Pedagogy of Liberation: Freire and Delpit

“Liberation is thus a childbirth, and a painful one.” 

-Paolo Freire, 1968

Although Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire was written in 1968, his critical theory allows us to examine the socio-economic and political struggles of the 21st century, as exemplified by the #MeToo Movement, #BlackLivesMatter, and the Same-Sex Marriage through the paradigm of oppressed vs. oppressor. 

Freire asserts that within humanity, there are “two real alternatives: humanization versus dehumanization.” Humanization, according to Freire, is every person’s “vocation” or natural inclination; yet, humanization is both “negated by injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence,” and “affirmed by the yearning of the oppressed for freedom and justice.” So, in other words, people intrinsically want freedom and justice; however, dehumanization occurs when people’s humanity is stolen from them. Interestingly, dehumanization occurs when oppressors are stealing the oppressed’s humanity because “it is a distortion of the oppressor’s vocation of being a full person” — that is, an oppressor oppresses an oppressed because he does not see the other person as a human. The oppressor loses his humanity, his sense of compassion and empathy. He is no longer a full person. To illustrate, women in the #MeToo Movement want to regain their sense of human dignity by suing rich, powerful white men for sexual harassment; African-Americans fight for their fundamental right to live by exposing police brutality and use of excessive and lethal force; and the LGBT community fight for their right to get married. It is “not in the three groups’ destiny to be dehumanized,” but instead, it is an “unjust order” that engenders dehumanization. 

Interestingly, according to Freire, it is the oppressed — not the oppressor — who must “restored humanity in both the oppressed and the oppressor” because the oppressor does not have the “strength” to liberate both himself and the oppressed. Why would Harvey Weinstein or Daniel Pantaleo admit to any wrongdoing? Freire argues that the “power that springs from the weakness of the oppressed would be sufficient t free both of them.” Furthermore, the power of collective voices can also be powerful enough to “restore humanity” in both the oppressed and the oppressor. Does Harvey Weinstein appear remorseful? Somewhat. Is Daniel Pantaleo upset that he is no longer a police officer? Perhaps. 

In order to liberate themselves and the oppressors, the oppressed may garner solidarity from supporters but Freire makes a distinction between “true generosity” and “false charity” in that false charity is a ‘hand-out’ to the “rejects of life” which further make them dependent; whereas, true generosity is a ‘hand-up’ where the oppressed is provided with the necessary skills to uplift and to liberate them. Think of a teacher. An empathetic teacher who acts in “true generosity” would have high expectations for her students, even students who look different than her and her children. She equips her students with the necessary skills to be successful in life, while the sympathetic teacher who doles out “false charity” would have lower expectations for her students because she feels sorry for them. She does not adequately equip them with the skills necessary to be successful in life. 

Why would the oppressor (e.g., the teacher or the boss) relinquish his power? No, the oppressed must fight for her freedom. In the fight for freedom, Freire cautions the oppressed by saying that they may become the oppressor themselves; this idea evokes the image of the pigs at the end of Animal Farm, where it was difficult to discern the difference between the pigs and men. Freire warns that the oppressed may suffer from a “duality” where they fear “authentic existence, but at the same time, fear it.” For example, some slaveowners have argued that they provide for their slaves, and therefore, there is no need for freedom. Once they are freed, they will need to think for themselves and fend for themselves. Are the oppressed equip with the necessary skills to take care of themselves. So, Freire ends with a central problem of “How can the oppressed as undivided, unauthentic beings participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation?” 

The first step in creating a pedagogy of liberation is to create a democratic, student-centered classroom where the teacher is more of a facilitator of learning rather than the ‘sage on the stage.’ At this juncture, I will focus my discussion on Lisa Delpit’s “Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children.”

Although it was written in 1988, Lisa Delpit’s issue of voice, power, and authority is still very relevant in classrooms and boardrooms. Delpit starts her essay with vignettes of minority faculty or students (or to use Freire’s term, the oppressed) members in English departments who have been silence and sidelined by their majority white peers or colleagues. To quote one black Principal, she says, “It becomes futile because they think they know everything about everybody. They don’t want to hear what you have to say. They only want to go research what other White people have written.” Here frustration reverberates in the hallway of academia as reported in the news recently that the students at Williams College are boycotting the English Department because of “history racism, sexism, transphobia, and other violences” ( The oppressed faculty member is revolting against their oppressors, demanding to be treated with dignity and to be promoted equitably. They refuse to remain silent.

