Pedagogy of the Oppressed

by Paulo Freire (1968)


This famous praxis of revolution is roughly one part insightful analysis on organizing, one part inaccessible and aloof theorizing, and one part new age-y psychological gobbledygook. And every one of those three parts is repetitive.

I admit that I stopped reading very closely after the third chapter (which was a mix of those last two parts), so I may have underestimated the importance of certain groundbreaking revelations in the last half of the book.

As I read it, the most valuable concept appears to be early on with the distinction he makes between the banking model of education (which treats students as repositories of information) and the problem-posing model, which could be characterized more as a learning partnership between teacher and student. He then extrapolates this onto community organizing and emphasizes the humility and compassion necessary for members of the “oppressor” class to work with oppressed communities. While he may not have been the first to notice this frequent pitfall of organizing, his argument is not only persuasive but also useful in the practical steps he gives to avoid it (again, when not theorizing off in the ether).

Even though I didn’t fully enjoy this, it’s a seminal work in the revolutionary tradition. I’d recommend it to ardent revolutionaries or historians interested in the various movements.

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