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Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed

June 22, 2010

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Marking the first anniversary of the final phase of my education program (practicum ended on June 19th, 2009, and my first class of summer session was the following Monday) I have finally got around to reading the one book most professors considered a must for all educators. While one would hope that just by reading this book, anyone could become a better teacher, it is really more instructions on becoming a revolutionary. The introduction, by Freire’s friend Donaldo Macedo, was excellent for preparing me for the many misinterpretations the Pedagogy of the Oppressed has endured over the years, especially mentioning the linguistic distortions during the first Gulf War. While Macedo strives to show the clarity of Freire’s work, I must admit I found it a little daunting to follow all of his ideas.

The main points which I can recall from my first reading are: the fear of freedom that keeps the oppressed under the thumb of the oppressors, the need for dialogic praxis as opposed to “banking” education and how generative themes are best used by teacher-students and student-teachers. Knowing how to apply these concepts in the various classrooms I visit will be the next challenge for me as a teacher on call, but knowing that I can still further my education while working in the same field is a step in the right direction. Over the past year, I have become involved with the Teachers Federation, attended meetings and learned more about the need for social justice in the schools and the union itself. It would be very manipulative of me to become involved for my own advancement, with the sense of false generosity Freire writes about, yet I do not feel that I embody the cultural synthesis required. At least knowing that there are ways to improve is something to look forward to when school starts up again.

While many of my professors mentioned this book in lectures, it was never a required reading, and now I understand how universities attempt to be transformative places, yet are placed in the elite framework so that even the teachers they produce are not fully free from oppressive leanings. Perhaps this is largely due to the numerous North American texts which were required, and it becomes very apparent, without Freire even mentioning it, that Canada and the United States have become the world leaders in “banking” (and look at the mess this has created, economically and environmentally speaking). It was very refreshing to read someone genuinely concerned with social justice, writing about experiences mostly in South America. The 30th anniversary edition of this transformative book must have met with much objection in North America, but nevertheless must have gained lots of support at the grassroots level. Can’t wait to return to the text for another read.

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