In terms of writing pedagogy, and in turn, liberation pedagogy, in the classroom, Delpit argues for process writing rather than skills-oriented writing. She further examines power in the classroom by making the following assertions: 

1.) Issues of power are enacted in the classroom.

2.) There are codes or rules for participating in power; that is, there is a “culture of power.”

3.) The rules of the culture of power are a reflection of the classroom of the rules of the culture of those who have power.

4.) If you are not already a participant in the culture of power, being told explicitly the rules of that culture makes acquiring power easier. 

5.) Those with power are frequently least aware of — or at least willing to acknowledge –its existence. Those with less power are often most aware of its existence.

For a critical teacher, she must have high expectations. She must believe that her students are capable of higher-order thinking and reasoning. Students, regardless of levels, must be challenged. She also argues that it is not the school’s job to change the homes of poor, nonwhite children to match the dominant culture of power since she maintains that “each child’s culture and heritage is unique; however, there is a mainstream culture and mainstream language (Standard Written English) that they all must learn.” Delpit ends her essay with a powerful call to action: When educating other people’s children, we must include the parents and educators who look like them in the conversation. White teachers and white administrators cannot make all the decisions on how to educate other people’s children.

Image result for teaching other people's children
Involve the parents when teaching other people’s children.

The Silenced Dialogue and the Pedagogy of the Oppressed

One theme that has been consistent in our studies this semester has been the handling of different cultures in the context of the classroom and pedagogical strategies.  Both of the articles we have read this week get into how race and culture can be addressed in a classroom setting, and how it should be handled. Starting with the Delpit article, I found this to offer some interesting insights right from the beginning with little anecdotes of students of color navigating the educational landscape and what they have had to deal with in their education.  What each of these narratives have in common is this feeling that white instructors have some sort of power over non-white writers and students. Dulpit begins to talk about the “culture of power” and the aspects of power:

  1. Issues of Power
  2. Codes and rules for participating in power
  3. The rules are a reflection of those who are in power
  4. Explicitly knowing the rules makes it easier to gain power
  5. Those with the power do not acknowledge their power

