Activism + Verbalism = Praxis

I forget where in Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed activism and verbalism come into play, but it’s an idea that has remained with me since reading it in History of Higher Education last year. According to Freire, praxis is putting into action certain behaviors after critically reflecting on the world as we know it. Freire eventually dives deeper into this idea, specifically referring to activism and verbalism. These two isms immediately stood out to me last year because I felt that a lot of educators could fall under these two categories, but rarely did it seem that they were practicing both (myself included). For authentic praxis to occur, there must be both verbalism and activism. This means that one is acting after thorough reflection and after discussion. Often times, people get wrapped up into one – just thinking about/talking about solving an issue, or taking action without much thought. How can we do both as educators, and help students do the same? (All while avoiding oppressive acts of dehumanizing learners, which we may do subconsciously.)

Maybe the answer is realizing that we have a “hidden brain”. As Shankar Vedantam explains in “How ‘The Hidden Brain’ Does The Thinking For Us”, we develop biases at a young age, and we don’t necessarily do so with animosity or hatred. Instead, these biases develop from what we observe around us, whether we are aware of them or not. Therefore, we need to take the time today to reflect on the biases we have and how we got them. This will take a lot of honesty, but hopefully it helps in knowing that we all have them deep down.

5 Replies to “Activism + Verbalism = Praxis”

  1. Love the gif! You know, Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a book that I will never forget. It forced me to question the work of educators, who had good intentions, but sometimes harmful impacts. This is helped me decide what kind of educator I want to be and how I will define my authentic praxis.

  2. I think you’re absolutely correct that the first step forward is to be self-critical to reflect on and acknowledge our biases. But you’re also correct that doing this is challenging, sometimes painful, and it is also inherently subjective. Introspection is never truly objective, no matter how much we try to separate ourselves. So in a way, observing our own biases can be biased. At the very least, attempting to do so, though, is critical.

  3. I really enjoyed your post. In addition to reflecting on our own experiences, I think it is so valuable to listen to and engage with others who have different experiences and perspectives. And this can help us better reflect on our own biases, experiences, and perspectives.

  4. I enjoyed reading your post. I have not yet read Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, but it sounds like it is worthwhile and I will add it to my reading list. Balancing activism and verbalism, as you discussed is essential to achieving positive and meaningful progress. I think that another component of this is realizing that this is a continuous process and we constantly need to be verbalizing and and adjusting our actions based on the feedback and content of discussions.

  5. I would argue that we are starting to see movements in social justice, education and general communication that do take both conditions into account: thinking/talking about deep issues and the variety of perspectives that surround them, and then taking action to ‘make them right’ within the context of what is best practices at addressing the identified issues. It is messy, and even ugly at times, but the conversations I hear going on are richer and more reflective of varying perspectives than any time I can recall in the last 50 years. Here’s a sample of what I’m thinking of:

    Identity focused on individual’s perceptions of ‘self’ rather than a focus on gender, race, geographic origin

    The biases and prejudices that have oppressed people of color in the US – particularly the Black Lives Matter movement and it’s

    The endemic issue of sexual harassment

    The significance of the status of women and girls and the stability of societies/economies.

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