Pedagogy of The Oppressed by Paulo Freire

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2509 |

Pages: 6|

13 min read

Published: Jan 4, 2019

Words: 2509|Pages: 6|13 min read

Published: Jan 4, 2019

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Author
  3. Summary
  4. Critical Analysis
  5. Organization
    Language and Imagery
  6. Reaction
  7. What Resonated
    New Information
    Application to Life
  8. Conclusion


Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a nonfiction political philosophy book written by Paulo Freire that addresses concepts, ideas, and theories in relation to educational pedagogy. Initially published in Portuguese and later in English, the book addresses sources of oppression, identifies the keys to liberation, and proposes theories for the reform of modern education. Freire’s approach to concepts of education, the relationship between both student and teacher and the oppressor and the oppressed, liberation and acquiring freedom, and oppressive techniques can be personally applied to everyday life.

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Because of his upbringing and beliefs, Paulo Freire’s experiences contributed in the writing of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Freire states that the book’s content is a result of observations made during his six years of political exile. His ability to relate to the oppressed and to have oppressed citizens find understanding in his writing is mutually beneficial for both parties. For most of his adult life, Freire was dedicated to the well-being of the impoverished. He was even jailed for teaching Brazilian peasants how to read. Freire’s own experiences of poverty led him to have differing opinions regarding class. “It is the realization of such class borders that led, invariably, to Freire’s radical rejection of a class-based society” (Macedo, 2000, p. 13). His ideas on class and the factors of oppression altered his perspective, which led him to view situations and write more openly and more universally.


Many ideas were presented in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The text began illustrating the why there is even a need for a pedagogy of the oppressed. It explains where oppression stems from, the “contradiction” between the oppressor and the oppressed, and how liberation is a mutual process between the oppressor and the oppressed rather than a self-achievement made solely by the oppressed. The book goes on to assess the dynamics of a teacher-student relationship and introduce the idea of the “banking” concept as a form of oppression in regards to education. This concept establishes a basis of the educated teacher passing on a narration to their uneducated, patient, docile students. Rather than building upon the student’s knowledge and prior experiences, the teacher fills or deposits information and knowledge for the student to memorize without truly perceiving. The text later establishes the concept of dialogics, the use of education as a tool for freedom. Freire explains that dialogue is necessary in the liberation process. The text ends with a summary of the opposing theories of cultural action, or oppressive techniques.

Critical Analysis


The material presented in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed is organized in four sections. The sections explain, in depth, the main concept presented and expand upon the central idea with supporting evidence. Freire organizes the information in a coherent manner that makes it easy for the reader to connect the different points he’s making.

The argument presented throughout is pertinent to the age old saying: “Knowledge is power.” Freire forms the notion that in order for the oppressed to fully achieve liberation, they must be educated and that through reading can liberation be attained. He states, “Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other” (Friere, 2000, p. 72). Freire’s description of attaining knowledge in order to attain liberation is associated with the idea of developing critical consciousness. Critical consciousness, also known as liberatory consciousness, involves awareness of oppression in society and the knowledge needed to create social justice. “With a liberatory consciousness, every person gets a chance to theorize about issues of equity and social justice, to analyze events related to equity and social justice, and to act in responsible ways to transform the society” (Love, 2000, 602). Freire incorporates these ideas throughout his text.


It appears that the text had two purposes: to inform and to persuade. Freire seems to intend to inform his audience of why oppression will always remain relevant, where it stems from, how a group of people can begin the process to truly liberate themselves, the different oppressive techniques and how they relate to past and modern societies, and how the banking concept affects all people. However, he persuades his audience with his ideas of how these topics can be addressed and problems of different societies can be solved.

Freire makes a number of well-thought arguments and suggestions for reform. One of the arguments he makes, his ideas regarding the banking concept in education, is germane to the discussion of both modern and outdated forms of education. Freire notes,

“Narration (with the teacher as the narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated content. Worse yet, it turns them into ‘containers,’ into ‘receptacles’ to be ‘filled’ by the teacher. The more completely she fills the receptacles, the better a teacher she is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are” (Freire, 2000, p. 72).

This argument can resonate with students and teachers alike, as both sides equally contribute to education. In Freire’s claim, he made it fairly easy to see the faults in education systems that utilize ineffective forms of learning. His claim also emphasizes a power struggle between student and teacher: one that leaves the teacher demanding to remain in power over their students and the student struggling against the teacher to control their own creativity and have a voice in their education. This argument is beneficial in explaining the roles of oppression in a setting most people in the modern world have faced at one point or another. Many of the arguments presented throughout the text provide the reader with a better understanding of Freire’s logic. None of the arguments or evidence presented seemed to deviate from his addressed topics or appeared ineffective in helping the reader to perceive his reasoning.


Freire offers solutions in the text to the many problems he addressed. He explained the solution to achieving liberation for the oppressed by stating the “solution cannot be achieved in idealistic terms” (Freire, 2000, p. 49). He illustrates that liberation can be significantly altered by view of liberation and the perception of an oppressive state. By viewing oppression as unending, the oppressed have asserted they accept their position of not being fully equal to their oppressor. By viewing oppression as a situation that cannot be transformed overnight but over time, the oppressor accepts that they might not have equality immediately but will have it eventually.

Freire’s intended audience is suggested to be for all people, but more exclusively for the oppressed. Freire explicitly dedicates the book to “the oppressed and to those who suffer with them and fight at their side. By writing in a way that recognizes sources of oppression, Freire’s text does seem to be aimed toward the understanding of both the oppressed, who can use the identification of these sources to achieve liberation, and the oppressor, who through reading the text can identify the error of their ways.

