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Paulo Freire, Background Information

Paulo Freire (1921 - 1997), was born in Recife, Brazil. Although he is a well-known and influential educator in Latin America, many educators in the United States have never heard of him. A Brief Biography Freire was born in a middle-class family that experienced difficulties during the Great Depression of 1929. He became interested in poverty as a result of that experience. He later studied law and, although he was admitted to the legal bar, he never practiced law. Instead, he taught Portuguese in secondary schools. He married Elza Maria Costa de Oliveria, a fellow teacher who worked with him. In 1946, Freire was appointed the Director of the Department of Education and Culture of the Social Service in the state of Pemamboco. He worked primarily among the illiterate poor, developing a non-traditional approach to education. In 1961-2, as the Director of the Department of Cultural Extension of Recife University, he had a chance to try out his educational theories. Three hundred sugarcane workers learned to read and write in only 45 days. The government agreed to create thousands of cultural circles across Brazil. The military coup in 1964, however, ended these efforts. Freire was imprisoned for 70 days as a traitor, went briefly into exile in Bolivia, and then worked in Chile for the Christian Democratic Agrarian Reform Movement for five years. During the time that he lived in Chile, he began to write books about education. The most famous one, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, was first published in Portuguese in 1968. It was published in English and Spanish in 1970, although it was not published in Brazil until 1974 because of the continuing dictatorship. After Freire was a visiting professor at Harvard University in 1969, he moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he worked as a special education advisor to the World Council of Churches. He also worked as an advisor for educational reform in former Portuguese colonies in Africa. He was granted permission to return to Brazil in 1979 and moved back the following year. He joined the Workers’ Party in São Paulo and became a supervisor for its adult literacy project from 1980 – 1986. In 1988 Freire was appointed Secretary of Education for São Paulo. In 1986, Freire’s wife, Elza, died. He married Maria Araújo Freire, also an educator. Paulo Freire died of heart failure on May 2, 1997. Freire’s Educational Theory Paulo Freire saw education as a continuation of the culture of colonization in which those in power seek to continue to oppress the poor in order to be able to better control them. While he agreed with thinkers of his day that native populations need education, he


He has been accused of being an idealist and of not considering feminist issues. A discussion of each area can be found at http://www.” They work together to imagine a different reality. in which students and a coordinator discuss themes that have significance in students’ lives. Teachers do not provide answers. Freire’s ideas have been used more often in adult and informal educational settings.newfoundations. in the tradition of Aristotle. especially when teachers from the dominant culture teach students of different cultural backgrounds. Freire’s approach emphasized dialogue. Theory of Value: What knowledge and skills are worthwhile learning? What are the goals of education? 2. For example.html. Reading is not just decoding text. designed to strengthen and maintain the capitalist class. the oppressed can explore their reality as a “problem” to be transformed. The teacher poses problems through which students and teachers investigate knowledge and the world together. but work with students to develop critical thinking that Freire called “conscientization. Students are marginalized and rendered helpless through what Freire called the false generosity of the oppressor.disagreed with traditional approaches. A key concept in the implementation of Freire’s method is the culture circle. 1. Paulo Freire was not the first. Educational Theory John Lyons summarized the educational theory of Paulo Freire through a series of topics and related questions. Much recent work in schools emphasizes student-centered learning in which the teacher is a facilitator and not the “sage on the stage. Through this method. Freire rejects this dichotomy. Through cooperative research. which he described through the metaphor of the banking. Still. to emphasize the importance of students’ roles in education. his writing is sexist in its language. Theory of Knowledge: What is knowledge? How is it different from belief? What is a mistake? What is a lie? 2 . they explore the contradictions that exist in their world. Both groups bring valuable skills and abilities to the learning. John Dewey advocated learning by doing.” Freire’s work has been influenced by a combination of Christianity and Marxism. but is a process of understanding power and causality in society and each person’s place in it. his work has been important in Latin America through education and liberation theology. or last. These then become the basis of dialogue within the circle. Reading (and learning to read) becomes a natural outgrowth of these dialogues as students read about their world and their interests. In the banking model of education. This approach freezes the existing structure of power. which they give to the students who are empty vessels to be filled. educator. the teachers have the The banking model emphasizes a dichotomy (division into two especially mutually exclusive or contradictory groups) between teachers and students.

