Pedagogy of the Oppressed


Paulo Freire

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Themes and Colors
Freedom and Oppression Theme Icon
Education Theme Icon
Static History vs. Fluid History Theme Icon
Maintaining and Overthrowing Oppression Theme Icon
Dialectics Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Freedom and Oppression

Freire gives the term “freedom” a specific meaning: it is the freedom to critically question and change the world. In other words, a person is free when they are able to understand and change their own conditions. According to Freire, this kind of freedom is a primary goal of all people, “the indispensible condition for the quest for human completion.” Freire also asserts that “humankind’s central problem”—the problem that he seeks to solve…

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For Freire, education and oppression are connected, since education can be used either as a tool for oppression or as a method of liberation from oppression. Freire distinguishes between a pedagogy (a way of practicing education) that serves oppressors, and one that helps oppressed people understand and change their society. He outlines the problems with oppressive education, describes the promises of liberating education, and shows how educational tools can have political applications that help…

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Static History vs. Fluid History

According to Freire, “freedom” (the freedom to critically question and change the world) requires people to gain a new understanding of how reality works. Changing the dominant understanding of history is a key part of this process. While an oppressive educational system treats history as a static group of facts that are separate from the present, the oppressed have to develop a new view of history: groups of people changing their conditions…

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Maintaining and Overthrowing Oppression

Freire sees education as useful not just for individual growth, but also for achieving social change. To expand on this point, he discusses social change as a necessary tool to achieve freedom and overthrow oppression. Within Freire’s framework, systems of oppression try to prevent radical social change so that they do not lose power. Nevertheless, social change has the potential to maintain or overthrow oppression, depending on what methods people use to enact that…

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Throughout Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire draws heavily on the theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels—especially the concept of dialectics. A “dialectical” way of thinking starts with a “thesis” (an initial idea or proposition) and an “antithesis” (an idea that opposes or contradicts the thesis), and the interaction of these two ideas creates a “synthesis,” or a new idea that reconciles the conflict between the two original ideas. Freire argues that dialectics are…

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