Language and Imagery

The language Freire used in the book appeared to be more advanced. The language seeming to be more advanced could simply be related to the fact that his concepts were advanced. Perhaps Pedagogy of the Oppressed could possibly be better understood by someone with more knowledge of the subject. The book wasn’t the type to be centered around characters, a plot, a setting, or even display forms imagery, but minimal examples of imagery were present in passages that Freire was trying to simplify his concepts.

One of the book’s main topics is centered solely around education. While the banking education concept remains relevant throughout, Freire also offers the problem-posing concept in accordance with education. He explains that the way to combat banking education is with problem-posing education. Through dialogue and open discussion, “the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-students and student-teachers” (Freire, 2000, p. 80). This concept challenges the very relationship that students and teachers have with one another and emphasizes the difference from which students and teachers are typically expected to interact.


My initial reaction to the book was that the language was very hard to interpret upon first reading. I had to reread sections and give thought to what was being said to truly understand the book. I remember feeling that I could relate situations in my personal life with things the text described the oppressed had experienced. I also remember feeling angry and considering how unfair it is that our society has a history of oppressing many groups of people based on factors such as class, race, religion, and gender, but while advancements have been made, the same people are still being oppressed to this day.

What Resonated

Throughout the book, I was able to resonate with the side of the oppressor but also with the things addressed about the education system. I was surprised to find that once I viewed education differently than I always had, I was able to see some of the errors of the system and how some teachers I previously had taught in accordance with the banking concept. However, the text made me appreciate the teachers I had that truly invested their time and dedication in my learning and taught in accordance with the problem-posing concept.

When reading the book, I felt a variety of different emotions. I felt angry for the behavior and tendencies of the oppressor, I felt understanding towards the side of the oppressed, and I felt pessimistic about the future for the oppressed worldwide. Surprisingly enough, towards the end of the book I began to take on a more hopeful outlook. I began to feel somewhat inspired. Reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed made me realize that if you aren’t apart of the solution then you’re apart of the problem. I soon realized after reading that if you take on the role of a bystander to oppression and you don’t use your voice to fight for liberation, you’re on the side of the oppressor.

New Information

he information concerning oppression presented in the book wasn’t completely foreign to me. I knew previously that for as long as man has been around, the struggle with oppression has existed. However, the way the topics were presented throughout the book was new to me. Freire introduces his theories in a way that I hadn’t been exposed to before. His ideas about education were new to me because I had never questioned the state of education systems.

I can’t necessarily say that I experienced an extreme transformation from reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The book caused me to enter a state of thinking to question things that I hadn’t prior. It made me reflect on my past behaviors, attitudes, and overall actions. It caused me to think about what kind of teacher I want to be and how I should treat people in general. The most significant transformation I encountered was that of no longer being a bystander. Because I read this book, I believe in the future I’ll be more adamant in discussions that pertain to my role as a minority. “Taking responsibility means not waiting for others to tell you what to do, to point out what’s going on, or to identify alternatives” (Johnson, 2006, 614). The book and the points it made allowed me to recognize what taking responsibility for social justice truly means.

Application to Life

I feel that Pedagogy of the Oppressed has lessons that can be applied to both personal and professional life. Personally, reading the book can help someone struggling with their own oppression change the perception they have about things and even encourage them to have a generally more positive outlook. I believe the text can help everyone not be “bystanders” of oppression. Pedagogy of the Oppressed can encourage those who feel offended by oppression to voice their opinions in hope for a change. Professionally, reading the book could help prevent an oppressive situation from happening in the workplace. For someone who would be in charge of or presiding over a group of people professionally, the book could help them understand the repercussions of even the simplest words or actions and help them establish what type of leader they wish to be. Surprisingly enough, the book could even bring those in a professional workplace closer together. “Building bridges between people from different social backgrounds becomes increasingly important as our society becomes more diverse and stratified” (Zúñiga, 2003, 635). The book can help those from a privileged background understand the oppression of others.

By introducing topics of oppression, oppressive behaviors, and even diversity into schools, children can learn at an age during which they are still impressionable the problems with oppression and why liberation for groups of people within their own society is necessary. Acknowledging that oppression exists in many societies and establishing a difference between what it means to have privilege and to have power can allow younger people to break the cycle of oppressive behavior. “A key to the continued existence of every system of privilege is unawareness, because privilege contradicts so many basic human values that it invariably arouses opposition when people know about it…” (Johnson, 2006, 613). Parents are entitled to raise their children how they see fit, but by providing an unbiased universal education in schools, children are able to have a more open-minded outlook that can determine how they interact with and treat people. By setting a higher standard for education and the way different educational and teaching tools are implemented, teachers can garner an improved idea of how they should interact with their students.

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Pedagogy of the Oppressed has content that can be applied to anyone’s everyday life. Because of the universal approach Freire takes explaining concepts of education, teacher-student and oppressor-oppressee relationships, acquisition of liberation and freedom, and oppressive techniques, many people can relate these topics to their own personal experiences. If topics presented in the book or simply the book itself were published in a way for all ages, regardless of their education level, to understand, conceivably the message Freire intended to put across could have been understood by more people. Overall, I would recommend the book. Specifically I would encourage those struggling with the idea of oppression in modern society to read the book. I feel more prepared to enter a field where my actions can influence a tremendous amount of impressionable, young students. Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a book that could monumentally influence the teaching world and provide modern citizens with the resources and knowledge to put an end to the continuing cycle of oppression.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Pedagogy of The Oppressed by Paulo Freire. (2019, January 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from
“Pedagogy of The Oppressed by Paulo Freire.” GradesFixer, 03 Jan. 2019,
Pedagogy of The Oppressed by Paulo Freire. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Feb. 2024].
Pedagogy of The Oppressed by Paulo Freire [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Jan 03 [cited 2024 Feb 25]. Available from:
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