The essay, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, discusses how we can be humanized. According to Paulo Freire, oppression dehumanizes both the oppressed and the oppressor. This is because due to oppression, the oppressed is reduced to being a thing, deprived of its rights and freedom. It comes to a point that even the oppressed believe that they are not worth anything. The oppressors are also dehumanized because in the process of subduing the oppressed, they treat the oppressed as things to be overpowered.
The oppressed to them are no longer humans, because they do not have the same rights as the oppressors have.
Therefore, according to Freire, liberation must come from the oppressed: they must free themselves. This is because the oppressors cannot give true liberation; this is a type of false generosity. Since both are of different classes, they have different interests. Therefore, if the oppressor gives liberty, the oppressed is risking a lot more than the oppressor if they take the offer.
The oppressor is giving liberty on its own terms: it will only give what it is willing to give, and not what is right. For the oppressed to be truly free, they must gain freedom by themselves.
They must do this through their own efforts. Now, according to Freire, since the oppressed are so downtrodden that they cannot believe in themselves, they must be taught to believe in themselves because no one can save them but themselves. This can only be done through trusting in the abilities of the masses (the oppressed), as well as believing in the cause.
Unlike the oppressors, one’s attitude must not be condescending towards the oppressed; one must treat them as equals, capable of learning. Unlike the oppressors, who learn abstract ideas inside classrooms, the oppressed learn concrete things outside.
They are treated as unlearned because they are unable to have the same type of education those in power have obtained. Since this is the case, they must not be treated as charity cases, because they are not charity cases. Freire’s essay is very interesting, to say the least. The concept of humans abusing each other is not exactly novel, but the concept of empowering each other to attain freedom, juxtaposed with what love really is, is innovative. These concepts were connected by Freire. As part of the privileged class, Freire puts responsibility upon my shoulders.
Instead of making me feel guilty because of my status, he points out that I can be part of change. My status is not important; only my commitment is. Which is why it is my responsibility to be part of the movement to change the system wherein society is divided into the privileged and the poor. This ideology is comparable to Daniel Defoe’s Education of Women. He talks about educating women in a special school designed to teach them certain subjects. Unlike Freire though, Defoe talks of an education solely for women. This means that men receive a very different kind of education.
The curriculum, of course, is decided upon by men. Frerie’s though, talks of an education everyone receives. Also, Frerie does not talk of passive students; he is talking of a kind of education where students interact with the teacher. This is based upon the the concept that the teacher has as much to learn from the students, as the students have as much to learn from the teacher. In effect, the students mold their education as they learn. Defoe mentions no such thing. It is as if the students will forever rely on the teacher, and that the students are teachers are not equals. Which is revolutionary, actually.
It has been inculcated in us that teachers are at a higher position than us. The platforms in front of classrooms emphasize this fact. We are taught to learn from them because they know so much more than us. We are made to feel as if we are blank slates, or even empty sponges. But this is not true. We are, before becoming students, children of life. We explore the world outside, and come up with answers to explain our questions. Just as the oppressed are experienced, so are we. We have a lot to contribute to the class, much more, as we can combine our kaleidoscope of experiences and contrast it against the teacher’s.
Freire also redefined teaching as merely imparting information. Freire goes beyond this to discuss humanizing people. After all, teaching is not about making robots. It is about imparting a part of yourself, sharing a piece of your soul. Freire exposes how education is used to alienate people, and then instructs how it can be redeemed. We can redeem ourselves, to turn away from the bestiality this system enforces upon us. Freire exposes how large the system we are fighting, but at the same time, leaves hope that we can transform it. And this is the challenge Friere leaves us.