Critical views of Paulo Freire's work

John Ohliger

Basic Choices, Inc., Madison, Wisconsin, USA

Compiled for the 1995 Iowa Community College Summer Seminar

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In a letter to Miriam Temple I wrote: "Thanks for the news about what the summer seminar is planning. My experience is that Freire is usually treated as some kind of an icon [See: Cayley & Furter; Millwood & Aronowitz; Elias; and McLaren/Giroux]. If you'd like me to, I could prepare a brief annotated bibliography of critical comments on Freire. In my opinion the best criticism is the work of Blanca Facundo." Miriam replied, "Of course, I would like you to prepare a bibliography for the seminar participants."


I. WRITING STYLE (Kathryn Anderson, William Ayers, Tom Balke, Ann Berthoff, Bruce Boston, John Egerton, David Fetterman, Edgar Friedenberg, Rozanne Knudson, Herbert Kohl, Trevor Pateman, Frances Rafferty, Beth Swadener/Jean O'Brien)

II. CONSCIENTIZATION (Peter Berger, David Cayley/Ivan Illich, John Elias/Sharan Merriam, Pierre Furter, Esther Gottlieb/Thomas La Belle, Ivan Illich, George Mathew/Pradip Prabhu/Paulo Freire, David Millwood, Matthew Zachariah)

III. RELIGION (Stanley Aronowitz, Harold Beder, Moacir Gadotti, Donald McDonald/Paulo Freire, John Ohliger, Dudley Plunket, Bradford Stull)

IV. THE OPPRESSOR & THE OPPRESSED (C.A. Bowers, John Bugbee, John Elias, Erwin Epstein, William Griffith, William Kennedy, Malcolm Knowles, Gary MacEoin, Manfred Stanley)

V. LITERACY (John Bugbee, Hiber Conteris, Sandra Stotsky, Daniel Wagner)

VI. CONTRADICTIONS (Rena Foy, Henry Giroux, Charles Isaacs, Tom Leach, David Nasaw, Daniel Schipani, Ann Sherman, P.V. Taylor)

VII. THE TEACHER & THE TAUGHT (Herb Addo, Peter Caulfield, John Elias, Philip O'Meara, Rolland Paulston. James Pitt, Joel Spring, Carlos Alberto Torres, Jim Walker)

VIII. SEXISM (Jeanne Brady, bell hooks, Kathleen Weiler)

IX. APPLICABLE TO OTHER GROUPS? (Elizabeth Ellsworth, Merrill Ewert, Peter McLaren/Henry Giroux, Rosiska de Oliveira/Pierre Dominice, Wayne Urban, Roger Woock)

X. BLANCA FACUNDO'S MONOGRAPH (Blanca Facundo, Tom Heaney, Frank Adams, Henry Giroux, Ross Kidd, Jeff Zacharakis-Jutz)

[NOTE: To save space below, citations are minimal, ellipses and page numbers are left out, and generally only the authors' critical views of Freire's work are quoted.]



Anderson, Kathryn Murphy. "Recent Conversations with Paulo Freire." College Literature, Oct 1994. "The three-day conversation [in Paulo Freire on Higher Education] suffers from a lack of direction: questions are lengthy and sometimes unclear, Freire's answers sometimes suffering from his tendency to rephrase questions or redirect them. An early exchange typifies the problems with this dialogue that make it a less than satisfying book: questions directed toward actual classroom and institutional practice are met with further discussions of terminology, are redirected, or are simply ignored, and concrete solutions are rarely addressed effectively or at length. Freire answers further questions asking for 'concrete tactics' or strategies in various fields 'to truly convert higher education into an element of transformation' by reframing the issues under discussion and directing the problem to another speaker. This exchange exemplifies the failure of many in the book to yield much more than an accounting of problems, risks, and misunderstandings."

Ayers, William. "Review of A Pedagogy for Liberation." Teachers College Record, Fall 1987. "The fundamental problem is that the dialogue is not sufficiently grounded in the lives of teachers and students. Ideas tend to be disconnected, floating around in an overly intellectualized atmosphere. Authentic teaching voices and liberating projects fall through the cracks, and a sense of possibility and vitality is lost."

Balke, Tom F. "Review of The Politics of Education." Studies in the Education of Adults, Apr 1986. "Freire's text may lose certain readers who are unable to invest the time and effort to navigate his philosophical-linguistic discourse. Certain sections of the text may be accessible only to those educators and theoreticians of the progressive left who are comfortable with Freire's language of liberation. Feminist readers may experience difficulty in dealing with the masculine language used throughout the text. Some readers may also yearn for examples of women's initiatives in the fields of cultural action, education, conscientization, and social change."

Berthoff, Ann E. "Paulo Freire's Liberation Pedagogy." Language Arts, Vol. 67, No. 4, 1990. "Freire is difficult to read because he is both a Christian and a Marxist and those lexicons are sometimes at odds with another. To take up Paulo Freire's slogans without his philosophy of language will be to misapprehend his philosophy of history. Propounding the pedagogy of the oppressed without its philosophical moorings will be no different than settling for alimentary education which Sartre made fun of: 'Here eat this! It's good for you!'"

Boston, Bruce O. "Paulo Freire." In Paulo Freire. Stanley Grabowski, ed. Syracuse University Publications in Continuing Education, 1972. "It ill behooves an educator for liberation to present himself to interested readers cloaked in such an obscure, convoluted, dull, overly metaphysical style, devoid of the real human experience which generated such provocative ideas. A number of people who have worked on the Freire model are beginning to understand that Freire's methods make it possible to be critical about nearly everything except those methods themselves."

Egerton, John. "Searching for Freire." Saturday Review of Education, Apr 1973. "The criticisms tumble out: It has become fashionable among romantic radicals in this country to read and talk about Illich and Freire. But Freire is no more radical than most of us. There is no originality in what he says it's the same old rap. He has lectured us, criticized our narrow focus on small problems, but his alternative the global perspective is stale rhetoric. He's a political and ideological theoretician, not an educator. There is nothing concrete and specific in what he says. One participant sums it up: I don't know how Paulo reacts as a person to anything.'"

