Paulo Freire

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Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
Oppressors develop a series of methods precluding any presentation of the world as a problem and showing it rather as a fixed entity, as something given—something to which people, as mere spectators, must adapt.

Paulo Reglus Neves Freire (September 19, 1921May 2, 1997) was a Brazilian educator and theorist of critical pedagogy.


Pedagogia do oprimido (Pedagogy of the Oppressed) (1968, English trans. 1970)[edit]

Quotes in order, although grouped topically where appropriate:

  • Dehumanization, although a concrete historical fact, is not a given destiny but the result of an unjust order that engenders violence in the oppressors, which in turn dehumanizes the oppressed
  • Foreword
  • He has made use of the insights of these men to develop a perspective on education which is authentically his own and which seeks to respond to the concrete realities of Latin America.
    • As quoted in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2014), p.31
    • Chapter 1
  • Indeed, the interests of the oppressors lie in 'changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them.'
    • Chapter 1, The Banking Concept of Education
  • The oppressors, who oppress, exploit, and rape by virtue of their power, cannot find in this power the strength to liberate either the oppressed or themselves.
    • Chapter 1, on the oppressors
  • The oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors
  • They have no consciousness of themselves as persons or as members of an oppressed class.
  • The oppressed find in the oppressors their model of 'manhood.'
  • The behavior of the oppressed is a prescribed behavior, following as it does the guidelines of the oppressor.
    • Chapter 1, on the oppressed
  • The oppressor, who is himself dehumanized because he dehumanizes others, is unable to lead this struggle.
  • This book will present some aspects of what the writer has termed the pedagogy of the oppressed, a pedagogy which must be forged with, not for, the oppressed (whether individuals or peoples) in the incessant struggle to regain their humanity.
    • Chapter 1
  • How can the oppressed, as divided unauthentic beings, participate in the pedagogy of their liberation?
  • As long as they live in the duality in which to be is to to be like, and to be like is to be like the oppressor, this contribution is impossible.
  • Liberation is thus a childbirth, and a painful one.
    • Chapter 1, on the oppressed
  • Discovering himself to be an oppressor may cause considerable anguish, but it does not necessarily lead to solidarity with the oppressed.
  • A fact which is not denied but whose truths are rationalized loses its objective base. It ceases to be concrete and becomes a myth created in defense of the class of the perceiver.
  • It would be a contradiction in terms if the oppressors not only defended but actually implemented a liberating education.
    • Chapter 1
  • The former oppressors do not feel liberated. On the contrary, they genuinely consider themselves to be oppressed.
  • Money is the measure of all things, and profit the primary goal. For the oppressors, what is worthwhile is to have more—always more—even at the cost of the oppressed having less or having nothing. For them, to be is to have.
  • For them, having more is an inalienable right.
    • Chapter 1, on the oppressors
  • Certain members of the oppressor class join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation.
  • Our converts, on the other hand, truly desire to transform the unjust order; but because of their background they believe that they must be the executors of the transformation.
  • A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle.
    • Chapter 1
  • The oppressed want at any cost to resemble the oppressors.
  • They call themselves ignorant and say the 'professor' is the one who has knowledge and to whom they should listen.
  • Almost never do they realize that they, too, 'know things' they have learned in their relations with the world.
    • Chapter 1
  • Critical and liberating dialogue, which presupposes action, must be carried on with the oppressed at whatever the stage of their struggle for liberation.
  • In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing.
  • Attempting to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects that must be saved from a burning building.
  • It is necessary to trust in the oppressed and in their ability to reason.
  • While no one liberates himself by his own efforts alone, neither is he liberated by others.
  • The correct method lies in dialogue. The conviction of the oppressed that they must fight in their liberation is not a gift bestowed by the revolutionary leadership, but the result of their own conscientização.
  • It is essential for the oppressed to realize that when they accept the struggle for humanization they also accept, from that moment, their total responsibility for the struggle.
    • Chapter 1
  • Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.
    • Chapter 2
  • Implicit in the banking concept is the assumption of a dichotomy between human beings and the world: a person is merely in the world, not with the world or with others; the individual is spectator, not re-creator.
    • Chapter 2
  • Yet only through communication can human life hold meaning.
    • Chapter 2
  • Education as the exercise of domination stimulates the credulity of the students.
    • Chapter 2
  • It is not suprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings.
    • Chapter 2
  • Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.
    • Chapter 2
  • In sum: banking theory and practice, as immobilizing and fixating forces, fail to acknowledge men and women as historical beings; problem-posing theory and practice take the people's historicity as their starting point.
    • Chapter 2
