135+ Best Paulo Freire Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Paulo Reglus Neves Freire was a Brazilian educator and philosopher who was a leading advocate of critical pedagogy. His ideas developed from his experience teaching Brazil’s peasants to read. He is best known for his influential work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which is generally considered one of the foundational texts of the critical pedagogy movement. Wise Paulo Freire quotes will show you how to learn, how to teach, how to educate to get inspired and take another step toward your dream.

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Most Famous Paulo Freire Quotes

At a certain point in their existential experience, the oppressed feel an irresistible attraction toward the oppressor and his way of life. Sharing this way of life becomes an overpowering aspiration. – Paulo Freire

Critical and liberating dialogue, which presupposes action, must be carried on with the oppressed at whatever the stage of their struggle for liberation. The content of that dialogue can and should vary in accordance with historical conditions and the level at which the oppressed perceive reality. – Paulo Freire

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. – Paulo Freire

The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is him/herself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow. – Paulo Freire

Any situation in which some men prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is one of violence;… to alienate humans from their own decision making is to change them into objects. – Paulo Freire

Every relationship of domination, of exploitation, of oppression is by definition violent, whether or not the violence is expressed by drastic means. In such a relationship, dominator and dominated alike are reduced to things- the former dehumanized by an excess of power, the latter by a lack of it. And things cannot love. – Paulo Freire

Reflection and action must never be undertaken independently. – Paulo Freire

Being tolerant does not mean acquiescing to the intolerable; it does not mean covering up disrespect; it does not mean coddling the aggressor or disguising aggression. Tolerance is the virtue that teaches us to live with the different. It teaches us to learn from and respect the different. – Paulo Freire

If I am a pure product of genetic, cultural, or class determination, I have no responsibility for my action in the world and, therefore, it is not possible for me to speak of ethics. Of course, this assumption of responsibility does not mean that we are not conditioned genetically, culturally, and socially. It means that we know ourselves to be conditioned but not determined. – Paulo Freire

In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation. – Paulo Freire

The earliest language was body language and, since this language is the language of questions, if we limit the questions, and if we only pay attention to or place values on spoken or written language, then we are ruling out a large area of human language. – Paulo Freire

The educator has the duty of not being neutral. – Paulo Freire

To speak a true word is to transform the world. – Paulo Freire

This is the road I have tried to follow as a teacher: living my convictions; being open to the process of knowing and being sensitive to the experience of teaching as an art; being pushed forward by the challenges that prevent me from bureaucratizing my practice; accepting my limitations, yet always conscious of the necessary effort to overcome them and aware that I cannot hide them because to do so would be a failure to respect both my students and myself as a teacher. – Paulo Freire

If it is in speaking their word that people, by naming the world, transform it, dialogue imposes itself as the way by which they achieve significance as human beings. – Paulo Freire

The more we become able to become a child again, to keep ourselves childlike, the more we can understand that because we love the world and we are open to understanding, to comprehension, that when we kill the child in us, we are no longer. – Paulo Freire

I hope at least that the following will endure: my trust in the people, and my faith in men and women, and in the creation of a world in which it will be easier to love – Paulo Freire

The behavior and reactions of the oppressed, which lead the oppressor to practice cultural invasion, should evoke from the revolutionary a different theory of action. What distinguishes revolutionary leaders from the dominant elite is not only their objectives, but their procedures. – Paulo Freire

In order for the oppressed to unite they must first cut the umbilical cord of magic and myth which binds them to the world of oppression; the unity which links them to each other must be of a different nature. – Paulo Freire

The parent-child relationship in the home usually reflects the objective cultural conditions of the surrounding social structure. If the conditions which penetrate the home are authoritarian, rigid, and dominating, the home will increase the climate of oppression. As these authoritarian relations between parents and children intensify, children in their infancy increasingly internalize the paternal authority. – Paulo Freire

Teachers who do not take their own education seriously, who do not study, who make little effort to keep abreast of events have no moral authority to coordinate the activities of the classroom. – Paulo Freire

The oppressors develop a series of methods precluding any presentation of the world as a problem and showing it rather as a fixed entity, as something given–something to which people, as mere spectators, must adapt. – Paulo Freire