Fetterman, David M. "Review of The Politics of Education." American Anthropologist, Mar 1986. "His discussion of peasant literacy is written in a language replete with academic abstractions and newly coined expressions that speak only to an elite male intelligentsia. He also leaves basic questions unanswered. Could not 'conscientization' be another means of anesthetizing and manipulating the masses? What new social controls, beyond simple verbalisms, will be used to implement his social policy? How is Freire's humanistic and liberating ideology reconciled with the logical conclusion of his pedagogy -- the physical violence of revolutionary change?"

Friedenberg, Edgar Z. Review of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Comparative Education Review, Oct 1971. "There is certainly no honor to be gained by putting down a work so well intentioned and generally well-received. This is a truly bad book. The pedantic style, the consistent understatement of the opposition and the very peculiar avoidance of Freire's own extensive experience as a source of illustrative material, in preference for fragments of published work. The American reader intent, like Freire, on using education as a subversive activity has an array of sharper and more comprehensive sources at his disposal."

Knudson, Rozanne. Review of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Library Journal, Apr 1, 1971. "His words are curiously unmoving. We really never get close to these oppressed. Who are they? Freire's definition seems to be 'anyone who is not an oppressor.' Vagueness, redundancies, tautologies, endless repetitions provoke boredom, not action. Freire's organization is so chaotic that the oppressor, presumably the intended reader, will find the going difficult."

Kohl, Herbert. "The Making of History." Hungry Mind Review, Mar 1990. "Freire's work can seem abstract and overly intellectual to readers unfamiliar with the language of dialectical argument or theological debate."

Pateman, Trevor. "Review of The Politics of Education." Sociology, Feb 1986. "This book is the stuff of which academic book sales are made. It's a collection of repetitive articles, prefaces and talks from the 1970s sandwiched between a pretty bland introduction and an (undated) interview. Sloppily edited the footnotes to the interview are omitted; Freire's citations are given to the editions he quotes and not to available English translations it is, however, illustrated with a dozen rather hagiographic photographs of Freire."

Rafferty, Frances. "Literacy Man's Utopias." Times Educational Supplement, Oct 29, 1993. "Freire's books, often laden with dense jargon and Marxist terminology, can be heavy going."

Swadener, Beth & Jean O'Brien. Pedagogy of the Obsessed. An 18 page take off on Pedagogy of the Oppressed prepared in 1982 for a graduate seminar at the University of Wisconsin graduate program in adult education. Sample: "QUIZ: Freire was a: a) Marxist. b) Catholic. c) Revolutionary. d) Confusing Writer. e) All of the above."



[SEE ALSO: Balke & Fetterman in I.; Plunket in III.; Kennedy in IV.; Bugbee in V.; Schipani in VI.; & Walker in VII.]

Berger, Peter L. Pyramids of Sacrifice. Basic Books, 1974. "[Freire] called his method 'concientizacao' literally, 'making conscious.' This name has caught on as 'consciousness raising' in the United States. The concept of 'consciousness raising,' as currently used, implies some highly questionable assumptions. It implies philosophical error and political irony. 'Consciousness raising' is a project of higher-class individuals directed at a lower-class population. Coupled with this arrogance is a recurrent irritation with 'those people' who stubbornly refuse the salvation that is so benevolently offered to them: 'How can they be so blind?' If the hierarchical view of consciousness simply referred to levels of information on specific topics, there would be no need to quarrel with it. If one wishes to extend this superiority to information and perspectives in general, plausibility disappears, for peasants very clearly have far superior information on other topics such as plant and animal life, soil conditions, the weather, and a multitude of manual skills and material artifacts."

Cayley, David. Ivan Illich in Conversation. House of Anansi Press, 1992. ILLICH: "The Marxist Christians at the World Council of Churches have adopted [Freire] as their idol and have manipulated his image."

Elias, John L., & Sharan Merriam. Philosophical Foundations of Adult Education. Krieger Publishing, 1980. "Freire's philosophy of man [sic], though idealist and utopian, has certain weaknesses. Freire rarely gets beyond generalities or pieties in developing this philosophy. Though in his literacy work he was involved with real men and women, Freire produces only abstraction when he writes about the human person. In his writings the person lives often in no historical time; has no body, passions, emotions. Since the concept of oppression is an important concept in Freire's social philosophy, it is unfortunate that he does not give a more adequate treatment of it. No criteria are given for judging what objective exploitation would be or what a responsible person would do. Though Freire's theory of conscientization is impressive, it still suffers from a number of weaknesses. Freire has valiantly attempted to avoid the idealist position, but it appears that he does not succeed. His theory of conscientization depends on some sort of transcendent view of reality through which individuals come to see what is real and authentic. There appears to be little room in his view for the painful struggling with different views and opposing viewpoints. It all comes down to the dominant classes with their distorted view of reality and conscientized individuals with their view of the reality that really is. Casting social reality in black and white terms is more characteristic of the simplistic religious preacher than the critical philosopher of knowledge and education."

Furter, Pierre. "Profiles of Educators." Prospects, Vol. 15, No. 2, 1985. "When a man becomes a myth in his own lifetime, as Freire has become thanks to his development of the concept of 'conscientization,' the more he publishes and the more comment his work provokes the more difficult it is to distinguish the one from the other. Not only is there confusion between the man and the myth, but we no longer know whether the ideas we associate with him are to be counted among his intentions, his practical achievements, his successes or his failures, or whether they are simply what he has come to represent in the minds of his contemporaries. The confusion is particularly serious in Freire's case, as his concept of conscientization has given rise to a great deal of misunderstanding, right from his very first successes in Brazil. Could Freire be everybody's bete noire, if suitably presented? The overall impression is that Freire is being asked to provide a universal answer to all the educational problems of our societies. It is as though he were regarded as a guru whose message offers a solution to problems of which he is not even aware. What is happening is that Freire is being turned into a kind of fetish, as witness the interest in his 'method,' his 'conscientization,' his 'system,' as though he were offering a universal panacea."

Gottlieb, Esther E., & Thomas J. La Belle. "Ethnographic Contextualization of Freire's Discourse." Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Mar 1990. "Most consciousness-raising programs, alone or in combination with skill transmission programs, have not achieved expected social changes, and it seems that this has led to a growing disenchantment with these efforts."

