Paulo FreireThis print version free essay Paulo Freire.
Autor: reviewessays 08 December 2010
Words: 1275 | Pages: 6
The education one receives within the walls of a school is vital to the development of the mind. Ideally, the school setting is a nurturing environment that provides students with the necessary skills to prepare them for their transition into the adult world. But what is the proper way to educate a student? Philosophers have theorized and debated over this question since the time of Socrates, who the government executed for his highly controversial method of teaching. While there have been many theories that have shaped the study of education, Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" is arguably the most inspirational work in the field. In his book, the author proposes that the problem with education roots from the suppression of the students' thoughts and creativity. As will be shown here, Freire's ideas concerning the "banking" method, "problem-posing education", and the importance of dialogue deliver a new and effective approach to educating students.
Early in "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," Freire reveals that the problem with education lies in the teachers' usage of the "banking" method. In this method, students are discouraged from being creative, freethinking individuals. Instead, the teacher treats them as if they are receptacles that can simply be "filled" with information. This impedes the students' learning because they simply store the information rather than interpret it or act upon it. Freire claims that while the students collect and organize the material, they "Ð’â€¦are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system" (Freire, 72). This concept of teachers treating students as containers reveals Freire's firm grasp on the problem with education. When the teacher removes interaction and dialogue from the classroom, one also removes the student's understanding of the material and his overall interest. Consequently, the student acquires little from the material, negating the purpose of education.
The failure of the "banking" method shows that one party imposing their views on the other cannot teach students. On the contrary, education begins with the sharing of ideas and the reflection upon those thoughts. This means that education requires the students and teachers to engage in praxis, which is "the action and reflection of men and women upon their world in order to transform it" (Friere, 75). Freire proposes an alternative method of teaching which he calls "problem-posing education." In this teaching style, the classroom engages in discussion, rather than one party cramming information into the other. While the "banking" method demands students to accept the material blindly, "problem-posing education" embraces the students' individuality and their unique perspectives of the material. As a result, the former method produces mindless drones, while the latter develops critical thinkers. In the following passage, Freire addresses how "problem-posing education" is conducive to the construction of a strong consciousness of oneself and one's place in the world:
In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation. (Freire, 83)
This quote shows that the material introduced through the "problem-posing" teaching method goes far beyond the realm of memorizing facts and equations. Rather, the student receives an education in developing oneselfÐ’â€”an invaluable lesson.
What truly separates the banking method from the "problem-posed education" is dialogue. Freire stresses, "Without dialogue there is no communication, and without communication, there can be no true education" (Freire, 93). This statement is true because without communication between the teacher and the students, there is no exchange of ideas or reflection upon actions. As a result, there is only one person expressing himself: the teacher. This leaves the student body without any means to participate in the learning experience. Consequently, this transforms the freethinking individual into a lifeless "container", waiting to be filled with knowledge. Therefore, dialogue is an integral part of education because it not only liberates the students to express their views, but also allows for the opportunity for both student and teacher to learn from one another.
Furthermore, Freire believes that the relationship between the students and the teacher should be a partnership, rather than an oppressive leader ruling over the rest of the class. According to the author, the primary focus of education should be the "mutual humanization" of the students and teacher. Both parties can only achieve this through the encouragement of participation. This is because the teacher has as much to learn from the students as the students learn from him. Simplifying this belief, Freire claims, "Authentic education is not carried on by "A" for "B" or by "A about "B," but rather by "A" with "B," mediated by the worldÐ’â€”a world which impresses and challenges both parties, giving rise to views or opinions about it" (Freire, 93). This passage suggests that the classroom should not be under the oppressive rule of one party. Instead, it should be an open forum, encouraging the ideas and creativity of everyone involved. In this environment, both the teacher and the students learn more from one another.
While Freire's vision of the ideal classroom may seem unrealistic, a group of Harlem junior high students has proven that the aforementioned principles of education produce a new and effective teaching environment. HarlemLive is an online newspaper where the students create all of the work, and the directors and advisors provide the funding. The website contains digital pictures, streaming video, surveys, and articles which capture the students' life in Harlem and their perspectives of society and politics. HarlemLive embodies Freire's idea of a "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" because the students and advisors work hand in hand to create this outlet for self expression and self exploration. In addition, HarlemLive grants this opportunity without censorship or the explicit instruction from an adult. Rahsaan Harris, HarlemLive's associate director, states, "[The students] craft the stories pretty much on their ownÐ’â€¦they decide where the story's going to go. An adult may ask them questions to make sure that's deep enough. That's how they do it" (qtd. in Abdulezer). The director's comments show that the advisors play a minor role in the production of the website. They provide some support and direction but the responsibility for the success of the paper rests heavily on the shoulders of the students. This flexibility grants the students the freedom to produce honest work that truly represents their views, not the solely opinions of the advisors. The end result of this project is a positive experience for both the students and the advisors. As the students develop journalistic skills, such as taking notes and meeting deadlines, they also learn how to express themselves better. This not only achieves the goal of the advisors, but also they become exposed to how their students view the world.
While HarlemLive exhibits how Freire's views of education enhance the learning experience, it would contradict his message to simply laud over "Pedagogy of the Oppressed." On the contrary, Freire maintained that students are only liberated through dialogue and reflection. With that in mind, Peter McLaren, a philosopher and Freire proponent, claims, "He would most assuredly had encouraged readers to scrutinize and critique the ideology of his word in the same manner that he encouraged them to interrogate other texts" (McLaren, 50). This statement epitomizes Freire's idea that education is not about one person, even Paulo Freire, telling you how to think or feel. It is a collective effort of both the students and teachers to transform themselves and the world they live in. In the end, this learning experience successfully prepares the eager student for a seamless transition into adulthood.