First published in Portuguese in 1968 Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a classic text in the field of radical pedagogy.
In 1962, Paulo Freire created culture circles in Northeastern Brazil to support 300 suger-cane workers to teach each other how to read the word and their world in 45 days, which enabled them to register to vote. These Culture Circles catalyzed thousands more with the purpose of not just literacy, but conscientization, which involves people joining with their peers to name their world by reflecting on their conditions, imagining a better world, and then taking action to create it. This approach, developed as much by Freire as the workers he educated, was so galvanizing that he was jailed and exiled by the Military Government within two years.
Over a lifetime of working with revolutionary organizers and educators both in exile and back in Brazil, Freire offers a compass to direct us towards liberation from structures of oppression. This compass is both an approach to education and organizing and a lens through which to understand systems of oppression in order to transform them. It flips mainstream ideas of education and organizing on their heads by insisting that true knowledge and expertise already exists with people – they need no deposits of information (what Freire calls Banking Education) or propaganda to convince them of their problems. What is required is dialogue, respect, love for humanity, and praxis or action and reflection to transform the world.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed is committed to education as a practice of freedom, which Freire contrasts with education as a practice of domination