About Pedagogy of the Oppressed

To the oppressed,
and to those who suffer with them
and fight at their side

- dedication of Pedagogy of the Oppressed


First published in Portuguese in 1968, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was translated and published in English in 1970. The methodology of the late Paulo Freire has helped to empower countless impoverished and illiterate people throughout the world. Freire’s work has taken on especial urgency in the United States and Western Europe, where the creation of a permanent underclass among the underprivileged and minorities in cities and urban centers is increasingly accepted as the norm.

Years before he was “invited” to leave his homeland after the military coup of 1964, Freire had begun devoting his life to the advancement of the fortunes of the impoverished people of Brazil. After his twenty-year exile he moved first to Chile, then emigrated to the United States before returning to Brazil. In the course of his work and travels, and as a result of his studies in the philosophy of education, he evolved a theory for the education of illiterates, especially adults, based on the conviction that every human being, no matter how “ignorant” or submerged in the “culture of silence” is capable of looking critically at his world in a dialogical encounter with others, and that provided with the proper tools for such encounter he can gradually perceive his personal and social reality and deal critically with it. When an illiterate peasant participates in this sort of educational experience he comes to a new awareness of self, a new sense of dignity; he is stirred by new hope.

“We were blind, now our eyes have been opened.”

“Before this, words meant nothing to me; now they speak to me and I can make them speak.”

“I work, and working I transform the world.”

As the illiterate person learns and is able to make such statements, his world becomes radically transformed and he is no longer willing to be a mere object responding to changes occurring around him. The educated are more likely to decide to take upon themselves the struggle to change the structures of society that until now have served to oppress them. This radical self-awareness, however, is not only the task of the workers, but of persons in all countries, including those who in our advanced technological society have been or are being programmed into conformity and thus are essentially part of “the culture of silence.”

Over one million copies of Pedagogy of the Oppressed have been sold worldwide since the first English translation in 1970. It has been used on courses as varied as Philosophy of Education, Liberation Theology, Introduction to Marxism, Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, Communication Ethics and Education Policy. It has been translated into many languages, including German, Italian, Spanish, Korean, Japanese, and French.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed is one of the foundational texts in the field of critical pedagogy, which attempts to help students question and challenge domination, and the beliefs and practices that dominate.