Illich, Ivan. Gender. Pantheon, 1982. "What has been called the 'process of civilization' builds on a process that could be called 'conscientization.' The term has been coined in Brazil to label a kind of political self-help adult education organized mostly by clergymen popularizing Marxist categories to help the poor discover that they are 'humans.' It could be used by the historian to describe an enterprise that was decisively shaped by the Church through the institutionalization of the sacrament of Penance in the 12th century, an enterprise that since then has been followed by other techniques. I would call conscientization all professionally planned and administered rituals that have as their purpose the internalization of a religious or secular ideology. Conscientization consists of the colonization and standardization of vernacular probity and honor through some 'catholic' (that is, universally human) set of institutional rules. I would argue that it constituted, during the early Middle Ages, a perversion of the original Christian idea of reform. Reform as the attempt to bring about a renewal of the world by means of one's own personal conversion was conceived by early Christians as the vocation that set them apart (158)."

Mathew, George, ed. A Day With Paulo Freire. Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1980. "PRADIP PRABHU: There is a myth that has been created and is being perpetuated, that traditional institutions, be they in education or in health or in any other work, can also do 'conscientization.' But as you know these institutions are there to perpetuate a particular system. And the conscientization process must necessarily subvert that system. How can they do 'conscientization'? Any institution that is either supported or protected by the state or financially assisted by the state cannot but work for the state. So, Paulo, when you say 'do the work and don't be naive about the work,' you are asking us to walk out of these institutions. You cannot stay in these institutions and do conscientization. "FREIRE: I am trying to forget the word 'conscientization,' but not the process. For the last seven years I never used the word. That word is too much corrupted [FREIRE THEN GOES ON TO USE THE TERM NINE MORE TIMES]. If you ask me, 'Paulo, do you think that through formal, systematic education we could transform society?' I would say, 'no, for me it is not possible.'"

Millwood, David. "Conscientization and What It's All About." New Internationalist, Jun 1974. "CONSCIENTIZATION and PAULO FREIRE are currently the most trendy words in the whole development debate. Some see conscientization almost as a new religion with Freire as its high priest. Others see it as just so much hot air with Freire as chief windbag."

Zachariah, Matthew. Revolution through Reform. Praeger, 1986. "Conscientization appears to be a movement that has seen its heyday. Conscientization may be criticized for not proposing concrete measures for improving the standard of living of the people. Conscientization may also be criticized for being patronizing in its own way. Do ordinary men and women need to be conscientized before they recognize that they lead desperate, oppressed lives marked by hunger, disease, and the denial of dignity? They know the score and do not need middle class do-gooders to tell them. They acquiesce in their oppression because they have no other choice. To offer them hope through Conscientization is worse than deceitful. What they need is for people to fight on their side, so they can overthrow the oppressors. Conscientization has been criticized for evading or worse, camouflaging the issue of leadership. No amount of talk about 'educator-educatees' and 'educatee-educators' can get around the fact that there are teachers and students in Conscientization. It is a short step from that criticism to characterize the leaders of culture circles not benevolently as 'teachers' but as meddlesome, outside agitators."



[SEE ALSO: Elias, Illich, & Millwood in II.]

Aronowitz, Stanley. "Paulo Freire's Radical Democratic Humanism." In Paulo Freire. Peter McLaren & Peter Leonard, eds. Routledge, 1993. "The name of Freire has reached near iconic proportions in the United States, Latin America and, indeed, in many parts of Europe."

Beder, Harold. Review of Conscientization and Deschooling by John L. Elias. Adult Education, Vol. 27, No. 4, 1976. "While sympathetic to his subjects, Elias does not hesitate to identify points of questionable logic in their thinking. In doing so, the author has presented a balanced analysis which is a refreshing change from works on Freire and Illich, which either sanctify or condemn the two social critics. He states: 'Utopian thinkers, like Freire and Illich, who do not posit stages of development are involved in a dilemma. If they admit the existence of present evil, they must admit the capacity of man [sic] to do evil and fashion evil institutions. The capacity must be part of man's [sic] nature. If they do not admit the existence of present evil, than their proposed utopia already exists.' From the layman's [sic] perspective, a basic problem with the writings of Freire and Illich is that they are replete with religious symbolism and philosophical allusions. Freire's concept of naming the world, for example, is difficult to understand unless one is aware of its theological context."

Gadotti, Moacir. Reading Paulo Freire. State University of New York Press, 1994. "His philosophy has been criticized by the Cardenal of Porto Alegre (South Brazil), Dom Vicente Scherer, because it 'fails to conciliate or harmonize with the principles of Christian doctrine, irreconcilably clashing and contradicting them,' and 'accepts Hegelian dialectics and the Marxist interpretation of history.'"

McDonald, Donald. "Educating the Oppressed." The Center Magazine, Sep/Oct 1986. "MCDONALD: What do you see as the role of the Church in a revolutionary situation in which Marxists may use religious people for an agenda of their own? "FREIRE: We have the right to criticize a revolution, but only from inside of it, not outside of it. If we go outside the revolution, we are against it."

Ohliger, John. "What Is Radical Adult Education?" Adult & Continuing Education Today, Feb 12, 1990. "The dominant strain in the radical adult education literature so-called critical theory or critical pedagogy places almost total reliance on rationality. Just look at some of the recent books by or about Paulo Freire and see if you don't agree. My hope: the day will soon come again when radicals will once more find a healthy balance between the need for a rigorously profound logic and the need for an easily accessible spirit of freedom.

Plunket, Dudley. "Review of The Politics of Education." British Journal of Educational Studies, Jan 1986. "As a Catholic reading this book, seeking to follow the evolving Freire through the successive phases of his explication of conscientization, I find him mercurial and ambiguous. He is entitled to use whatever ideas he wishes, but I can find no resolution between the structuralist Marxist, the humanistic commitment to personalist values, the enquirer into the epistemology of power relationships at the micro-level, and the hintings at the potentiality of a prophetic church. Moreover, there is no ready explanation for the liberal use of religious concepts, such as Easter, prophecy, hope, or kingdom, as if they were just metaphors. Indeed, when Freire is asked in an interview about how he likes to live, he answers at length, in an engaging and personal manner, but without enlightening me in the slightest as to why he is so interested in religious language or theology. Deus absconditus! It surely befits a virtually self-confessed prophet."

