in Freirean Pedagogy (Tom
Brightly colored political
posters, even more than mismatched chairs, worn carpeting, and unwashed
windows, set this classroom apart from other schools. Eight Hispanic adults--three
women and five men--gathered with their teacher to resume their lessons
in literacy. Maria had arrived late, visibly distraught, explaining that
her husband had threatened her. He didn't want her going out to classes
at night and argued that her three children were being neglected. Maria,
leaving the argument unresolved, had come to resume her studies. Her teacher,
instead of giving advice or encouragement, asked the group for help. The
members reflected on the Maria's experience and, in the process, identified
several issues: a husband's putative "rights" over his wife, acceptance
of domestic violence against women as `normal,' a presumption that women
are "asking for trouble" if they go outside at night and that Maria had
the major responsibility for her children.
The discussion was
energetic, with strong sentiments expressed by some who appealed frequently
to "the way things are," and a growing solidarity among the women. While
the group continued discussing these issues, the teacher recorded words
on an improvised blackboard: "woman," "violence," "mother," and "wife"--
words to which the class would return, once their meaning had been expanded
and enriched through the groups' discussion. Finally, it was Maria who
interrupted and said, "You've told me the way things are; I'll tell
you how they should be, and together let's talk about how to make them
so." She effectively shifted the focus of the group from the patronizing
solicitude of some who accepted the present reality to a strategy for
Since the 1930's,
American adult education has grown without an articulated philosophy.
Most adult educators have not delved into complex issues of human consciousness,
the origins of knowledge, or the meaning of freedom. Echoes of "education
for freedom," with beginnings in Froebel and Dewey, found their way
into the thought of Eduard Lindeman (1961) and others, but "freedom"
remained an abstraction lost in a discussion of method and technique.
If an expressed philosophy were to exist, its roots would lie in pragmatism,
for the practice of adult education in the United States has paralleled
the advance of a technological society. Social, industrial, and political
machines have similar needs. All require exchangeable and renewable
parts, all need specialized components and tightly managed coordination.
As technology has become more complex and specialized, so has schooling
on all levels. Not only must skills be developed in bodies and minds,
but attitudes must be formed which are supportive of a technological
superstructure within which adult labor is organized.
In the early 1970's,
Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, visited Harvard and published an English
translation of his best known work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. His general
critique of education presented an analysis which challenged the neutrality
of the technological model dominant in American schools. He argued that
any curriculum which ignores racism, sexism, the exploitation of workers,
and other forms of oppression at the same time supports the status quo.
It inhibits the expansion of consciousness and blocks creative and liberating
social action for change.
of education was not new. Even defenders of traditional schools have
admitted that, if society is to hold together without the overt force
of a police state, schooling must adapt learners to kinder, gentler
controls: career choices (specialization), authority (dependency), and
the good life (consumerism). Schooling must encourage competition (rule
of the fittest), while maintaining order and cooperation (social conformism).
As to the pursuit of happiness--in Jacques Ellul's words, "education
makes us happy in a milieu which normally would have made us unhappy,
if we had not been worked on, molded, and formed for just that milieu"
Practical and expedient
interests play a determining role in educational policy-making. Adult
educators uncritically accept an ancillary role in the service of economic
interests. This is true not only in programs for the "disadvantaged,"
the design of which more frequently serves employers, but also in programs
for those aspiring to middle and upper management positions. Adult education,
whether for remediation or for career advancement, generally replicates
patterns of earlier schooling: a top-down model of instruction which
fosters respect for authority, experts, discipline, and good work habits.
for freedom, exemplified in his work in South America, found ready acceptance
among many community-based, popular educators who organized adult learning
outside established schools and institutions. For such educators, Freire's
critique of traditional schooling validated their own conclusions that
schools were part of the problem, contributing to the marginalization
of minorities and the poor. Education for liberation, in Freire's view,
would challenge the "givenness" of the world and enable learners to
reflect on their experience historically, giving their immediate reality
a beginning, a present, and, most importantly, a future. It would awaken
in adult learners the expectation of change--a power which, once awakened,
seeks expression in collective, transforming social action (Mackie,
The Freirean Philosophy
In Freire's view
of education, learning to take control and achieving power are not individual
objectives, as in a "boot strap" theory of empowerment.
