This paper addresses key topics of academic freedom and critical pedagogy during a time of right-wing populist politics. The rise of the far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro to Brazil’s presidency in 2019 was accompanied by a vow to eradicate any vestige of the ideas of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire from the country’s schools. Bolsonaro’s campaign was supported by ultra-conservative groups that have as their core mission a traditional Christian and anti-Communist educational agenda. At the forefront of these groups is the influential and conspicuous ‘Escola sem Partido’ (ESP) movement that has forcefully campaigned against Freire’s critical pedagogy across the country and promoted physical and online abuse of teachers since 2014. This paper asks how Freire’s philosophies can be an ally in the struggle for democratic education in the current political climate in Brazil. It employs a method of dialogical narrative to bring Freire’s theories and critical methodology to life and test their potency against the ESP educational philosophies. It initially employs Freire’s core ideas to examine the ESP policies and parliamentary bills. In the second part, it analyses documents and online content produced by civil society resistance to ESP pressures. The findings show the vitality of Freire’s pedagogical philosophy to empower oppressed communities in their demands for quality education. The narrative concludes by demonstrating the vital role of the critical consciousness process and of Freire’s pedagogy of freedom to support ongoing struggles by teachers and communities to block ESP attempts to abolish critical thinking in Brazilian public education.