Education Through the Lens of Paulo Freire

By Raphael Marinho 

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Education has always been a topic dear to me, but it was only after my contact with Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy that I realized its full transformative potential. Though the idea that education is a necessary step towards a “good” future has always been instilled in me since a young age, it never went deeper into the role of education besides its ability to open doors to good jobs. This idea of education and its use is fundamentally a neoliberal conceptualization, where things are only considered valid if they can amplify economic gains. Granted, although the capitalist work system does require specialized workers, and this specialization is usually achieved through education, this view is limited. The critical view of education exemplified by Freire on the other hand approached it as a means and practice towards humanization, a way to be more integrated, connected and aware of the world which surrounds us and the people we share it with. A critical education seeks to not only teach technical know-how, but to also put into question ontological givens as well as axiological standings. This approach towards the discipline of education also inspired the field of critical community psychology. It draws from the work of Freire as well as other Latin American thinkers who revolutionized their fields by connecting their research to the reality of the people. Recognizing this intimate interdisciplinary nature of critical community psychology is what drew me towards this growing field, especially because of its praxisoriented approach, a key feature of Freirean pedagogy.  

Paulo Freire’s contributions to the field of education and critical social sciences are recognized internationally. But right now in Freire’s, as well as my own, homeland, Brazil, his approach to education is being fervently combatted by conservative right-wing sectors of society. The fact that he is not considered welcome by certain sectors of Brazilian society is common knowledge, as he was exiled from his own country back in 1964 by the authoritarian military regime that took power. He had been involved with a revolutionary adult literacy program and was put in charge of a national literacy campaign shortly before the coup took place. Due to this he was considered dangerous by the regime, as he held the power of education. During the dictatorship his books were banned and those found with it would be deemed subversives, leading to potential torture and in some cases assassination. Freire would only return to Brazil after the re-democratization process, where once again his ideas around education would gain foot within Brazilian academia. Although the Brazilian left wing embraced Paulo Freire, he was still held in negative regards by conservative right-wing sectors. This sentiment did not die down, and in fact grew to an education movement that is attempting to silence teachers all across Brazil from approaching topics in a critical manner.  

“Escola Sem Partido”, or School Without (political) Party, is a movement which seeks to purge from school any political or ideological standings. They argue that schools became a place of ideological indoctrination where students are being pushed into a Marxist discourse by teachers. They critique the idea that schools should be a place to talk about Human rights, sexual orientation, gender differences, racism and social inequalities, all of which they deem to be topics of indoctrination. They believe school should be where students only learn technical knowledge along with Christian values. Everything this movement stands for is diametrically opposed to any of Paulo Freire’s view around education, and as such, they consider Freire to be the manifestation of evil within schools. To make matters worse, proponents of the movement are starting to encourage students to record teachers in class, with the goal of punishing teachers they deem out of line. To any critical reader this movement will sound absurd, but due to a current ultra conservative wave in Brazil the movement has gained power and is attempting to pass legislations to push its agenda. The problem deepened when Brazil elected a proponent of this movement, the fascist, authoritarian, and ultra-conservative Bolsonaro. His goal is to militarize public education and “purge Paulo Freire from schools”. The future of Brazilian education is looking grim and resistance will be necessary 

It is during situations such a this that the values of critical community psychology become essential for me, especially Liberation Psychology proposals towards a more humane and rooted society. To be able to deconstruct this movement we must first analyze it on an ecological and structural level. Escola Sem Partido does not happen in a vacuum, it is intimately connected to Brazil’s present political situation as well as its violent and silencing historical past. Brazil’s military dictatorship was especially brutal to university students as well as teachers who were critical of its violent ways. By targeting teachers and students the regime’s goal was to silence any critical discussions around social issues. They approached this by decrying a communist plot which wanted to break down Christian values of society, the same approach Escola Sem Partido is using. It is not uncommon to see banners pro-dictatorship during the movement’s protests. Understanding this historical connection is essential if we are to find a way beyond the current struggle. Ignacio Martín-Baró outlined a few important tasks in the process toward a liberation psychology and one of the them is: the recovery of historical memory. It means recovering the elements which were useful for resistance in the past, such as student movements and cultural gatherings to discuss social issues. 