For poor and dispossessed people, strength is in numbers and social
change is accomplished in unity. Power is shared, not the power of a
few who improve themselves at the expense of others, but the power of
the many who find strength and purpose in a common vision. Liberation
achieved by individuals at the expense of others is an act of oppression.
Personal freedom and the development of individuals can only occur in
mutuality with others. In the experience of women's groups, civil rights
workers, and many others committed to liberatory action, collective
power and collegiality
protect the individual far more than authoritarian and hierarchial modes
Shared power in
learning is exercised in control over the curriculum, its contents and
methods, and over the coordination of all learning activities. Education
for liberation provides a forum open to the imaginings and free exercise
of control by learners, teachers, and the community, while also providing
for the development of those skills and competencies without which the
exercise of power would be impossible. Empowerment
is both the means and the outcome of this pedagogy which some have come
to call "liberatory
is mutually supported learning for empowerment. Whatever its formal
structure or precise purpose, such education is a component of and subordinate
to a liberatory praxis
which seeks to transform the social order. Transforming actions in aggregate
comprise a revolutionary stance which simultaneously announces an egalitarian,
participatory, and democratic social order and denounces hierarchial,
authoritarian, and alienating systems of organizations. The content
of liberatory education is both critical
consciousness and the development of appropriate skills and competencies
related to liberatory praxis. Its process is dialogical,
affirming the mutual and coequal roles of teachers and learners. The
governance of liberatory education reflects and anticipates the social
order announced by its vision.
three stages in the progression by which critical
consciousness is attained (1973). The first of these stages is "semi-intransitive
consciousness." Verbs which do not act upon an object are "intransitive."
Consciousness of and action upon reality are two constituents of a critical
relationship with the world. Consciousness which does not challenge
the world is therefore uncritical and intransitive, for it does not
act upon the world as an object. Total intransitivity is not a form
of consciousness at all. Therefore, the first phase in the emergence
of consciousness is, for Freire, semi-intransitivity. Semi-intransitive
consciousness is the state of those whose sphere of perception is limited,
whose interests center almost totally around matters of survival, and
who are impermeable to challenges situated outside the demands of biological
necessity. Freire observes that when these persons amplify their power
to perceive and respond to suggestions and questions arising in their
context, and increase their capacity to enter into dialogue not only
with others, but with their own world, their consciousness becomes "transitive."
Where before they reacted to particulars, to limited spheres, now they
react to the general scope of a particular problem.
The second stage
of consciousness is "naive transitivity." Freire characterizes this
stage of consciousness by an over-simplification of problems, nostalgia
for the past, an underestimation of ordinary people, a strong tendency
to gregariousness, a disinterest in investigation, a fascination with
fanciful explanations of reality, and by the practice of polemics rather
than dialogue. Naive transitivity is never totally and irrevocably surpassed;
for all who enter the learning process, this remains a lifelong task.
The third and final
stage is "critical transitivity." This stage is characterized by depth
in the interpretation of problems, by testing one's own findings and
openness to revision and reconstruction, by the attempt to avoid distortion
when perceiving problems and to avoid preconceived notions when analyzing
them, by rejecting passivity, by the practice of dialogue rather than
polemics, by receptivity to the new without rejecting the old, and by
permeable, interrogative, restless, and dialogical
forms of life.
education holds no monopoly on fostering these characteristics of
consciousness. They are generalizations which describe the values to
which all learning can subscribe. Neither are the three stages mutually
exclusive. They not only admit of degrees on the vertical plane extending
from semi-intransitivity to critical transitivity, but on a horizontal
plane as well, which would indicate the direction and focus of consciousness.
Consciousness is not without focus. Reality is not grasped in its totality,
as the generalizations in the third stage might suggest. Rather, the
inquirer has a vantage point and moves about reality, viewing it from
first this, then that perspective. It is perspective which is the horizontal
plane on the matrix of consciousness. The vantage point of liberatory
education is political--a point of view which affirms the transforming
role for humankind in history and culture
and supports the political apparatus by which this role can be exercised.
It links learning with action through which transformation
can and does occur. It neither submerges human will under psychological
determinism, nor does it subordinate it to divine or mechanical imperatives.