Stull, Bradford T. Religious Dialectics of Pain and Imagination. State University of New York Press, 1994. "The place of the religious in Freire has sparked intense debate. Bowers finds in Freire a view that religion is destined to become a matter of personal belief or something to be replaced by rational thought. Zike argues that Freire is essentially a-religious. Rivera maintains that Freire's system is antireligious and rational and approves of this. Knoblauch fears that Freire's system leads to theology."



[SEE ALSO: Knudson in I.; Elias in II.; Bugbee in V.; Schipani in VI.; Ewert, Weiler, & Woock in IX.]

Bowers, C.A. "Review of The Politics of Education." Educational Studies, Spr 1986. "In the most critical area of Freire's own existential project, which is to provide an understanding of the conditions of human alienation and oppression, he appears to have reached a point where original insight, burdened now by excessive repetition, is in danger of becoming an encumbering dogma. When packaged together and represented as a new statement on the politics of education, the appearance of these old essays is a major disappointment."

Bugbee, John A. "Reflections on Griffith, Freire and Beyond." Literacy Discussion, Spr 1975. "One can hope that Freire will choose to address himself to the claims he abstracts from the concrete specifics of the class struggle in his oppressor-oppressed analysis; that he will clarify the role that he accords to ideas as an agency of history; and that he will no longer leave open the whole matter of a political program to be framed by those who would use his methods."

Elias, John L. Conscientization and Deschooling. Westminster Press, 1976. "The problem with Freire's social criticism is its simplistic nature. Freire deals only in vague generalities. Oppression is never clearly defined. Freire concentrates on the oppression of the poor and fails to deal realistically with oppression as it is found at all levels of society. It is a mistake to see only the poor as oppressed and all others as oppressors."

Epstein, Erwin H. Blessed Be the Oppressed And Those Who Can Identify with Them. Paper presented at a meeting of the American Educational Studies Association in Chicago, Feb 23, 1972. "Freire is unable to reconcile satisfactorily the condition of peasants having to rely on themselves for their loss of ignorance with their having to be made aware of their state of oppression."

Griffith, William S. "Paulo Freire." In Paulo Freire. Stanley Grabowski, ed. Syracuse University Publications in Continuing Education, 1972. "Freire's criticisms of education, based primarily on his assumptions about the relationship between teachers and students, are neither new nor particularly useful in bringing about an improvement in the process. Freire leaves little question regarding his willingness to control and restrict the freedom of those who cannot see the superiority of his system. The freedom to disagree with the new ruling group, following the revolution, is to be restricted to those who have passed some undefined loyalty test. Freire's own professional life since 1959 presents a pattern of sponsorship by the most favored segments of society, universities, international organizations, and churches, a pattern which may present an incongruous answer to his question: 'What could be more important than to live and work with the oppressed, with the "rejects of life," with the "wretched of the earth?"'"

Kennedy, William B. "Pilgrims of the Obvious or the Not-So-Obvious?" Risk, Vol. 11, No. 1, 1975. "At two points I would like to challenge Freire to go further. One is to develop the concept of 'free space.' He needs to explore more concretely what it means to 'do in history' what is historically possible. The second point builds upon Freire's magnificent faith in the people as the foundation of democratic education. Only a process of engagement by and with the people can be the basis for his radical reversal of traditional educational assumptions about learning. But the scattered references to the specialized roles of certain people, to the role of the revolutionary party in a mass movement, to the characteristics of those who serve as educators in action with the educatees, are haunting in the lack of completeness and clarity. In history, and not by magic, how do specialists emerge in education for liberation?"

Knowles, Malcolm. The Making of an Adult Educator. Jossey-Bass, 1989. "In 1973 four enthusiastic people representing two universities in Brazil asked me whether I would be interested in doing a five-day workshop. The first workshop was at the University of Bahia in Salvador, northern Brazil. The workshop went smoothly. In the last hour of the fourth day I asked them to pool their evaluations. One of the table groups was composed of staff members from the national department of education in Brasilia. Their spokesman reported that they agreed that 'Malcolm Knowles is more subversive than Paulo Freire, since Freire had the political goal of overthrowing the government as integral to his approach, and therefore the government had a basis for exiling him. Knowles, on the other hand, has no political goals in his andragogical approach, but only the goal of producing self-directed learners. But if we succeed in producing truly self-directed learners, they will know what to do about the government, and it will have no basis for exiling anybody as they did with Freire.'"

MacEoin, Gary. "Conscientization for the Masses." National Catholic Reporter, Mar 17, 1972. "For years I have been searching for an instance in which peasants have broken out of their oppression, even at a local level, but have found none. When I asked Freire, he admitted that neither has he."

Stanley, Manfred. "Literacy." in Paulo Freire. Stanley Grabowski, ed. Syracuse University Publications in Continuing Education, 1972. "Utopianism is a problem in Freire's thought. It is evident in an uncritical tendency to regard his notion of literacy as the key to liberation. He does not apparently take much note of the complexities, much less the dark side of liberation itself. Freire's views place an extraordinary emphasis upon education as the instrument of liberation. If Freire were to carry the matter further and admit that social mobilization of large numbers of unenlightened people is necessary for revolution, Leninism would have to be the next step in his thinking. Under such conditions of mass mobilization, both church and secular history suggest that the saintly educators whom Freire depends on to keep his revolution honest, would turn out to be in short supply."



[SEE ALSO: Fetterman in I.; Elias in II.; Stanley in IV.; Taylor in VI.; & Zacharakis-Jutz (1986) in X.]

