Book Review: Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire – rochemamabolo

Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Paolo Freire

I wanted to spend some of my time in the DISCs project engaging with this famous and foundational text. The critique of the “banking model” of students as empty receptacles for the knowledge of the expert academic remains apt and vibrant, and contrary to significant aspects of the dominant orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The 30th anniversary edition I read incorporated the response from Freire that regarding his approach to dialogue between academic and student and oppressor and oppressed, including the idea that “dialogue is a way of knowing and should never be viewed as a mere tactic to involve students in a particular task”, which struck me as a critical component of viewing education as a mechanism and site of social justice and freedom. The book also helps me understand the expectations for social justice within higher education: “is to be found in the distinction between systematic education, which can only be changed by political power, and educational projects, which should be carried out with the oppressed in the process of organizing them” (54).

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom / Edition 1 by  bell hooks | 9780415908085 | Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom
bell hooks

hooks’ work offers a valuable critique of Freire and offers a view of education as freedom from a black feminist perspective. This book challenged me to own my own position, privilege and power regarding social justice and education as a straight, white male academic. It called me to model positionality and invite students into a dialogue by starting from a position of vulnerability and valuing of all: “Engaged pedagogy necessarily values student expression. (20) In my classrooms I do not expect students to take any risks that I would not take, to share in any way that I would not share. When professors bring narratives of their experiences into classroom discussions it eliminates the possibility that we can function as all knowing silent interrogators. It is often productive if professors take the first risk, linking confessional narratives to academic discussions so as to show how experience can illuminate and enhance our understanding of academic material. (21)” It also cautioned regarding the challenges in challenging educational orthodoxy: “In my professorial role I had to surrender my need for immediate affirmation of successful teaching and accept that students may not appreciate the value of a certain standpoint or process straight away.” (42) and that peers and students may experience pain, upset and lament in growing in greater awareness of the scale and depth of the structural injustices in which higher education operates.

Higher Education and Social Justice | SpringerLink

Higher Education and Social Justice: The Transformative Potential of University Teaching and the Power of Educational Paradox
Leonie Rowan

Rowans volume develops and adapts the work of Freire and hooks into practical and modern contexts. Affirming the potential for education as freedom, and the inherently political nature of education, it challenged me to recognise the responsibility inherent in being an academic, at every level within a university: “Most academics have some ability to exercise some form of power as we make some decisions about teaching and learning.” (10) In particular, Rowan builds on the work of Parker Palmer to emphasise six features of educational relationships including: “The spaces should honour the “little” stories of the students and the “big” stories of the disciplines and tradition.” I found this a helpful non-dualistic way to navigate the desire to empower and contribute to the freedom of students, while offering the best of the disciplinary and educational tradition in which I find myself.