It finds hope neither in the unconscious within, nor in providence beyond,
but in historical participation in the creation of a just and a free
society. It proclaims the future as ours to determine and seeks the
liberation of the human will to do so through learning and social action.
While Freire's theoretical
framework gave many community-based educators grounds for hope, it was
his pedagogy--the practical, how-to-do-it methods--which gave them sought-after
tools for the reconstruction of urban adult education. Freire advocated
dialogue and critical thought as a substitute for "banking"
education in which the riches of knowledge were deposited in the
empty vault of a learner's mind. He suggested several pedagogical techniques
based on the mass literacy campaigns he organized in Brazil and Chile--campaigns
integral to broadly defined programs of revolution and social change.
It was these techniques which many literacy and basic education programs
immediately incorporated into their practice: reflection on the political
content of learner's day-to-day experience, the organization of "culture
circles" which promote dialogue and peer interaction, and the use
of "people's knowledge" as the basis for curriculum.
One facet of Freire's
pedagogy not easily translated into the American scene was the link
between learning and action. The literacy campaigns upon which Freire`s
work was based occurred in the context of revolutionary social change.
The political apparatus was at hand into which the released energy of
liberated minds and bodies could flow. Opportunities for collective
action were antecedent to learning: land redistribution was underway;
technical and financial support was available for economic development;
elections were to take place. Seldom, in the United States, have these
conditions of liberatory
education been replicated. As a result, Freirean programs in this
country have "raised consciousness," but seldom directly influenced
social change. Their revolutionary bark has clearly been more fearsome
than their bite.
multiplied during the seventies, giving rise to national networks of
liberatory educators attempting to adapt methods used in rural and underdeveloped
countries to the urban barrios and ghettos of North America. Paulo Freire
assisted in this development and participated in numerous conferences
and workshops, frequently sponsored by academics who sought to learn
from and work with "grass roots" educators. Occupying storefronts, abandoned
schools, and low rent offices, these same educators were often denied
access to funds available to their less effective competitors--the schools
and community colleges. "Effectiveness" in this case means that their
"numbers"--enrollments, retention rates, and completion rates--were
often significantly higher than in traditional programs.
made Freirean programs attractive to publicly supported institutions
whose funding was based on formulas affected by such numbers. In some
instances, networks of community-based programs lobbied to sit at the
public trough as a solution to their constant struggle for foundation
support. By the early 80's, many Freirean centers came under the wing
of city-wide bureaucracies and, in some instances, schools or community
colleges began their own "alternatives" based on a Freirean model. In
addition, governmental funding programs--from the Joint Training and
Partnership Act (JTPA) and the Workplace Literacy Program to the State
Local Impact Assistance Grant program (SLIAG)--have lured many financially-beset
community-based programs to refocus their activities on federal priorities
which, however important to national policy, nonetheless emphasize individual
growth over collective empowerment
and preempt local agendas for action. As a result, very few of the experiments
of the 70's remain intact, having succumbed to at least partial public
As long as liberatory
education can be interpreted as methodologically distinct, but not
different in its social and cultural consequences, then it can be tolerated
as a variation within traditional systems of education. In fact, liberatory
education is likely to be viewed this way by many educators, who tend
to interpret all approaches to learning as variations in pedagogical
technique. Even the rhetoric of revolution sometimes used to describe
the purposes of liberatory programs has proven acceptable to traditional
school sponsors as a gimmick for increasing enrollments. Official school
publications make reference to Paulo Freire, as did the Brazilian military
during the years of Freire's exile, from 1964 to 1979! A sanitized and
depoliticized Freire is now featured in the reading lists of graduate
programs on adult education and Freire himself has been invited to address
mainstream organizations such as the American Association of Adult and
Continuing Education. Bureaucratic systems impose their own logic on
liberatory practices, but underlying contradictions remain. In the process,
too many Freirean programs have become little more than low-budget versions
of the senior institutions upon which they have come to depend--their
most emancipatory initiatives effectively blocked by economic sanctions
imposed by their institutional sponsors. For them, the long term cost
of survival in `the system' is that social and political empowerment
as a collective goal is replaced with the more anemic goal of individual
programs have fought to maintain their independence, either rejecting
outright any public subsidies which would tie their program to a traditional
educational purposes or accepting partial support, while building a
diversified funding base. Both strategies have been fraught with problems.
