concrete, existential situation by which they were shaped.This truth terrifies me. How is it that people born and bred in absolute poverty can go on to amass millions, flaunting their riches and living with their contradictions? How can promising young politicians be initiated into the very culture of corruption they professed to want to change? It is easier to cross the bridge to the other side than to change the entire landscape.
Conditioned by the experience of oppressing others, any situation other than their former seems to them like oppression. Formerly, they could eat, dress, wear shoes, be educated, travel, and hear Beethoven; while millions did not eat, had no clothes or shoes, neither studied nor traveled, much less listened to Beethoven. Any restriction on this way of life, in the name of the rights of the community, appears to the former oppressors as a profound violation of their individual rights−although they had no respect for the millions who suffered and died of hunger, pain, sorrow, and despair. For the oppressors, "human beings" refers only to themselves; other people are "things". For the oppressors, there exists only one right: their right to live in peace, over against the right, not always even recognized, but simply conceded, of the oppressed to survival. And they make this concession only because the existence of the oppressed is necessary to their own existence.It is this belief in the right to live in peace, without restrictions, that drives the capitalist machine, collateral damage be damned. I'm looking at you, America.
join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation[…] as they cease to be exploiters or indifferent spectators or simply the heirs of exploitation and move to the side of the exploited, they almost always bring with them the marks of their origin: their prejudices… which include a lack of confidence in the people’s ability to think, to want, and to know[…] A real humanist can be identified more by [her] trust in the people, which engages [her] in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favour without that trust
Pedagogy which begins with the egotistic interests of the oppressors (an egoism cloaked in the false generosity of paternalism) and makes the oppressed the objects of its humanitarianism, itself maintains and embodies oppression. It is an instrument of dehumanisation
The oppressors do not favour promoting the community as a whole, but rather selected leaders
Someone who cannot acknowledge himself to be mortal as everyone else still has a long way to go before he can reach the point of encounter. At the point of encounter there are neither utter ignoramuses nor perfect sages; there are only people who are attempting, together, to learn more than they now know. Dialogue further requires an intense faith in humankind, faith in their power to make and remake, to create and re-create, faith in their vocation to be more fully human (which is not the privilege of an elite, but the birthright of all).
Finally, true dialogue cannot exist unless the dialoguers engage in critical thinking – thinking which discerns and indivisible solidarity between the world and the people and admits of no dichotomy between them – thinking which perceives reality as a process, as transformation, rather than as a static entity – thinking which does not separate itself from action, but constantly immerses itself in temporality without fear of the risks involved. Critical thinking contrasts with naive thinking, which sees 'historical time as a weight, a stratification of the acquisitions and experiences of the past', from which the present should emerge normalised and 'well-behaved'. For the naive thinker, the important thing is accommodation to this normalised 'today'. For the critic, the important thing is the continuing transformation of reality.
...the former oppressors do not feel liberated. On the contrary, they genuinely consider themselves to be oppressed. Conditioned by the experience of oppressing others, any situation other than their former seems to them like oppression. Formerly, they could eat, dress, wear shoes, be educated, travel, and hear Beethoven; while millions did not eat, had no clothes or shoes, neither studied nor travelled, much less listened to Beethoven. Any restriction on this way of life, in the name of the rights of the community, appears to the former oppressors as a profound violation of their individual rights – although they had no respect for the millions who suffered and died of hunger, pain, sorrow, and despair. For the oppressors, 'human beings' refers only to themselves; other people are 'things'.
In order to present for the consideration of the oppressed and subjugated a world of deceit designed to increase alienation and passivity, the oppressors develop a series of methods precluding any presentation of the world as a problem and showing it rather as a fixed entity, as something given – something to which people, as mere spectators, must adapt. […] It is accomplished by the oppressors' depositing myths indispensable to the preservation of the status quo: for example, the myth that the oppressive order is a 'free society'; the myth that all persons are free to work where they wish, that if they don't like their boss they can leave him and find another job; the myth that this order respects human rights and is therefore worthy of esteem; the myth that everyone who is industrious can become an entrepreneur – worse yet, the myth that the street vendor is as much an entrepreneur as the owner of a large factory...