The very premise of the “Escola Sem Partido” movement is flawed. They criticize what they call ideological views and expect school to be a place free from ideology. Yet, their very position is an ideological one. The very foundation of Freirean education ideas is that there is no such thing as neutral and ahistorical education, meaning that every stance is situated within a specific context. Here is where another of Martín-Baró’s task is also essential, that of de-ideologizing the common sense of what it means to teach. It requires a critical participation of the population, especially of parents and students, into the process of education. Many misinformed parents are falling to lies propagated by the movement and this can only change if parents themselves became active members within schools, listening to teachers as well as students.  

The neoliberal market-oriented goals of transforming education into simply a means to transfer knowledge are a global tendency. Brazil is not the only place where such movements has gained power. In Latin America the movement “Con Mis Hijos No Te Metas” (Don’t mess with my kids), starts from similar premise, where they criticize gender and sexual education within schools and argue that it should be a place to only discuss technical knowledge. Even in Europe there are some similar movements, such as Germany’sNeutrale Schule” (Neutral School) led by far-right politicians. The United States has Betsy Devos as secretary of education, a figure closely associated with for-profit schools and the weakening and de-funding of public schools. All of these serve as examples of the encompassing reach that the neoliberal ideology has on what it means to educate as well as what can or cannot be talked about in schools. 

To end I would like to share a curious story of how I came to know and be interested in Paulo Freire. Though I am Brazilian and had most of my schooling done in Brazil I had never heard of him. It was only 2013 when found out about him in a very comical way. I had been keeping an eye on the political protests which followed the great national protest that I had taken part in, these tended to be much smaller, but one caught my eye at how ridiculous they seemed. They were requesting a military dictatorship again, something that I found infuriating, and they happened to be carrying a giant banner which read: “Enough of Marxist Indoctrination. Enough of Paulo Freire in schools!”. My automatic thought process was: if they are saying bad things about this guy then he must be interesting. So I decided to research him and right then and there I fell in love with everything he represented. In some ways, I find it appropriate that this was how I was introduced to Freire because they lit a fire within me that I hope to keep on burning brighter and stronger. I believe in the transformative potential that education represents, I believe it is an essential tool within the social justice movements, and I hope to be someone who can represent and carry on the transformative education fire to enlighten the dark night which we are crossing. 

References: (‘Escola sem Partido’: como o ensino também virou polêmica na Alemanha) (Mesmo sem lei, Escola sem Partido se espalha pelo país e já afeta rotina nas salas de aula) (Como movimentos similares ao Escola sem Partido se espalham por outros países) (A educação brasileira no centro de uma guerra ideológica) (‘Não se meta com meus filhos’: movimento contra políticas de gênero na América Latina corteja Bolsonaro)

Involving the Community in Research and Policy Analysis/Change

By Jenn Zheng


Social change requires the voice of the people from the community that is being changed. When community psychologists and/or those against social injustice try to go against the status-quo, one of the obstacles faced is their own blind spots (Nelson & Prilletensky, 2010). There is a need to be reflexively aware at all times of their values, experiences, and power. This is why the community members of the group that is targeted for social change needs to be involved. The community members need to be involved in the research, in participatory action research where they are not only participants, but have a role as co-researchers (Lykes, 2017). Policy change and analysis also needs to work with groups that will be impacted by these change or lack of change (Nelson, 2013).  

It is important to include the community that faces social injustices in the research portion of social change. They should be given the resources to use their voice and participate in the research as well as be coresearchers. These coresearchers can identify the problem and know what to focus on with their situated knowledge in a way outsider cannot. They can interpret data and know the most applicable questions to ask from a subjugated standpoint. Researchers must not only acknowledge, but enhance the local knowledge and capacity of the community members. 

