coromandal


banking education

This excerpt from Paulo Freire‘s Pedagogy of the Oppressed is a discussion of techniques of education while also being a broad critique of how conservative societies are run.

He says that institutionalizing a false separation between those who ‘know’ and those who ‘don’t know’ debases and enslaves whole classes of people in our society.

He defines knowledge as a continuously restless and symbiotic and necessary inquiry between student and teacher and teacher and student.

He reveals for what they are an educational elite who prescribe and enforce a mythology of ignorance on a supposed uneducated under class, thereby maintaining their own place at the top.

He offers the hope of a system of education in which teacher and student are reconciled.

I have taught at the university level for over 10 years.  My best students were always capable of the symbiotic relationship with me that Freire describes.  However there is always, in every class, strong evidences of the passive student who has been pushed down and made to memorize and regurgitate and obey.

This book was published in the late 1960s – 50 years ago! – and is amazingly topical.  That a simple classroom could hide beneath it’s innocent exterior such scandal.  Can you imagine how different our lives would be if we publicly identified the corruption of banking education and upended it?  A flowering of creativity, an outpouring of new knowledge, new institutions with new agendas, new and interesting kinds of conflict, stuff we’ve never seen before.  What about you?  What differences can you see?

Here is Freire’s excerpt —

Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This is the “banking’ concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits. They do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store. But in the last analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and knowledge in this (at best) misguided system. For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.

In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing. Projecting an absolute ignorance onto others, a characteristic of the ideology of oppression, negates education and knowledge as processes of inquiry. The teacher presents himself to his students as their necessary opposite; by considering their ignorance absolute, he justifies his own existence. The students, alienated like the slave in the Hegelian dialectic, accept their ignorance as justifying the teachers existence — but unlike the slave, they never discover that they educate the teacher.

The raison d’etre of libertarian education, on the other hand, lies in its drive towards reconciliation. Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.

/../

The capability of banking education to minimize or annul the students’ creative power and to stimulate their credulity serves the interests of the oppressors, who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed.

-Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

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I agree completely with this, except one important point: It is typically not the more ‘conservative’ societies that use education in this way, but rather the left-leaning and technocratic societies that use the academe as a strong force for social change. This is evidenced in many of the communist countries where the universities are the hotbed for indoctrination into the party; or even in more moderate examples, like western Europe, where the academe has been synonymous with leftist initiation and activism. Typically ‘social conservatives’ have maintained a skepticism of the academe (sometimes to there peril?). When the ‘education/banking’ metaphor is at play on the conservative side it is usually in service of corporate interests, which are arguably not ‘conservative’ but rather a privatized totalitarian state. nevertheless, what unites the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ in their instrumentaliztion of the academe is ‘techniques’. What we are battling here are technocracies that seek greater control in all areas of society. ‘Expertise’ (inside or outside the academe) is one of the most potent tools to control outcomes in all categories these days. So let’s all remain suspicious and educated through experience not expertise!

Comment by sf




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