Paulo Friere, Brazilian Marxist radical from the 1960s

Paulo Freire and His Work

Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

Freire radicalized literacy education for third-world Brazilian students (primarily adult men) in the 1960’s. He wanted to lead a revolt against an oppressive government. However, he found that the Populus was uneducated and swayed by the government’s arguments about why they must live oppressed lives. He wanted locals to revolt against an oppressive government, but he couldn’t get them motivated; until much later. Freire’s work demands that we accept two fundamental principles about the educational process:

(1)      When teaching, always start with information the students already know. Begin with their personal experiences, not research, philosophies, or statistics. In my work on rape prevention, I need to find out what male students know and think before I go into their dorm halls or classroom (or what my colleagues call “the lion’s den”) and tell them what I think they need to know.

(2)      Always be mindful that education is not primarily “informational:”; instead, it is transformational—it alters lives and changes the world. Freire says that education “has meaning only when generated by action upon the world” (64). Freire challenges us to reject traditional education models—or what he calls the “banking” model of education–students are empty bank accounts or repositories, and teachers “make deposits” by placing knowledge and wisdom into them. Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned with [his students’] reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication” and that communication begins with “problem-posing” education.


Tomorrow, I will discuss Freire’s Steps.

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