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A brief introduction to the Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Ravi Resck 2 de December de 2022

This article aims to situate the reader about the importance of Paulo Freire's work, which was called “Pedagogia do Oprimido” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed) and was launched in a book of the same name in 1968 when he was in exile in Chile.

I found an incredible dissertation made byAlexandre M. Medeirosthat was removed from the sitePolitical Wisdom. I will present a brief introduction taken from Wikipedia and soon after the dissection made by Alexandre in full.

I believe that this material summarizes very well the central points of Paulo Freire's methodology and makes his work on the pedagogy of the oppressed accessible to anyone interested in learning more about this work.

I also wrote an article to relatePaulo Freire's approach to the Facilitation process.

Be sure to also see the article onTheater Of The Oppressed, a methodology of dramatic expression focused on social empowerment based on the pedagogy of the oppressed.

Dedicated to what are referred to as “the ragged of the world”, it is based on reflections made during his exile in Chile, a period in which he helped with popular education experiences.

Freire includes a detailed analysis of the relationship between what he calls “colonizer” and “colonized”, using as a basis the “Dialectic of the Lord and the Slave” extracted from thePhenomenology of the SpiritinHegel.

With over one million copies sold, it is the third most cited work in academic works in the humanities field worldwide, ahead of classics likeWatch and PunishinMichel FoucaultandThe capitalinKarl Marx.


The book was written in 1968, when the author was in exile in Chile. Prohibited in Brazil, it was only published in the country in 1974. Written as an essay, it is divided into four chapters:

  • Justification of the pedagogy of the oppressed
  • The “banking” conception of education as an instrument of oppression. Your assumptions, your criticism
  • Dialogicity: the essence of education as a practice of freedom
  • The theory of antidialogic action

In Portugal the book was first published in 1972 by Edições Afrontamento.

THEfirst chapterit is dedicated to the analysis of the “oppressor-oppressed contradiction”. It examines the concrete situation of oppression from the perspective of the oppressors and the oppressed. He concludes by stating that "no one frees anyone, no one frees himself: men free themselves in communion".

THEsecond chapter, in general more remembered by the readers, is dedicated to the study of banking and problematizing concepts of education. He concludes the analyzes observing that “nobody educates anyone - nobody educates himself - men educate themselves, mediated by the world.”

Man is seen as "an inconclusive being, aware of his inconclusion and his permanent movement in search of the Being More".

THEthird chapterdiscusses the relationship between dialogicity (the essence of education as a practice of freedom) and dialogue. It examines the generating themes and the programmatic content of education, works on the methodology of the generating themes and their awareness-raising possibilities.

Finally, thefourth chapterit is dedicated to the study of antidialogicity and dialogicity as matrixes of antagonistic theories of cultural action: the first, which serves oppression and the second, committed to liberation.

Medeiros (2013, p. 128-129) highlights how one of the reasons that led Freire to write this work was the problem of humanization / dehumanization:

(objectification) that our society goes through, because the contradictions that exist there generate a dehumanized and dehumanizing totality and, in this case, the Pedagogy of the Oppressed can be understood as a Humanist Pedagogy that strives for humanization, for free work, for disalienation, for the affirmation of men as persons, as “beings for themselves”.

Torres (2008, p. 10) complements these brief analyzes in relation to the Pedagogy of the Oppressed: “I am convinced that there are two books that mark important developments in the philosophy of education in the 20th century: one is Education and Democracy, by John Dewey, and another is Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed ”.

And Gadotti (2004, p. 59) considers that the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, elaborated in the early years of exile, is “the result of an educational work carried out in concrete situations, and not of intellectual daydreams or simply reading books”.

The Pedagogy of the Oppressed byPaulo Freirebrings up the question of the dialectical relationship (contradiction) between oppressors versus oppressed and how it is necessary to practice that can guide an action aimed at overcoming these contradictions.

Chapter I

In its first chapter, entitled “Justification of the Pedagogy of the Oppressed”,Paulo Freire(1987, p. 16) discusses the process of dehumanization caused by the oppressor to his oppressed “[…] dehumanization, which is not only found in those who have their humanity stolen, but also, albeit differently, in those who steal it, it is distortion of the vocation of being more ”.

Freire reports that the form of imposition that the oppressor involves the oppressed causes them to “be less”, that is, they see themselves in conditions where they need their usurper. In this chapter Paulo Freire develops such a discussion around the opposition between humanization and dehumanization and the struggle to recover humanity from the oppressed.

