Pedagogy of the oppressed-From practice to praxis


by Susanna Tesconi -

Pedagogy of the oppressed is, in my opinion, one of the deepest reflections on education ever.  It is so complete and complex that one can read it again and again and discover new contributions/inspirations every time.


The pedagogy of the oppressed is an instrument for the  critical discovery that both oppressed and oppressors are manifestations of dehumanization.

By overcoming the oppressor/oppressed contradiction, intended as the dialectical conflict between opposing social forces historically determined,  the man or woman who emerges is a new person, “a new being: no longer oppressor nor longer oppressed, but human in the process of achieving freedom”.[1]

Social reality is the product of human action, it is not transformed by chance, destiny, fate or  god. So,  if people produce social reality, then transforming that reality is an historical task, a task for humanity, a task made real and possible by the fact that world and human beings do not exist apart from each other, they exist in constant interaction.

Freire describes two different stages of the pedagogy of the oppressed. At the first step  the oppressed unveil the world of oppression and start to transform it through the praxis, i.e. through   reflection and action upon the world in order to change the actual order of social forces. In the second stage, once the transformation has already started, this pedagogy extends its territory and becomes a pedagogy of all people in the process of permanent liberation, in the purpose of being more human.

Pedagogy of the oppressed is not a method, nor a technique nor a magic recipe. The educator, the teacher, the facilitator or everyone who decides to commit to the people, must re-examine himself constantly. “Conversion to the people requires a profound rebirth”. It requires the understanding of the fact that liberation is not a gift donated by the revolutionary leadership to the oppressed, but the result of their own conscientiçao.

In the pedagogy of the oppressed education is not an instrument by which the teachers can domesticate the students, or treat them as deposit for knowledge. Education, in this setting is co-intentional education. “Teachers and students (leadership and people), co-intent on reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling that reality, and thereby coming to know it critically, but in the task of re-creating that knowledge”. So the task of the teacher is to create knowledge working as a “fellow-researcher” together with the students. Education must not be a narration of a static, predictable, compartmentalized reality, but “must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students”.It is a problem-posing education, where the vertical, narrative flow of banking education is replaced by conscious acts of cognition performed by cognitive actors(teachers and students) intermediated by the world.   

All that can sound like unrealistic, impractical, too political and theoretical, but there are several studies that demonstrates that an implementation of freirean learning environments is possible and it works very well in combination with creative technology as agent of emancipation. It is the case of a P. Blikstein study, Travels in Troy with Freire, who combine a freirean framework with a creative use of technology for the design of educational interventions in low-income communities.

I think that the maker-space, is a perfect environment for implementing a freirean framework, because  is  a good place for being teachers/learners.  In this setting the learner became an active agent of change and the teacher "a facilitator of emergent emancipation"[2]. Also It offers the possibility of building a shared critical knowledge about technology, its design and its use. It can allow us to use and implement the community´s technological culture and became conscious of the oppression of being just passive users/customers of technological devices. The maker-space environment also allows us to reflect on the real course of technological development and see how a deterministic, acritical approach is what make bigger and bigger the technological divide.

As Freire says "More and more, the oppressors are using science and technology as unquestionably powerful instruments for their purpose: the maintenance of the oppressive order through manipulation and repression." The maker movement offers the possibility of change this pattern and produce a collective consciousness about technology development and its influence on people’s living. Technology, as history and reality doesn't follow a predetermined development, but it depends on people's knowledge and people's choices. People can determine technological development. The maker-space as educational setting and learning environment can be the place where learners become conscious about the power they have to create more human and more sustainable technology and society. The the teaching/learning practice made possible in a maker-space, enhanced by reflection generated  by the community  and the sharing of knowledge   becomes  praxis of liberation.  


1 Freire, P. Pedagogy of the oppressed

 2 Blikstein, P. Travels in Troy with Freire

A. Gramsci, Lettere, Torino, Einaudi, 1965,

Papert, S. Mindstorms.

Freire and  Papert video


Susan Klimczak's picture

"More and more, the oppressors are using science and technology as unquestionably powerful instruments for their purpose: the maintenance of the oppressive order through manipulation and repression." -Freire

Thank you for pointing me in the direction of this quote.  I believe that creating opportunities for youth reflect on the social/political/economic implications of what they are choosing to create and make is a powerful first step in interrupting this.  

In my program, Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn, we have taken a small step toward this in having youth create online portfolios for their group projects where they identify a community issue they believe is important to solve and write about why their project is a step toward solving that problem.  Sometimes the problems are quite serious;  sometimes they are small and teenager-centric.  However, I believe that creating space for them to think and write about this is important.  We have not done enough of this in a serious way.

Thinking with you and your blogpost inspires me to consider this part of our pedagogy more seriously and try to find a way to structure this year's program with more opportunities.  

p.s. I also LOVE the bookcover you included in your post. . . so beautiful and made me think how interesting it would be to look at different covers of Pedagogy of the Oppressed in the 20 different languages/countries where it has been published!