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What is Critical Consciousness? An Overview

Critical consciousness, critical, or critical in Portuguese, is an innovative educational concept developed by Brazil’s educationalist and developmental theorist Paulo Freire, based on post-Marxist philosophical and critical analysis.

What is Critical Consciousness? An Overview
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Theories of Critical Consciousness

According to Freire (1990), a critical consciousness of education is the consciousness that we must cultivate as people: our consciousness of the truth, the power of our choices, the reality of our relations to others, and even our capacities to love and have compassion for ourselves and others.

Critical consciousness is not only a theory but it is the way of knowing, which is needed by people to achieve their aims in life. When you think critically, you can help people realize that they have the power to create change and to change the world.

Therefore, people can become better people when they practice critical thinking and critical awareness. For Freire (1990), critical thinking is the conscious recognition of the need and importance of knowledge and critical awareness.

Social Theory of Critical Consciousness

This social theory was first used by him in order to draw attention to the problems in his country’s education system. He noted that there were children who were being deprived of the rights to learn, for example, because their parents did not want them to learn Spanish, or for other reasons, so this created an interest in Spanish culture and literature among the poor children.

In his book Pedagogy and Critical Thinking, Michael Dovidio argues that the concept of critical consciousness is necessary for the development of any teacher who seeks to make the learning process meaningful and useful for students. It is important for teachers to have a deeper understanding of what students really need to know.

The Concept of Critical Consciousness

The concept of critical consciousness is closely connected to the notion of democracy. He notes that when you are critical, you are not interested in the “what “how” of the learning process, but rather you are interested in the “why “who” your learning is relevant to. If learning is not relevant, it has no value for you, so it does not matter how you use it. It is important for students to have an appreciation for learning.

Critical consciousness is the process of critically evaluating the worth of knowledge, whether it is the knowledge that are accessible to the student, the knowledge that you believe is important, and/or the knowledge that you believe is needed for your students’ development, the knowledge that you believe is needed to meet their needs.

And the knowledge that you believe is needed for the growth of your relationship with yourself and others.

When students are taught critical consciousness, they will be taught how to respect and accept what they are taught, in addition to what they learn from their instructors. They will become less resistant to what they learn and more open to new ideas.

Understanding Critical Consciousness

There are many ways of understanding and practicing this philosophy of education. The key point is that critical education involves teaching people to see the world anew through the lenses of what is necessary and appropriate for human beings, rather than through the lenses of what can be taught to us.

According to Dovidio, critical thinking is needed in many fields such as politics, philosophy, business, law, education, medicine, and the social justice movements. Critical education is also needed in religious communities.

People have become increasingly more aware of their roles in society and have become aware of what they can and cannot do. In religious communities, the process of critical education has taken on a new dimension, as people have become more sensitive to the need to practice “mindfulness.”

Meditation is often considered the most effective way of becoming mindful. Through meditation, we are able to clear our mind and body of the stresses of everyday living, allowing us to be in a state of stillness, or as Dovidio puts it, “mindfulness.”


The most effective form of meditation is yoga, which allows the practitioner to focus on the breath, the body, and the Universe in its entirety. This is achieved by a series of breathing exercises. The benefits of this type of meditation include mental clarity, improved health, and heightened awareness.

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