Re-engaging Paulo Freire’s work and the insights of critical pedagogy with some teaching experience under my belt is like seeing the world anew.
Freire contested that one cannot understand Pedagogy as simply a method in teaching—as the dictionary narrowly defines it. We must understand Pedagogy as an all-encompassing Social Theory that is not neutral in the face of oppression and marginalization. To be an educator is to have clarity of social and political commitments, according to Freire, because teaching is not a neutral task. Within the classroom, Community Center, church, and anywhere learning occurs, one engages a political act according to Freire. One, as teacher-learner, introduces morals, ethics, and values that must be interrogated and not naively dismissed as “objective fact.”
Teaching in a liberating way, then, encourages students to reflect on experience and social reality and apply that to an object of knowledge. Put differently, one encourages students to wield their prior knowledge/experience, but not stop there because, ultimately, learning is not *only* for the sake of reflecting on one’s experience or even acquiring new knowledge. Learning is for critical reflection on social reality that leads to new re-engagement with the world. *How* we teach and *what* we teach, then, are political acts. This is why Pedagogy is not merely a method in teaching but a Social Theory. As such, it is not a neutral act.
Freire’s perspective is crucial for teachers in any context. What values, ethics, and morals are we inculcating in what we teach and how we teach? Are they liberating or oppressive? If you answer the latter, what are you doing to shift what you do in learning spaces?