To have transformative change, for it to be effective, the power dynamics of a community that defines the social roles needs to be assessed and taken into consideration. There also needs to be awareness that there is not a binary way of looking at power, the powerful and the powerless. Power is complicated and fragmented, groups that appear powerless can use their power in discrete or partial ways (Campbell, 2014). The idea is that power dynamics of a community needs to be accounted for when trying to create social change, however, it is also important to realize that it is not just the powerless versus the powerful. There needs to be acknowledgement that groups that are perceived as powerless do have power and should be empowered to created social change. They should be involved in the research and the policy change to create positive social change. 

The first step in understanding the politics of change is to be able to see the world in terms of what we would like it to be, not just what it is (Alinksky, 1989). Discursive approaches to analyzing policy pays attention to values, politics, and language (Nelson, 2013). This approach does not view social problems and solutions as “objective” phenomena, but considers the role of power in analyzing politics and policy. Policy change is also based on the presentation and selection of evidence. That is why it is important to involve community members that are impacted by these policies. They know the values and the political context of how these policies will impact their community. It is as crucial to involve the community members is the shaping of the problem definition. With the help of community members, the problem definition will more likely shift away from defining it in terms of individual deficits. This step is important because how the problem is framed is how the problem is solved.  

Often times people in marginalized groups do not get a say in research that involves them or policy change that impacts their community. By involving those members in research work, it gives a fair and reliable representation of data. Involving those members in policy change and analysis allows for an interpretation and feedback with situated knowledge. This involvement is important to counteract the blind spots that researchers and policy makers from privileged standpoints might have. This also allows for the empowerment of members of marginalized groups and give them voices and resources to create change.  











Alinsky, S. D. (1989). Rules for radicals: A practical primer for realistic radicals. Random House Digital, Inc.: Purpose (pp. 1-23); Tactics (pp. 125- 164) 

Campbell, C. (2014). Community mobilisation in the 21st century: Updating our theory of social change? Journal of Health Psychology, 19(1), 46-59.  

Lykes, M.B. (2017). Community-based and participatory action research: Community psychology collaborations within and across borders. In M. A. Bond, I. Serrano-García, & C. B. Keys (Eds), APA Handbook of Community Psychology: Vol. 2. Methods for community research and action for diverse groups and issues, (pp.43-58). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 

Nelson, G. (2013). Community psychology and transformative policy change in the neo-liberal era. American Journal of Community Psychology, 52(3-4), 211-223. 

Nelson, G., & Prilleltensky, I. (Eds.). (2010). Community psychology: Journeys in the global context. In Community psychology: In pursuit of liberation and well-being (2nd Ed.). New York, NY: Macmillan International Higher Education. (Textbook: Read Chapter 7 – Overview of community psychology interventions)   

Oppression Among African Americans

 By Destiny Jones

Lack of power, lack of privilege, and inequality are all characteristics of oppression. Oppression impacts the realities of individuals’ daily lives, and as many may think that it is invisible, it is very obvious and noticeable to those who experience it. According to Deutsch (2006), oppression is defined as the experience of repeated, widespread, systemic injustice, that takes on many forms. Not only has oppression impacted my experiences and daily life moments, but it also a concept within community psychology that has transformed my understanding on injustice and its impact on African American communities. While oppression takes many forms within African American communities, this post focuses on moral exclusion, cultural imperialism, and retributive injustice and their impacts on the lives of African Americans.   

Moral exclusion focuses on who is and is not entitled to fair outcomes and fair treatment based on an individual’s moral community and is considered the most dangerous form of oppression (Deustch, 2006; Young, 1990).  For African Americans, being morally excluded creates barriers that hinder communities from advancing, whether it is in political, economic, or personal realms. One example of how moral exclusion negatively impacted the lives of African Americans was during the Great Depression. African Americans suffered the most, as they were forced to leave unskilled jobs that they were initially disdained for by Whites before the depression began (Sustar, 2012). Furthermore, African Americans were faced with 50% of unemployed workers in comparison to 30% of unemployed workers for Whites. Furthermore, during this time, African Americans were also excluded from union membership (Great Depression and the New Deal Reference Library, 2002). This moral exclusion led to lack of resources, financials struggles, hardships, and negative health outcomes for many African American families.  