  • Indeed, some revolutionaries brand as innocents, dreamers, or even reactionaries; those who would challenge this educational practice. But one does not liberate people by alienating them. Authentic liberation - the process of humanization - is not another deposit to be made in men.
    • Chapter 2
  • Problem-posing education affirms men and women as beings in the process of becoming.
  • In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they existin the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation.
    • Chapter 2
  • Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future.
    • Chapter 2
  • Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication. If it is true that thought has meaning only when generated by action upon the world, the subordination of students to teachers becomes impossible.
    • Chapter 2
  • Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers.
    • Chapter 2
  • Those truly committed to liberation must reject the banking concept in its entirety, adopting instead a concept of women and men as conscious beings, and consciousness as consciousness intent upon the world. They must abandon the educational goal of deposit-making and replace it with the posing of the problems of human beings in their relations with the world.
    • Chapter 2
  • A deepened consciousness of their situation leads people to apprehend that situation as an historical reality susceptible of transformation."
    • Chapter 2, page 253
  • Education as the exercise of domination stimulates the credulity of students, with the ideological intent (often not perceived by educators) of indoctrinating them to adapt to the world of oppression.
    • Chapter 2
  • Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for the world and its people.
  • Dialogue cannot exist without humility.
  • Someone who cannot acknowledge himself to be as mortal as everyone else still has a long way to go before he can reach the point of encounter."
  • Faith in people is an a priori requirement for dialogue.
  • Founding itself upon love, humility, and faith, dialogue becomes a horizontal relationship of which mutual trust between the dialoguers is a logical consequence.
  • Trust is established by dialogue.
  • The dialogical character of education as the practice of freedom does not begin when the teacher-student meets with the students-teachers in pedagogical situation, but rather when the former first asks herself or himself what she or he will dialogue with the latter about.
  • The unfinished character of human beings and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education be an ongoing activity.
    • Chapter 3, on dialogue.
  • The revolutionary's role is to liberate, and to be liberated, with the people—not to win them over.
    • Chapter 3
  • For people, 'here' signifies not merely a physical space, but also an historical space.
  • Those who are served by the present limit-situation regard the untested feasibility as a threatening limit-situation which must not be allowed to materialize, and act to maintain the status quo.
  • Thematic investigation thus becomes a common striving towards awareness of reality and towards self-awareness, which makes this investigation a starting point for the educational process or for cultural action of a liberating character.
  • Reflection upon situationality is reflection about the very condition of existence: critical thinking by means which people discover each other to be 'in a situation.'
  • The more educators and the people investigate the people's thinking, and are thus jointly educated, the more they continue to investigate.
  • Critical perception cannot be imposed.
  • The basic thing, starting from the initial perception of these nuclei of contradictions (which include the principal contradiction of society as a larger epochal unit) is to study the inhabitants' awareness of these contradictions.
  • One might say they failed to perceive the untested feasibility lying beyond the limit-situations which engendered their needs.
  • Individuals who were submerged in reality, merely feeling their needs, emerge from reality and perceive the causes of their needs.
  • The thematics which have come from the people return to them—not as contents to be deposited, but as problems to be solved.
    • Chapter 3
  • Some may think that to affirm dialogue—the encounter of women and men in the world in order to transform the world—is naively and subjectively idealistic. There is nothing, however, more real or concrete than people in the world and with the world, than humans with other humans.
    • Chapter 4
  • It is when the majorities are denied their right to participate in history as Subjects that they become dominated and alienated.
    • Chapter 4
  • People will be truly critical if they live in the plenitude of the praxis, that is, if their action encompasses a critical reflection which increasingly organizes their thinking and thus leads them to move from a purely naive knowledge of reality to a higher level, one which enables them to perceive the causes of reality.
    • Chapter 4
  • To simply think about the people, as the dominators do, without any self-giving in that thought, to fail to think with the people, is a sure way to cease being revolutionary leaders.
  • Scientific and humanist revolutionary leaders, on the other hand, cannot believe in the myth of the ignorance of the people.
  • The task of revolutionary leaders is to pose as problems not only this myth, but all the other myths used by the oppressor elites to oppress.
  • In a dynamic, rather than static, view of revolution, there is no absolute 'before' or 'after,' with the taking of power as the dividing line.
  • The road to revolution involves openness to the people, not imperviousness to them; it involves communion with the people, not mistrust.
    • Chapter 4, on revolution