And this struggle only makes sense when the oppressed, in seeking to recover their humanity, which is a way of creating it, do not feel ideally oppressive, nor do they, in fact, become oppressors of oppressors, but restorers of humanity in both (1987 , p. 16)

Paulo Freire's understanding of the Humanization of the Human Being is constructed as an ontology of being. He understands that the human being is an unfinished being - in the same sense as the Sartrean existentialist philosophy (GARCIA, 2008) - and in a constant process of humanization.

In other words, the ontological vocation of human beings is a continuous process of their humanization in search of “being more”. Mendonça (2008) considers that Freire was influenced by three aspects of humanism: existentialist humanism, Christian humanism and Marxist humanism.

It is worth mentioning that Freire's existentialist humanism is not limited only to Sartre's thinking, but also to the thinking of philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Gabriel Marcel and Karl Jaspers.

And Medeiros (2013, p. 130) emphasizes the human being's ontological vocation: “it is to be a subject and not an object. Be subject of history, of your own history.

A story that is not built in a vacuum, but in society, in which men and women are able to “be more”, more human, and to overcome any situation of dehumanization ”.

By assuming that the central problem of humanity's present history is that of its humanization, Freire naturally understands that this is in opposition to its dehumanization, thus recognizing the historical opposition between Humanization and Dehumanization: the opposite of the process of its vocation is dehumanization of human beings (MELO JÚNIOR; NOGUEIRA, 2011).

Freire recognizes dehumanization as a historical and ontological reality (MEDEIROS, 2013, p. 130). And the process of freedom must be seen as a struggle to free themselves from the dehumanization situation in which the oppressed find themselves.

Education as a practice of freedom

Liberation from the state of oppression is a social action, and therefore cannot happen in isolation. Man is a social being and therefore, the awareness and transformation of the environment must happen in society.

But how can man get out of oppression if those who “teach us” are also those who oppress us? In developing your book,Paulo Freireseeks to make teachers aware of their problematizing role in the reality of the student and how education also plays an important role in this process of seeking freedom and that, therefore, Freire is led to deepen some points discussed in his first work: Education as a practice of freedom.

No one frees anyone, no one frees himself: men free themselves in communion

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1987, p. 29)

Political action towards the oppressed must be a “cultural action” for freedom. It is like men that the oppressed have to fight and not as "things".

The process of dehumanization makes men menacing and, therefore, fighting for their humanization is to make them stop being “things”.

It is precisely because they are reduced to almost “things”, in the relationship of oppression in which they are, that they are destroyed. In order to rebuild it is important that they overcome this state of almost “thing”.

This freedom that the oppressed craves so much, has to be achieved through his own effort and in communion with others, because as stated by Freire (1987, p. 29), “nobody frees anyone and nobody frees himself: men are freed in communion".

And when he cannot see that he is alienated, it is not a donation that someone makes, but a painful search to find that freedom, immersed in this world that the oppressor exposes him, the oppressed are afraid of that freedom, they are divided on leaving of that world which is trapped or free, leaves them confused, and continues to suffer within.

“Liberation, therefore, is a birth. It is a painful birth. The man who is born from this birth is a new man ”(FREIRE, 1987, p. 19). It is difficult, exhausting to find it, but when it comes to being in the lives of the oppressed, they become beings different from what could be seen before.

“There would be no oppressed, if there were not a relationship of violence that shapes them as violated, in an objective situation of oppression” (FREIRE, 1987, p.23). The oppressed conform, accept and accept the violence with which they are treated, do not try to see the reality around them, accept everything easily, are humiliated by the oppressors.

"Only the oppressed, freeing themselves, can free the oppressors"

(FREIRE, 1987, p.24).

In other words, the moment the oppressed are freed, the oppressors will cease to exist, and thus both will find freedom. Oppressors generate oppressors, and many who are oppressed aspire to be oppressors because of the "power" of oppression, which is opposed by many oppressed people.

The dichotomy of the oppressed who becomes oppressive

Although the oppressor seems to be above all, he is also not a free being, because he depends on the oppressed to be above others, he needs “power”.

“For oppressors, what matters is having more and more, at the expense of having less, or having nothing from the oppressed”

(FREIRE, 1987, p.25).

The oppressors do not measure the consequences, to continue in their role as oppressor, the more they have, the more they want to have, it becomes an endless search, they do not care if the oppressed have nothing, what they want is to reach their goals, with nothing Care.

But once men, challenged by the drama of the current hour, pose themselves as a problem, discover that they know little about themselves, about their “position in the cosmos”, and are anxious to know more.

The problem of its humanization, despite having always been, from an axiological point of view, its central problem, today assumes a character of major concern.

