Paulo Freire
Quotes from and comments on his work... -CG

Quotes from Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire. Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos. 20th ed. NY: Continuum, 1999. ISBN 0-8264-0611-4 (pbk).

Forward by Richard Shaull

"Paulo Freire has perfected a method for teaching illiterates.. those who, in learning to read and write, come to a new awareness of selfhood and begin to look critically at the social situation... Education is once again a subversive force" (11).

"His early sharing of the life of the poor also led him to the discovery of what he describes as the "culture of silence" of the dispossessed. He came to realize that their ignorance and lethargy were the direct product of the whole situation of economic, social, and political domination -- and of the paternalism -- of which they were victims" (12).

"..a new unity of theory and praxis... a rediscovery of the humanizing vocation of the intellectual.. the power of though to negate accepted limits.." (14).

"... one basic assumption:.. man's ontological vocation (as he calls it) is to be a Subject who acts upon and transforms his world, and in so doing moves toward ever new possibilities of fuller and richer life individually and collectively" (14).


"Sectarianism, fed by fanaticism, is always castrating... Sectarianism mythicizes and thereby alienates... sectarianism.. turns reality into a false (and therfore unchangeable) "reality"" (19).

"This rightist and this leftist are both reactionary because, starting from their respectively false views of history, both develop forms of action that negate freedom... "circles of certainty"" (20).

"...each [sectarian] considers anything that is not "his" truth a lie.. "They both suffer from an absence of doubt"" (21).

Chapter 1

"..almost always, during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors.. The very structure of their thought has been conditioned by the contradictions of the concrete, existential situation by which they were shaped. Their ideal is to be men; but for them, to be men is to be oppressors. This is their model of humanity" (27).

"..the oppressed, who have adapted to the structure of domination.. have become resigned to it, are inhibited from waging the struggle for freedom so long as they feel incapable of running the risks it requires. Moreover, their struggle for freedom threatens not only the oppressor, but also their own oppressed comrades who are fearful of still greater repression" (29).

[Freire says that a pedagogy of the oppressed must be accomplished WITH, not FOR, the oppressed. In fighting for their humanity, the oppressed must collectively reflect on their oppression and its causes.]

[Oppression dehumanizes both the oppressed and the oppressors.]

"Liberation is thus a childbirth, and a painful one. The man or woman who emerges is a new person, viable only as the oppressor-oppressed contradiction is superseded by the humanization of all people... [the oppressed] must perceive the reality of oppression.. as a limiting situation which they can transform... [they must discover] that they exist in dialectical relationship to the oppressor, as his antithesis -- that without them the oppressor could not exist" (31).

"To affirm that men and women are persons and as persons should be free, and yet to do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality, is a farce" (32).

"One of the gravest obstacles to the achievement of liberation is that oppressive reality absorbs those within it and thereby acts to submerge human beings consciousness. FUNCTIONALLY, OPPRESSION IS DOMESTICATING. To no longer be prey to its force, one must emerge from it and turn upon it. This can be done only by means of the praxis: reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it" (33).

"... dialoguing with the people about their actions... the need for the critical intervention of the people in reality through the praxis. The pedagogy of the oppressed, which is the pedagogy of people engaged in the fight for their own liberation, has its roots here. And those who recognize, or begin to recognize, themselves as oppressed must be among the developers of this pedagogy... The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption" (35-6).

"But if the implementation of a liberating education requires political power and the oppressed have none, how then is it possible to carry out the pedagogy of the oppressed prior to the revolution? ...One aspect of the reply is to be found in the distinction between SYSTEMATIC EDUCATION, which can only be changed by political power, and EDUCATIONAL PROJECTS, which should be carried out WITH the oppressed in the process of organizing them" (36).

"The pedagogy of the oppressed, as a humanist and libertarian pedagogy, has two distinct stages. In the first, the oppressed unveil the world of oppression and through praxis commit themselves to its transformation. In the second stage, in which the reality of oppression has already been transformed, this pedagogy ceases to belong to the oppressed and becomes a pedagogy of all people in the process of permanent liberation. In both stages, it is always through action in depth that the culture of domination is culturally confronted. In the first stage of this confrontation occurs through the change in the way the oppressed perceive the world of oppression; in the second stage, through the expulsion of the myths created and developed in the old order..." (36-7).

Oppression.. in itself constitutes violence, even when sweetened by falsse generosity, because it interferes with the individual's ontological and historical vocation to be more fully human. With the establishment of a relationship of oppression, violence has ALREADY begun" (37).

"Violence is initiated by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognize others as persons..." (37).

"For the oppressors, however, it is always the oppressed... who are disaffected, who are "violent," "barbaric," "wicked," or "ferocious" when they react to the violence of the oppressors" (38).

"As the oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized" (38).

"For the oppressors, "human beings" refers only to themselves; other people are "things." For the oppressors, there exists only one right: their right..." (39).

"The man or woman who proclaims devotion to the cause of liberation yet is unable to enter into COMMUNION with the people, whom he or she continues to regard as totally ignorant, is grievously self-deceived.

Some terms Freire uses, and some that come to mind:

Education as a subversive force
Liberation Thinking (like liberation theology)
Liberation Learning
Liberation Research
Liberation Librarianship

Steps To Liberation:

  1. They must realize they are oppressed.
  2. They must realize that they must create the pedagogy; no one can do it for them.
  3. They must realize that they are domesticated -- Their adaptation to the structure of domination, their being resigned to it, unwilling to take the risks necessary to free themselves.

Steps in the Pedagogy:

  1. Affirm that men and women are PERSONS and should be free.
  2. Dialogue with them about their selfhood and their social situation; discuss the following:
  3. Create the pedagogy collectively WITH them.
  4. They must realize that the situation can be changed; that oppression is not a given.
  5. They must discover their own power... that without them the oppressor could not exist.
  6. They must become convinced that the oppressor-oppressed contradiction must be superseded by the humanization of all people.

Reading List

Freire, Paulo. Education for critical consciousness. NY: Continuum, 1973. PAC call number LC 191 .F7613 1973.

Freire, Paulo. Learning to question : a pedagogy of liberation. NY: Continuum, 1989. PAC call number LB880.F73 L43 1989.

Freire, Paulo. Literacy : reading the word & the world. South Hadley, Mass. : Bergin & Garvey Publishers, 1987. PAC call number LC149 .F75 1987.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. NY: Continuum, 1970. PAC call number LB880.F73 P4313 1988.

Freire, Paulo. The politics of education : culture, power, and liberation. South Hadley, Mass. : Bergin & Garvey, 1985. PAC call number LC149 .F76 1985.

Freire, Paulo. Education for critical consciousness. NY: Continuum, 1973. PAC call number LC191 .F7613 1973.

Hooks, Bell. Talking back : thinking feminist, thinking black. Boston, MA : South End Press, c1989. PAC call number E185.86 .H74 1989.

Shor, Ira. A pedagogy for liberation : dialogues on transforming education. South Hadley, Mass. : Bergin & Garvey Publishers, 1987. PAC call number LB41 .S554 1987.

Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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