Pedagogy of the Oppressed Chapters 1 and 2

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)

Image result for theatre of the oppressedAs 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.


I had a really fascinating Bass-ian experience with my Media Studies 101 class during Spring Semester 2012 in which we dug in to the viral video phenom of Kony2012. I kept a log of my teaching and wanted to contribute it to yesterday’s class anecdotal content:

PROJECT: CLASS WORKSHOPPING and GROUP INVESTIGATION of Kony2012 VIRAL VIDEO PHENOM in class and independently (mid-term to semester’s end) for MEDIA STUDIES 101: MEDIA IN EVERYDAY LIFE a required TIER 1 CRITICAL THINKING course, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, CT.

Research Topics: -Viral Video (viral content as a relatively new phenom in early 2012) -Invisible Children -Anti-Kony Campaign -United Nations -Jason Russell -Joseph Kony -Missionaries/Colonialism/Conversion/ -Mormonism -Lord’s Resistance Army/L.R.A./LRA -New York Times Op Ed -NPR -Charity/Fundraising/Donation


The Book of Mormon Broadway musical had opened in 2011 with a plot line about missionaries in Uganda, leading to the rhetorical question regarding the Kony2012 film: is art imitating life?

-Our joint research led to a consensus of an appearance that Director Jason Russell was proselytizing and more interested in conversion than in trying to raise awareness due to his personal commitment to Christianity. This was based upon odd similarities in language that we observed in our research between two such diametrically opposed causes such as, “crusades” and “holy wars”.

-Director Jason Russell had a very public mental breakdown mid-way through our research which overshadowed the viral phenom of the film. Personal news i.e., “scandal” about the Director halted our research and presented a “real-time” cautionary tale about media and mediated culture.

FOLLOW UP ASSIGNMENT: A subsequent written paper applying the principles of Kant and Mill from our text “Persuasion in the Media Age” (Borchers) to both Kony2012 and the Rutgers Spycam Trial which we also studied in Spring 2012 as a tragic landmark case in both media ethics and Internet privacy. I wrote the paper alongside the class and as the teacher, when I read/graded the students’ papers, I found that the philosophical theory of Kant and Mill made more sense to the class after the students researched as a group in a participatory way. One of the class’s leading students, who had served in the US Armed Forces, dove in to this project producing excellent research and went on to become a Social Worker. Here is the link to my paper.


An Example of Using Theater as an Educational Tool for “The Oppressed”

As we were discussing “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, it occurred to me that there is a video for an ESL program created by NYC Mayor’s Office and CUNY. I used to be a volunteer facilitator for this program, teaching ESL classes to immigrants in NYC. This video is about how to use theater to teach immigrants and the victims of domestic violence how to stand up against it. I think it exemplifies how to use art as an educational tool for “the oppressed”. The video is free to download and the file is not big.


Materials on Open Educational Resources for the classroom

During tonight’s Intro to Open Educational Resources lab, our facilitator Jean Amaral (Assistant Professor / Outreach Librarian, BMCC) will be referencing some materials for further reading. I am attaching them here for those of you who are participating, or for anyone else who’s interesting in learning a bit about the fundamentals of incorporating OER in your teaching.

Remember that We Switched the Oct. 16 & Oct. 23 Classes in the Syllabus

Because Jenna blogged on one of the reading assignments for Oct. 23rd (Mina Shaughnessy) , I wanted to make sure everyone remembered that we switched the classes for Oct. 16 and Oct. 23rd. That we are doing Dewey/Bass/etc. pedagogy class this Monday and WAC a week from Monday when Luke Waltzer will be joining us. The change is reflected in the online syllabus for the course, but I’m worried that some of you may be working off of older (and now out of date) print copies of the syllabus.

Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed

In the preface of the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire makes clear that the pedagogy of the oppressed to be presented ” is a task for radicals, it cannot be carried out by sectarians”. This warning was a type of catalyst to me, for the title of the book was instead evoking, at first sight, powerful images of liberation, fight, freedom against all forms of nepotism, neo-colonialism, and social disparity in their primary senses that I was looking for in the trouble linguistics, social and economic context of my country of origin: Cameroon.

