Representational Picture.

Holocaust is remembered as the worst perpetration of genocide in the entire history of humankind.  It is the perfect example of   a group of people with the reins of power in their hands and motivated by an ideology with which they had been indoctrinated, the Nazis, launching a systematic and widespread process of extermination against a large section of the population, the Jews, because the former perceived the latter as a threat to their place in their native land, Germany. Nazis were known for their history of anti-Semitism in the entire continent like their predecessors, the Christian zealots. Nazis started to systemically assemble Jews in the territories annexed by Germany inside concentration camps like Auschwitz.

From the available sources, it seems quite evident that Nazis’   were to a large extent successful in socially re-engineering the German society through the formal education system which was completely at their disposal. In order to weave their narrative of racial superiority and the threat posed by the alien other into the very warp and weft of the society, they needed a way into the plastic minds of the German youth. Thus the system of formal education became the most important tool in their hands. Thus a generation of young Germans completely devoted to the Nazi ideology was prepared to take over the reins of power in Germany.

The defeat of Nazis in the World War II might lead many to believe that such ideas  no longer enjoy any currency whatsoever in today’s world. On the contrary, there are people (in power or striving to come to power) in the present world who are prepared to implement these types of ideas in a much more sinister way.

 

Paulo Freire’s book ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ (1968) is an important work that explains the above phenomenon in detail. Apart from questioning the power relation between  oppressor and oppressed mainly created by  European colonisation, Friere presents a critique of the education system which is rarely questioned. Paulo Freire was a Brazilian philosopher and educator.  He is credited with introducing Critical Pedagogy and is also a pioneer in the fields of Alternative Research and Participatory Research.

Freire gives an alternative model for understanding education.

What he terms as, the Pedagogy of the Oppressed is well summed up in these words:‘‘The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, as a humanist and libertarian pedagogy, has two distinct stages. In the first, the oppressed unveil the world of oppression and through the praxis (practical knowledge) commit themselves to its transformation. In the second stage, in which the reality of oppressed has been transformed, this pedagogy ceases to belong to the oppressed and becomes a pedagogy of all people in the process of permanent liberation.” (Friere, 2005, p. 55).

The book is structured into four chapters.  The first chapter is centred on dialectical materialism demonstrated by the struggle between   the oppressors  and the oppressed .  Freire expands on two important themes: the humanity of the oppressed and the dehumanisation of the oppressors. Mainly, the focus is on the oppressed class, which according to Freire is submerged and has lost the momentum of life and the vitality of humanity because of their violent suppression by the oppressors.

In the chapter, Freire makes use of the concept of ‘fear of freedom’ used by the psychologist Erich Fromm to illustrate the fear to change the status quo and find an alternative way or structure.  The fear of becoming like the oppressor too always lingers.  Freire constantly refers to the humanisation of the oppressed and dehumanisation of the oppressors.

He states, ‘Narration (with the teacher as the narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated content. Worst yet, it turns them into ‘’containers’’, into ‘’receptacles’’ to be filled by the teacher. The more completely she fills the receptacles, the better a teacher she is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.” (Friere, 2005,P .72)

Pedagogy of the Oppressed has been set aside as communist propaganda by many in spite of the valuable insights it provides into education and pedagogy.

The model aims at challenging the Western knowledge system that has made the other knowledge systems irrelevant by means of the curricula created by the colonizers for their own benefit and still followed by the formal systems of education in the regions of the world formerly under their domination.

The chapter also develops the recurring theme of ‘praxis’ (practice of theory) which starts from chapter one. Freire’s emphasis is on the practical aspect of knowledge. He also develops a manifesto for the leadership for the oppressed  how they  should deal with the violence emanating from theOppressor. And its transference to oppressed class.   His focus is around creating a defence mechanism where oppressed doesn’t emulate the oppressor.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed has been set aside as communist propaganda by many in spite of the valuable insights it provides into education and pedagogy.


References:

  • Freire, Paulo. Education for Critical Consciousness. London: Continuum International Publishing Group (2005)
  • Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group (2005)