Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Why Every Social Entrepreneur Needs to Read This Book (Huffington Post)

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Originally posted on HuffPost Impact.

Paulo Freire, author of the seminal 1970 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, saw the world not as a given reality, but as “a problem to be worked on and solved.” That mindset is a quality we attribute to the greatest social entrepreneurs. Yet, when so many well-intentioned social ventures globally seem to leave individuals dependent on aid instead of empowering them, Freire’s book should be required reading for every social entrepreneur.

While many in the social enterprise space are now excited by what we call “empowerment non-profits,” “human-centered design,” and “co-creation,” Freire and others working in activism and participatory development have been advocating for working with, and not for, the oppressed for more than 50 years. Furthermore, our culture of glorifying the social entrepreneur through awards, praise, and aspiration is contrary to the values of liberation. Based on the understanding of oppression and liberation from Pedagogy of the Oppressed, the role of the social entrepreneur would not be to act as liberator of the oppressed, but to work with the oppressed in the liberation of themselves and their oppressors. (more…)

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Thoughts from 1972 on Technology, Education, Change

Forward by Richard Shaull to Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1972:

“Our advanced technological society is rapidly making objects of most of us and subtly programming us into conformity to the logic of its system. To the degree that this happens, we are also becoming submerged in a new “culture of silence.”

The paradox is that the same technology that does this to us also creates a new sensitivity to what is happening. Especially among young people, the new media together with the erosion of old concepts of authority open the way to acute awareness of this new bondage. The young perceive that their right to say their own word has been stolen from them, and that few things are more important than the struggle to win it back. And they also realize that the educational system today—from kindergarten to university—is their enemy.

There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, 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. The development of an educational methodology that facilitates this process will inevitably lead to tension and conflict within our society. But it could also contribute to the formation of a new man and mark the beginning of a new era in Western history.”