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


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

(back cover) EDUCATION'S EITHER/OR. which afflicts both those whose humanity has been stolen and those who have stolen it. Theory of Transmission: Who is to teach? By what methods? What will the curriculum be? 6. and take action in regard to it. (back cover) FROM OBJECT TO SUBJECT.sonoma. "We ought to keep quiet and let you talk. The peasant begins to get courage to overcome his dependence when he realizes that he is dependent. we don't know anything.3. 1974. he goes along with the boss and says. think about it. Through the process just described. Until then. lazy. They so often hear that they're "good for nothing. 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 This derives from internalization of the oppressors' opinions. 15) DEHUMANIZATION. Every person. Theory of Society: What is society? What institutions are involved in the educational process? 7. 28) DEPENDENCE. Theory of Opportunity: Who is to be educated? Who is to be schooled? 8." Or to the educator. however ignorant or submerged in the "culture of silence. You are the one who knows." 3 . and can gradually come to perceive his personal and social reality. (p." (47) SELF-DEPRECIATION. and are not capable of learning anything – that they are sick. Theory of Human Nature: What is a human being? How does it differ from other species? What are the limits of human potential? 4.html CULTURE OF SILENCE. "What can I do? I'm only a peasant. Theory of Learning: What is learning? How are skills and knowledge acquired? 5. 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. (p. know nothing. 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. 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." can look critically at his or her world through a process of dialogue with others.

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

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

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

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

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