Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Not just the title of a book by Paulo Freire, a Pedagogy of the Oppressed is an approach to education and organising to transform oppressive structures and create a more equitable, caring and beautiful world through action and reflection that is co-created with those who have been marginalised and dehumanised.
In 1962, Paulo Freire created culture circles in Northeastern Brazil to support 300 suger-cane workers to teach each other how to read the word and their world in 45 days, which enabled them to register to vote. These Culture Circles that began with Sugar Cane workers, catalysed thousands more. Each with the purpose of not just literacy, but conscientization, or which involves people joining with their peers to name their world by reflecting on their conditions, imagining a better world, and then taking action to create it. This approach, developed as much by Freire as the workers he educated, was so galvanising that he was jailed and exiled by the Military Government within two years.
Over a lifetime of working with revolutionary organizers and educators both in exile and back in Brazil, Freire offers a compass to direct us towards liberation from structures of oppression. This compass is both an approach to education and organising and a lens through which to understand systems of oppression in order to transform them. It flips mainstream ideas of education and organising on their heads by insisting that true knowledge and expertise already exists with people – they need no deposits of information (what Freire calls Banking Education) or propaganda to convince them of their problems. What is required is dialogue, respect, love for humanity, and praxis or action and reflection to transform the world.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed is an education as a practice of freedom, which Freire contrasts with education as a practice of domination: