Pedagogy of the Oppressed is the central work of Brazilian philosopher and educator Paulo Freire. The Pedagogy is centered on the realization of an oppressive reality and the development of a method to change that reality, or as he calls it the pedagogy of the oppressed. Freire deeply discusses the traits and behaviors of a system of oppression and the way it oppresses people. He also discusses the importance of education in the revolution to end a system of oppression.
I personally found The Pedagogy extremely thought provoking. It got me critically thinking about my own reality as well as all the systems in action within it. One of the most striking to me was the dialectical relationship of humanization and dehumanization. With reading The Pedagogy I was forced to ask myself what it means to be human. In asking this I also contemplated societal definitions of worth and importance as well as superiority and inferiority. I came to understand how truly materialistic the reality I live in is. How society defines what is better or worse, based on material possession. It is defined that by having more, a person has a higher position on the social ladder. Why is this? How is somebody better than someone else, more human than someone, by simply owning more than another? After asking myself these questions I began to think of power and its definition in our society. Power is defined with socially constructed ideas such as social position, wealth, and race. None of these are natural constructs. So how can having more or less of these things make one naturally superior to another? Considering this, how can power even define one human superior to another? Why aren’t we all equal in worth because of the simple fact that we are human? After realizing this I formed my own theory around power and its definition. This chain of critical thought was initiated by reflection on Freire’s work. This is why I enjoyed reading The Pedagogy so much because it got me thinking critically about everything and forming my own theories.
After reading The Pedagogy I’ve been able to recognize systems of oppression, especially being in a major cultural hub like New York City. The most noticeable is the cultural and economic segregation within the city and how the public school system is used to sustain it. Wealthy people live more in Manhattan and parts of queens and Brooklyn. Most of the people in these ‘wealthy’ areas are white with little diversity. As you get farther from Manhattan, the neighborhoods get poorer and in some cases more dangerous. In these neighborhoods there are few white people and more minorities. This is because cost of living is more expensive in popular parts of the city and only wealthy people can afford it. Where there are more wealthy people, there is obviously more money, which means more money is spent on things like the funding of education. This means students in these wealthy areas go to well-funded public and private schools. In poorer areas, the opposite is true. Students in poor areas go to poorly funded schools. This makes a dramatic difference in the school experience wealthy and poor students will have. Students that go to a well-funded school will have better teachers, facilities and extracurricular activities and experiences. Students that go to a poorly funded school will more likely get poor faculty, facilities and little options when it comes to extracurricular activities. Also, there is a different culture among students towards learning. In wealthy schools, the importance of success is instilled in students at an early age. This makes them want to be successful so they can make a living for themselves. In poorer schools, the importance of success is not instilled and students do not get the support they need. This makes them underappreciate the importance of school and makes them resistant to striving in school. This is what makes it so difficult for those born into poverty to escape, they are not taught how to. This means that those who are educated in wealthy areas with well-funded schools are more likely to go to a great college and make a great living and those who are educated in poor areas will more than likely have an opposite experience. Therefore the present system of education in New York City keeps people in their economic and social ‘place’. These ‘places’ or social roles are another form of oppression I have noticed, not only concerning race but gender as well. They are oppressive because these social roles limit individuals by what they can do and how they can act because it may not be considered socially acceptable. These social roles within the city have been developed throughout the history of the city and have their own historical reasons. History does not justify these social roles but it explains how they came to be.