Paulo Freire, in his book entitled The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, highlights the effects of oppression, based on his background and the challenges he faced in reconciling his Brazilian tradition and culture with the new educational environment brought about by colonization. This brings into the limelight two clear ideas: the loss of identity and humanity resulting from oppression; and the concept of the oppressor versus the oppressed. What results is violence, brought about by the oppressor who dehumanizes the oppressed by denying them their rights. He sees them merely as objects that are subject to his guidelines and views their rebellion as violence, yet in retrospect, he is in fact the instigator of the violence. The real evil of dehumanization is that it robs us of not only our humanity, but “is a distortion of the vocation of becoming more fully human.”
Since the identity of people is closely tied with their humanity, oppression, which dehumanizes people, can only result in the oppressed accepting their fate as the oppressed or having a small group of the oppressed feeling stirred up by the oppressor’s actions and breaking away. In order for their rebellion to not lose sight of its ideals, they must be careful not to turn from being the oppressed into oppressors, as their entire environment is of the oppressor-oppressed nature. A revolution is an inescapable outcome, out of which, comes a fear of freedom found in both the oppressor and the oppressed.
“The oppressed are afraid to embrace freedom; the oppressed are afraid of losing the ‘freedom’ to oppress”
The oppressor perceives the oppressed merely are objects to be owned and the oppressed often face the challenge of creating a new identity of their own beyond that which they have been accustomed to. The oppressed must therefore be the creators of this new pedagogy of the oppressed as they are best able to empathize with other fellow oppressed people and are the eye of the hurricane of oppression.
Growing up, we each went through the education system, each country with its own but given the global educational landscape, almost all falling into the pitfalls of seeing the teacher as the depositor and the children as vessels to merely be filled with knowledge, completely oblivious of the knowledge and skills that each child possesses from their environment and which is unique to their character. This system, over time continually rewards those who are easier to fill and see ‘problem children’ in students who seem unable to grasp (memorize, repeat, have ingrained in their minds) knowledge that remains external to them. Our education system separates their consciousness. This spills over to the work place, where creativity is seen as rebellion while following guidelines is seen as being smart, productive, and efficient. “How well people fit the world the oppressors have created, and how little they question it.” Our creativity is robbed from us. What results is a world in which people live but with which they are disconnected from. This system robs students of their innate inventiveness, curiosity and creativity and disassociates world knowledge with their reality.
“Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry.”
This begets the need for a paradigm shift in which we drop the teacher-student role and begin to integrate an open learning platform where both the educator and the students learn from each other, actively engage each other in the learning process –which is a lifelong process and dynamic in nature. The roles of the teacher and student should be easiy interchangeable “for whoever teaches learns in the act of teaching and whoever learns teaches in the act of teaching.” Liberation education consists of being able to think, internalize and then act as opposed to merely taking in information and re-producing it, this way inhibiting critical and creative thinking.
“From the onset, his [the teacher’s] efforts must coincide with those of the students’ to engage in critical thinking and the quest for humanization. His efforts must be imbued with a profound trust in people and their creative power.”
Again there are the outliers, just as they were in the colonial setting, who see the world as something bigger – a place in which they are to identify problems, and be active change makers. With this, the emergence of problem-posing education begins! And is problem- posing education? The ability to unveil reality by allowing educators and students to be consciously aware of the problems and challenges, this way turning them into critical thinkers able to both perceive and tackle challenges. It is based on the innate ability we all posses of being able to truly reflect, inquire, and then act based on creativity and understanding of the world in which we live.
“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”