Introducing Paul Freire, Political Theorist, Philosopher and Educationist.
Alagi Yorro Jallow
Paulo Freire gives me a reason to reflect on an important influence of my life, particularly on issues to do with education and philosophy. I wish we could workshop Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” specially this Chapter three in all Gambian schools. It has such power to transform. Of course, that’s a far-fetched dream.
Paulo Freire was born in Recife, Brazil, in 1921. He worked briefly as a lawyer but soon turned to education, specifically to developing literacy programs for the Brazilian peasantry, which was widely disenfranchised due to a literacy requirement. When the reform government of João Goulet was ousted by a CIA-supported military coup in 1964, Freire, considered an “international subversive” trying to turn Brazil into a “Bolshevik country,” was immediately arrested and imprisoned for seventy days. Before he could be imprisoned again, or worse, he began a sixteen-year, self-imposed exile.
Freire, who became a professor of history and philosophy of education at the University of Recife in Brazil, experienced and learned from the plight of poverty and hunger during the Great Depression of 1929. This experience imbued in him a deep concern for the poor, which influenced his views on education.
Paulo Freire is widely considered the grandfather and one of the major contributors to Critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy is a teaching method that aims to help in challenging and actively struggling against any form of social oppression and the related customs and beliefs. Critical pedagogy wants to question society in its understanding of the role that education has. From this point of view, social critique is necessary if one does not want an upbringing and education that contributes to the reproduction of inequality. According to the critical pedagogy, education is inherently political, and any kind of pedagogy should be aware of this fact. A social and educational vision of justice and equality should be the basis for any kind of education. The liberation from oppression and human suffering should be an important dimension in education. Education should promote both emancipatory change as well as the cultivation of the intellect. As he once said: “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
Freire is best known for his book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” in which he described how people have been untaught or have never learned to think critically about their oppression. Most people accept their situation as inevitable and as belonging to life itself. Only when they become aware of their situation and are able to assign meaning to it (called a process of “concretization”), the step can be made toward changing the situation, making education, as Nelson Mandela would say, into a weapon which can be used to change the world.