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 over time. For Freire, this fluid view of history is inherently liberating and it can help oppressed people in the struggle to affirm their humanity.
To explain his concept of history, Freire argues that animals exist outside of history: they do not perceive time as a past, present, and future, but they “exist in an overwhelming present.” Humans, however, can understand that people have taken concrete actions in the past that affect human experience in the present; likewise, people in the present can take actions that affect the future. Therefore, history is an active relationship between humans and the world that affects people’s everyday lives. This awareness of history as being actively shaped by human choices empowers people to create change in the present, thereby steering the trajectory of the future.
By contrast, oppressors can use a more static, traditional concept of history to preserve their own power. In order to preserve the oppressive system, oppressors must convince the oppressed that history is abstract and separate from human experience. Oppressors don’t want history to seem fluid: if people see their oppressive conditions as part of a constantly changing world, then they can also try to change those conditions. In order to protect their power, therefore, oppressors assert that their social order is the “good, correct, or healthy” way to organize a society; as a result, people don’t see oppression as a changeable part of history, but rather as the only way their society can work at all.
The traditional “banking model” of education corresponds to this static view of history, as it presents knowledge as a group of various facts that students memorize and recall. In this model, a successful student changes their thinking to adapt to the oppressive system that’s imposed on them. Furthermore, as the teacher “deposits” knowledge into the students, the students do not consider how or why those facts are true. This separates the students from the historical conditions that determine what they learn.
“Problem-posing” education, on the other hand, investigates the ideas that influence a person’s historical moment. This often happens through a very specific process: the educator shows the participants a situation that affects their lives, and the participants then identify how they feel about that situation, and analyze how and why it might exist. The problem-posing model of education corresponds to a fluid and emancipatory view of history, because when people become critically aware of what ideas have influenced their conditions—such as the ideas that history is static and the status quo is good or neutral—they understand what actions they can take to change those conditions. Because the static view of history helps oppressors, Freire argues that educators and political leaders should use teaching methods that promote the more fluid, liberating view.
Static History vs. Fluid History ThemeTracker
Static History vs. Fluid History Quotes in Pedagogy of the Oppressed
[Themes] imply others which are opposing or even antithetical; they also indicate tasks to be carried out and fulfilled. Thus, historical themes are never isolated, independent, disconnected, or static; they are always interacting dialectically with their opposites.