Education has two distinct but interconnected layers. There is an outer layer concerned with knowledge transfer and skills and an inner layer concerned with the development of character and relationships with others, both individually and socially. This inner layer provides the individual with the capacity to influence and to change society. In that sense, such an inner layer is ‘political’. In this article we argue that the ‘political’ in education can take two distinct forms: either that of dialogue or of defiance. We claim that the former is epitomised by the philosophy of Martin Buber and the latter by the philosophy of Frantz Fanon. Our analysis contrasting these two philosophies clarifies the implications for education, and thereby for the individual and for society.