• Destiny Yarbro

The Pedagogy of the Oppressor and Educational Philosophies

Credit: https://pixabay.com/illustrations/handcuffed-arrest-oppression-racism-1251664/

Education Can Lead to Dehumanization

The philosophy that spoke the most to me this week was Freire’s critical pedagogy (see my post from earlier this week). As I have studied formal education’s role in suppressing the rights of Deaf, Tibetan, and Black students and it’s role in promoting the oppressors in Nazi Germany, I feel strongly that Freire was right: education can lead to dehumanization (Wiseman, 2013, part 2). I addressed Deaf education in my forum post this week and Tibetan education in my written paper during week 2.

Black Like Me: Addressing Wrongs as One of the Majority

As I watched to Alexander Wiseman’s videos on The Pedagogy of the Oppressor, two books (well, a few more than two) came to mind (2013). The first was Black Like Me where the author, John Howard Griffin, re-created himself as a black man to better understand the challenges facing the Black community in the 1950s deep south. Similar to Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author was trying to describe the common experience of the oppressed using the language of the oppressors. This creates huge discrepancies, of course, and can be very one-sided. However, Black Like Me and Uncle Tom’s Cabin did have an impact in their respective eras because they were addressing the wrongs promoted by majority as one of the majority. (To Griffin’s credit, he was very uncomfortable when his book was placed as the leading perspective for a time after its release.)

A Women of No Importance: Education Used by Despots to Further Oppression

The second book that came to mind was one that I finished reading last night: A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell. This incredible book, hand-in-hand with A Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, does not address education in Nazi Germany, but both sparked a stream of thoughts for me regarding education; that Hitler (like Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot and other despots) overtook the schools at the beginning of their reigns, recognizing the power that would come from forcibly dictating the curricula. In these contexts, I completely agree with Freire that “education is politics” (Shor & Freire, 1987, p. 46).

Educational Philosophies' Perspectives on Oppression

I thought that I would not relate in any way to humanism. It seemed to be much too flighty and anti-structure until I took the learning philosophy test at http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/ed416/selfassessment.html and scored highly for humanism. While I still think that some structure is necessary (I explored this in my written paper last week), I did relate to humanism’s perspective on the innate goodness of children; that if a child is raised and taught in a safe and positive environment, there will be no limit on their ability and desire to learn. These elements I incorporated into my own philosophy which I show in my portfolio visual from week 3.

On the other hand, I thought essentialism would speak to me as I see myself as an essentialist in other definitions of the term. I believe on focusing on what’s most important and utilizing the 80/20 principle to hone my efforts. But while I believe that there are key skills (such as reading, writing, presenting, etc.) and vital subjects (such as history, applicable math, science, etc.) for every student to learn in the course of their formal education, unlike this educational philosophy however, I believe that each student should have the right to assess what is essential to them and their life journey rather than the powers that be dictating what is essential for all students everywhere, regardless of their life experience, goals, and passions.

In my perspective, it seems quite clear which philosophies spark changes in future educational practices and models. Critical pedagogy and social reconstructivism focus on ejecting “the controlling influence of the oppressor...from our minds” and creating positive social change (Wiseman, 2013, part 1). Change is innate to these philosophies. Progressivism’s student-centered approach can lead to change as the teacher (who was most likely schooled in an essentialist model) is not forcibly leading or determining learning. As students grow and explore without restraints (though perhaps with structure), they will become different teachers than the generations before. Existentialism also promotes change but, in my perspective, not in a good way. By discarding all principles of truth and right / wrong to allow the student to “explore” their own definitions of these terms, they believe that their interpretation of the world is all that matters (which can easily nurture an ethnocentric perspective on the world).


Cohen, L. M. (1999). Section III - Philosophical Perspectives in Education. Retrieved September 24, 2020, from https://oregonstate.edu/instruct/ed416/PP2.html

Griffin, J. H. (1961). Black Like Me. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

Shor, I., & Freire, P. (1987). A pedagogy for liberation: dialogues on transforming education. South Hadley, Mass.: Bergin & Garvey Publishers.

Stowe, H. B. (1852). Uncle Tom's Cabin. Boston, MA: John P. Jewett and Company.

Wiseman, A. (2013, April 18). Human Rights: Frieres (sic) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Part 2. Retrieved September 21, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yQgvEjACuQ

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