Thursday, January 22, 2015

On a human scale.

A mass of anonymous humans, they are standing together as one, what does it express?

What does it (such a mass) express objectively?

A mass, a mob, a crowd, a people, a class, a race, a religion, an army, a species?

Are they oppressors or oppressed?

Are they free, are they enslaved?

If I ask such questions it is that I have been rereading Freire today, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed."

If I am rereading Freire, it is because I accidently got drawn into a Twitter chat last night.

It was a Twitter chat for Hybrid Pedagogy's Critical Pedagogy course #moocmooc.

There was one tweet which caught my attention:

There is something about  some of the language in "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" which is raising questions for me.

I suspect that it is a result of my experiences during Dave Cormier's Rhizomatic Learning Course.

I suspect that it is related to deconstructions of identity, of authorship, of community, of knowledge.

I suspect it is related to learning in chaotically, distributed networks.

Pedagogy of freedom

As a language teacher, I have spent a number of years deconstructing classroom approaches to teaching English.  Freire's writing, I came across a few years ago and inspired an earlier post entitled 'Noman's land.'

I bought into (irony) Freire's pedagogical approach of teacher and student working together to analyse the failure of the system to enable students to develop their voices.

I bought (irony) into his analysis of traditional education's 'banking concept' (amongst other aspects) as being a means of maintaining an elite (oppressors) in power over the 'oppressed'.

On the other hand, there are some of his language that I am beginning to struggle with:

Pedagogy of the oppressed

A quotation from Freire;

"the more the oppressors control the oppressed, the more they change them into apparently inanimate 'things'. This tendency of the oppressor consciousness to 'in-animate' everything and everyone it encounters, in its eagerness to possess, unquestionably corresponds with a tendency to sadism."

I am far from sure that considering people as 'things', as 'objects' is specific to oppressors.

This is a question that I have already blogged about in 'Internet of things.'

Objects of oppression

Is language a means of freedom and/or a means of oppression?

I say 'I', is 'I' not object?

I say 'I', am 'I' colonised?

I see myself in a mirror, is 'I' not  become object?

I dream of myself flying. js 'I' not become object.

In writing this, am I not objectifying myself?

In following people on Twitter am I not objectifying them?

In participating on Twitter am I not objectifying discourse?

"For the oppressors, 'human beings' refers only to themselves; other people are things."

I see a crowd of people from afar alive or dead, how can I not see them as objects?

'I' return to Freire...

Ownership and oppression

"The earth, property, production, the creation of people, people themselves, time - everything is reduced to the status of objects at its disposal."

Here again, I am far from convinced that the idea  that "the earth, property, production, the creation of people..." being reduced to objects is necessarily specific to a relationship of oppression.

"In their unrestrained eagerness to possess, the oppressors develop the conviction that it is possible for them to transform everyting into objects of their purchasing power; hence their strictly materialistic concept of existence. Money is the measure of all things, and profit the primary goal."

I am far from convinced that a 'materialistic concept of existence' is specific to oppression.

Would a Massai's 'ownership' of cattle be considered as an indication of oppression?

Would a house communally built of dried earth, an object of possession,  be a 'reduction'?

Objects and bodies

"the objects which surround me are simply accessible to my consciousness, not located within it. I am aware of them, but they are not inside me."

I am not at all sure that objects which are 'accessible to my consciousness' or even those which are not 'accessible to my consciousness' , of which I am not aware, do not become part of my 'body' and thereby 'inside me'.

This refers me back to my reflection on embodiment of 'classroom ritual' of Nexus Analysis, mentioned in a previous post:

Indeed, for me the analysis and deconstruction of material and emotional space is a major part of becoming critical, of becoming free. This is a subject on which I have already written in a post entitled 'The Doll's house'.

Two is company three is a crowd.  

I return my attention to critical pedagogy and the relationship between teacher and student.

If we are really to work 'with' a learner as a learner/teacher in a new 'authentic' relationship, must such relationships be located in a local community?

I am asking myself the question of the pertinence of binary labels, of dichotomies between 'oppressors' and the 'oppressed' in a world understood as more and more complex and experienced increasingly from a personal and (perhaps potenially alienating) from a global perspective.

To what extent are the social, cultural, and economic 'systems' usefully viewed in simplistic terms of 'exploiters' and 'exploited'?

In a world in which learning may increasingly be experienced in distributed networks, with individuals from distant communities, to what extent will a physical teacher student relationship be able to work towards any significant form of freedom?

Is Twitter a space of liberation, or a space of virtual liberation and distant enslavement?

Freire is dead, we must resurrect him.

While rereading Freire, how can we draw from his ideas and adapt his teaching to our new circumstances?

I am struggling with fleeting thoughts, with fleeting impressions, which fell by accident, the day after an unplanned Twitter chat with a few friends last night...

I shall close with a few words of Freire's

"Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other."


  1. Knowledges emerges only... . Full stop. What about accident? mutation? And destruction? and death? No, Freire is at best only partly right, probably mostly right. No deification zone? A no dilemma zone? I do understand that political power often seems to require that we make decisions "my way or the highway", but I am reluctant to give too much power to anyone, even an expert I love. My point is that I do not revere them. That way lies what Eric Hoffer calls "The Passionate State of Mind" of "The True Believer".


    1. We agree. I do not do reverence either. I am suspicious of bînaries. I also feel that Freire does himself no favours by being dead. Book keepers find employment in banks. To be fair to Freire he does admit his quest for ongoing learning, and his limitations

    2. I love how books have blindspots. The authors die. The books don't grow. Words are easy to misintrepret or are willful so. And we rarely consider them as having these marvelous incapacities. We act as if they had identities and like spirits they speak from deep within their spines to say, "Hello, old friend. It's been awhile." Only they don't. The ultimate blindspot is that we are holding up both ends of the conversation.

    3. I like this idea. I wonder if it is just a question of books. I suspect it is also a question of language in general. I think I shall think about that.

  2. Simon, I find feminist critical pedagogues might suit your interest much more in that they break those binaries and tackle complexities in learning spaces (particularly poststructuralist work of Ellsworth but also hooks). Check out week 2 of moocmooc :)

  3. Thanks Maha, never heard of Ellsworth or Hooks. I shall check out week 2 - you are selling it to me :-)

  4. Maybe Freire's focus on humans as objects goes back to Marx' analysis of humans in production processes, were the exploitation starts if there's no real relationship between the worker and the product anymore (workers as machines between machines).

    Reminds me of the strong images of the movie Metropolis by Frits Lang

    As to the dichotomy between students and teachers ... there's a lot of grey between black & white.
    Plus ... it would be a waste if the 'students' would not benefit of the knowledge that older generations, the 'teachers' have learned. What a waste it would be if we all again and again had to reinvent a language to communicate, or to writing & reading. ... Or how to find the eatable fruits, how to harvest crop ... etc.

    Vygotski speaks of the more knowledgable other. This is not per se the 'teacher' as we know it, it can be a peer student who's just more advanced in a particular subject.

    Maybe the concepts of Vygotski Zone of Proximal Development and More Knowledgable Other are more usable in practice?