In this contribution I develop an alternative account of critical pedagogy by discussing the work of Paolo Freire on alphabetization. I argue that Freire’s initiative has one major shortcoming, as in the end the student’s engagement with a concrete subject matter or skill is only secondary to the objective of social emancipation. This implies a functionalization of education, which I contrast in this paper to the views of Jacques Rancière. Dealing with a similar practice (i.e. learning how to write), he defends that a true educational event, which consists in a fully attentive interest in some-thing, is in and of itself emancipatory. This view will allow to look differently to aspects of educational practices like for instance drill and repetition.