Sunday, May 29, 2011

Key elements of Freire’s philosophy - My Reflections

Freire believed the social order consists of oppressors, oppressed and that the oppressors use education as a form of oppression to main unequal power relations.
He believed that the unjust social relations between the oppressed and the oppressors results in the dehumanization of the oppressed who must struggle to effect a transformation that would restore their humanity (By removing the imposed inferior status) and that of the oppressed (who by indulging in oppressive behavior have actually deviated from acceptable norms of humanity).
While advocating that education allows the oppressed to regain their humanity and overcome their condition; Freire also acknowledged that in order for this to take effect, the oppressed have to play a role in their own liberation. Likewise, the oppressors must also be willing to rethink their way of life and to examine their own role in the oppression if true liberation is to occur; "those who authentically commit themselves to the people must re-examine themselves constantly" (Freire, 1970, p. 60).

He believed education must take into account, the power relations between the oppressed and the oppressors; and seek for means of ending the recurring cycle of oppression, not merely replacing one set of oppressors with another set from the group of the former oppressed.

He noted that in the struggle for liberation, there is the tendency of the oppressed becoming oppressors themselves, thereby reversing the direction of the oppression.

His Pedagogy of the Oppressed promotes the attainment of liberation through sober reflection of oppression and its causes followed by effective action aimed at transforming the present reality.

He proposed the use of conscientization as a tool to translate the reflections of the oppressed on the reality of their condition, into effective action to achieve true liberation.
Thus, his philosophy aims at transforming the consciousness of the oppressors to make them accept the need for more equal relationship with the oppressed, while on the other hand, the oppressed are guided to work towards a state of equality with the former oppressors, not with an aim of avenging the past or replacing them as new oppressors.

Freire critical pedagogy arose out his perceived deficiency of the "banking" concept of education, in which the student was viewed as an empty account to be filled by the teacher. He notes that "it transforms students into receiving objects. It attempts to control thinking and action, leads men and women to adjust to the world, and inhibits their creative power" (Freire, 1970, p. 77).
He attacked the banking system of education because it portrays the teacher as “Mr. Know All” who passes down knowledge and skills which students are expected to simply receive, memorize and repeat without any opportunity to question it or contribute to it.

His philosophy laid the foundation for what is now called critical pedagogy, he noted that the Banking system stunts the creativity and critical thinking abilities of the students and that it serves the oppressors by preventing the students from truly comprehending or transforming reality. They only recognize the reality of their situation only as it is laid down to them by the teacher; and the students are already programmed to simply accept whatever is presented as a fact; without being guided to recognize the that every reality can be transformed to effect changes in the social order.

Based on the above beliefs, he advocated for an educational system that rejected the banking system while encouraging the development of a system that allowed for a deep reciprocity to be inserted into our notions of teacher and student. He goes so far as to say that “Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously students and teachers” (Freire, 1970, p. 72).

He proposed a horizontal relationship between teachers and their students based on an acceptance that both have knowledge to share, and both have a capacity and  need to teach and learn (from each other).

He saw the need for teachers to see themselves more as companion guides to their students, walking by their sides while leading the way in an ever revolving dialogue with the students.

He proposed problem-solving education in which the students critically question the reality that is presented to them and engage in acts of cognition rather than mere transfers of information. For problem-solving education to be successful, the student-teacher dichotomy must be resolved to allow the teacher learn from the students by engaging them in positive dialogue. This continuous exchange leads to a productive learning experience for both the teacher and the learners. It will allow for a critical examination of reality, and the realization of its dynamic, transformational nature.

Freire, in defining praxis, promoted the concept of constant engagement in reflection and action with the main aim of transformation and liberation. The true reality of the world is ever changing and thus this process needs to be a continuous one.

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This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.