Bugbee, John A. "The Freire Approach to Literacy Review and Reflections." Literacy Discussion, Win 1973. "The literacy worker does have some legitimate questions to raise as well as some issue to take with Freire's ideas concerning the following: At the conceptual level who are the oppressors? Given the numerous analyses of Latin American and Third World reality, who constitutes and what specifically characterizes those who are oppressed? Surely there is more to such an identification than the fact of being illiterate and more to oppression that Freire's generic formula of 'any situation in which A objectively exploits B.' Following from the lack of clarity with respect to the nature of the 'class' to which the oppressed belong and a seeming built-in ambiguity regarding the kinds of struggles to which the literacy process leads, the literacy worker is wont to ask what sustains a literacy project. If little more than the slogans of 'liberation,' 'conscientization,' 'freedom from the culture of silence and freedom for the culture of the word' can be the literacy worker's creed, then who can be expected to give their allegiance to such a project, to the risk it entails and to the tremendous effort it demands?"

Conteris, Hiber. "Controversy." Convergence, Vol. 6, No. 1, 1973. "The secular goal of literacy promotion (though more sloganeering than meant for real) was being stimulated in Northeast [Brazil] by Freire's 'circle of culture,' by the Catholic bishops' movement, itself inspired by Freire's philosophy and methods, and by the government campaign. All these efforts were going to reveal themselves as too young and fragile for their purpose, which was effective integration of the Northeastern peasants into Brazilian society, from which they had been excluded for centuries."

Stotsky, Sandra. "On Literacy Anthologies and Adult Education." College English, Dec 1990. "Although Freire describes his pedagogy as 'liberatory' [in Literacy], the selections from more advanced reading materials, which clearly illustrate the nature of their political content, suggest very little possibility for the development of critical thinking. Strongly opposed to what he calls a laissez-faire system of education, Freire suggests that the literacy teacher is supposed to teach his students 'what he thinks is just.' The adult learners, he points out, are supposed to learn how to 'think correctly.' In fact, the philosophy underlying the pedagogy of the oppressed seems less a theory of liberatory education than a theory of literacy as an instrument of social control."

Wagner, Daniel A. "Literacy Campaigns." Comparative Education Review, May 1989. "Freire is more cautious in this volume [Literacy] than in earlier works. We also see a Freire who has been caught in difficult policy situations, such as that of mother-tongue versus other-tongue literacy. After receiving criticism for the 'failure' of his method in Guinea-Bissau, Freire blames the 'inviability of using Portuguese as the only vehicle of instruction in the literacy campaign.' But he goes on to say that 'the legitimation of Black English in America as an educational tool does not, however, preclude the need to acquire proficiency in the linguistic code of the majority.' In other words, like many educators, he would like to have it both ways."



[SEE ALSO: Walker in VII.]

Foy, Rena. "Review of Pedagogy of the Oppressed," Educational Studies, Oct 1971. "It is often illogical and inconsistent. Freire's method appears to be effective if not altogether honest."

Giroux, Henry A. "Paulo Freire and the Politics of Postcolonialism." In Paulo Freire. Peter McLaren & Peter Leonard, eds. Routledge, 1993. "The contradictions raised in Freire's work offer a number of questions that need to be addressed by critical educators about not only Freire's work but also their own. For instance, what happens when the language of the educator is not the same as that of the oppressed? How is it possible to be vigilant against taking up a notion of language, politics, and rationality that undermines recognizing one's own partiality and the voices and experiences of Others? How does one explore the contradiction between validating certain forms of 'correct' thinking and the pedagogical task of helping students assume rather than simply follow the dictates of authority, regardless of how radical the project informed by such authority?"

Isaacs, Charles. "Praxis of Paulo Freire." Critical Anthropology, Spr 1972. "Freire's brief discussion casts the limit-situation in such an optimistic light that it seems in danger of losing its meaning. The mode of production is not mentioned here at all. This is a weakness in the Freirian dialectic; he equivocates between idealism and materialism, at one point stating the primacy of the material base, and at others appearing to ignore that substructure in an elaboration of its ideal and linguistic expressions."

Leach, Tom. "Paulo Freire." International Journal of Lifelong Education, Vol. I, No. 3, 1982. "Many charges have been laid against Paulo Freire. Some have seen him as a dangerous and violent revolutionary. Others have seen him as a quaint, rather unoriginal and eclectic philosopher. It is difficult not to feel that he richly deserves the accusation that he is, jackdaw-like, borrowing concepts, which cannot be torn from the detailed material and economic arguments in which they are embedded. Freire does not wholly ignore basic material considerations. However, it is fair to say that he gives them only fleeting consideration. One major criticism had been that Freire's concept of dialogue is contradictory. In my view there are considerable grounds for saying he is wrong-headed about material conditions and therefore for calling into question his whole concept of dialogue. Others suggest that Freire's concept of dialogue is 'contradictory' because it involves strong intervention, purpose and structure on the part of 'teacher-learners.' Are his theories about dialogue anything more than an elaborate attempt to bridge the gap between the leaders and the people by blurring their differences? His comprehensive and frequently unclear terminology persistently veils and perhaps also dissipates the trust of his writing. The reader's expectations are frustrated constantly by the countervailing tensions and paradoxes which pervade his writing."

Nasaw, David. "Reconsidering Freire," Liberation, Sep/Oct 1974. "Freire has little to say to us. The fault with Freire's theorizing is that he analyzes the social situation with some clarity, but then ignores it completely to talk about the 'dialogic' process. Freire is well aware of the incongruity between the ethical imperatives he postulates in theory, and the real world. But while he recognizes the contradiction, he fails to offer a means by which categorical 'oughts' can be translated into daily practice. On first reading, Freire's eclecticism is refreshing. Considered more carefully, it's a disaster. Existentialist, Marxist, structuralist, Christian: Freire fails in his attempt to graft his Christian ethical categories onto his Marxist concept of historicity."

Schipani, Daniel S. Conscientization and Creativity. University Press of America, 1984. "A conflict and contradiction is present between the denunciation of manipulation and maintaining that the goal of education must be the realization of a certain kind of revolutionary option. Another related area for critical evaluation along these lines refers to the oversimplification and generalizations inherent in the dichotomizing e.g., oppressed-oppressors analytical process. We have to underscore a major obstacle for the manifestation of creativity, which requires appreciation of complexity and tolerance for ambivalence and ambiguity. Freire does not always do justice to the very conscientization thrust by overlooking the variety and nuances, richness and precariousness, of social reality. Freire's anthropology does not take consistently into account the diverse sources of limitations to human freedom. Consequently, it tends to present a too simplistic and optimistic view of the actual possibilities of socio-political transformation. Further, this radical change is referred to often as if it were merely a matter of perceiving its necessity and then willing its occurrence. The Marxist influence certainly does not help to correct these appreciations, which fail to take into account the complexity of the problem of the human predicament and the pervasive presence of radical evil in particular."

