Pedagogy of the Oppressed: The Design Theory For Our Future

We need new ways to think about transforming the world. Fortunately, the path was trailblazed half a century ago.

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Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash

“There is no such thing as a neutral education process.

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the ‘practice of freedom’, the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.

— Paolo Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

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Photo by Kelly McCrimmon on Unsplash

“…discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”

Let’s work through his text together.

“One may well remember …man is the only one to treat not only his actions but his very self as the object of his reflection; this capacity distinguishes him from the animals….[they live] “submerged” in a world to which they can give no meaning, lacking a “tomorrow” and a “today” because they exist in an overwhelming present, animals are ahistorical”…

Animals live out their lives on an atemporal, flat, uniform “prop”; humans exist in a world which they are constantly re-creating and transforming.

Many researchers at the intersection of animal consciousness, intelligence, and understanding might hotly debate these concepts. It’s clear, by working to answer the question “What does it mean to be Human?” Friere decides to adopt a theory of exclusion: we are different because of our ability to remember, relearn, and see the world apart from our primal instincts.

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Photo by Jamie Fenn on Unsplash

Humans, however, because they are aware of themselves and thus of the world — because they are conscious beings — exist in a dialectical relationship between the determination of limits and their own freedom.

As they separate themselves from the world, which they objectify, as they separate themselves from their own activity, as they locate the seat of their decisions in themselves and in their relations with the world and others, people overcome the situations which limit them: the “limit-situations.”

You catch that? “Limit-situation”.

…Men and women respond to the challenge with actions which Vieira Pinto calls “limit-acts”: those directed at negating and overcoming, rather than passively accepting, the “given,”

Thus, it is not the limit-situations in and of themselves which create a climate of hopelessness, but rather how they are perceived by women and men at a given historical moment: whether they appear as fetters or as insurmountable barriers…

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Photo by Zach Lezniewicz on Unsplash

…Persons take equally contradictory positions: some work to maintain the structures, others to change them….

limit-situations imply the existence of persons who are directly or indirectly served by these situations, and of those who are negated and curbed by them.

People are personally drawn either to serve, or change, the system.

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Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

“I consider the fundamental theme of our epoch to be that of domination — which implies its opposite, the theme of liberation, as the objective to be achieved.”

Can you name a single social issue connected to the modern state of humanity that hasn’t been influenced by domination? I can’t.

  • What’s liberatory about your past creations? What’s oppressive?
  • How would you make your tools different next time?
  • What are you doing to push humankind towards liberation?

You made it! I can’t thank you enough.

I can feel it; you have a lot to say on this topic. My ear is yours. Let’s find a reason to connect.

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