Every society needs to examine itself in relation to other societies. – Paulo Freire

To teach is part of the very fabric of learning. – Paulo Freire

In order to have the continued opportunity to express their generosity the oppressors must perpetuate injustice as well. – Paulo Freire

Reading the word and learning how to write the word so one can later read it are preceded by learning how to write the world, that is having the experience of changing the world and touching the world. – Paulo Freire

Indeed, the interests of the oppressors lie in ‘changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them. – Paulo Freire

But almost always, during the initial stage of the struggle, the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors, or sub oppressors. The very structure of their thought has been conditioned by the contradiction of the concrete, existential situation by which they were shaped. Their ideal is to be men; but for them to be men is to be oppressors – Paulo Freire

It is necessary that the weakness of the powerless is transformed into a force capable of announcing justice. For this to happen, a total denouncement of fatalism is necessary. We are transformative beings and not beings for accommodation. – Paulo Freire

Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication. If it is true that thought has meaning only when generated by action upon the world, the subordination of students to teachers becomes impossible. – Paulo Freire

No matter how much someone may irritate me, I have no right to puff myself up with my own self-importance so as to declare that person to be absolutely incompetent, assuming a posture of disdain from my own position of false superiority. – Paulo Freire

Attempting to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects that must be saved from a burning building. – Paulo Freire

Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for the world and its people. – Paulo Freire

If the structure does not permit dialogue the structure must be changed – Paulo Freire

Whereas banking education anesthetizes and inhibits creative power, problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality. The former attempts to maintain the submersion of consciousness; the latter strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality. – Paulo Freire

There is, in fact, no teaching without learning. – Paulo Freire

Teaching cannot be a process of transference of knowledge from the one teaching to the learner. This is the mechanical transference from which results machinelike memorization, which I have already criticized. Critical study correlates with teaching that is equally critical, which necessarily demands a critical way of comprehending and of realizing the reading of the word and that of the world, the reading of text and of context. – Paulo Freire

The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world. The more completely they accept the passive role impressed on them, the more they tend simply to adapt to the world as it is and to the fragmented view of reality deposited in them. – Paulo Freire

True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the rejects of life, to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands–whether of individuals or entire peoples–need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human hands which work and, working, transform the world. – Paulo Freire

The world is split between those who do not sleep because they are hungry and those who do not sleep because they are afraid of those who are hungry. – Paulo Freire

Liberation is a praxis: the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it. – Paulo Freire

Within the word we find two dimensions-reflection and action. If one is sacrificed even in part, the other immediately suffers. To speak a true word is to transform the world. – Paulo Freire

It is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can free their oppressors. – Paulo Freire

I cannot be a teacher without exposing who I am. – Paulo Freire

The oppressors do not perceive their monopoly on having more as a privilege which dehumanizes others and themselves. They cannot see that, in the egoistic pursuit of having as a possessing class, they suffocate in their own possessions and no longer are; they merely have. – Paulo Freire

The trust of the people in the leaders reflects the confidence of the leaders in the people. – Paulo Freire

What if we discover that our present way of life is irreconcilable with our vocation to become fully human? – Paulo Freire

[T]he more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into a dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history, to fight at their side. – Paulo Freire

Love is an act of courage. – Paulo Freire

Experience teaches us not to assume that the obvious is clearly understood – Paulo Freire

Problem-posing education affirms men and women as beings in the process of becoming. – Paulo Freire

As one might expect, authoritarianism will at times cause children and students to adopt rebellious positions, defiant of any limit, discipline, or authority. But it will also lead to apathy, excessive obedience, uncritical conformity, lack of resistance against authoritarian discourse, self-abnegation, and fear of freedom. – Paulo Freire

Learning is a process where knowledge is presented to us, then shaped through understanding, discussion and reflection. – Paulo Freire

Education is an act of love, and thus an act of courage – Paulo Freire

Educators need to know what happens in the world of the children with whom they work. They need to know the universe of their dreams, the language with which they skillfully defend themselves from the aggressiveness of their world, what they know independently of the school, and how they know it. – Paulo Freire

Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other. – Paulo Freire

The teacher is of course an artist but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves. – Paulo Freire

