A Book that Influenced Me: ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’

by on July 21, 2021 · 1 comment

in Education, From the Soul

by Ernie McCray

Since the age of three every book I’ve read has influenced me in some way as I’m very much an empathizer.

But no book has resonated with me more than Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

As I absorbed his words I felt as though he was writing directly to me. I mean his declaration that education systems were designed to produce passive non-critical thinking learners, especially those relegated to the lower classes in our society, validated my very thoughts as an educator, making me feel not so alone in a school district that was standardized to its very core.

My man, Paulo, let me know that I was on to something as I indulged my students with notions of justice, wanting them to know how their country operates so they could transform it.

As one who, like me, was about matters of the soul, he assured me that I was definitely on the right track towards helping them change their world by appealing to their creativity, allowing them to express their ideas through the arts, through writing prose and poetry, through singing, and improvisations and sketch writing.

This allowed them to see that learning can be both serious and fun as they explored their minds, looking for different ways of seeing things, having a chance to consider what more they might want to learn if they were to become truly educated, if they were to feel comfortable questioning what’s going on in their community and their

country and the world – with all the injustices that exist.

I wanted them to arrive at the understanding that they had a role in emancipating those seen as “less than”: women, gay folks, people of color, immigrants…

I wanted them to feel obligated to do something about the gaps between the rich and the poor: Freire’s significant concern.

I agreed with him wholly that, when it comes to schools, everyone needs to sit at the table in order to make them more effective in what they do, including the students.

I adhered closely to that line of thinking when I, along with a group of magnificent imaginative educators, had the honor of creating a school, John Muir Alternative School, a K-12 school where students had real power in influencing what happened there. Some taught classes, under the auspices of teachers.

We valued alternative views, something Freire passionately promoted.

The respectful dialogue that he stresses in Pedagogy of the Oppressed humanizes students and prepares them to, with knowledge in their possession, fight to make America’s claim of being the “Land of the Free” where there’s “liberty and justice for all” a reality.

Paulo Freire influenced me to stay the course, for as long as I can breathe, into helping students pursue a world that fits every loving person’s hopes and dreams.

A book couldn’t be any more influential than that.

(Published in the Union-Tribune)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dave Baldwin July 25, 2021 at 9:15 pm

An excellent article, Ernie. For many years I’ve felt that I had been cheated regarding my education. Now, as an old man, I’m beginning to realize how much I have missed. An old dog can learn new tricks, but it would have been so much better to teach him what he needed to know before his life is nearly spent.


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