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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Five: Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1969)

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FIVE

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1969)

Roberto H. Bahruth and Donaldo Macedo

I consider the fundamental theme of our epoch to be that of domination—which implies its opposite, the theme of liberation, as the objective to be achieved. It is this tormenting theme which gives our epoch the anthropological character mentioned earlier. In order to achieve humanization, which presupposes the elimination of dehumanizing oppression, it is absolutely necessary to surmount the limit-situations in which people are reduced to things. (Freire, 2000, p. 103)

As the quotation above illustrates, Paulo Freire is timelier today than when Pedagogy of the Oppressed was first published in 1970, given the draconian inequalities created by neoliberalism, the cruel manufactured wars worldwide, and the savage human misery that is dehumanizing both its perpetrators and its victims. While violence, dire poverty, and a dehumanizing ruling class are significantly more pernicious today due to both the weakening of nation-states and a sophisticated world-wide surveillance apparatus made possible through technology, new forms of hegemons increasingly replicate historical elements that provided the context in which the Pedagogy of the Oppressed was written.

Paulo Freire was born in 1921 in Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, into a middle-class family that had lost its economic and class position during the Depression years of the 1930s. Because of its modest economic means, Freire’s family moved to Morro de Saúde, a very poor town on the...

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