lazy. Theory of Transmission: Who is to teach? By what methods? What will the curriculum be? 6. This derives from internalization of the oppressors' opinions. 28) DEPENDENCE. know nothing. (p. (p. "We ought to keep quiet and let you talk. Theory of Society: What is society? What institutions are involved in the educational process? 7. They so often hear that they're "good for nothing. distorts the process of becoming more fully human. and unproductive" that finally they believe it…" The boss seems to be the only one who knows things and is able to run things. the view of an illiterate or other oppressed person is so transformed that he or she is no longer to be a mere object responding as surrounding social forces direct. The peasant begins to get courage to overcome his dependence when he realizes that he is dependent. think about it. You are the one who knows.html CULTURE OF SILENCE. Theory of Consensus: Why do people disagree? How is consensus achieved? Whose opinion takes precedence? Paolo Freire's Pedagogy Of The Oppressed: Summary New York: Seabury. and can gradually come to perceive his personal and social reality. which afflicts both those whose humanity has been stolen and those who have stolen it. Theory of Human Nature: What is a human being? How does it differ from other species? What are the limits of human potential? 4. Until then. Education either conditions the younger generation into acceptance of society's status quo or becomes "the practice of freedom" through which people deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to transform their worlds." (47) SELF-DEPRECIATION. Theory of Opportunity: Who is to be educated? Who is to be schooled? 8.sonoma." Or to the educator. we don't know anything. and take action in regard to it. Translated from the original Portuguese (1968) by Myra Bergman Ramos The following summary of Paulo Freire’s well-known Pedagogy of the Oppressed come from http://www. Theory of Learning: What is learning? How are skills and knowledge acquired? 1974.3. however ignorant or submerged in the "culture of silence. Through the process just described. 15) DEHUMANIZATION." can look critically at his or her world through a process of dialogue with others. "What can I do? I'm only a peasant. (back cover) EDUCATION'S EITHER/OR. he goes along with the boss and says." 3 . and are not capable of learning anything – that they are sick. (back cover) FROM OBJECT TO SUBJECT. Every person.

(p. who is himself dehumanized because he dehumanizes others. "human beings" refers only to themselves. It's not possible to eliminate oppression just by a shift of roles in which the oppressor becomes the oppressed and vice-versa. they blind themselves to all this. the oppressed has to lead the struggle for a fuller humanity for both.." (p. Now that we are respected as men.. maintains Freire. 45) CHANGE IN THE OPPRESSED AND OPPRESSORS. they must not in turn oppress the oppressors. to want. other people are "things. which engages him in their struggle. it is because they are incompetent and lazy." Often this desire for complete domination includes a sadistic impulse. and to know. or another. which include a lack of confidence in the people's ability to think. When they move to the side of the exploited. We were exploited. or for the people. 128) WHEN OPPRESSORS JOIN IN THE STRUGGLE FOR LIBERATION. Because they are "ungrateful" and "envious." They "believe that they must be the executors of the transformation. They talk about the people. (p. 28) The contradiction between the two classes is resolved by the appearance of a new kind of human being. we're going to show everyone that we were never drunkards or lazy. tries to hang onto his power and dehumanizing practices. production. but only with the people.'" They cannot see that they "suffocate in their own possessions and no longer are. 46) "Revolutionary leaders cannot think about the people. is "oppressive only when it prevents people from being more fully human." (p. Accordingly.SELF-DEPRECIATION CAN CHANGE. "They used to say we were unproductive because we were lazy and drunkards.. the people themselves. The earth. In this materialistic concept of culture. 32) When the oppressed seek to regain and deepen their humanity. "to be is to have and to be the class of the 'haves. 43) An act is that keeps the former oppressors from regaining their former place. (p." (50) THE NATURE OF OPPRESSOR CONSCIOUSNESS. restraints that keep the former oppressors from regaining their former position and putting rigid old social structures back in place do not constitute oppression. then they are likely to feel oppressed. It tends to transform everything around it into an object of its domination. time – everything comes to be viewed as objects at the disposal of their purchasing power. 42) In such change we cannot say that one person liberates himself. but rather help to restore the humanity of both. 128) RESTRICTIONS THAT PREVENT THE RETURN OF OPPRESSION. one in the process of liberation. Any restriction on their way of life feels unjust. "they almost always bring with them the marks of their origin.. A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people. people's creations. property." (p.. but that people in communion liberate each other. 42) 4 . (p.. (p. than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust. The oppressor. When those who were formerly kept down establish a new situation in which those who held power before lose their special privileges and find themselves on a more or less equal footing with others. they merely have. For the oppressors. All lies. The main thing becomes to have more. "If others do not have more. Although oppression dehumanizes both parties and stifles their humanity. (p. but they do not trust them. always more." they are seen as potential enemies." Of course.