On the one hand, independence has meant bare-bones budgets, a diversion
of energy from education to fund-raising and the coordination of volunteers,
and staff "burn-out." On the other hand, cooperation with mainstream
educational institutions takes its toll on staff for whom the limited
interests of their sponsors dictate priorities and moderate action.
There is no free lunch and programs which thought that the residuals
of public funding would sustain the "liberatory" aspects of their program
find that the obligations they have incurred under government funding
so occupy staff that there is little time, energy, or incentive left
for critical teaching and transforming action.
Those who sought
to build limited cooperative relationships with schools and community
colleges without succumbing to domination by these more affluent and
powerful institutions have purchased their survival at considerable
cost. The dynamics of limited cooperation frequently involve the use
of "deviance credits," a strategy developed by liberatory women's groups
for sabotage in the work place. The strategy works like this: while
establishing a pattern of cooperation one simultaneously accumulates
deviance credits--that is, conformity with a system's norms and standards
increases the tolerance of that system for an occasional lapse into
deviant behavior. Limited cooperation involves the establishment of
an overall pattern of cooperation which will regularly, but almost imperceptibly,
be punctuated by dissent. Its success as a form of engagement depends
on the frequency with which boundary-violating demands are placed upon
the group accumulating the deviance credits.
However, the cumulative
consequences of deviance can lead to increased repression, as sponsoring
institutions, which transform partisan politics into civics lessons
and substitute a technology of government for political conflict, move
to protect their own political hegemony. Two nationally recognized and
highly successful community-based programs, bound in a cooperative relationship
with the City Colleges of Chicago, began to experience this repression
in the late 70's, after out-performing all public programs in the state
for almost ten years. One program, an alternative, Freirean-based high
school for adults, was simply closed down; the other, a Hispanic center
for literacy and political education, broke its ties with its sponsoring
institution and remains committed to its initial vision today, but with
a greatly reduced program and mostly unpaid staff.
is oppositional otherness--the simultaneous presence of conflict and
distance. As Fanon observed, when alienation remains beneath the surface
of consciousness, it results in ennui, passivity, submissiveness, and
anxiety (1968). When alienation becomes conscious, it provokes anger,
aggressiveness, hostility, frustration, and fear. Self-conscious alienation
can also lead to critical reflection on reality and thereafter to action.
Action will effectively overcome alienation to the extent that it can
reduce conflict either by eliminating the distance through adaptation
or compromise, or by increasing the distance through movement outside
the sphere of oppositional influence, or by neutralizing the opposition
through superior power or force. The first strategy eliminates alienation
by accommodation and cooptation; the last two strategies overcome alienation
by a positive and "creative" affirmation of position. Creative alienation
is self-conscious, maintaining continuity with one's own identity and
principles and building upon them in consistent ways. Self-consciously
alienated people learn to fight back, to resist their oppression.
is not to be confused with marginality. Most community-based programs
built on Freirean principles are marginal to what is now a highly funded
and widely respected adult education enterprise. Only a few embody creative
alienation--a small but vocal minority who, with political clarity,
seek through their programs to destroy the symmetry of conventional
social boundaries by building within learners a heightened sense of
alienation. For them, the experience of alienation provides stability--a
corrective for bureaucratic systems which prescribe the future as a
continuation of the past. They value those conditions identified by
Morse Peckham in his discussion of art as the institutionalization of
These are social
protection, psychic insulation, the capacity to endure over long periods
problem exposure and solution postponement, the preference for tension
rather than tension-reduction, the capacity to tolerate tension, the
ability to tolerate disorientation and the desire to seek disorientation
actively, a sensitivity to cultural incoherence, the capacity for self-validation
which in other circumstances would be condemned as arrogance, and the
ability to exist without the constant flow of validation which is so
constant and pervasive a part of non-alienated life and the absence
of which for faculty members is so destructive (1973).
are evident in veterans of struggles with public agencies throughout
the 70's and early 80's. The trauma of independence and remaining truely
based in the local community exacts much from liberatory educators who
built their programs outside the dominant educational system, but the
survivors value their sense of alienation and take pride in their uniqueness
and marginality among adult educators.
