Oppression is when someone with power or authority has overwhelming control. Freire says that when teachers narrate information to students, having the expectation for students to memorize what the teacher said, is oppression. The teacher is the oppressor while the students are the oppressed. Freire calls this banking education.
Communication is the Key to Education
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A later philosopher, Michel Foucault, offers a theory of “power” that helps us understand oppression. Foucault explains that in contemporary society, oppression is rarely a matter of direct force or violence. We can’t really see oppression. No one is walking around with billy clubs beating/oppressing us.

Rather, oppression is something that we “internalize,” usually from a young age. That is, we become “oppressed,” subjugated to power, implicitly. We do as we are told to do. Schools play a powerful role in how we internalize the way we are supposed to act in society. Sit in your desk. Stay in your desk. Do what the authority figure in front of you tells you to do. Do not ask questions. Answer the questions you are asked. You will be told the right answer. Simply repeat it.

In other words, from Freire’s (and Foucault’s) perspective, school can be a powerful way to train people how to oppress themselves (so that we don’t have to use violence to oppress them later).

Freire would combat this internalization, this training to learn how to be controlled, by making us do school differently. Don’t answer the teacher’s questions — learn to ask your own. Don’t tell the students what to think, help them learn how to think. Don’t tell them what to think about, ask them what they want to think about. Etc

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