Sherman, Ann I. "Two Views of Emotion in the Writings of Paulo Freire," Educational Theory, Win 1980. "On the one hand, Freire states that we need certain emotions (e.g. love, mutual trust) in order for dialogue, and thus education for critical consciousness, to develop. On the other hand, Freire talks about the necessity of overcoming emotionality which he sees as one of the prime characteristics of a naive and irrational consciousness. It is this basic ambiguity which I will discuss."

Taylor, P.V. Retexturing the Word and the World. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Warwick, 1991. "Most studies of Freire concentrate on his method and techniques. This present work seeks to go beneath the obvious practice of literacy teaching, to analyze the construction of his pedagogy and to explore the contradictions posed both by Freire's life and by his work. The fundamental contradiction is exposed: that literacy, which means 'learning to read' can never achieve its ideals of dialogue."



Addo, Herb. "Beyond Eurocentricity." In Development as Social Transformation. Houghton & Stoughton, 1985. "There is a sort of pervading, nervous ambiguity about the roles that scholars allot intellectuals and revolutionary leaders in the whole process of transforming societies. This nervousness shows clearly in Freire's work."

Caulfield, Peter J. "From Brazil to Buncombe County." Educational Forum, Sum 1991. "I question Freire on one very important point. My problem concerns what happens to students who are, as he says, 'increasingly posed with problems' regarding their world. He argues that 'they will gradually come to regard themselves as committed.' By committed, he appears to mean committed to a leftist, if not outright revolutionary, agenda. But just what is the role of the teacher, the problem poser, in fostering that commitment? Freire insists that teachers should never impose their views of a problem on students, though he does not say teachers should or even could be neutral. The teacher does enter into the exchange of views concerning the problem, but ostensibly and simply as an equal participant. Yet, is it reasonable to assume that students will view teachers as equals? More likely, they will give teachers' views considerably more weight than those of their classmates or their own. In fact, more recently Freire was arguing, 'As an educator, you can only maintain a nondirective posture if you attempt a deceitful discourse; that is a discourse from the perspective of the dominant class."

Elias, John L. Paulo Freire. Krieger Publishing, 1994. "Freire is probably the best known educator in the world today. No educator in recent history has had his books read by as many persons in as many places of the world. No educator has spoken to as many teachers, activists, and scholars. Freire's faulty view of human nature gives rise to an overly optimistic and simplistic view of the possibility of social and political change. At times, one gets the impression from reading Freire that human and societal change can be brought about simply by willing it. At other times, Freire comes through as the religious preacher, urging people to live better lives without showing them how to cope with the personal and societal obstacles that make the living of this life very difficult, if not impossible. A number of criticisms have been made of Freire's social theory. At times his theory is vague, general, and imprecise. Freire rarely presents evidence of an empirical nature or cites sociological research for his analysis. He is also too prone to divide societies into good and bad, without offering adequate criteria by which this distinction is made. The weakest part of Freire's theory is his theory of political revolution. Learning for Freire is subordinated to political and social purposes. Such a theory is open to the charge of indoctrination and manipulation. The process of conscientization entails for Freire a radical denunciation of dehumanizing structures, accompanied by the proclamation of a new reality to be created by humans. Freire is confident that this will come about through free dialogue in which learners and educators participate as equals. Yet is there not a subtle manipulation built into this method, given the lack of education in the students and the obvious political purposes of the teachers?"

O'Meara, Philip. "The Relevance of Freire." GISRA, Mar 1973. "Freire's ideas are potentially dangerous, even in regard to their own goals, for his methods can be subverted subtly, and quickly create a new domination in the name of liberation. Those professionals who initially investigate and code must be open men [sic] a breed not discovered often among sociologists and educators whose jargon seems to contain all truth. And if these men pervert their trust, how easily could these 'codes' be used to brainwash. Anyone who has worked professionally in education must fear."

Paulston, Rolland G. "Ways of Seeing Education and Social Change in Latin America." Latin American Research Review. Vol. 27, No. 3, 1992. "Freire's privileging of the teacher-intellectual's voice over the learner's voice has been scored as a bureaucratic imposition that thwarts consciousness-raising. Responding to such criticism, Freire has countered (unconvincingly, I believe) that although educators should reject 'arrogant authoritarianism, we should also remain vigilant about excessive or irresponsible spontaneity that in its lack of seriousness and intellectual discipline undermines the teacher's necessary authority.' His seeming inability to stand back and let the student experience critical insight in his or her own terms has relegated Freire to the role of ideological guru hovering over practice."

Pitt, James. "Review of Pedagogy of the Oppressed." Journal of Black Studies, Sep 1972. "Freire's egalitarian methodology for education is intended to be politically subversive of oppressive regimes. It seems likely, however, that it could serve to legitimate opposition to any routinized form of delegated authority."

Spring, Joel. A Primer of Libertarian Education. Free Life Editions, 1975. "Certainly Paulo Freire's educational methods are meant to lead to basic changes in the individual. But one of the possible limitations is that character structure is deeply rooted in the early stages of the child's psychic development. That is, whether a child develops an authoritarian or non-authoritarian style of social conduct might depend more on early development than on later forms of socialization such as formal education."

