Log in

24 December 2006 @ 10:07 pm
some reflections on freire  
Some reflections on Freire

"This, thus, is the great humanistic and historical task of the
oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well... Only
power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed will be
sufficiently strong to free both."

Paulo Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, pg. 28

"As the oppressed, fighting to be human, take away the oppressors'
power to dominate and suppress, they restore to the oppressors the
humanity they had lost in the exercise of oppression" - pg. 42

Oppression theory is something that has fascinated me from the moment
that I first learned about it. In my freshmen year of high school, I
attended an eye-opening anti-racism workshop where they taught us
about how racism structures the legal system, the media, and the other
institutions that we live under.

Freire's ideas about the oppressed liberate the oppressor, likewise,
intrigue me. I wonder, though, in this complex world of interlinking
oppressions and co-construction of identity categories what it means
to divide people into oppressed and oppressor. For example, is a
white queer male with disabilities more or less oppressed than a black
straight female? One theorist even asserted strongly that there is
"no hierarchy of oppressions." So who is liberating whom? Is the
exercise of anti-oppression inherently liberatory for everyone? Can,
as anti-racism trainings assert, white people unlearn their own
racism? In the workshop that I was in, a black man leading the
training asserted that white people don't need black people to undo
their own racism-- that in fact, white people becoming anti-racists
was a precondition to any meaningful inclusion of black people in
institutional structures. But if that is so, doesn't it deny the
agency of the oppressed, and ignore the fact that as Frederick
Douglass stated that the oppressor only makes concessions because of
the actions of the oppressed? Friere's statements, for me, raise more
questions than they provide answers.

"The banking approach to adult education, for example, will never
propose to students that they critically consider reality. It will
deal instead with such vital questions as whether Roger gave green
grass to the goat, and insist upon the importance of learning that, on
the contrary, Roger gave green grass to the rabbit."

Paulo Friere, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p.61

This comment by Freire is made almost in jest. Yet, it is true that
much of education consists of learning meaningless facts and reading
nonsense books and sentences instead of learning socially
transformative praxis. Critical consideration of reality is what
critical educators (pedagogues?) strive for, even in something
considered supposedly basic such as adult literary education. It
would be interesting to apply these ideas to childhood education-- for
example, what would a critical version of the Teletubbies look like
for young children? Some examples of critically-informed children's
literature include the classic Heather has Two Mommies which teaches
about alternative families and Click Clack Moo: Cows Who Type which
teaches young people about unionization. But for the early reading
levels, mostly nonsense or simplistic sentences are used. Could some
form of Freire's codifications be used to teach young children? Could
they be taught to use generative themes in their learning process?

"Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the
students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges:
teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is no longer
merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue
with the students, who in term while being taught also teach. They
become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow."

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 67.

This statement seems self-evident in my conception of pedagogy, but it
's amazing how many Computer Science courses I have taken in which the
teacher lectured and students took notes, where the teacher made
assignments and students carried them out, in which the students were
practically afraid to ask questions as the teacher lectured on and on,
indifferent to student comprehension. In one film course that I took,
the teacher would talk non-stop, asking for student questions and then
remembering other points she wanted to make, and would keep talking
until she ran out of things to say and then might take a question or
two. She was very offended when I suggested she might stop and ask
the class about pacing, and eventually I sought the disability
resource center and asked for permission to take extra breaks during
class since I would get too overwhelmed during lectures. So perhaps
Freire's conceptions of education and the
teacher-student/student-teacher relationship are not self-evident.
But they are essential to a critical pedagogy, or even an effective
pedagogy. It's a necessary, but not sufficient condition to critical
mucilofamucilmucilofamucil on December 28th, 2006 12:10 am (UTC)
I read this post earlier and intended to comment but became distracted. Thank you for posting this because I got some value out of it, even if this community is dead. phil_of_ed might get a little more attention if you want to post it again.
Voyagervoyager640 on December 28th, 2006 12:47 am (UTC)
Well, I think that reports of the death of this community are greatly exagerated. :)
poets_handpoets_hand on December 28th, 2006 11:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you for opening my eyes to a new term. ("Critical Pedagogy") I had to look it up in wikipedia! Now I am fascinated.

I'm trying to raise my children to think for themselves. I never tell them to do something "because I said so". Ever. And if they disagree with their teachers, I ask them to go to their teachers (they are in first grade and preschool!), and offer them an alternative view. Sometimes we'll watch movies that offer traditional male/female roles, or traditional historical/political views, and I'll ask them what they think. We do the same for books. My daughter is very vocal, and will say exactly what she thinks, and why she disagrees with the book/movie. I never tell my children what to believe, I always ask them. So I guess I am already raising them pedagogically. (?)

Do you, or members of your community, have any suggestions of books that I can read on how to help my children through public school without being indoctrinated too much?
Voyagervoyager640 on December 29th, 2006 12:10 am (UTC)
You might try the Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn. Also, Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen.