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” … highly readable guide to activist tactics and principles … “

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“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.”

In Sum

An approach to education that aims to transform oppressive structures by engaging people who have been marginalized and dehumanized and drawing on what they already know.


Paulo Freire first outlined his widely influential theory of education in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968).

Over a lifetime of work with revolutionary organizers and educators, radical educator Paulo Freire created an approach to emancipatory education and a lens through which to understand systems of oppression in order to transform them. He flipped mainstream pedagogy on its head by insisting that true knowledge and expertise already exist within people. They need no “deposits” of information (what Freire calls “banking education”), nor do they need leftist propaganda to convince them of their problems. What is required to transform the world is dialogue, critical questioning, love for humanity, and praxis, the synthesis of critical reflection and action.

many progressive movements today are still trapped in the “banking” approach to education, seeing the public as a passive receptacle of their information

In short, Pedagogy of the Oppressed is education as a practice of freedom, which Freire contrasts with education as a practice of domination (see below).

Banking education: education as the practice of domination

Goal is to adapt people to their oppressive conditions. Teacher attempts to control thinking and action of the students, who are treated as passive objects. Assumes that people are merely in the world, not connected to it or each other. Removes students from their context; teaches reality as unchangeable. Treats oppressed people as marginal to a healthy society and in need of incorporation into it. Fundamental to maintaining systems of oppression.

Problem-posing education: education as a practice of freedom

Goal is to transform structural oppression. Both educator and educand (Freire’s word for “student,” designed to convey an equitable and reciprocal relationship) teach and learn from each other. Assumes the world is an unfolding historical process; everything and everyone is interrelated. Begins with the educands’ history, present and unwritten future. Seeks to transform society to rehumanize both the oppressed and their oppressors. Fundamental to the revolutionary process.

To offer a reductive explanation for the data, the nature of interactions of molecular water with the linkage must be reconsidered and compared with intramolecular hydrogen bonds. In a polymer, such as cellulose, all of the side groups can interact with water, and so in each molecular conformation distinct possibilities for interactions with local water molecules will be available. Without considering loss of degrees of freedom, there is negligible energy difference between a directly intramolecular hydrogen-bonded conformation and a water-bridged conformation ( Williams and Westwell, 1988 ). Therefore, rather than using intramolecular hydrogen bonds as the causal explanation of structuring, it is proposed that geometries are preferred for the ensemble as a whole, that is for molecule and water. In this interpretation cellulose has a single conformation consistent with favorable polymer–water interaction ( Figure 5a ). This conformation implies a rigid and the fully extended molecule. Similarly, xylan has a single favorable region that involves water bridges at the linkage ( Figure 5b ). On the other hand, the β(1→4) linkage in hyaluronan is predicted to possess two competing favorable water structures ( Figure 8 ) which have differing linkage conformations. The question of structuring in these polysaccharides then reduces to understanding how these polymers interact with water, using statistical mechanics, rather than naively assuming they are stabilized by intramolecular hydrogen bonds. Here these arguments are made for cellulose and xylan. In cellulose the argument revolves around the hydroxymethyl group, which is common to pyranoses.

Restricting the motion of the hydroxymethyl comes with a relatively high penalty, compared to other parts of the molecular assembly. This is because the hydroxymethyl can potentially occupy a large number of conformations, as compared to, say, a hydroxyl. Similarly, water molecules in the region of O3 and O6 have many degrees of freedom. Thus the preferred dynamic state will be that which preserves the maximum degrees of freedom in the hydroxymethyl group together with the maximum freedom of movement of local water molecules in this region. In the two-fold cellulose conformation, it is the OH3 rotamer that has lost degrees of freedom ( Figure 10a ). It could occupy another rotameric state if it was not involved in the hydrogen bond to O5. However, in this dynamic scenario the hydroxymethyl occupies all rotameric states, except the tg conformation ( Figure 10b ). Now the hydrogen bonds elucidated in Figure 3 can be seen to be part of the water structure around the hydroxymethyl group. The gt and gg states are stabilized by water bridges from O6 to O3 (in two separate orientations Figure 10c and e ). More importantly, water molecules can exchange rapidly with these structures, which preserves the number of degrees of freedom available to water molecules while maintaining intramolecular hydrogen-bond networks.

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