Pedagogy of the Oppressed Chapter 2
Pedagogy of the Oppressed—Paulo Freire
Translation by Myra Bergman Ramos
Problem in Education
The main focus of the second chapter of Freire’s work is educational systems and the teacher-student relationship. This relationship between the Subject (teacher) and the student (object) is one that perpetuates the oppression model. According to Freire, teachers narrate content to students with no opportunity for students to react or respond other than reiterate and duplicate material. Even the content presented to students is “detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance” (p. 71). Students repeat facts or situations given to them without even knowing what the facts mean or represent. As objects, students memorize the narrated content and become receptacles that teachers fill rather than engage. Thus education becomes the act of depositing information.
Freire maintains that there are distinctions regarding the process with which students are educated. The teacher does; the student is done to. The teacher is the possessor of knowledge; the student has no knowledge to contribute. The teacher thinks; the student is thought about. The teacher is the Subject of learning; the students are only objects of learning. Teachers and others in powerful positions project ignorance onto others, a quality of oppression, and negate education and the process of inquiry as a means of demonstrating knowledge. Freire labels this approach as the banking model of education. He asserts that this model is oppressive in that it annuls students’ creative powers, thus relegating students to being objects of oppression. The more students memorize, the less they develop critical consciousness and do not intercede to transform their world. On the part of the oppressed, thinking is stopped and there is no questioning of the processes of learning.
Within the banking method of education, there are two stages. The first involves teachers and their consideration of what to teach. Many times, this content is given to the teacher by other oppressors. The only thinking about the content as lessons are prepared, is done by the teacher on his or her own. The second stage occurs when the teacher presents the content to students, deficient of thought or input from the students on the matter or even what material is important to demonstrate. Freire maintains that “in the name of the ‘preservation of culture and knowledge’ we have a system which achieves neither true knowledge nor true culture” (p. 80). When people and their own thoughts and intelligence are not considered in educational processes, they are alienated as human beings, void of decision-making and transformed them into objects.
Throughout chapter two, Freire reiterates the assertion that the actions of the oppressors, no matter their intentions, continue to oppress others. He states that the oppressed are seen as a pathology of healthy society and that one strategy to manage this pathology is to use the banking concept of education so that the oppressed are integrated and incorporated into a suitable social order.
Solution for Education
According to Freire, the solution is not to integrate the oppressed into the structure of society but to encourage them to transform the structure “so that they become beings for themselves” (p. 74). In a problem-posing educational method, material for consideration is presented to students who reexamine it and present their own considerations. Teachers also engage or are invited to participate in the consideration of the material and to consider their own position. Once the participants understand and acknowledge their reality and see that reality is a process undergoing constant transformation, for them humanization will occur. They will not merely be in the world, but with the world and others. The transformation cannot be through oppressive measures such as violence, but must be conducted utilizing dialogue between the oppressed and those who support them in solidarity. In an educational setting, the teacher cannot think for the students nor impose thoughts on them. The teacher must encourage and support students by thinking with them. Education must become an act of inquiry on the part of both the Subject and the object. To begin this process, there must be a solution of the teacher-student contradiction by repositioning participants to work on inventing and reinventing knowledge. Students and teachers must learn about the world with each other and the world. Teachers must reject the role of the person who teaches and become a learner and engage in dialogue with students, allowing themselves to continue to be taught.
To achieve this transformation, Freire states that those truly committed to the liberation of the oppressed must replace the educational system of banking concept with a system that creates and maintains problem-posing educational practices that involve a constant unveiling of reality. He reinforces this point by delineating the conflict of these two educational concepts. Banking education considers students objects in need of intervention whereas problem-posing makes students critical thinkers. Banking education conceals certain facts that may describe how humans are in the world, while problem-posing education illuminates the realities of humanity. Banking education is a one-sided discussion imparted to students whereas problem-posting utilizes dialogue to encourage thinking on the part of all participants. In totality, “banking theory and practice…fail to acknowledge men and women as historical beings; problem-posing theory and practice take the people’s historicity as their starting point” (p.84). Through problem-posing educational practices, the world of the oppressed becomes the point of transforming action by the oppressed that results in their humanization.
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