Torres, Carlos Alberto. "Paulo Freire as Secretary of Education in the Municipality of Sao Paulo." Comparative Education Review, May 1994. "This article discusses educational policy formation from 1989 to 1992 under the leadership of Paulo Freire, secretary of education for the city of Sao Paulo, in the democratic-socialist Municipal Administration of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers' Party; henceforth referred to as 'PT'). Freire was accused of being a Nazi-fascist in the exercising of his authority as secretary. This criticism came from PT militants working as appointed officials in the Secretariat, which prompted Freire to fire three of them. Freire was accused of being a kind of Brazilian Nicolae Ceausescu, and, like the former Romanian dictator, a nepotist. This criticism arose because two of Freire's books, and one by his older daughter, Magdalena, were included in the bibliography for an examination given to perspective teachers in the Secretariat. In the debate surrounding the books, Freire was labeled an 'ideologue,' with criticisms ranging from accusations he was using his position to 'force the reading of his deliriums,' to claims that 'they arrive to power and want to transmit their ideology.' There were also those who accused Freire of attempting to profit by making his books mandatory reading for an exam." ["Freire resigned to continue his writing and lecturing in 1991," Carlos Alberto Torres, "Foreword," in Reading Paulo Freire by Moacir Gadotti. State University of New York Press, 1994.]

Walker, Jim. "The End of Dialogue. In Literacy and Revolution, Robert Mackie, ed. Continuum, 1981. "Those looking to Freire for political guidance might be surprised where he leads them, and they should certainly be displeased. There are deep contradictions in Freire, which makes the realization of his basic human ideals unlikely in the context of his politics. Indeed Freire's politics threaten to turn back on and attack the very movement towards humanization and liberation it is designed to promote. Anxious to avoid charges of elitism, he tries to show the dialogical process as progressively blurring differences between [leaders and the people], so that they become 'equally the subjects of revolutionary action' and 'actors in communication.' In just what sense the 'teacher-learner-leaders' and the 'learner-teacher-people' are equal remains obscure. Nor is equality really likely to happen within Freire's political framework. One might expect the people to be given power of some sort over their leaders, but democracy does not figure in the theory of dialogue. The contradictions in Freire's theoretical enterprise, within the context of subordination of all basic social functions to the processes of a single organization, the party, produce the negation of some of his most basic ideals. Freire senses these dangers of course, in his expressed fear of the threat of bureaucracy; but what remedies are suggested by his orientation? More moral attentiveness and application to duty on the part of the leaders, and more conscientization of the oppressed by the leaders? We are not only moving in a circle, we are trapped in it. The tighter it gets, the more like puritanism and the less like liberation our new position will seem."



[SEE ALSO: Balke in I.; & Ellsworth in IX.]

Brady, Jeanne. "Critical Literacy, Feminism, and a Politics of Representation." In Politics of Liberation. Peter L. McLaren & Colin Lankshear, eds. Routledge, 1994. "Tied to an over-emphasis on class struggle, Freire ignored the various forms of domination and social struggles being addressed by feminists, minorities, ecologists, and other social actors. The most glaring example can be found in Freire's earlier work, where the subject and object of domination are framed in thoroughgoing patriarchal discourse. Not only are women erased in Freire's language of domination and struggle, there is no attempt to even acknowledge how experience is gendered differently. A feminist re-reading of Freire has argued against his exclusive focus on class as the only form of domination."

hooks, bell. "Speaking About Paulo Freire." In Paulo Freire. Peter McLaren & Peter Leonard, eds. Routledge, 1993. "There has never been a moment when reading Freire that I have not remained aware of not only the sexism of the language but the way he (like other progressive Third World political leaders) constructs a phallocentric paradigm of liberation wherein freedom and the experience of patriarchal manhood are always linked as though they are one and the same. For me this is always a source of anguish for it represents a blind spot in the vision of men who have profound insight."

Weiler, Kathleen. "Freire and a Feminist Pedagogy of Difference." In Politics of Liberation. Peter L. McLaren & Colin Lankshear, editors. Routledge, 1994. "From a feminist perspective, Pedagogy of the Oppressed is striking in its male referent. Much more troublesome is the failure to define terms such as 'humanization' more specifically in terms of men and women, black and white, or other forms of socially defined identities. The assumption of Pedagogy of the Oppressed is that in struggling against oppression the oppressed will move toward true humanity. But this leaves unaddressed the forms of oppression experienced by different groups. Freire sets out these goals of liberation and social and political transformation as universal claims, without exploring his own privileged position or existing conflicts among oppressed groups themselves."



Ellsworth, Elizabeth. "Why Doesn't This Feel Empowering?" In Teaching for Change, Kathryn Geismar & Guitele Nicoleau, editors. Harvard Educational Review Reprint Series, 1993. "Key assumptions, goals, and pedagogical practices fundamental to the literature on critical pedagogy namely 'empowerment,' 'student voice,' 'dialogue,' and even the term 'critical' are repressive myths that perpetuate relations of domination. When participants in our [University of Wisconsin 'Media and Anti-Racist Pedagogies'] class attempted to put into practice prescriptions offered in the literature concerning empowerment, student voice, and dialogue [Ellsworth cites work by Freire six times as an example], we produced results that were not only unhelpful, but actually exacerbated the very conditions we were trying to work against, including Euro-centrism, racism, sexism, classism, and 'banking education.' To the extent that our efforts to put discourses of critical pedagogy into practice led us to reproduce relations of domination in our classroom, these discourses were 'working through' us in repressive ways, and had themselves become vehicles of repression. To the extent we disengaged ourselves from those aspects and moved in another direction, we 'worked through' and out of the literature's highly abstract language ('myths') of who 'should' be and what 'should' be happening in the classroom, and into classroom practices that were context specific and seemed to be much more responsive to our own understandings of our social identities and situations."

Ewert, David Merrill. Freire's Concept of Critical Consciousness and Social Structure in Rural Zaire. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Wisconsin, 1977. "The findings suggest that while Freire's approach may be effective as an educational strategy, its revolutionary potential appears to be somewhat limited in rural Africa. People in this Zairian community do not generally define themselves as a class whose problems are a function of a social structure dominated by an elite class with conflicting interests. Consequently, the people of [the village of] Mudiwamba would rather exploit their connections with the elite than unite in a struggle against them as a class of oppressors, a basic premise of Freire's educational model."

McLaren, Peter L., & Henry A. Giroux. "Foreword" in Reading Paulo Freire by Moacir Gadotti. State University of New York Press, 1994. "Few educators have received as much widespread acclaim and worldwide recognition as the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire."

