Revolution Lullabye

June 9, 2009

Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramus. New York: Herder and Herder, 1970.

Freire believes that only through liberatory education can the poor and oppressed begin to understand and reflect upon their social position and then take action towards permanent liberation and the restructuring of society. He distinguishes between the antidialogic banking model of education, whose passive, narrative education with content alien to students’ context mirrors oppressive society, and dialogic liberatory pedagogy, an active, praxis-oriented pedagogy that treats students and teachers as joint partners in critically investigating generative themes and problems in society. Dialogic liberatory pedagogy is subjective and humanist, founded in commitment to others through love, humility, faith, and hope.

Quotable Quotes

methodology of liberatory pedagogy: conscientizacao – “learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality” (19).

pedagogy of the oppressed – “makes oppression and its causes objects of reflection by the oppressed, and from that reflection will come their necessary engagement in the struggle for their liberation” (33).

“To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it” (76).

“Education as the practice of freedom – as opposed to education as the practice of domination – denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also denies that the world exists as a reality apart from men” (69).

Notable Notes

don’t forget the context – 1960s, poor Catholic peasants in Brazil

even with the dialogical model, leadership is necessary and important – connection to administration (167).


Ellsworth, Why Doesn’t This Feel Empowering

Ellsworth, Elizabeth. “Why Doesn’t This Feel Empowering? Working through the Repressive Myths of Critical Pedagogy.” Harvard Educational Review 59:3 (Aug 1989) 297-324.

Ellsworth argues that teachers that believe in critical pedagogy must confront and accept unknowability, that knowledges and voices in the classroom are partial, contradictorary, and irreducable. This complexity does not negate the purpose of a critical education. Rather, accepting that complex cultural and historical issues cannot be solved in the classroom refuses to allow for oversimplification, which in itself continues to perpetuate cycles of domination and repression. The teacher must acknowledge that they have a historical, political, and cultural perspective and stake in the dialogue and discussion and allow students to name what they want to be empowered to do. Their social subjectivity makes it impossible to completely understand students’ experiences and experiences and to steer them towards discovering their “true” inner voice.

Quotable Quotes

argument: “Key assumptions, goals, and pedagogical practices fundamental to the literature on critical pedagogy – namely, ’empowerment,’ ‘student voice,’ ‘dialogue,’ and even the term ‘critical’ – are repressive myths that perpetuate relations of domination.” (298).

“What diversity do we silence in the name of ‘liberatory’ pedagogy?” (299)

“All knowings are partial, that there are fundamental things each of us cannot know.” (310)

problem with the “generic critical teacher” (310)

Notable Notes

goal of empowerment is too abstract (good of society?) – no clear, identifiable purpose

Pratt, Arts of the Contact Zone

Pratt, Mary Louise. “Arts of the Contact Zone.” In Ways of Reading. 5th ed. Eds. Bartholomae and Petroksky. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999.

This essay, originally published in 1991, problematizes the notion of the homogenous, coherent, utopian, and limited community (especially as imagined in and of the classroom) by introducing the idea of the contact zone, the places where cultures meet and engage. Pratt explains what she terms as the literate arts of the contact zone – things like authethnography, transculturation, critique, collaboration, bilingualism, parody, and vernacular expression – which are ways people throughout history have used language to express the clash of cultures to both a dominant and an oppressed culture. Pratt calls for the creation of “pedagogical arts of the contact zone,” strategies and techniques teachers can use to teach about diversity, culture, and power,  and how writing and literacy play a part in creating communities and contact zones.

Quotable Quotes

Contact zones: “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today”

Autoethnographic text: “text in which people undertake to describe themselves in ways that engage with representations others have made of them.”

Notable Notes

uses the autoethnographic text written by Andean Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala in 1613 (not widely circulated or taken up til the 1970s) to King Philip II of Spain, written and illustrated, both Spanish and Quechua languages

her course – Cultures, Ideas, Values – that took up the concept of the contact zone. Lectures were impossible, everyone had a stake, a different viewpoint: “No one eas excluded, and no one was safe”

Emig, Writing as a Mode of Learning

Emig, Janet. “Writing as a Mode of Learning.” CCC 28:2 (May 1977) 122-128.

Emig, in this early article that articulates the importance of a writing-centered English classroom, argues that writing is a preferrable way for students to learn because it allows students to be active producers originating ideas. Writing uses both hemispheres of the brain and involves all three of Jerome Bruner’s learning categories: the hand, the eye, and the brain. Writing is integrated, propelled through cycles of self-reflection, connective, engaged, personal, and self-rhythmed, all attributes of higher-level thinking and learning. Writing, as opposed to talking, forces students to negotiate and shuttle between the past, the present, and the future.

Notable Notes

move to make students producers, not consumers

curious distinction Emig alludes to – that writing is different than other forms of composing (art, music, dance, architecture, film, and math and science.) She doesn’t expand on that, but it would be interesting to know what exactly she sees as the difference. She seems to prioritize writing over these other creative design arts.

individualized education in writing – make it self-rhythmed

shuttling between past, present, and future requires skills in both analysis and synthesis

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