Paulo Freire, the youngest of four children was born on September the 19th 1921, to an economically comfortable working-class Catholic family. They lived in the port city of Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco. This North eastern region of Brazil was and continues to be one of the most impoverished in the country. When Paulo was only three years old, his father an officer of the Pernambuco military police, was forced to retire prematurely due to a serious heart condition. This destabilised the family’s economic condition, forcing them to move to Jaboatao Dos Guararapes, a modern town outside of Recife. The world economic crisis of the time negatively affected the economic conditions of Freire’s family who fell into deeper poverty. The economy recession experienced by the family caused Freire to experience hunger and poverty at a young age.
Freire’s pedagogy emerged from his observations and experiences of working as an instructor in literacy programs with peasant laborers in Brazil. During this work, Freire became aware of the economic, political, and social domination resulting from paternalism. Paternalism leads to a culture of silence, which keeps people from confronting their oppression. He turned this philosophy to pedagogy because ‘the whole education system was one of the major instruments for the maintenance of this culture of silence.’ Pedagogy of the Oppressed is Paulo Freire’s best-known work. He wrote it during his first years of exile from Brazil and it was first published in 1968. The book was translated into English in 1970. It has been banned and blacklisted on several occasions by different governments who have found the book to be subversive and dangerous. Among these governments was the South African government during Apartheid. In the United States of America in the 21st century, the book was banned from being taught in public schools in the state of Arizona under House Bill 2281.
Freire’s philosophy of education centre’s on critical consciousness, whereby the oppressed recognise the causes of their oppression ‘so that through transforming action they can create a new situation, one which makes possible the pursuit of fuller humanity.’: Freire’s goal was to adapt people to their oppressive conditions. Teachers attempt to control the thinking and actions of their students, who are treated as passive objects. In his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire advocates a revolutionary program for education and liberation among the oppressed people of the world. Critical Pedagogy within education is giving you that ability to critically look at something and suggest something new and how to change it. It is not just about us as teachers or students, it is about a system and a structure within our society. Pedagogies approach to education describes this as traditional education, he is saying that this is dehumanising, and you are taking away people’s humanity. Freire seeks to unveil the oppressor oppressed contradiction and counter the closed system of Eurocentric rationality in education and society. It is not about having authority over the students; it is about developing people’s awareness and critical thinking in a non-authoritarian manner. This is a transformation-based approach to education. Therefore, is the teacher the oppressor or are they oppressed? Freire is saying that you can be the leader of change and revolution. Progressive education, the curriculum is still held with the teacher. At what point does the teacher become the sub oppressor. For this reason, are teachers’ sub-oppressors as they are following the curriculum that is set out. They must maintain the achievement rates, and you are also being employed to teach the curriculum. The teacher would have to be resistance to the curriculum and say that this is not my role, my role is to teach people critical thinking and to raise the consciousness of the students. Freire is very passionate about this. If someone feels like they want to have power over someone else then it is not changing the system, it is just continuing as no one would be challenging this way of working teaching. This would keep people oppressed, this is known as the banking method. According to Freire, those who are oppressed are dehumanised by their oppressors. If you dehumanise someone, they are not complete, not normal. This is a constant cycle, the oppressed do not want it to be this way as it takes away the persons rights, power, feelings, and their own personalities. The problem is that there is a process, that there are people, that are taking away the humanity of others. People are humanised and others are taking it away from them. As a result, the oppressed seek freedom and justice, even if they do not realise it or know how to achieve it. Based on the view of the world that divides people into the categories of oppressor or oppressed, Freire suggests a new approach to education that would address this. He calls this approach the pedagogy of the oppressed.
So is Freire in authority or presenting as an authority. Freire presents himself as both, at least he desires to be. As an authority he would need to be very knowledgeable of the subject that they are in or around, an expert in that ideal or idea. If you were in authority you would be someone who sets the policy, in a position of power to change people’s behaviours and how they do things in the future. Freire is definitely very knowledgeable; this is clear to see by the passion and knowledge he displays in his book. He has had several roles in a position of power, such as head of Division of Public Relations, Education and Culture. He also worked closely with schools, examining how policy was made and how it affected the quality of education for the students. Freire accepted a position as a consultant for the Division of Research and Planning. It was during this time that Freire began to establish himself as a progressive educator.
Pedagogy, most understood as the approach to teaching, is the theory and practice of learning, and how this process influences, and is influenced by, the social, political, and psychological development of learners. One of the most powerful pedagogical examples is where students and teachers produce work and learning together. The teacher becomes more of a mentor or coach helping students achieve the learning goal. In the book, Freire calls traditional pedagogy the ‘banking model of education’ because it treats the student as an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge, like a piggy bank. He argues that pedagogy should instead treat the learner as a co-creator of knowledge. Darder (2018, p. 21) states that over the past five decades, the powerful message of The Pedagogy of the Oppressed has been embraced by progressive educators and activists everywhere. As one of the most influential educational philosophers of the twentieth century. He has been associated with literacy campaigns and popular education movements in Latin America. In the United States he is seen as one of the major intellectual inspirations for the foundation of critical pedagogy. Freire’s influence has spread far and wide and has continued to do so even after his untimely death in 1997. He is also considered to be one of the most distinguished intellectual figures to emerge from Latin America. His influence is still hotly debated in Brazil. Having been posthumously made a Patron of Education in 2012, an ally of far-right president Bolsonaro, tried (and failed) to have the title stripped from Freire in 2018. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, has proved inspirational to many teachers. Beginning in the poverty stricken north-east of Brazil during the immediate post-war years, Freire’s work has subsequently broadened and developed into one of the most powerful and stimulating of contemporary educational theories that is still referred to and used today.
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