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Centre for Integrated Post-School Education & Training

What did you learn from Paulo Freire?

Daniel Schugurensky, an adult educator inspired by Paulo Freire’s work outlines 20 things that he learned from Paulo Freire. Daniel says he learned that:

  1. That education is not neutral: it can be used to reinforce structures of domination, but it can also be used to promote social transformation;
  1. Oppressed people have part of the oppressor within themselves.
  1. That people learn faster and are happier when educational content is relevant to their lives and when the method is based on dialogue and respect.
  1. That ignorance is a relative concept because all humans have considerable knowledge, experience, skills and values. At the same time, I learned that rejection of popular knowledge is as dangerous as its exaltation or mystification.
  1. That the authoritarianism of many schools is part and parcel of larger societal dynamics and that an emancipatory education can contribute to the development of a more democratic society.
  1. That implementing an educational model promoting democracy and critical thinking is sometimes frustrating and usually takes longer than traditional models. Consequently, temptation to return to the banking approach in which the teacher talks and the students listen is always present.
  1. That teachers can proclaim – and sometimes believe – to be implementing an emancipatory pedagogical model, yet in practice impose a traditional banking education.
  1. The importance of being consequent to core principles and values while being flexible enough to accept mistakes and change ideas and practice accordingly.
  1. That both the content and the method are important. A progressive content imposed through and authoritarian method is antithetical to a genuine learning process. An interactive method that avoids critical and transformative action is antithetical to a liberating education.
  1. That it is possible to reconcile apparently contradictory concepts: reason and passion; teaching and learning; education and organization; technical skills and political activism; reflection and practice; leadership and humility; knowledge and love; academic rigor and compassion; structural analysis and individual anecdotes; religiosity and Marxism; intellectual freedom and social commitment, and denunciation of present conditions and annunciation of a better future.
  1. Of the dangers of both voluntarism ( a kind of idealism that attributes to the will of the individual the power to change everything) and determinism (a sort of mechanistic structuralism that downplays the role of human agency in the historical process), because each of these approaches alone is incapable of resolving the tension between consciousness and the world.
  1. That it is possible to reject a loan from an international financial institution when it imposes unfair conditionalities and priorities, and when it places an unnecessary burden on the next generations. Paulo suggested that something was wrong when a country like Brazil needed financial assistance to educate its own citizens.
  1. That educational processes can be directive without being authoritarian or manipulative: directiveness can be compatible with dialogue and respect for differences in ideas and opinions.
  1. That education is communion: “I cannot think authentically unless others think. I cannot think for others, or without others”.
  1. That the curriculum is not something given, a universally accepted truth to be transmitted, but a social construction in which the word of the oppressed is seldom included.
  1. Of the importance of recognizing both the political dimension of education and the pedagogical dimension of politics.
  1. That any process of social change starts with the hope that history can be modified and the belief that oppressors are invincible, ant that it progresses with the development of an “inedito viable,” a sort of untested feasibility or possible dream.
  1. About the urgency of building “democratic radicalness,” which calls for a new ethics and a new educational practice based on respect and emancipation, and aims at assisting subordinated groups to develop political determination.
  1. The potential of a work that is genuinely interdisciplinary and combines theory and practice.
  1. That if your ideas challenge domination and oppression, and you stand for those ideas in your everyday practice, you are likely to be persecuted by the powerful, and you must be prepared to face jail, exile, and censorship. At the same time, I learned that despite suffering hardship, you are going to be supported and encouraged by the oppressed and disenfranchised, and by those whose ethics value social justice and solidarity.


Daniel, like many progressive educators, finds Paulo Freire’s ideas and arguments appealing.  So, reading through this list, what did you learn (or are learning) from Paulo Freire’s work? What appeals to you? What do you disagree with? How do you situate his ideas, arguments and propositions in your contexts?