Fortunately(or may be unfortunately),  Freire makes a clear distinction between sectarianism and radicalism. The first is made up of Christians(?), Marxists, and tends to mysticize while his approach is radicalism who criticizes and liberates. What is the modus operandum of Freire radicalism? What does it stand for? What does Freire radicalism criticize? How does it liberate? who does it liberate? From what does it liberate? for what purpose?

Freire’s primary aim is the humanization of illiterate and social groups who evolved at the fringe of the Brazilian society due to poverty, lack of educational knowledge, namely the incapacity of decoding the power behind scriptural encoding of the world in words. He wants to educate the oppressed masses by arising in them, not only to the consciousness of their humanity which had been imprisoned by the dominating class – the oppressors- through the limitation of their access to qualitative knowledge.  By  education,  those  ”outcasts” are to regain their humanity, while at the same time being educated  to educate and liberate their former oppressors who are just also the victim of the system that placed them in the domineering position:

In order for this struggle to have meaning, the oppressed must not in seeking to regain their humanity( which is a way to create it) become in turn oppressors of the oppressed, but rather restorators of the humanity in both.

In other words,  Freire is convinced that the liberation process is only possible through “critical and liberating dialogue ” that will enlighten both the oppressed and the former oppressors, victims of the system. The question arising here would be for who or what does the “system” stands for?

If one thing is sure, it is that Freire doesn’t point a finger at the oppressors(individuals) but at the system, the educational process accused of the malfunctioning of society. For that reason, a revolutionary leadership must  ”practice co-intentional education. Teachers and students(leadership and people), co-intent of reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling ”a given reality or coming to apprehend through critical reasoning, “but in the task of recreating that knowledge”.

In addition, the struggle of the oppressed is to realize what they are fighting for, “not merely for freedom from hunger, but for freedom to create and to reconstruct, to wonder and to venture”. In fact, the reconstruction passes through a deconstruction of the old and archaic system that has been alienating and imprisoning the student in a position of inferiority, that made him the depository, a recipient of the teacher or the system world’s view. This, called the “banking” system is the one to revolutionize.

The nodal component in the banking system is that  ”the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing”. Others components gravitating around it are: “the teacher thinks and the students are thought about, the teacher talk and the students listen-meekly, the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined, the teacher chooses the program content, and the students(who were not consulted) adapt to it”, etc.

The above elements of the banking system can be resumed as the subject/object relation, where the teacher is the subject and the student the object. In fact, for Freire, the banking system constitutes the reasons why the system is so alienating and denaturing. The banking concept should be replaced by problem-posing education which is “revolutionary futurity”‘. Therefore, the problem-posing education model should be “attempting to be more human” by positioning the teacher and the student at the same position: Subjects. These subjects or co-subjects are similar to co- intentional education and are built around a key concept: dialogue.

By Dialogue, Freire means the encounter of “those addressed to the common task of learning and acting” for he emphasizes the communal character of the educational/liberating process. He then proposes theories of revolutionary action as opposed to the theory of oppressive action, both organized around the varying and variable positions of the subjects/actors, actors/subjects.

After reading this summary of Freire’s view in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, what are your opinion about the educational models upraised by Freire in the late ’60s? What is the position of the banking system model in education today? Is the banking system really an antique dehumanizing learning system? What are the limits of the problem-posing method? Is it applicable to all fields of study/learning or is it restricted to some disciplines?

Could Shaughnessy Have Been More Holistic in Her Approach?

Born in 1924 to a father who didn’t finish high school and a mother with a two-year teaching certificate, Mina Shaughnessy earned her BA & MA from prestigious private universities: Northwestern and Columbia, respectively. For financial reasons, she did not pursue a Ph.D. Her modest rural roots, her reputable education, and her own frustration at not feeling free to attain the highest academic achievement provide context for the pioneering work she did at the end of her relatively short life in 1978, a year before Errors and Expectations was published.