These 5 aspects of power are interesting to me, but the last three specifically are of the most important.  Number 3, which tackles, in a way, some discussions we have had on previous readings this semester. The rules that come are made are a reflection of those who have power.  The most obvious reason this could be “unfair” is that the rules come from the experience and intellectual opinion and thought of the person in power. From what we are discussing, it could be problematic if the evaluator is from a totally different line of thought and background of the students they are teaching, they could lose touch with their class and what is important to them.  Even more important is the idea that there might be an expectation that everyone fits into a box that was made up by this one person in power. Just like anything else, it is easier for people to learn and take something from an experience if it is one they can sympathize with, and hearing concerns of minority students having to relinquish that kind of power over their education is a red flag.  For people to feel as though the dynamic is almost set up against them, is something that needs to be rectified and fixed. Number 4 on this list is knowing that the rules are set up for those who follow them to find a voice of power in the classroom. This becomes especially concerning from the point of view that those who are already feeling they need to subscribe to a particular system if they want to climb up the ladder and eventually have that type of power for themselves.  This could lead to the student losing their voice and their purpose and “gaming” their education to fit into that box. As I think I’ve made clear through all of my blogs is I do not like the idea of anything that limits thought and puts anyone in these figurative boxes in any way. Number 5 is probably the most concerning. It states that those who have the power do not acknowledge their power. The reason this is so problematic to me is anyone with power in any situation could be dangerous to those around them.  It lends to the idea that there is no checks on power. How can you keep a powerful in person in check if they do not recognize that what they have, is indeed, power?  Anytime this becomes an issue, it is a symptom of a larger problem; that those in the system feel a sense of powerlessness.  That they must conform to a system and a thought they already feel does not represent them. These were the biggest principals I took from the article, as it lays out what the problem is on a more institutional level.  Leter, Dulpit talks about the idea of “cultural capital” meaning that some students understand the power structure that is already in place and that those who already have the power keep it. The last major part of the article, to me, is the idea of appropriation in the classroom.  “..ensuring that each classroom incorporate strategies appropriate for all the children in its confines.” Dulpit is saying here that in order to facilitate learning for each and every student, it is important that we keep them and their different cultures and backgrounds in mind. Dulpit also dives into “process” v “product.”  Mentioning how, in this country, all that matters is the product, and the process in creating it does not matter. This goes against alot of what I believe makes writing so great. The journey of learning to write is just as important, as the process creates a foundation for how one effectively creates a product. I know this article will lead to a fun discussion in class tonight.  The Frier article piggy backed off the ideas of the Dulpit reading, but did so in a different way. This article was more to illustrate a dynamic between the oppressor and the oppressed in a pedagogical sense. Oppressed v Oppressor is the tune this article sings, and I think that was an interesting direction. Frier talks alot about this idea of the oppressor fighting the fight of the oppressed along side them, and how, even in aligning with the oppressed, they migrate some of their prejudices and notions that helped exacerbate the issue at hand.  Kind of, as mentioned in the article, a sense of false caring. Given todays political climate, I think we can see how these ideas play out in a more pragmatic sense. Frier goes on to talk about how teachers are the depositors in this “banking” relationship with the student. I do not like this, as it is described, a trust that the teacher is giving the “right” information for the student to study and learn. However, there seems to be an emphasis on the reproduction of what was learned. While I understand the need and purpose, there are a multitude of ways, as we have discussed, to make learning more of a thinking activity as opposed to a regurgitation of information.  Frier put it best in the article when he said ‘Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferrals of information.” I love this quote as it gets to the root of the issue- learning needs to allow for the students to think and conceptualize so that they can apply, not only their knowledge, but their process of thinking critically and analytically into their everyday life. I look forward to going over these ideas in class, especially with all of the teachers we have in the room!

Writing and Identity

Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

This reading had me considering and thinking in all kinds of ways because the words and concepts being discussed were simply mind blowing. Freire makes a note that the pedagogy of the oppressed must be be forged with and not for the oppressed. He discusses humanization and dehumanization being human’s “central problem” in an unjust system and the oppressed task to try and free/liberate themselves as well as their oppressors from this system. However, when the oppressed first begin to try and break out of this system they find themselves acting like the oppressors. But Freire places the blame for this on the system itself because because oppressors are the only models oppressed people have and the oppressed only act this way because it was “prescribed” to them by the oppressors.

Image result for michelle obama when they go low we go high

While this discussion makes sense because I know there are individual people who once they gained power became even worse than the oppressors (sometimes even towards the people they were once oppressed with) I do think that as a whole, groups of oppressed people have been known to be better than their oppressors (the Michelle Obama quote for instance). Freire also discussed that liberation cannot take place without the participation of the oppressed, which I also agree with. There needs to be a dialogue between the oppressed and the oppressors so that freedom can take place. How can freedom happen without talking to the oppressed about what they want to be freed from and without talking to the oppressors about the reasons they oppress and how they begin to step back from this oppression? This leads into chapter 2 where Freire talks about classrooms and the dialogue that needs to take place between teachers and students. Freire criticizes classrooms that don’t allow students to connect with the material that teachers teach and instead they just memorize it which he calls the “banking” model. He says the banking model does not promote creativity among students and does not teach them how to ask meaningful questions. Freire also says this model closely resembles the idea of oppression discussed in chapter 1 with the teachers being the oppressors with total control and students being the oppressed.

The Silenced Dialogue: As a product of and now a teacher in urban education and I understand first hand the challenges teaching in an urban are can pose. It’s easy to say and get caught up in asking about a student’s home life and questioning if a parent is reinforcing things from school, and even becoming frustrated at a few parents. But as Lisa Delpit said it is not out jobs or our place to attempt to change the homes of students to match our ideas of what the home should look like. In fact Lisa points out a very true statement that, “In fact they transmit another culture that children must learn at home in order to survive in their communities.” It would of course be easier to teach if I had families help. But realistically I cannot rely on that and its not because these parents/families don’t care but some of them are stretched extremely thin. Most times parents are either working extremely long hours or more than one job and are more concerned with the basic survival of their family; food, bills etc. You cannot fault or judge people who are simply just trying to survive.