because it requires the subservient to replace the oppressor's image of them with one that stresses autonomy and responsibility. True generosity lies in "striving so that these hands – whether of individuals or of peoples – need be extended less and less in supplication" and become capable of working and transforming the world. but as a limiting situation which they can transform. 53) ONE-SIDED NARRATIVES. False charity gives a little something to the extended hands of the have-nots. imposes one person's choice on another and brings the consciousness of the latter into conformity with the former's views." This is the "populist pitfall" – transforming them into masses which can be manipulated. 33) THE SITUATION CAN BE TRANSFORMED. If a new order "hardens into a dominating bureaucracy. to be men is to be oppressors. the humanist dimension of the struggle is lost and it is no longer possible to speak of liberation. they need to "perceive the reality of oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit. deprived. like the oppressed's prescription for the oppressor. (p. (p. and communiqués for dialogue is to attempt to liberate the oppressed with the instruments of domestication. who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed. at first. "To substitute monologue. "While no one liberates himself by his own efforts alone. and cheated. 34) CHANGE IN OPPRESSOR'S ATTITUDE. TRUE GENEROSITY. If given a bit of power. between solidarity and alienation." (p. and "serves the interests of the oppressors. (p. slogans. individualistic gestures and risking an act of love. 29) INITIALLY THE OPPRESSED IDENTIFY WITH THEIR OPPRESSORS. 57) This minimizes students' creative power. yet. This is their model of humanity. to do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality. but at the same time they fear authentic existence. 52) INDEPENDENCE CANNOT BE GIVEN AS A GIFT." They "react 5 . they cannot exist authentically. between being actors with choices or spectators who do as they're told. They are still identified with their oppressors' values. There are conflicts between throwing out their "internal oppressor" or not. the oppressed tend themselves to become petty tyrants." (p. For the oppressed to be able to wage the struggle for their liberation. This can be threatening.BUREAUCRACY VS. Every prescription. but for them. but preserves the haves' power. (p. 31) The oppressed learn that without freedom. In traditional education. This requires an end to pious. (p. HUMANISM. neither is he liberated by others. (p. To affirm that people "should be free. 30) PRESCRIPTION AND FREEDOM. People can only be liberated with their reflective participation in the act of liberation. The context of the situation remains unchanged. is a farce. there is a narrator (the teacher) and a listening object (the students)." (p. "Their ideal is to be men. 43) FALSE CHARITY VS. and. between being fully themselves or being divided. The peasant who becomes a foreman may be harsher toward the other peasants than the owner. The oppressor truly helps the oppressed only when he stops viewing them as an abstract category and sees them as unique persons who have been unjustly dealt with." DIALOGUE. "Education is suffering from narration sickness.

