The ‘educated subject’?: explorations of Justice and Freedom through Freire and Sartre

The paper explores some of the tensions in Freire’s (1970) pedagogy as rooted in his belief in social justice through the liberation of the oppressed. Importantly, Freire’s problem-posing pedagogy is a leading idea in how education can help raise critical consciousness in an ethical manner in order to realise social justice in society. Yet, in Freire’s pedagogy human beings are conceived as agents of change who must contribute to the constructions of knowledge, particularly since this helps challenge the ‘banking’ system in education (Freire, 1970, p. 58). The paper presents a reading of Freire through Sartre’s (1989) philosophy, specifically, Sartre’s ideas on freedom. The paper uncovers a tension between Freire’s conceptual freedom as expressed in his constructivist approach to epistemology and his pedagogy for justice. Of particular importance in this paper is how Freire’s subject appears as agentive and freed through spontaneous action, only to become ‘caught up’ in a conception of justice based on social responsibility. An important philosophical reflection to be explored in the paper is the need to re-conceptualise the subject from a Freirean notion of spontaneity to a Sartrean notion of responsibility. Re-envisioning the notion of the ‘educated subject’ through the philosophical tension between justice and freedom can help repose questions as to how systems of education should enable opportunities to become educated.