  • The oppressors develop a series of methods precluding any presentation of the world as a problem and showing it rather as a fixed entity, as something given—something to which people, as mere spectators, must adapt.
  • It is accomplished by the oppressors depositing myths indispensable to the preservation of the status quo.
    • Chapter 4, Conquest
  • As the oppressor minority subordinates and dominates the majority, it must divide it and keep it divided in order to remain in power.
  • The oppressors do not favor promoting the community as a whole, but rather selected leaders.
  • People are fulfilled only to the extent that they create their world (which is a human world), and create it with their transforming labor. The fulfillment of humankind as human beings lies, then, in the fulfillment of the world. If for a person to be in the world of work is to be totally dependent, insecure, and permanently threatened—if their work does not belong to them—the person cannot be fulfilled. Work that is not free ceases to be a fulfilling pursuit and becomes an effective means of dehumanization.
    • Chapter 4, Divide and Rule
  • For if the people join to their presence in the historical process critical thinking about that process, the threat of their emergence materializes in a revolution. Whether one calls this correct thinking 'revolutionary consciousness' or 'class consciousness,' it is an indispensable precondition of revolution. The dominant elites are so well aware of this fact that they instinctively use all means, including physical violence, to keep people from thinking.
  • One of the methods of manipulation is to inoculate individuals with the bourgeois appetite for personal success.
  • Welfare programs as instruments of manipulation ultimately serve the end of conquest. They act as an anesthetic, distracting the oppressed from the true causes of their problems and from the concrete solutions of these problems.
    • Chapter 4, Manipulation
  • For cultural invasion to succeed, it is essential that those invaded become convinced of their intrinsic inferiority.
  • The atmosphere of the home is prolonged in school, where students soon discover that (as in the home) in order to achieve some satisfaction they must adapt to the precepts which have been set from above. One of these precepts is not to think.
  • The participants begin to realize that if their analysis of the situation goes any deeper they will either have to divest themselves of their myths, or reaffirm them. Divesting themselves of and renouncing their myths represents, at that moment, an act of self-violence. On the other hand, to reaffirm those myths is to reveal themselves.
  • The culture of the dominant class hinders the affirmation of men as beings of decision.
  • I intepret the revolutionary process as dialogical cultural action which is prolonged in 'cultural revolution' once power is taken. In both stages a serious and profound effort at conscientização—by means of which the people, through a true praxis, leave behind the status of objects to assume the status of historical Subjects—is necessary.
  • Finally, cultural revolution develops the practice of permanent dialogue between leaders and people and consolidates the participation of the people in power.
  • The behavior and reactions of the oppressed, which lead the oppressor to practice cultural invasion, should evoke from the revolutionary a different theory of action. What distinguishes revolutionary leaders from the dominant elite is not only their objectives, but their procedures.
    • Chapter 4, Cultural Invasion
  • The object of a dialogical-libertarian action is not to 'dislodge' the oppressed from a mythological reality in order to 'bind' them to another reality. On the contrary, the object of dialogical action is to make it possible for the oppressed, by perceiving their adhesion, to opt to transform an unjust reality.
  • In order for the oppressed to unite they must first cut the umbilical cord of magic and myth which binds them to the world of oppression; the unity which links them to each other must be of a different nature.
    • Chapter 4, Unity for Liberation
  • Organization is not only directly linked to unity, but a natural development of that unity. Accordingly, the leaders' pursuit of that unity is also an attempt to organize the people, requiring witness to the fact that the struggle for liberation is a common task.
  • Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people—they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.
    • Chapter 4, Organization
  • This work deals with a very obvious truth: just as the oppressor, in order to oppress, needs a theory of oppressive action, so the oppressed, in order to become free, also need a theory of action.
  • Only in the encounter of the people with the revolutionary leaders—in their communion, in their praxis—can this theory be built.

The Politics of Education (1985)[edit]

  • Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
    • Chapter 10, page 122

Pedagogia da indignação (Pedagogy of Indignation) (2000, English trans. 2004)[edit]

  • It is not possible to remake this country, to democratize it, humanize it, make it serious, as long as we have teenagers killing people for play and offending life, destroying the dream, and making love unviable. If education alone cannot transform society, without it society cannot change either.
    • p. 47 [32]

Quotes about Paulo Freire[edit]

  • In our culture, so often, people teach beliefs, values, ideas, that have no relationship to how they live their lives. And each of the many times that I saw Paulo, I saw him exemplify again and again a unity between theory and praxis. And that has inspired me both as an intellectual and as a teacher to want to have that kind of unity, to believe and to know that it’s not a dream or a fantasy, but that you can teach by being in the world as much as you can by the books you write.

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