As a teacher it starts with getting to know your students, how they think, how they learn and how their backgrounds attribute to their learning style. And then you must tailor my teaching to them as the students and not try to make them bend to your teaching style. Although the text is a little dated and times have changed since The Silenced Dialogue was published, Lisa Delpit brings up some valid points that can still be used today. Diversity needs to shine through in the classroom and a student’s culture needs to be both acknowledged and accepted. This article discussed the culture of power and the rules that are created and enforced no matter your background or where you are from. For this reason I think its important to teach students about the Dominant Narrative but also how to speak truth to power and efforts to try and break down and out of this narrative. This reading also took me back to the writing assessments and the discussion about global vs. local context. On one hand you want to be able to prepare students to take a place and participate in the global world where they can fit into those standards, but at the same time this takes away local contexts and cultures/ways of lives that students often times leave behind for other cultures and ways of living that were deemed “appropriate” by the dominant culture. Freire discussed how students don’t relate to the materials that teachers are teaching and as both a student and teacher in urban areas I know this to be true. But finding the balance is incredibly difficult. I want to offer a space for my students to live in their truths and express themselves, but I also want to prepare them for what awaits them in the real world.

The Needed Fight For Dehumanization

The articles “Pedagogy of The Oppressed,” by Paulo Freire, and “The Silence Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children,” by Lisa D. Delpit, talk about something called Power and Oppression in our world. Although both articles refer to their subject in different ways, they are essentially the same, and can be both seen simply as matter of “dominance.” In the article by Delpit, we are enlightened of how power works in education, with the examples of the pre-dominantly white educators having more voice over the non-white. And this idea of power is further described as having a shape and form, where it is normally manifested in various ways, such as in a certain way of speaking, writing, dressing, arguing, and even interacting. The article informs that commonly, white people are more prone to behave by this code of power, more so than non-whites, and so it is easier for them to have a definitive say in the end on spoken matters and decision making. Similarly, the article by Freire, we are informed of how oppression is an issue in the world that is often the result of dehumanization. We informed that to some extent, the “oppressed” are often times turned into oppressors too because of the idea that that is how a person presents power or has power in the world. Because these two terms “power” and “oppression” are so similar, I’d like to think of it as dominance. In this case, how dominance is manifested in our world. And I think it is a big issue that should be fixed, in order to have a more fairly-working society.

Personally speaking on this issue, I think dominance is always part of our daily life. It is so hard to escape that the only possible way for you escape it is by being away from other people all alone. But the moment you are close to another person, the idea of dominance always comes out. Sometimes it might be visible and other might not. Yet, it’s likely it is always present as you deal with other people in groups or in one-on-one interactions. This is possibly because of the natural balance of inequality and differences in our world (social status, race, skin color, level of intelligence, ect…). Touching on what was said in Freire’s article, the idea of oppression (or dominance) is mostly apparent in the work force and with success. In this case, the person on top is the leader and the person on the bottom is the peasant, follower, or minion. And even when we try to fight the unpleasant thought of it, it is still present passively. Just look at the example of a person who is a CEO at a company and his underlings. His commands and words, to some degree are obsolete, within the company and the employment status of the underlings. They follow all commands and orders, not only because they may fear for their jobs, but also because they understand that this is how it works. And despite how many times he might dehumanize them or oppress them when, deep inside, they too would most like to like one day be the dominant person. So the idea of dominance is build into them unseen, to the point when they also become oppressive because such oppression shows what power looks like.

