Highlights for Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Critical consciousness, they say, is anarchic. Others add that critical consciousness may lead to disorder.

This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well.

The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility.

Solidarity requires that one enter into the situation of those with whom one is solidary; it is a radical posture.

No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors.

Any situation in which “A” objectively exploits “B” or hinders his and her pursuit of self-affirmation as a responsible person is one of oppression. Such a situation in itself constitutes violence, even when sweetened by false generosity, because it interferes with the individual’s ontological and historical vocation to be more fully human.

Conditioned by the experience of oppressing others, any situation other than their former seems to them like oppression.

The oppressed, as objects, as “things,” have no purposes except those their oppressors prescribe for them.

Submerged in reality, the oppressed cannot perceive clearly the “order” which serves the interests of the oppressors whose image they have internalized. Chafing under the restrictions of this order, they often manifest a type of horizontal violence, striking out at their own comrades for the pettiest reasons.

This discovery cannot be purely intellectual but must involve action; nor can it be limited to mere activism, but must include serious reflection: only then will it be a praxis.

Accordingly, while no one liberates himself by his own efforts alone, neither is he liberated by others.

Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.

The dominant elites consider the remedy to be more domination and repression, carried out in the name of freedom, order, and social peace (that is, the peace of the elites).

Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with students-teachers. The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.

The role of the problem-posing educator is to create; together with the students, the conditions under which knowledge at the level of the doxa is superseded by true knowledge, at the level of the logos.

Education as the practice of freedom—as opposed to education as the practice of domination—denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from people. Authentic reflection considers neither abstract man nor the world without people, but people in their relations with the world.

Dialogue further requires an intense faith in humankind, faith in their power to make and remake, to create and re-create, faith in their vocation to be more fully human (which is not the privilege of an elite, but the birthright of all).

Without dialogue there is no communication, and without communication there can be no true education.

We simply cannot go to the laborers—urban or peasant9—in the banking style, to give them “knowledge” or to impose upon them the model of the “good man” contained in a program whose content we have ourselves organized.

They forget that their fundamental objective is to fight alongside the people for the recovery of the people’s stolen humanity, not to “win the people over” to their side. Such a phrase does not belong in the vocabulary of revolutionary leaders, but in that of the oppressor. The revolutionary’s role is to liberate, and be liberated, with the people—not to win them over.

Educational and political action which is not critically aware of this situation runs the risk either of “banking” or of preaching in the desert.

Meanwhile, the significant dimensions, which in their turn are constituted of parts in interaction, should be perceived as dimensions of total reality.

If the oppressed do not become aware of this ambiguity during the course of the revolutionary process, they may participate in that process with a spirit more revanchist than revolutionary.3 They may aspire to revolution as a means of domination, rather than as a road to liberation.

One is the thinking of the master; the other is the thinking of the comrade.

In order to present for the consideration of the oppressed and subjugated a world of deceit designed to increase their alienation and passivity, the oppressors develop a series of methods precluding any presentation of the world as a problem and showing it rather as a fixed entity, as something given—something to which people, as mere spectators, must adapt.

These courses are based on the naïve assumption that one can promote the community by training its leaders—as if it were the parts that promote the whole and not the whole which, in being promoted, promotes the parts.

If children reared in an atmosphere of lovelessness and oppression, children whose potency has been frustrated, do not manage during their youth to take the path of authentic rebellion, they will either drift into total indifference, alienated from reality by the authorities and the myths the latter have used to “shape” them; or they may engage in forms of destructive action.

What Guevara did not say, perhaps due to humility, is that it was his own humility and capacity to love that made possible his communion with the people.

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