Whoever teaches learns in the act of teaching, and whoever learns teaches in the act of learning. – Paulo Freire

The more people participate in the process of their own education, and the more people participate in defining what kind of production to produce, and for what and why, the more people participate in the development of their selves. The more people become themselves, the better the democracy. – Paulo Freire

Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress. – Paulo Freire

Because love is an act of courage, not of fear, love is a commitment to others. No matter where the oppressed are found, the act of love is commitment to their cause–the cause of liberation. – Paulo Freire

No one is born fully formed: it is through self-experience in the world that we become what we are. – Paulo Freire

Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students. – Paulo Freire

Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferals of information – Paulo Freire

It would be extremely naive to expect the dominant classes to develop a type of education that would enable subordinate classes to perceive social injustices critically. – Paulo Freire

No one can be authentically human while he prevents others from being so. – Paulo Freire

It is not systematic education which somehow molds society, but, on the contrary, society which, according to its particular structure, shapes education in relation to the ends and interests of those who control the power in that society. – Paulo Freire

To study is not to consume ideas, but to create and re-create them. – Paulo Freire

Critical reflection on practice is a requirement of the relationship between theory and practice. Otherwise theory becomes simplyblah, blah, blah, and practice, pure activism. – Paulo Freire

Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. – Paulo Freire

One of the methods of manipulation is to inoculate individuals with the bourgeois appetite for personal success. – Paulo Freire

Sometimes a simple, almost insignificant gesture on the part of a teacher can have a profound formative effect on the life of a student. – Paulo Freire

It doesn’t hurt to repeat here the statement, still rejected by many people in spite of its obviousness, that education is a political act. – Paulo Freire

Human existence cannot be silent, nor can it be nourished by false words, but only by true words, with which people transform the world. To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it. Once named, the world in its turn reappears to the namers as a problem and requires of them a new naming. People are not built in silence, but in word, in work, in action-reflection. – Paulo Freire

Reading is not walking on the words; it’s grasping the soul of them. – Paulo Freire

It is absolutely essential that the oppressed participate in the revolutionary process with an increasingly critical awareness of their role as subjects of the transformation. – Paulo Freire

Manipulation, sloganizing, depositing, regimentation, and prescription cannot be components of revolutionary praxis, precisely because they are the components of the praxis of domination. – Paulo Freire

Revolution is born as a social entity within the oppressor society. – Paulo Freire

It’s no sin to make a critical study of Brazil’s reality. A small percentage own land. Most people don’t. – Paulo Freire

The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. – Paulo Freire

Those truly committed to liberation must reject the banking concept in its entirety, adopting instead a concept of women and men as conscious beings and consciousness as consciousness intent upon the world. – Paulo Freire

How can the oppressed, as divided, unauthentic beings, participate in developing the pedagogy of their liberation? Only as they discover themselves to be ‘hosts’ of the oppressor can they contribute to the midwifery of their liberating pedagogy. As long as they live in the duality in which to be is to be like and to be like is to be like the oppressor, this contribution is impossible. The pedagogy of the oppressed is an instrument for their critical discovery that both they and their oppressors are manifestations of dehumanization. – Paulo Freire

Just as it is important in Latin America to discuss ideas that come from North America, I think it is interesting for North Americans to discuss ideas that come from Latin America or Africa and do not insert themselves into capitalist interests. – Paulo Freire

At times, I have been criticized by some philosophers of education, who place me in postures that they classify pejoratively as ‘revolutionary.’ But I have had the satisfaction of being invited to work in societies making progressive efforts without wavering. They were changing, and so they called on me. – Paulo Freire

Those who teach learn by teaching and those who learn teach by learning – Paulo Freire

In sum: banking theory and practice, as immobilizing and fixating forces, fail to acknowledge men and women as historical beings; problem-posing theory and practice take the people’s historicity as their starting point. – Paulo Freire

When we live our lives with the authenticity demanded by the practice of teaching that is also learning and learning that is also teaching, we are participating in a total experience. In this experience the beautiful, the decent, and the serious form a circle with hands joined. – Paulo Freire

