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Paulo Freire’s Dialogical Communication

One of the most influential thinkers behind the participatory paradigm, Paulo Freire (1970) championed the concepts of dialogue, critical thinking, and liberation in order to transform society. His line of work and arguments are derived by critical theory, which believes that social theory should extrapolate the realms of information recording, to become an active player in the transformation of the world (McCarthy, 1991).

In his influential work “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” Freire (1970) explains his belief on man’s ability to become Subject transform the world. Another principal of his theory is the notion that every human being is able to critically look at the world and dialogical meeting with the other. In this encounter, the individual may become gradually conscious of his personal and social reality and his ability to critically deal with it (Freire, 1970).

Paulo Freire born in the Northeast region of Brazil, an area characterized by contrasts of wealth and poverty, makes him familiar with the oppressor-oppressed dichotomy (Freire, 1996). His vocal defense of the dispossessed rural workers and criticism of the official literacy programs do not resonate well with the military government in the 1960’s making him “persona non grata” for the dictatorial regime. Freire is arrested and latter exiled to Chile where he lived until another military coup forces him out. He returnes to Brazil in 1988 and becomes Secretary of Education for the city of São Paulo, where he died in 1997 (Mayo, 2000).

In Freire’s view, both oppressor and oppressed are actors in the construct of the social reality in which they live. Dehumanization affects both sides, but only the oppressed can change the status quo because they are the ones who know by experience the meaning of an oppressive society. Therefore, Freire believes that the oppressed must see their situation not as an act of destiny, but as a result of the actions that maintain the unjust world and the status quo. He believes that freedom is fundamental to the construct of a new reality. However, the knowledge and perception of the social context is not enough to bring humanization. It is also necessary to act, to praxis in order to transform a perpetual state of injustice (Freire, 1970, Weiler, 2003).

Through the critical recognition of reality, allied with reflection and action, the oppressed cease to be objects and become Subjects, able to transform reality and be liberated from oppression. Freire compares the liberation process as painful childbirth. He understands that man and woman come out of this process as a new person, however, it is only viable if the oppressor-oppressed contradiction is replaced by the humanization of all people.

Paulo Freire is an educator critical of the traditional methods of teaching. Banking education is his metaphor for a system where students passively receive information, memorize it, and repeat it without critically understanding it. The students therefore are the banks that receive information deposited without questioning it. With this analogy, Freire criticizes the idea of transmission of knowledge from the ones who know it all to the ones that do not know, in his terms, from the subject to the object. This didactic format, where students only store information, do not raise critical consciousness and therefore do not contribute to the transformation of the world. On the contrary, it required the students to be passive and to adapt to their reality, preserving the oppressor dominance. For Freire believed that every person has a critical contribution to the equation, teacher and students should work together, both subjects in the task of recreating reality (Freire, 1970).



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