Book Review

Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968)

“Hope, however, does not consist in crossing one’s arms and waiting. As long as I fight, I am moved by hope; and if I fight with hope, then I can wait.”⁣⁣

— Paulo Freire

A canon for radical, revolutionary education, in this book Freire critiques the conventional approach to education and offers an emancipatory pedagogy to empower those who are oppressed and dehumanised, with the end goal of dismantling the structure of oppression. Freire believes that students are not blank slates and should be viewed as human beings with knowledge and lived experiences; and it is only through continuous dialogue, praxis (a combination of reflection and action), and love that we can together transform the world.⁣⁣
This book may be about education and pedagogy (which are not my specialty) but upon reading I found that it’s highly relevant for all forms of activism and empowerment too. It made me reflect on what I could’ve done differently to better engage, educate, and —more importantly— learn from the people I sought to educate and empower. I love how Freire didn’t just talk about education per se but also, more generally, about dialogue as an instrument for freedom and love as a foundation for liberation & humanisation. Definitely a must-read for all educators — not just teachers and lecturers, but also community organisers, activists, even parents.

Some of my favourite quotes from the book:

“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.”

“One does not liberate people by alienating them. Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it.”

“Dialogue is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world. Hence, dialogue cannot occur between those who want to name the world and those who do not wish this naming—between those who deny others the right to speak their word and those whose right to speak has been denied them.”

“The domination implicit in dialogue is that of the world by the dialoguers; it is conquest of the world for the liberation of humankind.”

“Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people. […] Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is commitment to others. No matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause—the cause of liberation. And this commitment, because it is loving, is dialogical. As an act of bravery, love cannot be sentimental; as an act of freedom, it must not serve as a pretext for manipulation. It must generate other acts of freedom; otherwise, it is not love. Only by abolishing the situation of oppression is it possible to restore the love which that situation made impossible. If I do not love the world—if I do not love life—if I do not love people—I cannot enter into dialogue.”

“Nor yet can dialogue exist without hope. […] The dehumanization resulting from an unjust order is not a cause for despair but for hope, leading to the incessant pursuit of the humanity denied by injustice.”

“For the naïve thinker, the important thing is accommodation to the normalized ‘today’z For the critic, the important thing is the continuing transformation of reality, in behalf of the continuing humanization.”

“A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.”

“To alienate men from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.”

My rating: 5/5.⁣⁣

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