Another form of oppression faced by African American communities is cultural imperialism. Cultural imperialism establishes the dominant (in this case white) group’s experience and culture as the norm and standard way of life (Young, 1990, p. 59). Cultural imperialism creates a pressure to conform and internalize the dominant group’s images as aspirations for one’s own racial group. Cultural imperialism dates back to the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, in which African Americans were forced to migrate to the United States and acculturate the dominant culture. Colonizers dismissed the culture and norms of Africans brought over as slaves, forcing them to adapt to new norms, some of which are evident today. In addition, many Africans were forced to practice Christianity, since it was the dominant religion within the country (Raboteau,1992).  Cultural imperialism thus forces African Americans to live up the dominant culture and the images that are forced upon the community. This suggests that privilege and power allow one to create the standard norm while ignoring others’ cultures, experiences, and traditions. Furthermore, cultural imperialism gives insight as to how power and privilege also allows the dominant community to create these everlasting images of communities even though these images are false representations or have negative impacts on a particular group.  

Retributive injustice is a form of oppression that focuses on the attitudes and the behavior of individuals, especially those in authority, in regard to moral rule breaking (Deustch, 2006). Retributive injustice is seen within the arena of crime among the African American communities. It is evident that when it comes to crimes, African Americans receive the worse punishment. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, African American men who commit the same crime as white men receive prison sentences that are 20% longer than white men’s sentences. This disparity falls upon the judges as they make their sentencing choices at their own discretion (Ingraham, 2017). Furthermore, judges are not likely to voluntarily decrease sentences for African American men, and if so, they may do so in small increments (Ingraham, 2017). Another example of retributive injustice among African Americans is through arrests for marijuana possession. According to Staff (2018), ninety-three percent of people who were arrested for marijuana possession in between January and March within New York City were people of color. Out of the 4,081 arrests for marijuana, only 287 of those arrested were white people, while 2,006 African Americans were arrested for the same crime. This form of retributive injustice is embedded and ingrained within the system, leaving African Americans to endure even more hardships and struggles.  

While it is important to identify how these forms of oppression impact the realities of African American communities, it is also important to engage in meaningful processes that to overcome oppression and systemic injustice. According to Watts and Serrano-Garcia (2003), a critical consciousness is needed to overcome oppression. Critical consciousness allows those of the oppressed group to deconstruct existing ideologies and foundations and develop a perspective of liberation and equality (Watts & Serrano-Garcia, 2003). Critical consciousness involves expansion of knowledge, skills, and faculties that gives the oppressed the ability to move forward toward an effective live. Another key tool to overcome oppression is empowerment. Empowerment can be thought of as a gateway to self-efficacy, self-confidence, and control over one’s life and settings (Watts & Serrano-Garcia, 2003). Empowerment will not only contribute to self-worth and integrity of African American people, but it will also give the community the control to engage in communal acts that are beneficial for the culture and the future of the community. With the force of, African American communities will advance forward with life even though there are still oppressive forces that are against the community. Even as oppression and its many forms plays a role within African American communities, there are possibilities embedded in empowerment and critical consciousness raising.  



Beauboeuf,-Lafontant, T. (2007). You have to show strength: An exploration of gender, race, and depression. Gender and Society, 21(1), pp. 28-51 

Cochran, D. L., Brown, D. R., McGregor, K. C. (199). Racial differences in the multiple social roles of older women: Implications for depressive symptoms. The Gerontological Society of America, 39(4), pp. 465-472. 

