Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

"Pedagogy of the Oppressed" is the most widely known of educator Paulo Freire's works. It was first published in Portuguese in 1968 as "Pedagogia do oprimido" and the first English translation was published in 1970. The book examines the struggle for justice and equity within the educational system and proposes a new pedagogy.

Dedicated "to the oppressed, and to those who suffer with them and fight at their side," Freire includes a detailed Marxist class analysis in his exploration of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. Rooted in his own experience helping Brazilian adults to read and write, the book remains popular among educators in developing countries. According to Donaldo Macedo, a former colleague of Freire and University of Massachusetts professor, the text is still revolutionary, and he cites as evidence students from totalitarian states risking punishment to read "Pedagogy of the Oppressed". The book has sold over 750 000 copies worldwide and is one of the foundations of critical pedagogy.


Translated into several languages, most editions of "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" contain at least one introduction/foreword, a preface, and four chapters.

The first chapter explores how oppression has been justified and how it is overcome through a mutual process between the "oppressor" and the "oppressed". Examining how the balance of power between the colonizer and the colonized remains relatively stable, Freire admits that the powerless in society can be frightened of freedom. He writes, "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." (47) According to Freire, freedom will be the result of "praxis"--informed action--when a balance between theory and practice is achieved.

The second chapter examines the "banking" approach to education -- a metaphor used by Freire that suggests students are considered empty bank accounts that should remain open to deposits made by the teacher. Freire rejects the "banking" approach, claiming it results in the dehumanization of both the students and the teachers. In addition, he argues the banking approach stimulates oppressive attitudes and practices in society. Instead, Freire advocates for a more world-mediated, mutual approach to education that considers people incomplete. According to Freire, this "authentic" approach to education must allow people to be aware of their incompleteness and strive to be more fully human. This attempt to use education as a means of consciously shaping the person and the society is called conscientization, a term first coined by Freire in this book.

The third chapter is devoted to dialogics--"the essence of education as the practice of freedom"--and dialogue. Freire argues that words involve a radical interaction between reflection and action and that true words are transformational. Dialogue requires mutual respect and cooperation to not only develop understanding, but also to change the world. "Authentic" education, according to Freire, will involve dialogue between the teacher and the student, mediated by the broader world context. He warns that the limits imposed upon both the colonizer and the colonized dehumanize everyone involved, thereby removing the ability for dialogue to occur, inevitably barring the possibility of transformation.

This chapter developed the use of the term limit-situation with regards to dimensions of human praxis. This is in line with the Alvaro Viera Pinto's use of the word/idea in his "Consciencia Realidad Nacional" which Freire contends is "using the concept without the pessimistic character originally found in Jaspers"(Note 15, Chapter 3) in reference to Karl Jaspers notion of 'Grenzsituationen'.

The last chapter proposes dialogics as an instrument to free the colonized, through the use of cooperation, unity, organization and cultural synthesis (overcoming problems in society to liberate human beings). This is in contrast to antidialogics which use conquest, manipulation, cultural invasion, and the concept of divide and rule. Freire suggests that populist dialogue is a necessity to revolution; that impeding dialogue dehumanizes and supports the status quo. This is but one example of the dichotomies Freire identifies in the book. Others include the student-teacher dichotomy and the colonizer-colonized dichotomy.

More detailed chapter by chapter summaries are available through [ The Communication Initiative] .


The work was strongly influenced by the work of Frantz Fanon.

ee also

*Theatre of the Oppressed


*Freire, Paulo. "Pedagogy of the Oppressed." New York: Continuum, 2007.

*Rich Gibson, [ The Frozen Dialectics of Paulo Freire] , in "NeoLiberalism and Education Reform", Hampton Press, 2006.

Issues in Freirean pedagogy

* Conscientization
* Critical consciousness
* Critical pedagogy
* Popular education
* Teaching for social justice
* Adult literacy
* Adult education
* Praxis

External links

* [ Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire]

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