Organization is not only directly linked to unity, but a natural development of that unity. Accordingly, the leaders’ pursuit of that unity is also an attempt to organize the people, requiring witness to the fact that the struggle for liberation is a common task. Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress. – Paulo Freire

This pedagogy makes oppression and its causes objects of reflection by the oppressed, and from that reflection will come their necessary engagement in the struggle for their liberation. And in the struggle this pedagogy will be made and remade – Paulo Freire

For people, ‘here’ signifies not merely a physical space, but also an historical space. Those who are served by the present limit-situation regard the untested feasibility as a threatening limit-situation which must not be allowed to materialize, and act to maintain the status quo. – Paulo Freire

The object of a dialogical-libertarian action is not to ‘dislodge’ the oppressed from a mythological reality in order to ‘bind’ them to another reality. On the contrary, the object of dialogical action is to make it possible for the oppressed, by perceiving their adhesion, to opt to transform an unjust reality. In order for the oppressed to unite they must first cut the umbilical cord of magic and myth which binds them to the world of oppression; the unity which links them to each other must be of a different nature. – Paulo Freire

With the establishment of a relationship of oppression, violence has already begun. Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed. How could they be the initiators, if they themselves are the result of violence? How could they be the sponsors of something objective whose objective inauguration called forth their existence as oppressed? There would be no oppressed had there been no prior of violence to establish their subjugation. – Paulo Freire

Individuals who were submerged in reality, merely feeling their needs, emerge from reality and perceive the causes of their needs. – Paulo Freire

The unfinished character of human beings and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education be an ongoing activity. – Paulo Freire

Transformation is only valid if it is carried out with the people, not for them. Liberation is like a childbirth, and a painful one. The person who emerges is a new person: no longer either oppressor or oppressed, but a person in the process of achieving freedom. It is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can free their oppressors. – Paulo Freire

It is not surprising that the banking concept of education regards men as adaptable, manageable beings. – Paulo Freire

Although the teachers or the students are not the same, the person in charge of education is being formed or re-formed as he/she teaches, and the person who is being taught forms him/herself in the process. There is, in fact, no teaching without learning. – Paulo Freire

Whether the teacher is authoritarian, undisciplined, competent, incompetent, serious, irresponsible, involved, a lover of people and of life, cold, angry with the world, bureaucratic, excessively rational, or whatever else, he/she will not pass through the classroom without leaving his or her mark on the students. – Paulo Freire

How can I be an educator if I do not develop in myself a caring and loving attitude toward the student, which is indispensable on the part of one who is committed to teaching and to the education process itself. – Paulo Freire

Only through communication can human life hold meaning. – Paulo Freire

A reader does not suddenly comprehend what is being read or studied, in a snap, miraculously. Comprehension needs to be worked forged, by those who read and study; as subjects of the action, they must seek to employ appropriate instruments in order to carry out the task. For this very reason, reading and studying form a challenging task, one requiring patience and perseverance. – Paulo Freire

Studying is a preparation for knowing; it is a patient and impatient exercise on the part of someone whose intent is not to know it all at once but to struggle to meet the timing of knowledge. – Paulo Freire

Teacher preparation should go beyond the technical preparation of teachers and be rooted in the ethical formation both of selves and of history. – Paulo Freire

The oppressed want at any cost to resemble the oppressors. They call themselves ignorant and say the ‘professor’ is the one who has knowledge and to whom they should listen. Almost never do they realize that they, too, ‘know things’ they have learned in their relations with the world. – Paulo Freire

There is no valid teaching from which there does not emerge something learned and through which the learner does not become capable of recreating and remaking what has been taught. – Paulo Freire

Submission to suffering is a form of annihilation, but transformation of suffering rekindles a faith that gives life. – Paulo Freire

A revolutionary leadership must accordingly practice co-intentional education. – Paulo Freire

People in communion liberate each other. – Paulo Freire

Education is suffering from narration sickness. – Paulo Freire

The hope of remaking the world is indispensable in the struggle of oppressed men and women. – Paulo Freire

To simply think about the people, as the dominators do, without any self-giving in that thought, to fail to think with the people, is a sure way to cease being revolutionary leaders. – Paulo Freire

