Reading Friere’s book has made me realize that much of my K12 education, along with a good bit of my undergraduate degree was, was based in more of a banking module of teaching than than open dialogue and critical discussion. In particular, I reflected on how my history courses tended to emphasize memorization over thinking critically about the events in history and what caused them (as well as emphasizing avoiding discussion of whether events could have been avoided or ended differently). I particularly liked the quotation that explained how in “any situation in which “A” objectively exploits “B” or hinders his or her pursuit of self-affirmation as a responsible person is one of oppression.” This could apply broadly to more than just teaching. Many situations in this current day and age either outright or implicitly oppress people in our society. It is funny to think that this book was published over 50 years ago and many of the situations that it criticizes are still the same.
I taught my last classes for the semester a few weeks ago. Both courses were EN101 and the goal was for them to explore their career choices using the library database. In the first class, the students did not really know what they wanted to do with their careers. I had them compare and contrast multiple fields and complete the worksheet. In the second class, the students were less talkative and they all already had a career in mind. I felt like I was not prepared enough for the contingency that the students were very straight forward and less willing to explore than the previous class. In the future, I am going to come prepared with a Plan B for when Plan A does not work out as well. I did not think on my feet well enough in the second class, and I ended up letting them out a bit early when they were not as willing to participate as the other course. This just goes to show that it’s always good to come up with a few extra plans before entering the classroom.
One element of chapter four that I found interesting was the discussion around revolution. Freire includes a quote by Lenin that says, “without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement” (pg. 125). The idea is that a revolution can only be achieved with reflection AND action. Not only that, but the oppressed must place more than a reactionary role in order for the revolution to truly occur. It is not enough for leaders (the oppressors) to be the thinkers and the oppressed to be the doers. Applying this to the classroom, this could very much look like a professor just doling out assignments and students responding by mimicking back what they have learned in class from the professor. As the oppressed in this situation, they are not truly participating in either reflection or action, just what they are being allowed to do by the professor (oppressor). Freire makes an interesting point along this line. He mentions how if this does happen not only are the oppressed being denied their revolution, but the oppressors are as well. Even oppressors who are trying to be part of the revolution, if they do not engage in dialogue, still retain characteristics of the dominator therefore they cannot be truly revolutionary. Trying to carryout a revolution for the people is just as hard or about the same as trying to carry out a revolution without the people. Freire emphasizes that “dialogue with the people is radically necessary to every authentic revolution” (pg. 128).
One part of chapter two that stuck out to me was the discussion of the banking method. While I have never really liked the lecture form of teaching (the professor telling me everything I need to know), this chapter made me think about it in a different way. As Freire points out, “knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing” (pg. 72). This way of thinking, however, projects an obsolete ignorance onto others, which is a characteristic of oppression. Before reading this, I never thought to consider how this form or style of teaching (the banking method) could turn into a form of oppression assuming that the professor knows everything, and the students know nothing. This method has continued, according to Freire, continues to be used as a way to adapt students to the world of oppression. The cycle can continue because students are just funneled into it. People who are put through this process “often do not perceive its true significance or its dehumanizing power” (pg. 78). According to Freire, this can be combated with the use of more dialogue and discussion in the classroom. By bringing students into the dialogue, they are not simply just being filled up by the professor, but they are learning to feel and understand things for themselves and relate what they are learning to their own experiences.