Oliveira, Rosiska Darcy de & Pierre Dominice. The Pedagogy of the Oppressed The Oppression of Pedagogy. Institute of Cultural Action, 1974. "Freire's thought is in a somewhat paradoxical situation. There is between the success of his writings and the practical development of his thinking a distance which grows larger and larger. His success is tied to the fact that more and more people, apparently from many different social groups, easily recognize themselves in his critique of alienating education and the mechanisms which program consciousness. They are attracted by his propositions which deal with liberating actions. On the other hand, the whole problem of historical agents which are capable of putting into practice any radical alternative and the difficulty of determining the times and the places when struggle leads to real social change ... these make difficult the passage from consciousness of the need for change to the point of concrete action for liberation."

Urban, Wayne J. Comments on Paulo Freire. Paper presented at a meeting of the American Educational Studies Association in Chicago, Feb 23, 1972. "Pedagogy of the Oppressed does not help in understanding either revolutions or education in general. The rankest absurdity, however, is the application of Freire's analysis to the young middle class students in this country."

Woock, Roger. Paulo Freire. Paper presented at a meeting of the American Educational Studies Association in Chicago, Feb 23, 1972. "At first the charge that Freire is not a revolutionary may strike the reader as being absurd for certainly he uses the appropriate language. These terms occur, however, in a curious vacuum without being rooted in a social or economic context. If we have learned anything about revolutionary possibilities in the last 20 years, it is that revolutions will take different forms in different social and economic situations. Revolution in Cuba has not been the same as revolution in Chile. By not linking his revolutionary model to a particular

Woock, Roger. Paulo Freire. Paper presented at a meeting of the American Educational Studies Association in Chicago, Feb 23, 1972. "At first the charge that Freire is not a revolutionary may strike the reader as being absurd for certainly he uses the appropriate language. These terms occur, however, in a curious vacuum without being rooted in a social or economic context. If we have learned anything about revolutionary possibilities in the last 20 years, it is that revolutions will take different forms in different social and economic situations. Revolution in Cuba has not been the same as revolution in Chile. By not linking his revolutionary model to a particular social and economic context, he makes it that much more difficult for those of us not in Northeastern Brazil to find it useful. Who specifically here in North America are the oppressor and the oppressed, where does violence play a role, where should it not play a role? Are teachers in public schools oppressors or are they part of the oppressed? To answer these questions one must virtually write another book filling in the social and economic context, without which not much use can be made of Freire's analysis."



Facundo, Blanca (1984A). Issues for an Evaluation of Freire-Inspired Programs in the United States and Puerto Rico. "I started this work with the history of Paulo Freire, a human being who later on became internationally famous and, I believe, deformed, romanticized and perhaps misunderstood. The idea is not to judge Paulo Freire. We owe him justice and respect. For me, this means being as critical of his ideas and practices as he taught us to be critical of ours. It is time that we do both. That is what I've tried to do."

Facundo, Blanca, ed (1984B). Alternativas, Apr/May. Includes excerpts from eleven reactions to the monograph. Here are three:

"[TOM HEANEY:] 'Congratulations on having produced an insightful and critical analysis of Freire's work. The bibliographic references alone would have made your work invaluable. I learned much from your reflections and am left with far more questions than I had before receiving your manuscript.'

"[FRANK ADAMS:] 'Your essay on Freire and the programs his works inspired in the United States is at once touching and refreshing. You manage at once to be most personal yet objective. I admire what you have brought off here. I am still digging beneath your calm but penetrating style. It is one of the best essays on adult education I have read in months.'

"[HENRY GIROUX:] 'I must admit that I have fundamental differences with your interpretation of Freire."

Kidd, Ross. Letter to Blanca Facundo, Sep 10, 1984. "Your manuscript is wonderful, clear, well-argued, a real contribution. The contribution I think it makes is the public de-deification of Freire. Freire has always asked us to be more critical, but we've allowed our affection for him and the important impact he had on all of us to get in the way. Now I think it's time to move beyond Freire, something I'm sure he understands himself. Freire had an incredible impact on us, in spite of his shortcomings and the mystified way we interpreted his writings and practice. Many of us have never faced up to (or been aware of) the reality of Freire's practice. You've taken the bull by the horns, brought the evidence into a public forum, and helped us all to come to terms with our own mystifications of Freire. My own copy has been loaned to many friends and it's been well-thumbed."

Zacharakis-Jutz, Jeff (1986). "Review of Issues for an Evaluation of Freire-Inspired Programs in the United States and Puerto Rico. Adult Literacy and Basic Education, Vol 10, No. 3. "Freire's projects in Brazil were pilot experiments, which were too small to fully test his theories. His efforts in Chile did not significantly reduce the literacy rate. In Section 7, 'Lessons of Guinea-Bissau,' Facundo suggests that the significance of this project for Freire was that in a Third World context he could test whether or not his theories of literacy could serve in national reconstruction. Based on the doctoral dissertation of Linda Harasim, Literacy and National Reconstruction in Guinea-Bissau: A Critique of the Freirian Literacy Campaign, Facundo discusses why Freire's project failed to significantly improve literacy in Guinea-Bissau. Harasim states that 'this failure was unexpected and raises many questions for educators both in Guinea-Bissau and internationally.' Facundo adds, 'More important for our work in the U.S.: How many of us know that Freire's practice in Guinea-Bissau was a declared failure in 1980? Why has not Freire discussed this very important matter with his different audiences in Puerto Rico and the U.S.?' If students in adult education are required to read Pedagogy of the Oppressed, then they should also read this monograph. While it is part of ERIC's data base, it is not part of the Information Series although it should be. Dissemination of this classic could be facilitated if it was published and available in every library in a bound copy."

Zacharakis-Jutz, Jeff (1988). "Post-Freirean Adult Education." Adult Education Quarterly, Fall. "It has been nearly 20 years since the first publication in English of Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. We have entered the era of post-Freirean adult education in the United States. Facundo, in her highly critical monograph of Freire inspired programs, recounts the early history of grassroots adult educators in the United States who experimented with Freirean concepts. They encountered the complexities of using a revolutionary ideology in a country that is nowhere close to revolution. As a result, Facundo points out, these efforts quickly faded. Almost 20 years later, Freire and his work have been thoroughly studied, institutionalized and grossly compromised by academe."