Deutsch, M. (2006). A framework for thinking about oppression. Social Justice Research, 19(1), pp. 1-41 

Ingraham, C. (2017). Black Men Sentenced to More Time for Committing the Exact Same Crime As a White Person. The Washington Post. Retrieved from 

Raboteau, A. J. (1992). The secret religion of slaves. Christianity & the Civil War, 33,  

Staff, I. (2018). Racial Disparities Evident in New York City Arrest Data for Marijuana Possession .Innocence Project. Retrieved from 

Sustar, L. (2012). Blacks and the Great Depression. International Socialist Organization. Retrieved from 

Watson-Singelton, N. N. (2017). Strong black woman schema and psychological distress: The mediating role of perceived emotional support. Journal of Black Psychology, 43 (8), pp. 778-788 

Watts, R. J. & Serrano-Garcia, I. (2003). The quest for a liberating community psychology: An overview. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31(1), pp.73-78 

Young, M. I. (1990). Justice and the Politics of Difference. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.  

Examining the #metoo Movement Through Paradigms of Social Change

By Jessica Grant

 In Paolo Freire’s The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire, 1970) and Education for Critical Consciousness (Freire, 1973) he explores the multidimensional nature of oppression and conditions by which social action can thrive. Freire analyzes the complex interactions between oppressor and oppressed while holding in tension the possibility and hope of collective action despite abysmal conditions. This was due in part to the centering of marginalised groups as change agents and the belief that they held the keys to societal and cultural transformation. In the following essay, I would like to examine the timeline and inception of the #metoo movement through the lense of social change and collective action. Did the movement utilize transformational or ameliorative interventions? What role did identities occupying spaces of power play in the movement’s wide spreading? Lastly, does this movement present unexplored tactics for social change? 

Despite the popularizing of the #Metoo hashtag by Alyssa Milano on Twitter in October 2017; the phrase was inspired by activist Tarana Burke. Burke – a Black Woman and survivor of sexual violence and founder of a girls empowerment non-profit  – started #metoo as a “bold declarative statement” (Santiago C, Criss D 2017) dismissing shame and a form of connection and solidarity amongst survivors. For eleven years, Burke led her organization, traveled to events and served as an outspoken activist addressing sexual violence targeted towards women. Despite the decade of behind-the-scenes work done by Tarana Burke; she admitted that the virality of ‘Me too’ has allowed for the creation of an “entry point to healing” (Santiago C, Criss D 2017) for many survivors. The dialectic nature of #metoo’s popularity opened the door for stories and solidarity amongst survivors, but is it doing the work to change the way society views sexual violence or gender-based violence?  

This question highlights another tension existing within this movement: how can progress be measured? While it is still too early to tell, the charge of any one movement or activist to be the sole changemaker adheres to the widely criticized notion of linear change. In Catherine Campbell’s paper “Community mobilisation in the 21st century: Updating our theory of social change?”; (Campbell 2014) she prods at the notion that change must occur in succinct phases. By believing that change toward a hopeful and “progressive” (Campbell 2014) future is inevitable, it undermines the multitude of resistance faced by identities within the margins. It even suggests that their position within societal margins are a facet of an overwhelmingly positive and progressive process. I believe that this notion of change additionally places invariable pressure upon leaders of social movements and suggests that a failure on their part decreases the validity of their cause. In Reinhart Koselleck’s book, “Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time” he rejects the notion that “history” has been marching humankind “in the direction of progress and freedom” and emphasizes that “every space of human interaction is the product of ‘interrelations of multiplicity, difference and plurality” (Koselleck 1985). This leaves us with the deliberate job of analyzing the #metoo movement as a light amongst darkness but not one existing in a vacuum instead one with deep historical complexity.  

In agreement with Catherine Campbell’s paper, the #Metoo movement poses as a helpful example of the one of the new “burgeoning global protest movements” that fuses historical perspectives of change with developing ones (Campbell 2014). The paper illuminates various examples and stages of Community Mobilisation; but highlights the need for a CM that has a “critical or political emphasis”(Campbell 2014). It is this critical CM that is grounded in the “belief” that efforts to decrease inequality must “promote the capacity of the powerless to demand their rights to health, and develop social environments where the powerful are likely to heed their demands”(Campbell 2014). Similarly, rumblings of the #metoo movement had begun nearly a decade back but had only come to a socially visible and pressuring entity within the past year. Perhaps, the movement was able to come to this critical point because the years prior were spent developing the social environment that would catalyze change. Freire asserts that in addition to this “critical or political” grounding supported by Campbell; CM also must involve dialogue and critical thinking by the marginalized group with the inclusion of an external change agent (Freire 1970,1973). In this particular movement, I believe that the celebrities and Women holding locations of power assisted in the momentum and visibility given to the issues of sexual violence.  