Any attempt to treat people as semihumans only dehumanizes them – Paulo Freire

An unauthentic word, one which is unable to transform reality, results when dichotomy is imposed upon its constitutive elements. When a word is deprived of its dimension of action, reflection automatically suffers as well; and the word is changed into idle chatter, into verbalism, into an alienated and alienatingblah. It becomes an empty word, one which cannot denounce the world, for denunciation is impossible without a commitment to transform, and there is no transformation without action. – Paulo Freire

Libertarian action must recognize this dependence as a weak point and must attempt through reflection and action to transform it into independence. However, not even the best-intentioned leadership can bestow independence as a gift. The liberation of the oppressed is a liberation of women and men, not things. Accordingly, while no one liberates himself by his own efforts alone, neither is he liberated by others. Liberation, a human phenomenon, cannot be achieved by semihumans. Any attempt to treat people as semihumans only dehumanizes them. – Paulo Freire

some may think that to affirm dialogue—the encounter of women and men in the world in order to transform the world—is naively and subjectively idealistic. there is nothing, however, more real or concrete than people in the world and with the world, than humans with other humans. – Paulo Freire

No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption (Freire, 1970, p. 54). – Paulo Freire

Certain members of the oppressor class join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation. – Paulo Freire

Education is freedom. – Paulo Freire

Even revolution, which transforms a concrete situation of oppression by establishing the process of liberation, must confront this phenomenon. Many of the oppressed who directly or indirectly participate in revolution intend – conditioned by the myths of the old order – to make it their private revolution. The shadow of their former oppressor is still cast over them. – Paulo Freire

For cultural invasion to succeed, it is essential that those invaded become convinced of their intrinsic inferiority. – Paulo Freire

There is no true word that is not at the same time a praxis. Thus, to speak a true word is to transform the world. – Paulo Freire

The future isn’t something hidden in a corner. The future is something we build in the present. – Paulo Freire

I am dealing with people and not with things. And, because I am dealing with people, I cannot refuse my wholehearted and loving attention, even in personal matters, where I see that a student is in need of such attention. – Paulo Freire

It would be a contradiction in terms of the oppressors not only defended but actually implemented a liberating education. – Paulo Freire

It is essential for the oppressed to realize that when they accept the struggle for humanization they also accept, from that moment, their total responsibility for the struggle. – Paulo Freire

Teachers and students (leadership and people), co-intent on reality, are both Subjects, not only in the task of unveiling that reality, and thereby coming to know it critically, but in the task of re-creating that knowledge. As they attain this knowledge of reality through common reflection and action, they discover themselves as its permanent re-creators. – Paulo Freire

This book will present some aspects of what the writer has termed the pedagogy of the oppressed, a pedagogy which must be forged with, not for, the oppressed (whether individuals or peoples) in the incessant struggle to regain their humanity. – Paulo Freire

A fact which is not denied but whose truths are rationalized loses its objective base. It ceases to be concrete and becomes a myth created in defense of the class of the perceiver. – Paulo Freire

It is impossible to talk of respect for students for the dignity that is in the process of coming to be, for the identities that are in the process of construction, without taking into consideration the conditions in which they are living and the importance of the knowledge derived from life experience, which they bring with them to school. I can in no way underestimate such knowledge. Or what is worse, ridicule it. – Paulo Freire

This capacity to go beyond the factors of conditioning is one of the obvious advantages of the human person. – Paulo Freire

The atmosphere of the home is prolonged in the school, where the students soon discover that in order to achieve some satisfaction they must adapt to the precepts which have been set from above. One of these precepts is not to think. – Paulo Freire

I have never said, as is sometimes believed, or even suggested that lower-class children should not learn the so-called educated norm of the Portuguese language of Brazil. What I have said is that the problems of language always involve ideological questions and, along with them, questions of power. – Paulo Freire

No reality transforms itself. – Paulo Freire

We must be forewarned that only rarely does a text easily lend itself to the reader’s curiosity the reading of a text is a transaction between the reader and the text, which mediates the encounter between the reader and writer. It is a composition between the reader and the writer in which the readerrewritesthe text making a determined effort not to betray the author’s spirit. – Paulo Freire

In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence. – Paulo Freire

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