Pedagogy of the Oppressed Chapters 1 and 2
In Chapters 1 and 2, Freire explains how the current education system, which he termed “banking concept of education,” functioned as the major instrument of sustaining the oppressive system and justifies the need for pedagogy of the oppressed for liberation of both the oppressed and the oppressor. I think Freire’s intentional use of “of ” here is important, as he proposes a pedagogy “with” the oppressed, not “for” the oppressed. As he criticizes several times the forms of “false generosity” or “false charity,” I agree with his idea that liberation/independence cannot be given as a gift for the oppressed, but they should be the subjects of the liberating process. However, one aspect that made me curious was his distinction of the educational projects from the systematic education. He states that educational projects “should be carried out with the oppressed in the process of organizing them” while systematic education “can only be changed by political power” (54). I believe most of what Freire proposes are within the boundary of educational projects, but I also wonder if (and how) these educational projects can be the changing forces of the systematic education. In other words, are there always this clear-cut binary between the oppressed and the oppressors and between the educational projects and the systematic education? How central is Freire’s pedagogy in the curricula of most schools in the U.S. or outside the educational system?
I think Freire’s pedagogy has been a good starting point for many educators and academics to think about it in a more specific context (i.e. Feminist pedagogy, etc.). Other way to put it, rather more critically, is that Freire’s critique on the oppressive system can be read as generalizing “the” oppressive system hugely based on Marxist class analysis, without specifying the different layers of oppression or proposing different possibilities of the very experience of oppression. We had a discussion on “intersectionality” and we are not well aware of how social inequality and injustice is sustained by multiple forms of oppression including gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and so on. Drawing from your own theoretical background and/or practical educational experiences, what’s your take on this?
Sometimes Freire seems to be romanticizing the inner values of the oppressed (laborers and peasants), although he understands the double/contradictory consciousness. In part to continue our discussion on pedagogy of the oppressed and “Trump voting masses,” I thought about if we have a clear-cut agreement on who are the oppressed and who are the oppressors under current political and cultural geographies (e.g. white supremacy rallies). How can we use Freire’s pedagogy in the current political context in (seemingly) democratized and societies (especially the U.S. and some countries in Europe)? Can interactive technologies be any useful platform for pedagogy of the oppressed in the twenty-first century?
I would like to end with quoting feminist scholar bell hooks talking on Freire and his sexism (refereing back to the second paragraph of this blog post). In the chapter 4 of her book Teaching to Transgress (1994), which is a playful conversation between herself (Gloria Jean Watkins) and her pen persona bell hooks, she powerfully states that Freire’s work is like water that contains some dirt in it. Do you agree with her statement? Can you let me know other scholars or practitioners against this position? More importantly, how can we think about Freire’s work in a more global context?
“In talking with academic feminists (usually white women) who feel they must either dismiss or devalue the work of Freire because of sexism, I see clearly how our different responses are shaped by the standpoint that we bring to the work. I came to Freire thirsty, dying of thirst (in that way that the colonized, marginalized subject who is still unsure of how to break the hold of the status quo, who longs for change, is needy, is thirsty), and I found in his work (and the work of Malcom X, Fanon, etc.) a way to quench that thirst. To have work that promotes one’s liberation is such a powerful gift that it does not matter so much if the gift is flawed. Think of the work as water that contains some dirt. Because you are thirsty you are not too proud to extract the dirt and be nourished by the water. For me this is an experience that corresponds very much to the way individuals of privilege respond to the use of water in the First World context. When you are privileged, living in one of the richest countries in the world, you can waste resources. And you can especially justify your disposal of something that you consider impure. […] If we approach the drinking of water that comes from the tap from a global perspective we would have to talk about it differently. We would have to consider what the vast majority of the people in the world also are thirsty must do to obtain water. Paulo’s work has been living water for me.” (Teaching to Transgress, 50)
As a theatre-major student, I previously commented on Zhang’s post about Brazilian theatre practitioner Augusto Boal‘s Theatre of the Oppressed. I write it here again just in case you are interested in reading more about the application of Freire’s pedagogy in theatre. Boal was hugely influenced by Freire and emphasized interaction and communication between the performers and the audience (he coined the term, “spect-actor”). As a form of activism and theatre, the methodologies of Theatre of the Oppressed have been performed around the world and you can check out “Theatre of the Oppressed NYC” too.
added on October 23 Monday after reading some comments:
Here is description of what Boal termed as Forum Theatre: (From Theatre of the Oppressed NYC Website)
“a troupe performs their original play, in which each scene depicts a specific obstacle based on actors’ real-life experiences; this is followed by a “forum” in which a facilitator asks audience members to come on stage and step into the role of the protagonist to try out an alternative response to the problem(s) depicted onstage. Throughout the forum a trained TO ‘joker’ facilitates dialogue about the potential of each alternative, and what social, legal, legislative, and/or institutional changes could make various alternatives viable. These interactive forums have proven to be an effective, inspiring way to engage audiences in a laboratory to ‘rehearse’ practical, creative actions that we can individually and collectively take to challenge systems of oppression.”
Based on our previous discussions regarding the role of “facilitator” it is interesting to note Boal called this as a “joker” in reference to the neutrality of the Joker card.