It seems that these days there’s always some new “groundbreaking” philosophy to teaching, education or critical pedagogy. The problem with many of these theories (besides poor psychological research) is that the praxis of them, have a tendency to burn out quickly and do not make much effect inside the classroom (teacher or student). One philosophy, however, is as groundbreaking now as it was 37 years ago. Paulo Freire presents a very strong argument in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. These ideas challenge the very base of the establishment. Freire attacks many education systems for avoiding the problems that are so apparent.
In chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed Freire talks about the commonly used method in education called the “Banking Approach”. Many times this application is referred to an analogy-the student being a bank and the teacher making a deposit-which paints a vivid image of an education system under brutal totalitarian rule. A lot of educators use this philosophy (especially in music) because they believe that it’s less difficult to communicate information that is deemed, “necessary”, to become a whole “educated person” underneath the umbrella of an education system that so boldly values standardized education.
Some do not understand the severity of the problem. This is why Freire puts forth many situations in the classroom (where much of this oppression occurs). Freire uses several examples to help put these oppressive actions into perspective. Ideas conveying the class war with the, “teacher-student contradiction”, as well as the dichotic struggles between an educator’s authority and a student’s freedom inside the classroom. Many philosophers, such as Freire, describe this oppression as, “The interests of the oppressors”, intending to change the “consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppressed them”. In this manner the ideal school citizen would be someone who does not question authority and is configured to the guidelines of such a rigid teaching system.
Luckily this is not seen corporately inside many school systems. In fact more and more teachers are beginning to use a method commonly know as “problem-posing education”. “Problem-posing education” is generally characterized as confident cooperation between the student and the teacher. For example: In a problem-posed education system-an educator should be focusing on a child’s achievement as a long-term goal (process) with that child’s learning capabilities in mind-where as in a banking method system of teaching-the teacher assesses a student’s achievement over that one-year period and constantly compares that child with other students in class.
This method is heavily based on many humanistic theories seen in the psychology world where the understanding is that it is the human’s duty to find knowledge and truth. Rather than waiting for the truth to be installed or worse just waiting idle for the truth to come.
Many philosophies such as “Community of learners ” have been created to answer the call of Freire. “Community of learners” embraces the thought that the teacher is not the authoritarian role in the classroom. Rather, he/she must consider his/herself as a more experienced peer-the notion that everyone in the classroom is learning together. In doing this, many barriers are broken in the communication process between the student and teacher. For instance, dialogue can be more direct and meaningful and applied to each student’s style of learning. This allows room for humanistic thought to take place. Rather than using the banking method, where the teacher would force-feed the students what he/she thinks that they need to know.
I first read of “Community of learners” during my freshman year of college in Critical Pedagogy I . I, then, quickly embraced as my own and wrote my philosophy of music education based upon this many of these ideas. The general idea behind this idea is that both students and teacher share work and experiences within a safe and comfortable environment. More specifically applied to music education, where performances, compositions, or theoretical work can be shared in front of the class for the benefit of the entire learning community.
In order for this organic learning experience to take place a comfortable learning environment must be implemented. This can be done, (in a musical sense), by connecting student’s musical experiences to real life personal experiences. Feelings in real life can then be applied into musical techniques. In a classroom setting this can be extremely beneficial.
The dichotomy between “Community of learners” and “Problem-Posing Education” is little to none. Both theories are about breaking down barriers that pose a severe problem inside the larger corrupt system. Freire talks of many education systems avoid problems all together. In doing so they are “resisting dialogue”-ultimately resulting in the oppression of every “human’s right to exist”, think, and explore.
It is the duty of the educator to create new ideas and methods to inspire new ways of thinking-new ways to combat oppressive education and ideologies of anti-humanistic education theories (banking method). This is a class war between those who care, love, and sincerely want to see their students succeed, and those who hate, destroy and represent the death of enlightenment-those who constantly search for new ideas and wish to create learning with out boundaries, and those who continue to oppress independent thought. There is no negotiation, only direct action. Freire says, “…The movement must begin with the human-world relationship”. In other words, it is the duty of human beings (students or educators) to take matters into their own hands. Theories such as “Community of Learners” and “Problem-Posing education” only work when the person seeks to liberate his/herself from oppression.
The movement of “Problem-posing education” cannot fall on an oppressive regime. This revolution will not be a complete coup de’etat . Rather, it is the duty of teachers to help enlighten their students. This can be accomplished by helping student’s realize that they are just as important in society as everyone else. By doing this, numerous barriers are being broken down. Conflicts between students, student-teacher conflicts, and sometimes seeing the change in the student can help inspire the teacher to continue to fight the battle against oppressive thinking inn the classroom.
Some say that a “society is only as good as good as it’s weakest member”. If we can eliminate this way of thinking than our society can benefit from the contributions of everyone in our society, rather than excluding people based on an oppressors view of what is inferior.
Instead of these faulty methods, classroom members should “build their knowledge based on experiences between community members”. It is essential to emphasize that everyone has something significant to share. Applied to the subject matter being taught in the classroom, a child’s opinion can be beneficial for the entire community. This is where the movement begins.
Greene, Maxine. “Teacher as Stranger: Educational Philosophy of the Modern Age”, Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1973
Garrick, Daniel, “A New Philosophy for a New Generation of Learners”, 2007, http://solidarityfirst.wordpress.com
Wonk, Ed, “Education Wonks” April, 2006, http://educationwonk.blogspot.com/2006/04/mayor-villaraigosas-attempted-coup.html
Vygotsky, Lev. “Mind in Society”. Harvard University Press. July 1, 1978