01 April 2012

Pedagogy According to Paulo Freire

Basics, Part 1

Pedagogy According to Paulo Freire

For the purpose of this set of studies called Basics, designed for study circles without a lecturer, it helps to have an overt theory of “pedagogy” - a simple theory of learning and teaching - as a starting point.

The great 20th-century theoretician of liberation pedagogy was Paolo Freire. It was Freire who gave us the word “conscientise”. It was Paulo Freire, more than any other, who showed how the bourgeois education system, with its “banking” theory of pedagogy (see today’s text, downloadable via the link at the bottom of this document), is not well designed to educate, in the fullest sense, but rather tends to reproduce the class relations that suit the bourgeoisie. Education, which should by nature liberate the student, is made by the bourgeoisie into a means of repression, said Freire.

How can we make sure that education is part of the building of socialism and communism? To ask such a question is to “problematise” education. To ask such a question is to begin a “dialogue” about education. Freire thought that for the political education of the oppressed, if it was not to be patronising and therefore counter-productive, by reproducing and reinforcing features of the oppressive bourgeois state, then the method for this purpose would have to be different and new.

In the dialogical method that Paulo Freire devised and called the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, or otherwise Critical Pedagogy, there is no elementary, junior, senior, matriculation, undergraduate, post-graduate, doctorate or professor level. Teachers are learners and learners are teachers; yet all are free-willing “subjects”, having “agency”, capable of leadership.

As much as there may be a room and a gathering of individuals, each known by name, and a “codification” which is the text or other object to make the occasion, yet the dialogue admits no limits. The Freirean gathering is not sheltered. It is one of the essentials of Freirean Pedagogy that we refuse the fiction of the sheltered classroom, and instead recognise that the oppressor is all around us and even within us, while we strive to liberate ourselves through our mutual, pedagogical dialogue.

In Freirean practice, there is no such thing as a basic level, or an advanced level. All that we can do is to begin a process of “problematising”, beginning with education itself.

As a rule, we will use original authors, and not commentaries on their original texts. In that spirit, the first of the chosen building blocks is the second chapter of Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (downloadable via the link given below), here supplemented with a glossary of “critical pedagogy” terms (the link to the download is below). This text provides an opportunity to reflect upon what you are trying to do by learning and teaching.

You may ask: What is political education for?

For the late Freire (pictured above), and for the Freireans of today, all education is a political act and a social act; an act of liberation and of self-liberation.