Political Parables – Education as a Revolution


Paulo Freire

Paulo Freire was an educational revolutionary who saw that the poor, marginalised and oppressed in Brasil, took on the world view (or “social construct of reality”) of those who were their oppressors. More than this he described how the educational system was used like a “banking system” to deposit the world view of the dominant class, (with their wealth, power and privilege), into the hearts and minds of the lower social classes, therefore maintaining the status quo.

He spent loads of time with the “peasant classes”, (after a financial crisis in his own family left them very poor) and learnt that they were certainly not unintelligent and although illiterate, had an incredible language of their own. He went on to devise an educational program which enabled these “peasants” to learn rather than to be taught and in so doing released them to begin a revolution in which the powers were challenged, the presumed ‘ways of being’ were shaken and new freedom was found. Unfortunately, this was crushed by the military coup of 1964, but it left Freire never again to “underestimate the vested interest of political powers in controlling the production and distribution of knowledge through their system of schooling” (see amazing work on his by William R. Herzog II in Parables as Subversive Speech).


William R. Herzog II

Herzog goes on to draw some extraordinary parallels between Paulo Freire and Jesus Christ, whom he asserts both hugely confront the power paradigms of the day and in so doing bring good news to the poor, freedom for those held captive to oppressive systems, sight for those who had been blinded by the worldview of the ‘mighty’ and light for those living in darkness.

Walter Brueggemann

Walter Brueggemann

Mitchell, in his book, “Church, Gospel and Empire’ demonstrates how Jesus directly challenges the Imperial System of Rome. Brueggemann (in “The Prophetic Imagination”) contends that Jesus (as a prophet and much more than just a prophet) is fulfilling the prophetic tradition of those who have gone before, criticising the oppressive systems and energising a fresh imagination of how radically different a future built on the foundations of (God’s) love could be.

I wonder how many teachers these days see it as their role to teach and train their pupils in the ‘national curriculum’ and the ‘social constructs of reality’ to which we all subscribe? And how many see their role as revolutionaries who dare to allow our children to believe that the world we live in can be radically different in the future; where instead of an economics of affluence, we have an economics of equity, instead of a politics of oppression, we have one of justice and compassion, and instead of a religion of immanence and law, we have one of true freedom (again, see Brueggemann) – I don’t know, but if you’re out there – please keep going!

13 thoughts on “Political Parables – Education as a Revolution

  1. Much as I’d like to think of myself as a revolutionary, I think I probably fall into the former category (of teacher) maybe with a dose of cynicism thrown in. Do you know James Kelman’s novel ‘A Disaffection’? – it’s a very long time since I read it, but if memory serves me right – the central character is a teacher who has his (Glasgow) classes chanting passages from Das Kapital.

    • Hello! No I haven’t but I always love new reading recommendations so thank you! I reckon if you think of yourself as a revolutionary, you probably are one! I think a healthy dose of cynicism empowers us to think of alternative ways of being. Walter Brueggemann is brilliant on this. He talks about how we can feel such a pressure to halt our imaginations and start implementing….. For me, my best teachers have always been those who have permissioned my imagination to run wild without even thinking of implementing anything. It’s one of the great criticisms of the ‘Podomos’ movement in Spain, as I understand it. ‘They know what they don’t want and have fanciful ideas but no real plans of implementation’. It is the imagination of a different way of being that really frightens the powers….. What if? Keep the disaffection alive. We must break through the numbness into hope!

      • Hi Andy!
        I thought this as you. (The post about bees was the give away). If you were going to start with James Kelman I think I would recommend ‘How Late it Was’ (or something like that) which is about a man who has lost his sight, but who is denied benefits because the officially appointed doctor doesn’t believe him. I think it won the Booker. Like all of his books it’s hard work and very downbeat, but very good IMHO. Maybe his short stories would be a good place to start too.
        Politically, well I have some sympathy with Podomos – it’s very easy to know what you don’t want, but much harder to come up with a satisfactory alternative. I’m extremely suspicious of politicians precisely because they claim to know all of the answers, but then that sometimes seems to be a sort of self defeating position, because the people who are fit to lead are precisely those who wouldn’t put themselves forward because they have the good sense to realise that they don’t know the answers.
        I don’t know. Some sort of jury service? (Could hardly be any worse?)

      • Bob mentioned it in passing last night, and I have an unhealthy obsession with blogs and blogging, so it was pretty inevitable that I would seek it out! I shall read with interest….

      • Also – I really am sadly blog obsessed, there seems to be a thriving beekeepers blogging community. I follow this one:
        It seems rewarding, but hard work!

      • Excellent! I am now following them! I really ought to learn some things about bees now that we have a hive on its way – yikes! Note to self – stop being impulsive….

  2. I was browsing distracted from marking an essay on the pros and cons of reducing debt when I read your parables. And yes I am a revolutionary in my educational workplace – teaching international politics and geography gives me scope to challenge assumptions. However, in my experience most students are actually needing little convincing, just information about what is actually happening. Few teachers I know feel its our job to shape students to the current political shape being demanded although there’s always some new inspection criteria being announced to beat us into shape.

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