. mediated by the world. Banking education tries to conceal certain facts that explain the way we exist in the world." They become its permanent re-creators. 58) Since we "receive" the world as passive entities.. 67) PROBLEM-POSING EDUCATION. education should make us more passive still. Problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality. like making deposits at a bank. 67) "MYTHICIZING" REALITY.. (p. OR CO-INTENTIONAL EDUCATION. he expounds to his students about it. The banking model tries to control thinking and action and inhibits our creative powers. and that what we take as "reality" are particular historical conditions. and adjust us to our world so that we do not question it. 60) THE BANKING MODEL OF EDUCATION turns students into "receptacles" to be "filled" by the teachers. not against it. (p. (p. In it we are merely spectators.. memorize." Here "arguments based on "authority" are no longer valid [and] authority must be on the side of freedom. 62) STAGES IN THE BANKING MODEL. In the first. Teachers and students are simultaneously both teachers and learners. nor is anyone self-taught.almost instinctively against any experiment in education which stimulates the critical faculties and is not content with a partial view of reality." (p. Problem-posing education affirms us as beings in the process of becoming. No one teaches another. Students receive. (p. not re-creators. in the task of recreating that knowledge... Through dialogue new terms emerge – teacher-student and students-teachers. and critical intervention in reality. (p.. and so is our reality. the educator cognizes a cognizable object and prepares a lesson. 56) This requires abandoning the deposit-making model and replacing it with posing the problems of human beings in their relations with the world. During the second. They learn from each other and help each other learn. in the task of unveiling that reality. (p. 71) POPULIST CHARISMATIC LEADERS.. not pseudo-participation. It demythologizes and takes the character of our present historical society and culture as a starting point... (p. It tries to maintain the submersion of consciousness. through common reflection and action. also teach. "The educator constantly re-forms his reflections in the reflections of the students [who] are now critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher. 65) LIBERTARIAN. These leaders cannot bring about their liberation for them. The banking concept distinguishes two states.. "They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.. We affect the world around us through our conscious transformations of it and of our consciousness of it. The students.. (p. 69) BECOMING. 72) Problem-posing 6 . We are unfinished. This is committed involvement. 66) STUDENTS AND TEACHERS. 59) "Teachers and students (leadership and people)." We teach each other. (p. (p. Students discover that reality is a process that undergoes constant transformation. (p. It fails to acknowledge that we are historical beings. 68) This is education as the practice of freedom rather than the practice of domination. The teacher deposits and students are the depositories. the emergence of consciousness. Liberating education does not mean the oppressed coming to feel that they themselves are active and effective by identifying with charismatic leaders. and repeat. (p. are both subjects.. while being taught.

Teachers as Cultural Workers . 73) Bibliography Freire. Buckingham: Open University Press.sonoma. Any situation where some prevent others from engaging in inquiry is a form of violence. (August 11. and our situation as a historical reality that can be transformed. Lyons.wikipedia. Criticism. 7 . 73) INQUIRY AND VIOLENCE. 2009) Taylor. Translated by Donoldo Dale (August 11. Paulo.stateuniversity. P.html (August 11.infed.Letters to Those Who Dare Teach.wikipedia.newfoundations. (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. http://en. http://www. Paulo Freire (1921–1997) . Freire. Paulo. http://education. 1998. 2009) Paulo Freire. Paulo Freire’s Educational Theory." (p. Philosophy of Education. (1993) The Texts of Paulo” Resignation gives way to the drive for transformation and inquiry. Summary. 2009). and Alexandre Oliveira. 2009) Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Paulo Freire http://en.html (August 11. Harmondsworth: Penguin. edited 1/4/08).education presents the banking method of education as a problem. Westview Press.html (August 11. http://www. Boulder. John (2001. Education Encyclopedia – (August 11. 2009) Pedagogy of the (p. 2009).Conceptual Tools. To alienate people from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.