Paulo Freire

By: Mark Kingwell
September 19, 2015


Brazilian philosopher of education PAULO FREIRE (1921–97) credited his personal experience of poverty and hunger as the genesis of his theory of ‘critical pedagogy’. Enduring Depression-era privations in the city of Jaboatão dos Guararapes, Freire developed a sense of why intelligence so often gets wasted for lack of opportunity. More importantly, he saw that education could be a form of social and economic emancipation — a notion now so canonical in leftist thought that its revolutionary potential is often underestimated. Indeed, some philosophical leftists have claimed to abandon the language and ambitions of liberation, seeing there only paternalism and false starts. But let it be said that these second-order arguments are themselves available almost exclusively in the halls and seminar rooms of higher education. Freire’s landmark book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968; in English 1970), enjoys enduring relevance because its simpler message is also more valid: the site of education is either a trap-door into the current arrangement or an escape-hatch into freedom, the students and teachers stooges of the system or its dedicated critics. We all need to decide which, every day.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Mama Cass, Adam West.

READ MORE about members of the New Gods Generation (1914-23).


Activism, HiLo Heroes, Theory