The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which cannot be elaborated by the oppressors, is one of the instruments for this critical discovery, that of the oppressed by itself and that of the oppressed by the oppressed, as manifestations of dehumanization.

If men are the producers of this reality and if this, in the “inversion of praxis”, turns on them and conditions them, then transforming the oppressive reality is a historical task, it is the task of men and women.

In becoming oppressive, reality implies the existence of those who oppress and those who are oppressed. The pedagogy of the oppressed, which, at heart, is the pedagogy of men engaged in the struggle for their liberation, has its roots there.

The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which seeks to restore intersubjectivity, presents itself as the pedagogy of man.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, as a humanistic and liberating pedagogy, will have two distinct moments.

The first, in which the oppressed are unveiling the world of oppression and committing themselves, in praxis, to its transformation; the second, in which, when the oppressive reality is transformed, this pedagogy ceases to be that of the oppressed and becomes the pedagogy of men in a permanent process of liberation.

According to Medeiros (2013, p. 129) this Humanist Pedagogy is also characterized:

for a movement of freedom that arises from the oppressed, with pedagogy being carried out and implemented with the people in the struggle for their humanity. It is a pedagogy of men and women who struggle in a permanent process for their liberation, so it necessarily has to be done with the people through reflection on oppression and its causes, which generates a transforming action, called liberating praxis (MEDEIROS, 2013 , p. 129).

Chapter II

In Chapter II,Paulo Freirediscusses “The 'banking' conception of education as an instrument of oppression”, and aims to show the most common ways of conducting and maintaining a society inert.

Therefore, it leads us to aspire for a release from that inertia, from this stage of puppets whose manipulator is the oppressor and the oppressed as manipulated.

In Paulo Freire's conception, this model of education also presents forms of control and oppression and has the characteristic of the oppressive society in the “banking” conception: it deposits knowledge on the students so that it is limited only to the knowledge that is imposed on them without there is dialogue and debate of opinions and ideas.

Banking Education Vs Liberating Education

This way,Paulo Freire(1987, p. 33) leads us to think about the need for change, freedom and overcoming the current state of inertia, criticizing and showing some paths that can surely guide such desires.

He brings up the discussion that it is the teacher who makes his student a mere depositary: “in this way, education becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositaries and the educator is the depositor”.

Once they know their situation in society, the student will never bow to the condition of oppressed, because his motto will be equality and will seek it.

Banking education transforms the student's conscience into mechanical thinking, that is, to feel as if social reality is something outside him and does not measure anything.

“In the banking conception, narrative and dissertating relationships predominate. Education becomes an act of depositing (as in banks); 'knowing' is a donation, from those who think they are wise, to those who know nothing ”(GADOTTI, 2004, p. 69). And Martins (2014, p. 58) highlights how Freire identifies the figure of the banking teacher "who works by depositing content in students, seen as empty containers that need to be filled by the teacher, the sole agent of the education process for this conception".

Questioning education, on the other hand, generates self-awareness inserted in the world in which it lives and concerns the idea that there must be a continuous exchange of knowledge between educators and students, with the intention that the latter are not limited to mechanically repeating the knowledge transmitted by students. first.

Furthermore, as Beisiegel (2010, p. 89) points out “For problematizing education, as a humanist and liberating work, the importance is based on the fact that men subjected to domination fight for emancipation”.

The problematizing education is based on the dialogue through which teachers and students establish communicative possibilities, the root of which is the transformation of the student into the subject of their own history.

It is the overcoming of the educator versus learner dichotomy. In this problematizing education process, the teacher learns while teaching through the dialogue of his students, stimulating the cognitive act of both, that is, he teaches and learns to reflect critically.

The education process is an eminently human act, since only men are aware of its incompleteness and, therefore, it seeks to understand the world that lives in its finitude.

But it is in the being that transforms that he realizes its importance, so it is in problematizing education that generates history that humanizes society.

Chapter III

Chapter III has as its theme “Dialogicity - the essence of education as a practice of freedom” and shows how important the development of dialogue in the educational process is in opposition to the banking method of knowledge transmission.

Paulo Freire(1987, p. 45) bases the dialogue on love and also addresses praxis, which has the following dimensions: action, reflection and transforming action. In this sense, the word has a transformation value, transforming the world and men.

And to free the oppressed from their condition of oppression, dialogue is used. The word being a right of all, and not a privilege as many defend and a loving action, because: “There is no dialogue, however, if there is no deep love for the world and for men”.

Paulo Freire(1987, p. 45) bases the dialogue on love and also addresses praxis, which has the following dimensions: action, reflection and transforming action. In this sense, the word has a transformation value, transforming the world and men.

