Pedagogy of the Oppressed Themes

Pedagogy of the Oppressed Themes

Dual-Edged Dehumanization

One element common to all oppressive regimes throughout history is the shared tendency dehumanize the oppressed classes. The author illuminates how this process extends well beyond the mere assertion of privilege and dominance; to relieve a person of their essential claim to humanity is also to systemically undermine ambition. The result is a dual-edged sword holding the oppressors at bay: one edge symbolizes the exclusive rights and power enjoyed by the oppressors while the other edge works to remind the oppressed of the impossibility of rising to that level without the assurance of pain and punishment.

The Two Sides of Education

Education also has two different sides. Left solely to the devices of the oppressors, education becomes just another tool for preserving their dominance through the process of manipulating knowledge or withholding access to it altogether. On the other hand, for the oppressed, education can become the instrument of their liberation.

The Ironic Paradox of Liberation

A key theme of the text is that despite the power they possess, the oppressors are congenitally incapable not just of liberating those they oppress or but even of liberating themselves from the urge to exploit. The oppressor is incapacitated through a lack of strength to upset the existing social order. Conversely—and perhaps somewhat paradoxically—it is only the oppressed who possess the actual power to liberate society. Only those who have been victimized by an unjust social order can recognize the value of rebelling against that order and replacing it with one that is equitable. The irony in this paradox of the powerless holding a power that the powerful cannot is that the liberation which occurs will not just be a liberation of the oppressed, but of their oppressors as well. This is accomplished with the revelation to the former oppressed of the unjust quality of the previous social order which, by definition, they cannot understand.

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