Tuesday, October 18, 2011

There is More to Education than Information Transfer

I loved the Freire experiment and his essay on the “banking” concept of education. I especially liked how everyone freaked the hell out. Even I was uncomfortable, but that was the point. It really showed me how we as students and as human beings are more comfortable when we are being told what to do-- when we have a clearly defined path and a designated leader. It is much easier to be passive and to accept the status quo than it is to face the challenges of a democratic classroom.

As I said in my response, to someone who has never been oppressed, Freire’s ideas are pure nonsense. But to someone like me, Freire makes perfect sense. I grew up in Mexico, where my teachers taught with a meter ruler in order to make us learn, listen, and follow directions. Then I moved the United States, and although things were better, they were still not great. I grew up in Delano, California, the spiritual home of Cesar Chavez and the place where his movement made a giant civil rights statement. And while Chavez’s movement made working conditions better for the poorest of the poor and inspired people to reclaim their humanity, the education system there is still geared toward oppressing us and keeping us in our place.

In Delano, people are taught to take directions and follow orders. We are expected to take jobs in the grapevines, in the corporate warehouses, or in any other setting that does not require us to use our talents and our minds. I was an illegal immigrant until the age of 19. At that time, I joined the Navy. Ironically, it was then that I began to see my own potential and individuality. In my time off, I read a lot and became convinced that there was something wrong with our world in general, and our educational system in particular.

Freire is not talking about abolishing teachers but about making the teacher-student relationship more democratic. I am not going to pretend I know more than Dr. Rogers, for example. But I am also not going to pretend that I have nothing to offer even someone as educated as him. Freire’s views are only radical because we have been indoctrinated to think that information transfer is all education is, and that anything beyond that is subversive and dangerous.

If the purpose of education were simply to transfer information, teachers really would not be necessary, especially in this digital age when information is readily available even in our phones. A good teacher is not there simply to pass on information. A good teacher will challenge students to think for themselves and to use the information they receive to make the world a better place. But we as students must be willing to take on the challenge, uncomfortable and burdensome as it might seem.


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