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Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Portuguese: Pedagogia do Oprimido), written by educator Paulo Freire, proposes a pedagogy with a new relationship between teacher, student, and society. It was first published in Portuguese in 1968, and was translated by Myra Ramos into English and published in 1970.[1] The book is considered one of the foundational texts of critical pedagogy.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Pedagogy of the oppressed.jpg
AuthorPaulo Freire
Original titlePedagogia do Oprimido
Publication date
Published in English

Dedicated to the oppressed and based on his own experience helping Brazilian adults to read and write, Freire includes a detailed Marxist class analysis in his exploration of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized.

In the book Freire calls traditional pedagogy the "banking model of education" because it treats the student as an empty vessel to be filled with knowledge, like a piggy bank. He argues that pedagogy should instead treat the learner as a co-creator of knowledge.

The book has sold over 750,000 copies worldwide.[2]


Translated into several languages, most editions of Pedagogy of the Oppressed contain at least one introduction/foreword, a preface, and four chapters.

The first chapter explores how oppression has been justified and how it is reproduced through a mutual process between the "oppressor" and the "oppressed" (oppressors–oppressed distinction). Examining how the balance of power between the colonizer and the colonized remains relatively stable, Freire admits that the powerless in society can be frightened of freedom. He writes, "Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man; nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion".[3] According to Freire, freedom will be the result of praxis—informed action—when a balance between theory and practice is achieved

The second chapter examines the "banking" approach to education—a metaphor used by Freire that suggests students are considered empty bank accounts that should remain open to deposits made by the teacher. Freire rejects the "banking" approach, claiming it results in the dehumanization of both the students and the teachers. In addition, he argues the banking approach stimulates oppressive attitudes and practices in society. Instead, Freire advocates for a more world-mediated, mutual approach to education that encourages the co-creation of knowledge. According to Freire, this "authentic" approach to education must allow people to be aware of their incompleteness and strive to be more fully human. This attempt to use education as a means of consciously shaping the person and the society is called conscientization, a term first coined by Freire in this book.

The third chapter discusses the idea that "to speak the true word is to transform the world".[4] Freire developed the use of the term limit situation with regards to dimensions of human praxis. This is in line with Álvaro Vieira Pinto's use of the word/idea in his "Consciência e Realidade Nacional", which Freire contends is "using the concept without the pessimistic character originally found in Jaspers" (Note 15, Chapter 3), in reference to Karl Jaspers's notion of Grenzsituationen.[citation needed]

The last chapter proposes dialogics as an instrument to free the colonized, through the use of cooperation, unity, organization and cultural synthesis (overcoming problems in society to liberate human beings). This is in contrast to antidialogics, which use conquest, manipulation, cultural invasion, and the concept of divide and rule. Freire suggests that populist dialogue is a necessity to revolution; that impeding dialogue dehumanizes and supports the status quo. This is but one example of the dichotomies Freire identifies in the book; others include the student-teacher dichotomy and the colonizer-colonized dichotomy.


Since the publication of the English edition in 1970, Pedagogy of the Oppressed has been widely adopted in America's teacher-training programs. A 2003 study by David Steiner and Susan Rozen determined that Pedagogy of the Oppressed was frequently assigned at top education schools.[5]


The work was strongly influenced by Frantz Fanon and Karl Marx. One of Freire's dictums is that "there neither is, nor has ever been, an educational practice in zero space-time—neutral in the sense of being committed only to preponderantly abstract, intangible ideas."[6]

Friere's work was one inspiration for Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed. [7]


Donaldo Macedo, a former colleague of Freire and University of Massachusetts Boston professor, calls Pedagogy of the Oppressed a revolutionary text, and people in totalitarian states risk punishment reading it.[8] During the South African anti-apartheid struggle, the book was banned and kept clandestine. Ad-hoc copies of the book were distributed underground as part of the "ideological weaponry" of various revolutionary groups like the Black Consciousness Movement.[9]

In 2006, Pedagogy of the Oppressed came under criticism over its use as part of the La Raza Studies program at Tucson High School. In 2010, the Arizona State Legislature passed House Bill 2281, enabling the Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction to restrict state funding to public schools with ethnic studies programs. Tom Horne, who was Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction at the time, criticized the program of "teaching students that they are oppressed."[10]

In his article for the conservative City Journal, Sol Stern asserts that Pedagogy of the Oppressed ignores the traditional touchstones of Western education (e.g., Rousseau, John Dewey, or Maria Montessori) and contains virtually none of the information typically found in traditional teacher education (e.g., no discussion of curriculum, testing, or age-appropriate learning). To the contrary, Freire rejects traditional education as "official knowledge" that intends to oppress.[11]

Stern also suggests that heirs to Freire's ideas have taken them to mean that since all education is political, "leftist math teachers who care about the oppressed have a right, indeed a duty, to use a pedagogy that, in Freire's words, 'does not conceal—in fact, which proclaims—its own political character.'"[12]

A 2019 article in Spiked (magazine), a British Internet magazine focusing on politics, culture and society claims that, "In 2016, the Open Syllabus Project catalogued the 100 most requested titles on its service by English-speaking universities: the only Brazilian on its list was Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. When Elliott Green, associate professor at the London School of Economics, analysed the most cited works available on Google Scholar, he found the work was the third most cited in the social sciences and was even ahead of works by Michel Foucault or Karl Marx. However, despite his international success, Freire is a great enemy of the Brazilian right. Today, his name is regularly invoked in the culture wars that have engulfed Brazil. And now that President Jair Bolsonaro, his Social Liberal Party and his family are running the country, the crusade against Freire’s work and influence has intensified." and, "Paulo Freire is despised by the Bolsonaro clan for teaching the masses to question authority." [13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "About Pedagogy of the Oppressed". Archived from the original on 2011-10-12. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
  2. ^ Publisher's Foreword in Freire, Paulo (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, p. 9.
  3. ^ Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). New York: Bloomsbury. p. 47. ISBN 9780826412768. OCLC 43929806.
  4. ^ Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). New York: Bloomsbury. p. 87. ISBN 9780826412768. OCLC 43929806.
  5. ^ "Skewed Perspective - Education Next". Education Next. 2009-10-20. Retrieved 2017-03-05.
  6. ^ Freire, Paolo (2014) Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed, New York: Bloomsbury, p.67.
  7. ^ Augusto Boal (1993). Theater of the Oppressed. New York: Theatre Communications Group. ISBN 0-930452-49-6, p 120
  8. ^ Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed (30th anniversary ed.). New York: Bloomsbury. p. 16. ISBN 9780826412768. OCLC 43929806.
  9. ^ Archie Dick (2010) "Librarians and Readers in the South African Anti-Apartheid Struggle", public lecture given in Tampere Main Library, August 19, 2010.
  10. ^ Lundholm, Nicholas (2011). "Cutting Class: Why Arizona's Ethnic Studies Ban Won't Ban Ethnic Studies" (PDF). Arizona Law Review. 53: 1041–1088.
  11. ^ Stern, Sol. "Pedagogy of the Oppressor", City Journal, Spring 2009, Vol. 19, no. 2
  12. ^ Stern, Sol. "'The Ed Schools' Latest—and Worst—Humbug", City Journal, Spring 2006, Vol. 16, No. 3.
  13. ^ GARCIA, R T. "The culture war over Brazil's leading intellectual". Retrieved 13 May 2019.


  • Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 2007.
  • Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary ed. New York: Continuum, 2006.
  • Rich Gibson, The Frozen Dialectics of Paulo Freire, in NeoLiberalism and Education Reform, Hampton Press, 2006.

External linksEdit