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Sugar Cane Alley

Although I cannot find the link for a full movie of “Sugar Cane Alley” (, I still think it is a great movie that may be of some help for us to “experience” the “colonial/post colonial” education discussed in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire.

Experiential Learning


Dewey discussed the importance of “experience” in the education process. This concept is important for the development of modern education because it suggests that learning should be in a “context” instead of happening in the vacuum. It should be an “embodied experience”. As Dewey says in his article, “There is no such thing as educational value in the abstract”. In practice, students should be exposed to as much “educative experience” as possible, instead of being taught abstract knowledge and tested only for their grasp of such knowledge through standard tests. For educators who would like to create such experiences to facilitate students’ learning, the question is not only to have the awareness of implementing “experience” as part of the pedagogical approach, but also “what experiences will benefit students’ learning, how could teachers create ‘educative experiences’, and how much ‘experience’ do students need from the to be ‘educative’”. After all, it is not necessary, or impossible, for one to “experience” everything the “educate experience” may offer, and it is also important for students to engage their own “experience” in their learning process and interpret the “educative experience” offered by in the classroom. For example, if students are learning “the Second World War”, it is unrealistic that students should actually go to war to experience it – and even if they had been in a war before, their “experience’ is only part of the war. However, does that mean that they cannot “experience” war to understand it at all.and it is important that they have some “experience” of what the Second World War is like to understand its historical meanings.

In view of this situation, technology can serve as a powerful tool to help students “learn through experience”: First, teachers can use their knowledge and understanding to select the experiences that they deem may benefit students’ learning. And then, as Schivelbusch says in his article, Railway and Journey, technology has the effect of “shrinking and expanding spaces”. It is not only true about railways, from which he drew the above conclusion, it also applies to the multi media and and interactive technology that people are using today in an educational setting. With technology, teachers can expose students to the “experience” they are not familiar with through the “shrinking and expansion of space and time”, and make the experience “educative” according to the teacher’s understanding.

I was observed an instructor teaching a class about Japanese Americans during the Second World War in Queens College during the “Open Teaching Week” held by the Teaching and Learning Center of The Grad Center, and I feel that he vividly demonstrated how a teacher could use technology to help students to learn history through “experience”. While introducing to the students about how Japanese Americans were “relocated” to Hawaii and eventually sent out of America after the Pearl Harbor attack, the instructor presented photos shot during the years when the historical event happened, propaganda videos made by the U.S. government about the “relocation program”, and the transcript of the video to the students in order for them to “experience” what it feels like if they were in the shoes of Japanese Americans at that time, who had grown up in the U.S. and had to face the reality of being sent “back” to a country they hardly knew. While presenting the multimedia materials, the instructor also asked questions to encourage the students to think critically about how the U.S. government presented the whole “relocation” program in order to “attract” Japanese Americans to “voluntarily” to be sent out of the country eventually. This is a great example of using technology to provide “educative” experience to students through its “shrinking and expanding” space effect: The students were exposed to experiences that they may or may not be familiar with – they were very young and a lot of them were not Japanese Americans, and they were situated in New York and may or may not have been to “relocated” to Hawaii to face the reality of being expelled out of the country. However, instructional technology, well blended in the verbal instruction, shrinked the time and space for students, brought them back to the very time and space of the historical event, contextualized and historicized the knowledge they were learning, and then expanded the time and space in the classroom through engaging their existing experiences and their thinking.

The following are a few questions inspired by the readings of this week:

  1. Dewey’s theory of experiential education reminds me of the popular “task-based” learning ( If you are familiar with “task-based learning”, do you think it is a pedagogy inspired by and embodied the concept of “experiential education”? Why or why not? If not, then what do you think experiential education actually means in teaching practices? Is it meaningful to educational practice? Why or why not?
  1. As Dewey says: “It is a ground for legitimate criticism, however, when the ongoing    movement of progressive education fails to recognize that selection and organization of subject matter for study and learning is fundamental”. What kinds of subject matters should be selected as part of the curriculum? Do you agree with the current trend of cutting budgets for arts in the united states, represented by President trump’s budget plan ( ? Why or why not?

