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,
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).