It is hard to say whether the involvement of Alyssa Milano and other positively regarded celebrities aided in the overall push to destabilize the patriarchal structures that promoted such violence or transferred visibility to White, cis and economically privileged women – perhaps both. Milano’s tweet and involvement brought an air of legitimacy to the movement that sparked a global response amongst thousands of survivors. In Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for radicals: A practical primer for realistic radicals”; he notes the difficulty of creating social change in a way that uplifts those on the margins while not ignoring the world as it is (Alinsky 1989). He controversially argues that in order to transform the world into what we desire, “we must first see the world as it is and not as we would like it to be” (Alinsky 1989). Through this knowledge we can see how despite the complex origins of the movement, it’s recent visibility can be partially credited to the involvement of high-profile persons. 

According to Metoorising – a platform created to by Google Trends data to create a visualization of interest in “MeToo” overtime – interest and participation reached hundreds of cities throughout 2017. This high number not only reflects the pervasiveness of sexual violence worldwide but the redefinition of solidarity in present-day social change movements. Although #Metoo is not the first social movement to utilize social media as a launching point for dialogue; it’s popularity merely reflected a deep-seeded discontentment with prevailing power dynamics. Therefore, I believe that through personal storytelling and collective outcry the movement is operating in a transformative intervention space.  

Exhausted with the problematic rhetoric of victim blaming many survivors utilized the hashtag as an opportunity to additionally explain the problem with viewing sexual violence as the fault of the victim. In doing so, they pointed toward the need for systemic change in addition to personal accountability for predators. According to Nelson & Prilleltensky’s definition for ameliorative and transformative interventions; #metoo aligned with the second-order change of transformative by involving “community process” and focusing on the unequal patriarchal power dynamic (Nelson, G, Prilleltensky, I 2010). This appetite for transformational change has sparked adjacent movements calling for systemic and industrial change. Founded in January 2018, TIME’S UP ™ is a movement against sexual harassment and created in direct response to “the Weinstein effect and #Metoo”. In addition to the accepting donations for its legal defense fund and advocating for the everyday rights of women; they aim to address the “systemic inequality and injustice in the workplace” while shifting the cultural “paradigm”. This comprehensive organization represents one of the positive ripple effects of #Metoo’s sense of solidarity and collective agency.  

While it is hard to analyze the short and long-term effects of a movement without significant hindsight, I would project that #metoo movement could have lasting impact in the fight against sexual violence. The movement highlights our cultural tension of desiring power dynamic shifts while also valuing the voices of persons occupying identities of power and sidelining those within the margins. It emphasizes Freire’s point about the strength of solidarity through collective dialogue and introduces social media as a potential catalyzing “external change agent” (Freire 1970, 1973). The fight for justice is far from over and not necessarily confined to the linear progression we may assume, but the success and disruption of the #Metoo movement provides us with a hopeful glimpse into the future.  



Alinsky, S. D. (1989). Rules for radicals: A practical primer for realistic radicals. New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House. 


Freire, P. (2014). Education for critical consciousness. London: Bloomsbury Academic. 


Freire, P. (2018). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Burnaby, B.C.: Simon Fraser University Library. 


Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from 


Koselleck, R. (1985). Futures past: On the semantics of historical times. Cambridge, MA: MIT  Press. (n.d.). Retrieved from 


Nelson, G. B., & Prilleltensky, I. (2010). Community psychology: In pursuit of liberation and   well-being. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. 


Santiago, C., & Criss, D. (2017, October 17). An activist, a little girl and the heartbreaking origin of    ‘Me too’.