The false choice at the heart of Freire

Filling the pail

Whenever I write about Freire’s book, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, I tend to provoke one of three reactions:

1. That I am reading the wrong Freire book and I should read other ones instead

2. That I don’t really understand what Freire means (this usually comes after I have quoted him)

3. That nobody is really influenced by Freire anyway

I have to admit that it is a very odd book. It is mainly about revolution and is written almost entirely in the abstract about the ‘oppressed’ and the ‘oppressors’. It is hard to even imagine what this means. However, I think that this acts as something of a blank canvas onto which we may can project our own preoccupations. I might imagine peasants versus dictators; you might imagine students versus teachers. If I ask a student to remove his coat in class then perhaps I am the oppressor and he…

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