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Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

“Dialogue is the essence of revolutionary action.”

An open book.
Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

New Revised 20th-Anniversary Edition. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum, 1997.

Great book.

Admittedly, Pedagogy of the Oppressed suffers from a death of real-world examples. This, however, might not be a great sin, for I found the dearth of examples to help me apply the ideas to my own experiences. Since Freire comes from a very different cultural context than me, I think that if he had included more of his real-life examples, this book would have felt less applicable to my own experiences.

The language in this book is admittedly dense, but once I understood how Freire was deeply Marxist and Christian, the language was a lot easier to parse. It was also kind of fun to read somehow who quotes Mao Zedong for theoretical support.

The actual ideas in this book are of course fantastic. Freire brilliantly critiques the banking system of education, and every time I heard someone mention Pedagogy of the Oppressed, this was the big idea associated with the book. This was, for sure, insightful. However, the biggest take away for me was the reason why Freire hates the banking model of education. Freire wants persons to view themselves as agents of change within a dynamic universe, a universe open to change, and a dialogical and problem-posing method of education, Freire argues, is the only way to accomplish this. This theoretical framework and reasoning impacted me much more profoundly than Freire’s critique of the banking system of education. Additionally, the second half of the book is a profound meditation on dialogue to which I cannot do justice in summary, so I’ll just quote this fabulous line: “Dialogue is the essence of revolutionary action.”

If this book convinced me of anything, it’s that we need more dialogue. Honest, real, listening dialogue.