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Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Updated: Oct 1, 2019

Paulo Freire was a respected Brazilian educator and theorist of critical pedagogy. His main belief was that only a education based on critical thinking could empower people and transform their reality. Otherwise, when the education is not focused on this kind of reflection, "the dream of the oppressed is to become the oppressor".

Critical perception cannot be imposed, but it can be stimulated.

Authentic thinking — that which is concerned about reality — does not take place in an ivory tower, but in communication. According to the author, a productive dialogue happens with love, humility and faith in people. It means that a horizontal relationship where there is mutual trust between people is essential.

Leaders who do not act this way, yet insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people; they manipulate them instead. Thus, manipulation attempts to anesthetize people who think on their own, which leads them to only "follow the flow".

Paulo Freire was right to say the oppressors will never stimulate this kind of reflection since the goal is to force people to obey the rules, and critical conscious thinking can stimulate the opposite behavior. For the oppressors, money (and its control) is the measure of all things, with profit being the primary goal. For them, "to be" is "to have".

According to the author, the process of liberation is a birth right, and a painful one. It's not easy to break these chains since we all need to make a living somehow. At this moment it's essential to be aware of oppressed people. When they accept the struggle for humanization they also accept, from that moment, their total responsibility for the struggle.

The journey is not easy at all, but just like Nietzche pointed out: "No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself".


"Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral"

Paulo Freire - "The Politics of Education"

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