Literacy work is
generally recognized as most effective when undertaken by or in the
context of community-based organizations--and least effective when directly
managed by large, bureaucratic systems of schooling (Mezirow, Darkenwald,
and Knox, 1975; Hunter and Harmon, 1979). Literacy and other basic skills
can be acquired with astonishing speed when the development of those
skills is linked with other activities, the intended outcome of which
is change in conditions of oppression (Adams, 1975; Freire, 1970; Shor,
adult education continues to provide a working model for resolving the
problem of illiteracy in the United States, not because it incorporates
more effective methods of instruction, not even because its connections
with "grass roots" organizations enhances recruitment efforts and grounds
learning in the day-to-day experience of the people. Liberatory
education provides a working model because it links the problem
of illiteracy with broader social and political ills and because it
does not propose merely educational solutions to these problems. Its
hope and its promise lies in social action for change as an intended
consequence of critical understanding.
many community-based programs is a depoliticized vision, a by-product
of cooperative arrangements with other, mainstream institutions. These
programs, although no longer based on principles put forward by Freire
in the previous decade, nonetheless are frequently more effective in
reaching and retaining hard-core illiterate adults simply because they
are closer to the problems of the neighborhood, they less resemble the
more formal schools with which previous "failure" has been identified,
and they evidence care and respect for their neighbors which leads to
mutual trust and perseverance.
Most Freirean programs,
on the other hand, have been condemned to a marginal existence. There
is little which school-based educators can emulate in the practice of
their "liberatory" counterparts. Participatory and democratic pedagogical
practices might be adapted to American schools, but the critique of
social and economic oppression linked with collective action for social
change creates dissonance, destroying the neutrality of the schools
and unmasking their complicity in maintaining the economic and political
imbalance of the social order. Historically, liberatory programs for
literacy have been sustained by government only during the brief time
following a revolution, as in Nicaragua (Miller, 1985) or Guinea Bisseau
(Freire, 1978)--a time when the possibilities for change are real and
the political apparatus for accomplishing those changes is at hand.
The pedagogy of Paulo Freire has limited potential outside such chaotic
and transitional periods in a nation's history.
liberatory programs in the United States which have maintained their
vision--await the revolution and attempt to prepare learners for political
options not yet available.
Adams, F. Unearthing
Seeds of Fire. Winston-Salem, NC: Blair, 1975.
Ellul, J. The
Technological Society. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1964.
Fanon, F. The
Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, 1968.
Freire, P. Cultural
Action for Freedom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educational Review Press,
Critical Consciousness. New York: Seabury, 1973.
Process. New York: Seabury, 1978.
the Oppressed. New York: Seabury, 1970.
Hunter, C., and
Harmon, D. Illiteracy in the United States. New York: Harper
& Row, 1979.
Lindeman, E. The
Meaning of Adult Education. Montreal: Harvest House, 1961 (Originally
published by New Republic, Inc., New York, in 1926).
Mackie, R. Literacy
and Revolution: the Pedagogy of Paulo Freire. London: Pluto Press,
Mezirow, J., Darkenwald,
G., and Knox, A. Last Gamble on Education. Washington, D.C.:
Adult Education Association of the U.S.A., 1975.
Miller, V. Between
Struggle and Hope. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1985.
Peckham, M. "Arts
for the Cultivation of Radical Sensitivity," in Shimahara, N. (ed.)
Educational Reconstruction. Columbus, Ohio: Merrill, 1973.
Shor, I. Critical
Teaching and Everyday Life (3rd printing). Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1987.
With the writings
of Paulo Freire, a number of neologisms and old words with new meanings
have been introduced into the discourse of educators. In particular,
terms are derived from Marxist literature with new interpretations.
The following lists some of the more common terms currently in use,
together with their definitions.
The term is derived
from Marx and refers to the domination of people by power elites, material
constraints, political structures, and thought itself. Ultimately, alienation
is the separation of humankind from its labor. It interferes with the
production of authentic culture (see Culture
). It is affected by any process which limits a person's power to
know the world, and thus dehumanizes the world itself (see Humanization
In the "banking"
method of education passive learners receive deposits of pre-selected,
ready-made knowledge. The learner's mind is seen as an empty vault into
which the riches of approved knowledge are placed. This approach is
also referred to as "digestive" and as "narrational" education.
