Response to "Banking Concept of Education"

By Benjamin H. Proctor

from Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Friere


'"The democratization of culture," one of these anonymous illiterate teachers said, "has to start from what we are and what we do as a people, not from what some people think and want for us."(p.106)' Spoken by one of the students of Freire's literacy work, it points out the necessity to realize oneself in the world. If a person retains (through miseducation or suppression) an idea of self as something not engaged or related to the nature of existence, then they are dehumanized; they have abstracted their soul from experience and thus are alienated from meaning or the search for meaning. The banking concept of education reinforces this dichotomy between humanity and reality. It separates the student from the teacher, the material from experience or understanding, education from action and engagement with reality- a perfect pattern of endless segregation that compel the isolation of people from their fundamentally human (ontological) purpose and the maintenance of a power structure.(p.69-70) Once this structure or mentality of constant isolation and alienation has been imposed into a person, it is impossible for she or he to learn; they have accepted they have no role or engagement with education or reality- even their definition of reality is distorted- and they accept and trust their own ignorance, "...a person is merely in the world and not with the world, the individual is spectator, not re-creator.(p.70)"

The banking concept of education supposedly relays knowledge from a subject, the teacher, to the objects or receptacles of the information, the students. Freire insists that "Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful, inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.(p.68)" The banking concept relays information, given as static, absolute, and to be known only on a surface level, so that it can be spit out in the exact same condition as when the student first received it. Freire talks about knowledge, which is never static or absolute, it is necessarily incomplete, tobe completed by the mind, experience, and understanding of the consciousindividual. Nothing should be detached from reality or consciousness to beblindly memorized, but to be seen in relation to reality. "Thus, men and women begin to single out elements from their 'background awareness' and to reflect upon them. These elements are now objects of their consideration, and as such, objects of their action and cognition.(p.76-77)"

Therefore, to understand is to act, and to act is to be engaged in reality. To be human is to change, dynamically with the world and dynamically changing the world. "If it is true that thought has meaning only when generated by action upon the world, the subordination of students to teachers becomes impossible.(p.72)" "Authentic thinking, thinking that is concened about reality," only takes place in communication.(p.72) This is how Freire proposes how one can regain her or his humanity from oppression- through education as engagement with the world, education as "consciousness as consciousness of consciousness.(p.74)"

Freire terms education that responds to the essence of consciousness a "problem-posing" education. The banking concept of education inhibits the individual's power to think critically or use creativity, to suppress the student's cognition or reflection of the subject, while problem-posing "strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality (p.75)," to become the subjects through critical analysis and not objects non-decisive objects. The critical mind engages in the dynamic nature of reality and knowledge, "...critical consciousness always admits that causality to analysis; what is true today may not be so tomorrow.(p.82)" Problem-posing cannot serve the oppressor(p.79), because it asks people to constantly engage in and critique the reality of systems of domination as the oppressor creates it.

In Freire's field work, people discovered that a dynamic relationship to the world already involves themselves. They realize they are the makers of culture, that they already "create and re-create" reality through work of every-day life. "I make shoes," said one, "and now I see that I am worth as much as the Ph.D. who writes books.(p.85)"


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Mail to: benjami@ifreedom.com


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