And to free the oppressed from their condition of oppression, dialogue is used. The word being a right of all, and not a privilege as many defend and a loving action, because: “There is no dialogue, however, if there is no deep love for the world and for men”.

In this chapter Freire (1987, p.56) also describes some key elements of his “method”, such as the use of generating themes to encourage dialogue and learning. According to Freire, “to investigate the 'generating theme' is to investigate, let us repeat, men's thinking about reality, it is to investigate their actions on reality, which is their praxis”.

Generating themes are important and should always start from reality and not like traditional education that is based on pre-established content. It is not possible to teach people simply with words that are not the domain of the learner.

It is necessary to have an investigation and a collection of these themes that are part of the social life of the people who want to teach. It is possible to see teachers who believe that the contents are more important than the experience that the student brings from life, the subject does not have a knowledge and it is necessary to insert the knowledge in the individual without worrying about historicity. And the generative themes are propellers for new dialogues.

It is extremely harmful for a society without dialogue, without the exchange of experience, where the “I” holds the absolute truth, and the other must not interfere with its concepts. Without dialogue, society is divided and becomes an easy target for oppressors who induce fragile and selfish people, where freedom will be almost unthinkable.

The dialogue does not cancel out the “I”, since it is part of our own experiences, but in communion with the other, who also bringing their experience builds a new vision in this exchange of knowledge. Freedom is achieved through a critical awareness in praxis, where the self and the other will be in constant dialogue in the transformation of reality.

When we try to get into the dialogue as a human phenomenon, it reveals to us something that we can already say is itself: the word. However, when we find the word, in the analysis of the dialogue, as something more than a means for it to be done, we must also seek its constituent elements (FREIRE, 1987, p. 44).

To free ourselves from the clutches of our oppressors, we need to find our defense weapon in dialogue. Most people are coerced to remain silent, unable to express their opinions, becoming submissive to the holders of the power of the current society. Dialogue is the basis of communication, through which we get to know the other, their needs and needs. If I don't hear the other, I don't know him. The word is the key to liberation from the oppressed. ANDPaulo Freirereturns to the theme of love as a basis for dialogue.

There is no dialogue, however, if there is no deep love for the world and for men. It is not possible to pronounce the world, which is an act of creation and recreation, if there is no love that founds it. Being the foundation of dialogue, love is also dialogue. Hence, it is essentially the task of subjects and it cannot be verified in the relationship of domination. (1987, p.45).

I can only hear the voice of those around me if I have love for the world and for men, because it is by practicing a harmonious relationship that I will know their needs. Dialogue is the meeting of men mediatized around the world. The world will be what will connect me to other men and women, our readings of the world will make us recognize the importance of communication between the self and the you.

Education must be based on conversation, communication between teacher and student and between colleagues, so education will become an education for liberation where everyone will have the right to express their opinions.

With this, the author shows us the importance of the social and cultural context brought by the student to the classroom. It is from this reflection of daily life, of the elements that make up the student's reality that the programmatic content of education should be based, as proposedPaulo Freire. In this way, learning will occur faster, as it is easier to work with words that are part of people's daily lives, to explain their meaning.

“Our role is not to speak to the people about our worldview, or to try to impose it on them, but to dialogue with them about yours and ours” (FREIRE, 1987, p. 49).

The dialogicity method gains importance by giving participants in the teaching and learning process freedom of expression.

Here, the right to reflect is no longer restricted to the teacher who passes on his worldview, his reality, but space is opened up so that the student can also express his perception of reality.

We see how Freire built an important educational tool in the formation of a people's conscience in social transformation: an education of the people for the people and with the people.

Chapter IV

Chapter IV deals with the “Theory of antidialogical action” and shows, as it were, the two sides of the coin, which the author himself views the first as incorrect - the Theory of Anti-Dialogic Action -, and what really should be disseminated and followed - his Theory of Dialogic Action -, in which he describes the importance of man as a thinker of praxis about the world.

Transforming action is done through reflection and action. It also demonstrates that a being who dedicates himself to the revolutionary leadership of oppression, must not confuse his role as representative of the dialogue with the oppressed, imposing his point of view.

You have to take the true word of those you represent, emerging the new among the old of the dominant society. Furthermore, the revolutionary character of the oppressed, in their transforming action, is a pedagogical action, from which new possibilities for social renewal emerge. The chart below shows the two sides of that coin.

In his description of the anti-logic oppression system, Paulo Freire describes that there are four elements used to achieve domination (as seen in the table above): conquer, divide, manipulate and cultural invasion.

