Chapter Two: The Key Elements of Conscientization
Based on the background knowledge offered in the last chapter, three tasks are completed to capture the indispensable elements as well as the richness, depth, and development of the concept of conscientization. First, Freire’s own conceptualization of critical consciousness is investigated. Second, since conscientization has been debated worldwide, a number of key commentaries, both positive and negative, are examined. Third, the problems with applying conscientization as a mere method to concrete educational settings are highlighted.
The original word for conscientization is conscientizacao in Portuguese. The term was first used by professors at the Brazilian Institute of Higher Studies and first introduced into the English world by Helder Camara (Roberts, 2000). It found its own way into international educational discourse through the first publication of Freire’s (1970a, 1970b) two essays, “Cultural Action and Conscientization” and “The Literacy Process as Cultural Action for Freedom” in Harvard Educational Review in 1970. The two essays were reprinted in the same journal in 1998 as a tribute to Freire’s life and work in broadening the spaces for democracy and dialogue by promoting education for possibility, solidarity, and freedom (Brizuela & ← 31 | 32 → Soler-Gallart, 1998; Freire, 1998d). The concept is briefly defined in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire, 1972a) as “learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take actions against the oppressive elements of reality” (p. 15, translator’s note). Thus, at its very beginning, the concept is basically about education for critical consciousness.
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