About Paulo Freire
Born in 1921, Paulo Freire grew up in extreme poverty in Brazil, and was aware of the dehuminisation that deprivation brings. While still young, he dedicated himself to 'the struggle against hunger', and as an adult, he continued pursuing this vow by educating thousands of illiterate Brazilian and Chileans. Freire's views about education were captured in his book, 'Pedagogy of the oppressed', which was first published in 1970. His work was soon translated to English for an American audience, where some critics accused it of being vague, redundant and complex. Others felt that it advocated revolution and others were concerned by its use of quotes and concepts from socialist and communist leaders. What Freire had done was develop his own unique educational method that worked within the environment it was developed.
When Freire began the education process, he was appalled at the curriculum and texts being used. He interpreted this as a 'banking system of education', whereby the teacher speaks to the student, and the student listens, memorises and recites. He further thought that the language being used was too sophisticated for an illiterate and impoverished population, and so he set about creating education that used the day-to-day language and concepts of the people he was teaching to encourage dialogue and critical thinking.
Humanisation and freedom
Freire, following Marx, believed that freedom could be achieved through humanisation.He thought that humankind's purpose (or vocation) was the struggle to recover its lost humanity, but that humanisation can only occur when the impoverished realise that they have been subjected to dehuminisation through injustice, exploitation, oppression and violence. He further realised that these people needed to overcome their fear of freedom by refusing to conform - leading to break the cycle of poverty. He was also aware that when people are elevated from slave to overseer, the oppression can persist as they work to appease the owner. The cycle of violence continues if the prevailing order is not altered.
"Freedom requires autonomy and responsibility."
Freire's pedagogy for liberation is created in two stages:
1. The oppressed sees the world and commits to transformation
2. That vision of the world becomes shared as the old myths dissipate and liberation begins.
In his book 'Pedagogy of the oppressed', Freire calls himself a Humanist who engages in the struggle. He understood that when people are told repeatedly that they are ignorant, they begin to accept this as true , and this self-deprecation causes them to develop a dependence on their oppressor. Freier believed that the way to overcome this was via conscientization - the introduction of critical thinking and acknowledgement of students' intelligence.
Adapted from Duncan J. Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. Salem Press Biographical Encyclopedia. 2022. Accessed August 7, 2023