Freire, Paulo. (2004). Pedagogy of Indignation. Boulder, CO: Paradigm
$18.95 ISBN 1594510512
Reviewed by Ramin Farahmandpur
Portland State University
January 11, 2006
Throughout his life and in his work as an organic intellectual and a
philosopher, Paulo Freire fought fiercely against social oppression
and injustices. Since the publication of the Pedagogy of the
Oppressed, Freire’s work has profoundly influenced and shaped the way
in which teachers and educators frame political and ideological
questions concerning teaching and learning in their classrooms. There
is no question that the ethical and moral dimensions of Freirean
pedagogy has inspired and motivated a new generation of educators and
activists to courageously defend democratic principles, values and
practices in their classrooms and schools against the neoliberal
onslaught in an age marked by terror, fear and permanent war.
Freire’s final book, Pedagogy of Indignation, is composed of a series
of pedagogical letters in which he explores the importance of
education in the struggle to build a democratic society. The book,
primarily intended for students, parents and educators, begins with a
discussion on the inevitability of change. Freire believes that
change and mobility are defining characteristics and traits of
culture and history. He writes that in the absence of change there is
no culture or history. Freire argues that change can be understood
only in relationship to risk. Without risks, change is impossible.
Thus, for Freire, making history and culture involves taking risks.
However, Freire warns against taking spontaneous risks. Instead, he
encourages educators to take risks; risks informed and guided by a
study of history, politics and culture.
Freire sees human beings as a “presence in the world.” He writes that
taking risks is an essential characteristic of our “existing being.”
He believes that education, both as a political and ideological
activity, also involves change and risk. Our presence in the world is
not a neutral presence. As political and ideological beings, we are
compelled to take a stance toward the world. As Freire notes: “Nobody
can be in the world, with the world, and with others in a neutral
manner”(p. 60). Thus, for Freire “being” is a being in the world.
Freire sees history impregnated with possibility and hope. However,
to make that possibility tangible, he believes that we must actively
engage and intervene in the world.
What does ‘being in the world’ entail? Freire suggests that our
presence in the world is not to adapt to it, but to transform it.
Freire emphasizes that adapting to the world is only process—a
temporary phase—toward intervening and transforming the world. Thus,
adaptation is a “moment in the process of intervention”(p. 34). In
addition, Freire believes that we live in an ethical world. Our
ideological and political orientation forces us to make moral and
ethical decisions. Our actions have a universal dimension. ‘Being in
the world’ means recognizing our responsibilities and our commitments
towards others human beings in the world.
For Freire, human beings are both subjects and objects of history. In
other words, he believes that although the forces of history shape
our past and present, we can change the course of history, and in the
process make history. As Freire puts it, “the future does not make
us, we make ourselves in the struggle to make it”(p. 34). Freire
asserts that we can break away from the chains of history passed down
to us from previous generations and make our own history. In short,
Freire acknowledges that human beings are conditioned by history, but
he refuse to accept that they are determined by it because for Freire
history is possibility.
Freire maintains that a critical reading of the world involves
denouncing the existing oppression and injustices in the world. At
the same time, it involves announcing the possibility of a more
humane and just world. Thus, Freire sees the pedagogical act of
reading the world as a dialectical process involving denouncing the
existing world and announcing the possibility of a new world. For
Freire, reading the world is both a pedagogical-political and a
political-pedagogical undertaking. Denouncing the world is an act
that involves criticizing, protesting and struggling against
domination and domestication. On the other hand, the act of
announcing a new world entails hope, possibility and envisioning a
new democratic society.
Elsewhere, Freire makes an important distinction between the role of
education for helping students develop critical thinking skills and
education for training and preparation of students for the workforce.
He cautions us against reducing education to a set of techniques or
skills. Freire believes that education is a tool that can be employed
to “make and remake” ourselves. Education, as Freire conceives it,
involves knowing that you know, and knowing that you don’t know.
Education involves developing a “critical curiosity” and a radical
reorientation toward the world.
The final chapter of Freire’s book ends on a high note. Freire offers
a social and political reinterpretation of prophecy. He writes that
“prophetic thought” involves examining, analyzing and reflecting upon
our social, cultural, political and historical circumstances. It
requires us to learn to question the world by cultivating an
“epistemological curiosity.” Freire explains that prophets are those
who muster the courage to imagine, dream and struggle toward building
the foundations of a new democratic society. Prophets are those who
are willing to be a “presence” in the world, and are prepared to
critically engage in reading the word and the world. It is worth
quoting Freire at length:
Thinking of tomorrow is thus engaging in prophecy, except that the
prophet in this case is not an old man with a long and gray beard,
with lively open eyes and stave in hand, hardly concerned about his
attire, preaching incensed words. On the contrary, the prophets here
are those who are founded in what they see, hear, apprehend, in what
they understand, who are rooted in their epistemological curiosity
exercise alert to signs they seek to comprehend, supported in their
reading of the world and of words new and old, which is the base of
how and how much expose themselves, thus becoming more and more a
presence in the world at a par with their time. (p. 104)
Some educators may be disappointed to find that Freire’s book does
not offer a blueprint or a ‘how to’ manual for social change. That
was never Freire’s intention. Freirean pedagogy is not a discreet set
of prescribed methods, doctrines or practices that provides teachers
quick and easy solutions to problems and challenges they may face in
their classrooms. Freire’s main goal was to help educators recognize
and link the moral, ethical and political dimensions of education to
their daily teaching and learning practices in their classrooms.
Freirean pedagogy is a praxis-oriented pedagogy in which there is a
dialectical relationship between theory and practice, and action and
reflection. Freirean pedagogy provides us with a toolbox (a set of
analytical skills, theoretical vocabulary, and practices) that
enables us to decode, deconstruct and name the world. And by naming
the world, we can take action to intervene and transform the world.
About the Reviewer
Ramin Farahmandpur is an Assistant Professor in the Department of
Educational Policy, Foundations and Administrative Studies at
Portland State University. His interests include critical pedagogy
and multicultural education. He is the co-author of Teaching against
Global Capitalism and the New Imperialism: A Critical Pedagogy.
Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, (2005)._______________________________________________
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