Pedagogy of the Oppressed

by Paulo Freire

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Why does the word "dialogue" hinge with humility? 

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According to the Freire Institute, this is how Pablo Freire defines dialogue:

To enter into dialogue presupposes equality amongst participants.  Each must trust the others; there must be mutual respect and love (care and commitment).  Each one must question what he or she knows and realize that through dialogue existing thoughts will change and new knowledge will be created.

A key component of Freire's education theory is that students are not banks into which teachers deposit all their knowledge.  Instead, students come to the class with their own set of knowledge and experiences that must be considered in the education process. In other words, teachers have to acknowledge that students have equality and must respect the students.  This requires a large amount of humility, as teachers must lower their opinion of themselves in order to raise their opinion of their students.  Anyone wishing to have a dialogue must do this.  If your opinion of yourself is too high, then you will not hear what another person's ideas are.  Instead, you will be issuing monologues rather than engaging in discussion. A lot of what we see on social media today is of that nature.  Instead of comments opening up a dialogue between people, they are just spouting opinions and insults at each other.  They lack the humility to question their own preconceived notions.


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In Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, he argues that positive, healthy dialogue is dependent on a number of factors: love, faith, trust, hope, critical thinking, and humility. Freire argues that humility is crucial to dialogue because assuming that others are ignorant while not acknowledging one's own ignorance would prevent one from trusting that they would be able to learn from the other person in a dialogue. Self-sufficiency, according to Freire, is inherently incompatible with healthy dialogue. People must understand that they are able to learn, and able to rely on other people in order to have dialogue with them. He also stresses the importance of all people having dialogue, rather than restricting it to academics or the elite classes of society.

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