Paolo Freire’s concepts are not especially notable in and of themselves. He uses a rather standard mix of 1) the Hegelian "master-slave" dialectic (refigured for his purposes as a dialectic between oppressor and oppressed), 2) Marxist notions of praxis (meaning human practice that has been refined by consciousness-raising and the infusion of critical theory), 3) German existentialist notions of "limit situations," as articulated by Karl Jaspers, 4) counter-Enlightenment, Romantic refutations of the notion of students as blank slates, and 5) Nietzschean notions of the transvaluation of values.
What is important and innovative in Freire’s work is his synthetic argument as to how these concepts can be fashioned into an innovative revolutionary pedagogy. With respect to higher education today, Freire’s pedagogical model can be applied to counter the ongoing corporatization of the classroom, which is increasingly guided by norms of result-oriented, measurable outputs, rather than norms of the co-creation of knowledge by diverse individuals who are informed by conscience and lived experience. Putting the oppressed first pedagogically means that higher education cannot be solely defined by the acquisition of career-ready "skills."