Similarly, touching on Delpit’s article, this idea of power is also present in education. And why not, you may ask? The examples they used were that of how different educators rank in authority (of voice and decision making) among themselves when making changes to pedagogical policies and regulations. In such case, the white predominant educators were accused, by the non-whites, of being in power just because of them being white. But I agree with Delpit, that there is more to it than just race and skin color. And perhaps the idea of them being in more positions of power is related to the notion that more whites simply adopt characteristics that resemble “power,” and so they are automatically assigned power. Just like love looks in a certain way, power does too, and behaving appropriately to it will seem to make it easier for a person to have it. And so in this case, the predominant whites will seem not to care about the voice of others, and only care about theirs. But this is ultimately questionable.

The point that I see from these articles in relation to what I like to call dominance, is that power and oppression may appear to be evil, as they somewhat create feelings of dehumanization in certain groups of people. I’m not disagreeing with this probable fact, but I like to think that there is a reason to why we have these two, and why the manifestation of it is almost unavoidable regardless of the setting. Interestingly enough, the articles did emphasize on why these two exist and their functionality. I do think, however, whether there are good things about them or bad, that each day we should try harder to not dehumanize others, regardless of their status, race, skin color, level of intelligence, and anything else relating a person. 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

When jumping into this article, I was just mind blown of what I was about dive deep into… But first, I would like you to take the time out to listen to one of my favorite revolutionary artist Jermaine Cole, better know as J. Cole. **Click on link under his picture***. After reading this article, I was moved to come back to one of his older songs, High 4 Hours, recorded in 2017. Please do not be fooled by the title of the song, but be moved by meanings in his lyrics. I am telling you, he is truly an amazing, poetic, and well spoken artist!

I am going to be complete honest, I was a little confused and intimidated when I first began to read this article. There were a lot of powerful words being thrown around and I did not know exactly how to place them (that truly made me nervous). As I went to read through it again, I was able to make connection as to what Freire wanted me to take away from this reading. I was then able to connect the J. Cole song to his words and it all made since! As I said before, I am still trying to gain the true grasp of this reading, so I decided to take another pace on how to approach this article. So with further a due, lets dissect this!

“This, then, is the great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed: to liberate themselves and their oppressors as well (Freier)”

When reading this statement, I could not help but think of another inspirational speaker; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Like many of us know, he was the voice (this word voice is always there) for one the most know pacifistic movements. He believed that we should not over throw and hate our oppressor, but help free not just us but themselves from their own darkness.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. With this quote, this verse from J. Cole’s song High 4 Hours says something just as similar to Dr. King

“Look at the power, but you know what power does to man
Corruption always leads us to the same shit again
So when you talk about revolution dawg, I hear just what you saying What good is taking over, when we know what you gon’ do
The only real revolution happens right inside of you (J. Cole 2017).”

The next statement that I found interesting to look deeper into is the following: “But almost always, during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors, or ‘sub-oppressors’.”

When reading this statement, I could not helped but be reminded by the constantly oppressed ethnicity I just so happened to belong, African American. Fun fact, during my undergrad studies as an English major, the majority of my education was based on identity and finding out more about my people. I was fully aware of the slavery and racism that most blacks faced in the United States, but until I got to college, I was oblivious to what underlining impact issues that they faced. The statement above took me back to look at some of my old academic writing that ties into a snippet of what this article is trying to convey.

“Another form of this racism that appeared in the book was not towards Jacobs herself, but towards the other slaves around her. “I admit that the black man is inferior. But what is it that makes him so? It is the ignorance in which white men compel him to live; it is the torturing whip that lashes manhood out of him; it is the fierce bloodhounds of the South, and the scarcely less cruel human bloodhounds of the north, who enforce the Fugitive Slave Law. They do the work (Jacobs p. 49).” When a person is put in fear that if they are willing to learn then they are willing to die he will want to stay ignorant in order to live. Commonly known through history, it was forbidden for any slave to learn how to read or write. Such acts of trying to educate themselves left options of being whipped, being sold off, or being killed. This “peculiar institution” left slaves naturally feeling as though they were born to be less capable than the white man, leaving them ignorant, and the white man with more power (Patricia Dennis 2017). “

I found this next statement very interesting because it makes the oppressed take a step back from themselves and their actions towards each other. When oppressed people feel compelled to keep their thought, anger, feeling, and all other factors towards their own kind; how can they ever feel truly empowered to face those who made them this way?” When I look at this quote, it reminds me of the African American Theory I studied as an undergrad. The African American theory address many aspects as to what makes it a theory; one aspect I vividly remember was internal racism. From as far as slavery, all the way to present time, this is still an issue with most people of color. Instead trying to crawl out of the barrel, we look as to why we need to keep others in the barrel down. Instead of fighting the hate outside, many fail to face their own inner issues caused be oppressor.