A codification is
a representation of the learner's day-to-day situations. It can be a
photograph, a drawing, or even a word. As a representation, the photograph
or word is an abstraction which permits dialogue leading to an analysis
of the concrete reality represented. Codifications mediate between reality
and its theoretical context, as well as between educators and learners
who together seek to unveil the meanings of their existence.
is an ongoing process by which a learner moves toward critical
consciousness). This process is the heart of liberatory
education. It differs from "consciousness raising" in that the latter
frequently involves "banking"
education--the transmission of pre-selected knowledge. Conscientization
means breaking through prevailing mythologies to reach new levels of
awareness--in particular, awareness of oppression, being an "object"
in a world where only "subjects" have power. The process of conscientization
involves identifying contradictions in experience through dialogue and
becoming a "subject" with other oppressed subjects--that is, becoming
part of the process of changing the world.
a form of social organization based on shared and equal participation
of all its members. It contrasts with a hierarchical, pyramidal structure,
and is represented by a series of concentric circles. Authority resides
in the center-most circle, not over the others, but equidistant from
each, so that authority can listen and reflect the consensus of the
whole (see Consensual
Governance). A collegial model has been frequently associated with
education programs .
by consensus requires the discussion of issues until all are in agreement--this
in contrast to decision-making by voting in which rule by the majority
is imposed on those who dissent. Decision-making by consensus is time
consuming and difficult. At times, consensus represents the willingness
of a minority "not to oppose" a decision, but the ultimate benefit of
this model is that no one is excluded by a decision. This model is characteristic
of participatory democracies as occasionally exemplified in U.S. history
by the town hall meeting.
This is a level
of consciousness characterized by depth in the interpretation of problems,
through testing one's own findings with openness to revision, attempting
to avoid distortion when perceiving problems and preconceived notions
when analyzing them, receptivity to the new without rejecting the old
because it is old. In striving toward critical consciousness, the individual
rejects passivity, practicing dialogue rather than polemics, and using
permeable, interrogative, restless, and dialogical
forms of life. Critical consciousness is brought about not through
an individual or intellectual effort, but through collective struggle
Culture is used
in its broadest, anthropological sense as including all that is humanly
fabricated, endowed, designed, articulated, conceived, or directed.
Culture includes products which are humanly produced, both material
(buildings, artifacts, factories, slum housing) and immaterial (ideology,
value systems, mores), as well as materially derived products such as
social class and the socio/political order. The key aim of liberatory
education is to regain dominion over the creation and use of culture.
(Circulo de Cultura):
The circulo de cultura
is a discussion group in which educators and learners use codifications
to engage in dialogue about the reasons for their existential situation.
The peer group provides the theoretical context for reflection and for
transforming interpretations of reality from mere opinion to a more
"Culture of Silence":
The "culture of
silence" is a characteristic which Freire attributes to oppressed people
in colonized countries, with significant parallels in highly developed
countries. Alienated and oppressed people are not heard by the dominant
members of their society. The dominant members prescribe the words to
be spoken by the oppressed through control of the schools and other
institutions, thereby effectively silencing the people. This imposed
silence does not signify an absence of response, but rather a response
which lacks a critical quality. Oppressed people internalize negative
images of themselves (images created and imposed by the oppressor) and
feel incapable of self-governance. Dialogue and self-government are
impossible under such conditions.
Decodification dissolves a codification into its constituent elements
and is the operation by which learners begin to perceive relationships
between elements of the codification and other experiences in their
day-to-day life and among the elements themselves. Thus, decodification
is analysis which takes place through dialogue, revealing the previously
unperceived meanings of the reality represented by that codification.
Decodification is the principal work of a circulo de cultura (see Culture
Dialectic is a term
referring to a dynamic tension within any given system and the process
by which change occurs on the basis of that tension and resulting conflict.
Based on the writings of Hegel, every concept implies its negation;
that is, in conceiving anything (thesis), we must be able to imagine
its opposite (antithesis). Change occurs as this tension leads to a
new conception of reality (synthesis). It should be noted that Marx,
is contrast to some liberatory educators, postulated that such tensions
and contradictions were embedded in concrete culture
(thus, dialectic materialism) and not merely found in contradictions
between the existential world and our thoughts about the world.
