(This is the third of three posts ahead of the #KELTchat I’ll be moderating on Sunday May 11th, details here)
Paolo Freire wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed in 1970. Many people say they’re not quite the same as they were once they’ve read it.
Paolo Freire and the Banking Model of Education are perhaps the two things I hear the most in my conversations with people about Critical Pedagogy, but that’s also why I saved this up for the third post. When I blogged about Cultural Capital, I focused on the ‘who‘ of our classrooms. The next post, on the Hidden Curriculum, focused on the ‘why‘ and I suppose this one encapsulates the ‘how’.
It’s very easy. Imagine an empty vessel and someone pouring knowledge into this vessel.The ‘active’ elements of this image are the person pouring this knowledge (teacher), the knowledge itself and the ‘static’ image is the vessel (student). The general hope is that once all the knowledge is poured into the student, the student will be learned and ready for the world at large. I haven’t got much to say about this because I know most people agree that not a lot of learning happens when learners are this passive. Those who pour such knowledge have their own vision of the world, their own ideologies, and so the way it is poured differs from one to the other. Nothing is neutral.
Paolo Freire wasn’t the first person to come up with this image, it goes back to Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks for example, and there are many others worth citing but this isn’t the place for it. What Freire did do is get inside people’s hearts, and reading him still does this today.
I think his ideas are so appealing partly because of the fundamental human justice in them- and also because he notices things about us teachers and our students that our educational systems and management bodies often don’t. It’s not just the big picture of oppression that voices like Malala‘s cry out against, it’s the little everyday revolutions where we seek our voices and find our words.
It is very easy to interpret the Banking Model as the oppressor-teacher using a very top-down method with the oppressed-students who have to receive the lesson without question. There are classrooms like this. I had an Arabic teacher three years ago who would grunt and tap his pen on the desk when I mispronounced something when made to read out loud (I didn’t last very long with that class, needless to say). But the oppressor-oppressed dynamic isn’t just about these (physical) anecdotes, it’s about the human condition that cradles educational environments. Education is a consciousness-raising undertaking.
“Education as the practice of freedom- as opposed to education as the practice of domination- denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world; it also deems that the world exists as a reality apart from people. Authentic reflection considers neither abstract man nor the world without people, but people in their relation to the world. In these relations consciousness and world are simultaneous: consciousness neither precedes the world nor follows it”
It’s very simple. When we become conscious of the oppressor-oppressed dynamics within ourselves, our classrooms, our schools, our institutions, our educational systems, the quiet revolution of tolerance makes its way into our pedagogical landscapes. It doesn’t scream or shout or shoot anyone down, it just slowly awakens the human, ethical and moral dimensions of our practice and we look at ourselves and our students differently. Reshaping the power structures in our classrooms remodels everything.
Freire, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos. London: Penguin