To end off this article, I would like to leave this quote from the text to thing about:

“If the goal of the oppressed is to become fully human, they will not achieve their goal by merely reversing the terms of the contradiction, by simply changing poles.”

The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other People’s Children

This article really was a great follow up read to the first article in my blog. The best part about this article is that I was able to put myself within, as being both a student and educator of color. It was very hard to NOT want to write about everything in this article, so I was able to break it down to six quotes/points I found most interesting.

“My charge here is not to determine the best instructed methodology; I believe that the actual practice of good teachers of all colors typically incorporates a range of pedagogical orientations.”

Wow! This statement has so much truth behind it! No good teachers sticks to one approach when teaching any student. With each school year, there are new set of students, and with each new set of students, the are different strutted minds to teach. With that, a particular methodology is always the best but the amount of effort educators put into finding different and exciting ways to engage ALL students. I wish many of my primary teachers would have taken a gander at this article! I also want you to remember the above statement later down the line throughout the discussion topics in my post.

The culture of power

This snippet of the article kind of breaks down the forms of power and how it plays a role in education. I found the first three points more suited towards the classrooms.

  • (1)Issues of power are enacted in classrooms.
    • Power of teacher over students. Teachers ultimately choose the learning.
  • (2) There are codes or rules for participating in power
    • Linguistic forms, communicative strategies, and presentation self.
  • (3) The rules of the culture of power are are a reflection of the rules of the culture of those who have power
    • The success in institutions – schools, workplaces, and etc – is predicated upon acquisition of the culture of those in power

Tying my experience into the mix is that above points are true. The culture of power is something that is established in certain classrooms, with certain teachers, in certain circumstances. For example, being educated in Newark was not the most greatest places to get a decent education, but I was fortunate. The primary school I went to had teachers that looked just like me and was able to take grab of that power of culture and shape it into something to help the school grows. But that was not the case for many other schools in Newark.

“Many liberal educators hold that the primary goal for education is for children to become autonomous, to develop fully who they are in the classroom setting without having arbitrary, outside standards forced upon them.”

Is that what we all as educators want for our students? Not only do students have normal academic pressure on their back, but even more standards thrown on them. SAT, ACT, NJ ASK, HESPA.. these are just a few outside standard test I had to face as a high school student, I can’t imagine what the standards are now. These rules and standards are set on these students to become something other themselves. Speaking for the perspective of colored student, we were told to leave our “ghetto ways” at the door to get into academic formation. What does that even mean? Do I need to put on cape on intellect to fit the personality of education atmosphere?

“They (Black parents) want to assurance that school provides their children with discourse patterns, interaction styles, and written language codes that will allow them success in the real world.”

12 hours shifts, 4 hours of sleep, making ends meet… just so that their child can receive an education that will help them survive and hopefully thrive in society. The first person I thought of in this statement is my mom. The person I just described in the beginning of this passage is my mother. While writing this post, I was on the phone with my boyfriend describing to him how I do not really remember my mom staying home a lot or seeing her as often as I do now. Looking back at it now, I get it. She worked so hard so that I can have better opportunities in this world that will judge my knowledge off the color of my school. Though she could not always be at the PTA or parent conference meetings, she prayed that my teachers would see fit that my mind did not go to waste. That’s what any parent would hope for their child.

“The dilemma is not really in the debate over instructional methodology. but rather in communicating across cultures and in addressing the more fundamental issue of power, of whose voice gets to be heard in determining what is best for poor children and children of color.”

Coincidentally enough, that above statement (which is close to the end of the article) sounds a lot like the first statement in talked about in this article. But instead of focusing on the teaching approach itself, it concentrates more on the voice and understating for the students. Food for thought I wanted to leave behind in this post.