3.How do Dewey’s chapters about “Social Control”, “The Nature of Freedom”, and “The Meaning of Purpose” speak to the critics of “the banking method” in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed? What do you think the “purpose”, or “means and goals of education” is?

4.In Dewey’s article, he talks about the following aspects of experiential learning:

“It is a sound educational principle that students should be introduced to scientific subject-matter and be initiated into its facts and laws through acquaintance with everyday social applications”, and Subject-matters should not be “learned in isolation”. Reflecting upon your own educational experiences, do you think the science education you have received observed or reflected, to some extent, this principle? What you think are the advantages and disadvantages of this principle?

  1. Dewey says “The future has to be taken into account at every stage of the educational process” in addition to the past and the present. How do you think teachers can, as Dewey said, “look into the past, the present and the future” in their educational practice? Is it too much to ask from a teacher since teachers nowadays usually have great workloads? How realistic do you think Dewey’s educational beliefs are to the teaching practice today and why?

Bass’ “Engines of Inquiry” Through an Educator’s Lens

Bass opens “Engines of Inquiry” noting that the contemporary version of the “technological sublime” once associated with the Industrial Revolution, is now associated with the “Information Age” centered finding solutions and using information efficiently (Brass 1).  Computers are now machines which make us more perfect and speed up our process of finding answers and our problem-solving abilities.  Brass notes Stuart Moulthrop analysis of this as “the game of perfect information,” and that it is precisely this understanding of technology as “perfect information” that has disillusioned educators and education leaders as to how they should use new technologies in education. Effective and meaningful learning with technology cannot take place with this misinformed understanding of technology is coupled with problems that already exist in education.

Bass’ paper explores the various kinds of learning that there are and the ways that technology can be used efficiently within and outside of these learning environments. To be effective pedagogues, then we must zoom out and understand the situations conducive to and enhanced by digital tools, and those that are not. Hence, technology cannot be used with the desire to integrate it, but with purposeful and imaginative intent in how the technology will be used.

He also argues that we cannot use technology effectively when there is a misunderstood notion of perfection and access to information via technology. Instead of access to perfect information, pedagogues can use technology democratically to foster engagement and to have students question and study their learning.  Therefore, students can engage with online and become responsible citizens with responsibility for knowledge creation.  Communication and accountability for this information will then become a collaborative effort.

Brass’ paper instinctively made me reflect on our society and the way in which we use technology as consumers. Every innovation that major technology companies come out with is their attempt to make the “perfect” technological society.  When thinking of technology as supplemental parts of ourselves that are used to extend our knowledge, arguably, people conceive it as a perfect means of exploring information.  After all, every iPhone is “the best iPhone ever,” and a perfect version of its predecessor. The idea of technology as perfect has permeated society with a misunderstanding of use that is evident in our schools.  And, when I think about teachers who use technology and those who don’t, the ones who don’t are scared not to have it “perfect.”  The most effective teachers who integrate technology are those who dive right in.

When I think about these questions with a teaching hat on, the most apparent provocation for me is: How can we do what Brass proposes in education institutions to help teachers use technology creatively, imaginatively, and purposefully as Bass so clearly argues?

On the other hand, when I think about Brass paper through the lens of my Urban Education experiences, it brings us back to the question of “What does it mean to teach in a democratic society” and “What is an education?”  Does everyone have the same understanding of what an education is? Therefore, are Brass’ arguments made here with technology universally relevant? Does our society want us to be citizens who contribute to and question the more in-depth and collective knowledge of the people within its society? And if so, how do we teach teachers how to do this in our educator preparation programs with all the other questions and anxieties they have going into the profession in the first place?