The dialogical approach
to learning is characterized by co-operation and acceptance of interchangeability
and mutuality in the roles of teacher and learner, demanding an atmosphere
of mutual acceptance and trust. In this method, all teach and all learn.
This contrasts with an anti-dialogical approach which emphasizes the
teacher's side of the learning relationship and frequently results in
one-way communiques perpetuating domination and oppression. Without
dialogue, there is no communication, and without communication, there
can be no liberatory
Empowerment is a
consequence of liberatory learning. Power is not given, but created
within the emerging praxis
in which co-learners are engaged. The theoretical basis for this discovery
is provided by critical
consciousness; its expression is collective action on behalf of
mutually agreed upon goals. Empowerment is distinct from building skills
and competencies, these being commonly associated with conventional
schooling. Education for empowerment further differs from schooling
both in its emphasis on groups (rather than individuals) and in its
focus on cultural transformation
(rather than social adaptation).
of complex experiences which are charged with political significance
and are likely to generate considerable discussion and analysis. They
are derived from a study of the specific history and circumstances of
the learners. In a literacy program, generative themes can be codified
into generative words--that is, tri-syllabic words that can be broken
down into syllabic parts and used to "generate" other words. Generative
words have been most useful in relation to languages which are phonetically
based (e.g. Spanish, Portuguese).
The central task
in any movement toward liberation is to become more fully human through
the creation of humanly-enhancing culture--in
a word, "humanization." This historical task is countered by the negative
forces of dehumanization which, through oppressive manipulation and
control, compromise human values for personal gain and power. The task
of the oppressed is to liberate themselves and, in the process, liberate
their oppressors. Revolutions are humanized to the extent that the new
regime confronts its tendency to replicate the oppression of the old
of the World).
is liberatory encourages learners to challenge and change the world,
not merely uncritically adapt themselves to it. The content and purpose
of liberatory education is the collective responsibility of learners,
teachers, and the community alike who, through dialogue, seek political,
as well as economic and personal empowerment.
Programs of liberatory education support and compliment larger social
struggles for liberation.
the process by which the alienating and oppressive features of culture
are disguised and hidden. False, superficial, and naive interpretations
of culture prevent the emergence of critical
consciousness. Educational systems are key instruments in the dissemination
of mystifications: e.g. unemployment is "mystified" as personal failure
rather than as a failure of the economy, thus making it difficult for
the unemployed to critically understand their situation.
is an approach to social change--a process used by and for people who
are exploited and oppressed. The approach challenges the way knowledge
is produced with conventional social science methods and disseminated
by dominant educational institutions. Through alternate methods, it
puts the production of knowledge back into the hands of the people where
it can infuse their struggles for social equality, and for the elimination
of dependency and its symptoms: poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition, etc.
Praxis is a complex
activity by which individuals create culture
and society, and become critically
conscious human beings. Praxis comprises a cycle of action-reflection-action
which is central to liberatory
education. Characteristics of praxis include self-determination
(as opposed to coercion), intentionality (as opposed to reaction), creativity
(as opposed to homogeneity), and rationality (as opposed to chance).
is the antithesis of "problem-solving." In problem-solving, an expert
takes distance from reality and reduces it to dimensions which are amenable
to treatment as though they were mere difficulties to be solved. To
"problematize" is to engage a group in the task of codifying reality
into symbols which can generate critical consciousness and empower them
to alter their relations with nature and oppressive social forces. Problem-posing
is a logically prior task which allows all previous conceptualizations
of a problem to be treated as questionable. Problematization recognizes
that "solutions" are often difficult because the wrong problems are
of the World:
To transform the
world is to humanize it (see Humanization
). All transformations do not result in liberation. Transforming
action could dehumanize the world with an oppressor's curious and inventive
presence (e.g. the development of the V-2 rocket in World War II). Only
history reveals the problematic nature of being human and the consequences
of having chosen one path over the other. The transformation of the
world is humankind's entry into history. As people act upon the world
effectively, transforming it by work, consciousness is in turn historically
and culturally conditioned. Conscientization)
is the result of action which transforms the world and leads to humanization.