The first of these is the conquest, which according to Freire (1987, p. 78) "the antidialogic, dominant, in his relations with his opposite, what he intends to do is to conquer him, more and more, through a thousand ways".

The first character that seems to us to be surprised in antidialogic action is the need for conquest [...] Every act of conquest implies a subject who conquers and an object conquered. The subject of the conquest determines the final object of the conquered object, which, for this very reason, becomes something possessed by the conqueror (FREIRE, 1987, p. 78).

The second point is to divide, to maintain oppression. The division of the masses is necessary to be able to dominate them, because a united people is a sign of danger. This is the discourse of those who oppress, so we avoid working on concepts such as struggles, revolts, unity, etc.

This is another fundamental dimension of the theory of oppressive action, as old as oppression itself. Insofar as minorities, opposing majorities to their domain, oppress them, divide them and keep them divided are an indispensable condition for the continuity of their power (FREIRE, 1987, p. 79).

Furthermore, it is through manipulation that oppressors control and conquer the oppressed masses in order to achieve their goals, “manipulation, in the theory of antidialogical action, like the conquest it serves, has to anesthetize the popular masses so that they do not think ”(FREIRE, 1987, p. 84).

So the third point is the manipulation of the dominant elite, that the popular masses with less political knowledge are easily deceived by people who understand a little more, using this to continue their power over them. While people who are on the side of the minority try to counter this act in any way.

Through manipulation, the dominant elites are trying to conform the popular masses to their goals. And the more immature, politically, they are (rural or urban) the more easily they are allowed to be manipulated by the dominant elites who cannot want their power to be exhausted (FREIRE, 1987, p. 83).

Finally, the cultural invasion is an instrument of oppressive conquest, “in this sense, the cultural invasion, indisputably alienating, carried out smoothly or not, is always a violence to the being of the invaded culture, which loses its originality or is threatened to lose it ”(FREIRE, 1987, p. 86). The dominant minority imposes its worldview and everyone is guided by it.

Finally, we found in the theory of anti-dialogic action, another fundamental characteristic - the cultural invasion that, like the previous two, serves to conquer.

Disregarding the potentialities of the being it conditions, cultural invasion is the penetration that invaders make in the cultural context of the invaded, imposing on them their view of the world, while holding back their creativity, by inhibiting their expansion (FREIRE, 1987, p. 86).

Paulo Freirehe ends this chapter by placing the elements of dialogical action, which are: collaboration, union, organization and cultural synthesis.

The collaboration of the dialogue understands the other as the other and respects their culturality.

The union of the oppressed mass is necessary, and it is the role of the representative of that class to keep it together in order to gain strength of transformation, his word, establishes the learning of the pronunciation of the world, true learning, therefore, dialogical ”(FREIRE, 1987, p. 103 - emphasis added).

The cultural synthesis is based on the understanding and confirmation of the permanence-change dialectic, which make up the social structure.

Therefore, understanding Paulo Freire's fundamental thesis in this book, we see that he elaborates pedagogical concepts by which the educator must embark on a transformation in the social context of domination that occurs through the process of educating.

Awareness is given by a gradual process in which freedom is sought without producing new oppressors and oppressed.

It puts a revolution in the social structure, through which man as being of fundamental importance to his existence in the world, is able to make his history, without an a priori future, as this is imposed by the dominant minorities.

Due to the facts, Freire, in his Pedagogy of the Oppressed, makes us understand about the practice of freedom with a new pedagogy of reflexive and critical action, opening frontiers for the thinking of man, and this is all due to the communication with the other, that is, in dialogue.

When analyzing this work by Paulo Freire, we realize that even today, in our schools, the concept of problematizing education has not yet been implemented.

The teacher who builds awareness raises a drama between teaching what he thinks or complying with the curriculum imposed on him by educational agencies.

He lives researching to prepare a class that students often do not even stop to listen to because the content that the teacher has to fulfill does not match the reality that his students live.

So we can understand that today's educational system also continues to spread oppression. Not so much because of the teacher, but because of the working conditions imposed on them. The educator today is as much a victim as the oppressed, as he is merely one more of them.

We realize that this current educational system is configured through a pyramid, in which the “dominant” hierarchical units exert a strong pressure on the “dominated”, thus prevailing the law of the strongest.

Paulo Freire's speech in theory is charming and makes us analyze this liberating and dialogical education that expands the critical sense and makes us believe as equal beings in the capacity to absorb, transform and develop new knowledge, however, we know that the reality experienced is totally and / or partially different.

And that for such a discourse to become effective, in practice, collaboration, union and organization of the popular classes is necessary, in permanent dialogue to transform the oppressive reality in which we live.


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Bibliography about Paulo Freire