Paulo Freire

One of the most influential radical educators of our world. Developing methods for teaching illiterate adults to read and write and (as he would say) to think critically and, thereby, to take power over their own lives. Where teachers and students have equal power and equal dignity.

Wrote: Education for Critical Consciousness, The Politics of Education, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Revised Edition, Learning to Question: A Pedagogy of Liberation and Pedagogy of Indignation.

Because teachers could be said to have something that their students lack, it is impossible to have a ‘neutral’ classroom; when teachers present a subject to their students they also present a point of view on that subject. The choice, according to Freire, is fairly simple: teachers either work ‘for the liberation of the people–their humanization–or for their domestication, their domination. A teacher’s most crucial skill is his or her ability to assist students’ struggle to gain control over the conditions of their lives, and this means helping them not only to know but ‘to know that they know.’

Freire edited, along with Henry A. Giroux, a series of books on education and teaching. In Literacy: Reading the Word and the World, a book for the series, Freire describes the interrelationship between reading the written word and understanding the world that surrounds us.

The “Banking” Concept of Education

[margin notes: teaching = too much talking. Further: this is why I use real world examples]

For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.

[margin note: acknowledge what the students bring to the table; what they already know. Let them know you do not know everything; you are learning as well]

…both are simultaneously teachers and students.

…the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world.

To transform that structure so that they can become ‘beings for themselves.’

…critically consider reality. …ontological vocation to be more fully human.

…reality is really a process, undergoing constant transformation.

…engage in critical thinking and the quest for mutual humanization. …a profound trust in people and their creative power…be partners of the students in their relations with them.

[footnote: conscientizacao: According the Freire’s translator, “The term conscientizacao refers to learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality.” margin note: being woke.]

…a person is with the world or with others…a re-creator…a conscious being…

…one must seek to live with others in solidarity. Solidarity requires true communication, and the concept by which such an educator is guided fears and proscribes communication.

Yet only through communication can human life hold meaning. …thinking that is concerned about reality happens through communication.

Thinking, action, creative power.

But the inability to act which causes people’s anguish also causes them to reject their impotence, by attempting “to restore [their] capacity to act. But can [they], and how? One way is to submit to and identify with a person or group having power. By this symbolic participation in another person’s life, [men have] the illusion of acting, when in reality [they] only submit to and become part of those who act.”

…they cannot use banking educational methods in the pursuit of liberation…

But one does not liberate people by alienating them. Authentic liberation–the process of humanization–is not another deposit to be made in men. Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.

Those truly committed to liberation adopt instead a concept of women and men as conscious beings; as consciousness intent upon the world…the posing of the problems of human beings in their relations with the world. ‘Problem-posing’ education, responding to the essence of consciousness–intentionality…embodies communications…being conscious of…consciousness as consciousness of consciousness.

…acts of cognition…the cognizable object…intermediates the cognitive actors… Dialogical relations–indispensable to the capacity of cognitive actors to cooperate in perceiving the same cognizable object…

…problem-posing education: its function as the practice of freedom. …teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teachers, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. …authority must be on the side of freedom, not against it. People teach each other, mediated by the world…

…a medium evoking the critical reflection of both teacher and students.

He does not regard cognizable objects as his private property, but as the object of reflection by himself and the students. In this way, the problem-posing educator constantly re-forms his reflections in the reflection of the students. The students–no longer docile listeners–are now critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher. The teacher presents the material to the students for their consideration, and re-considers her earlier considerations as the students express their own. The role of the problem-posing educator is to create, together with the students, the conditions under which knowledge at the level of the doxa is superseded by true knowledge, at the level of the logos.

Problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality…the latter strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality.

Students, as they are increasingly posed with problems relating to themselves in the world and with the world, will feel increasingly challenged and obliged to respond to that challenge. Because they apprehend the challenge as interrelated to other problems within a total context, not as a theoretical question, the resulting comprehension tends to be increasingly critical and thus constantly less alienated. Their response to the challenge evokes new challenges, followed by new understandings; and gradually the students come to regard themselves as committed. [margin note: problem-posing leads to commitment]

Education as the practice of freedom… Authentic reflection considers neither abstract man nor the world without people, but people in their relations with the world.

In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in 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. Although the dialectical relations of women and men with the world exist independently of how these relations are perceived (or whether or not they are perceived at all), it is also true that the form of action they adopt is to a large extent a function of how they perceive themselves in the world. Hence, the teacher-student and the students-teachers reflect simultaneously on themselves and the world without dichotomizing this reflection from action, and thus establish an authentic form of thought and action.

…problem-posing education sets itself the task of demythologizing. Banking education resists dialogue; problem-posing education regards dialogue as indispensable to the act of cognition which unveils reality; it makes them critical thinkers. Problem-posing education bases itself on creativity and stimulates true reflection and action upon reality…persons as beings who are authentic only when engaged in inquiry and creative transformation…problem-posing theory and practice take the people’s historicity as their starting point.

Problem-posing education affirms men and women as beings in the process of becoming–as unfinished, uncompleted beings in and with a likewise unfinished reality. The unfinished character of human beings and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education be an ongoing activity.

Education is thus constantly re-made…problem-posing education–which accepts neither a ‘well-behaved’ present nor a predetermined future–roots itself in the dynamic present and becomes revolutionary.

Problem-posing education is revolutionary futurity. Hence, it is prophetic (and, as such, hopeful). Hence, it corresponds to the historical nature of humankind. Hence, it affirms women and men as beings who transcend themselves, who move forward and look ahead…

…movement must begin with the human-world relationship; in the here-and-now. To do this authentically they must perceive their state not as fated and unalterable, but merely as limiting–and therefore challenging.

As the situation becomes the object of their cognition, the naive or magical perception which produced their fatalism gives way to perception which is able to perceive itself even as it perceives reality, and can thus be critically objective about that reality.

[This paragraph has a star, so I must have really liked it:] A deepened consciousness of their situation leads people to apprehend that situation as an historical reality susceptible of transformation. Resignation gives way to the drive for transformation and inquiry, over which men feel themselves to be in control. If people, as historical beings necessarily engaged with other people in a movement of inquiry, did not control that movement, it would be (and is) a violation of their humanity. Any situation in which some individuals prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence. The means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision making is to change them into objects.

This movement of inquiry must be directed towards humanization in fellowship and solidarity.

…it also enables people to overcome their false perception of reality. The world…becomes the object of that fransforming action by men and women which results in their humanization.


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I'm a doctor of philosophy in Literary and Cultural Studies which makes me interested in everything! I possess special training in text analysis, African American literature, Women and Gender Studies, American lit, World Lit and writing. I work as an assistant professor of English in Memphis.

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