Author: Paulo Freire
Keywords: pedagogy, education, critical pedagogy, discussion
Physical copy available for borrowing at the Hilary Ballon Center for Teaching and Learning.
Paulo Freire's book The Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a revolutionary approach to education that seeks to liberate both the oppressed and the oppressors. Freire argues that education can be used as a tool to fight oppression, but only if it is based on dialog, love, and critical thinking.
The central problem of the book is helping readers to understand the nature of oppression and to take action to transform the world into a free space. Freire argues that liberation cannot come from the oppressors, but must come from the oppressed themselves through dialog and constant reflection.
In the first chapter, Paulo Freire concentrates on making the nature of oppression clear to the readers, explaining that liberation must be approached with love, through dialog and must come from the oppressed rather than by the oppressor because otherwise it is alienating and an act of what the author calls false charity.
Chapter two is the most important chapter as the author focuses his attention on teacher-student relationships, explaining that “education must begin with the solution of the student-teacher contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.” Freire explains that the authority of teachers must be re-imagined and our education models should shift from banking education to problem posing pedagogies encouraged and sustained by dialog around the world in which both students and teachers exist. This, according to Freire, would empower students and teachers to question their conditions. Freire proposes an alternative model of education, which he calls problem-posing education. In problem-posing education, teachers and students work together to identify and solve problems in the real world.
Dialog is at the center of Chapter 3 as it is the key component of problem posing education. Freire argues that dialog is essential for liberation because it allows people to come together and share their experiences and perspectives.. This suggests that no one teaches anyone and no one is self taught, instead, education is a process of growth and development that is undergone in a community setting facilitated by dialog.
Chapter 4 is spent describing the importance of cultural action and political revolutionary leadership. Freire explains that radical leaders must use dialogical action to bring communities in unity against oppression.
Education should be a liberatory process that helps students develop critical thinking skills and challenge the status quo. Freire argued that traditional education is often "banking education," in which teachers deposit knowledge into students' heads without engaging them in dialog or reflection. This type of education, he argued, reinforces oppression by teaching students to passively accept the world as it is. He proposed a new type of education — critical pedagogy —in which teachers act as co-learners with the students in their class and facilitators of dialog and self-reflection.
This book is a fundamental read for every educator for its innovative ideas on teaching, even more so given the liberal arts education and extremely diverse context at NYU Abu Dhabi. The learning environment at NYU Abu Dhabi (i.e., small class size, diversity student/faculty body, etc.) makes it ideal for the implementation of Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy is useful for faculty to help guide their course design, teaching methods and other activities that would help support students’ learning.