Question and Answer Session on #LoveforPublicEd (Freire Strikes Again)

Jose VilsonEducation, Jose5 Comments

Paulo Freire

Here’s the question from @kandeezie:

How does a particular perspective (e.g. Feminism, Anti-Racism, Critical Pedagogy) critique the functioning of schooling in society?

My answer?

Well, any perspective you take, whether revolutionary or not, changes what your definition of schooling should be. I don’t know many who like education as is. If you’re a feminist, you wonder about the perpetual patriarchal reinforcement through the explorers and thinkers model. Anti-racism? Exclusion of colored history except in “model minority” form. Critical Pedagogy? Lack of  real inquiry.

Unfortunately, our ed systems are built to create thinkers and doers for a select few. How they think depends on the pedagogue in front of them. On a macro scale, those in poor (and not necessarily urban) communities are pushed to get kids to read, write, and do basic math except for about a 10th who eventually show the promise of an American illusion. Those in wealthy communities are asked to question, but sometimes in the confines of the status quo, where they are the chosen ones.

That’s why critical pedagogy in the light of Paulo Freire is so … critical. He implores pedagogues to consider an alternative where we simultaneously break the cycle of an education done to them and reprogram people into questioning that which they learn in all their subjects. He pushes us to gain control in an anti-establishment format and then lose control to the peoples’ true will. In theory, it might sound hypocritical, but in practice, it’s exactly what that doctor ordered.

The history of education is such that it implicitly creates divisions in a winners / losers model. Those that win the wars often write the history books we learn from. That’s why as children, we’re kept from the facts about the slave labor and rebellion movements for the 500 or so years of the Western Hemisphere’s history. Imagine if kids knew that in 1804, Black slaves actually rebelled against their slave masters and creates their own nation with the premise of independence. Imagine if kids saw more photos of Latinos and Asians standing alongside Blacks and Whites during the Civil Rights Movement instead of isolating the races present in that movement to African-Americans. Imagine if they knew that women were the backbone to indigenous cultures throughout the Americas, and that Columbus didn’t discover anything … and got credit for it anyways.

The worst part is that there are well-meaning adults standing in front of them who know these facts, but with the push for knowing minutiae that we can answer on bubble sheets and less on critical thought, education becomes muddled. Then again, we have strong pockets of the spirit of Freire living right here in this country. We have teachers willing to engage students, and let them ask the questions that lead to the aforementioned answers. We have administrators who protect their schools from the insidious nature of present social studies textbooks. We have allies who want kids to have strong foundations in their core subjects, but take those and ask as loudly as possible why things are as they are.

They just don’t speak too much about it. Yes, more ironies in play.

We need more questions, because the answers we have right now simply aren’t working. If we get kids to ask questions now, they’ll find some answers, hopefully in time for either of us to see it. This sort of function can only happen in the very places reformers are attacking now: public schools. We the people control those domains.

Let’s ask them what’s going on.

Jose, who has a #LoveForPublicEd …

Comments 5

  1. As a feminist, anti-racist, critical pedagogue… I’ll concede that it can be really scary at times when kids are truly thinking for themselves and questioning the status quo. But it can also be really exciting, and in the end, if there’s ever to be progress, questioning the status quo is pretty much a given. So I have to be willing to open myself up to challenges in order to further the kids’ sense of social justice.

    And, come to think of it, that makes me a better teacher anyway.

    Of course, as an independent school teacher, I would challenge the statement that “This sort of function can only happen in the very places reformers are attacking now: public schools. ” But I would absolutely support the notion that it *must* happen in public schools as well.

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  3. “There are well-meaning adults standing in front of them who know these facts, but with the push for knowing minutiae that we can answer on bubble sheets and less on critical thought, education becomes muddled.”

    Well–education has been muddled for a long time, with the kind of critical questioning you describe popping up almost at random, entirely dependent on a thoughtful teacher or inspired leader. What surprises me is this: We now have the tools to expose all students to great, expansive ideas in interactive ways, but we have, as a nation, gone in exactly the other direction: spoon-feeding and regurgitation, especially for poor children who have fewer options.

    I’m an optimist, basically–but it feels almost like a conspiracy to me, this insistence that we MUST have winners and losers (and the losers must be the poor). You cannot look at the way things are going–the separation into “proficient” and “not yet proficient” beginning with 8-year olds–and believe that the people who created that policy saw it as an opportunity for better prospects for the poor.

    Thanks, Jose. #lovepubliced thanks you, too.

  4. Freire and Foucault talk about it quite frequently, that without true awareness of society’s inner workings; an awareness of oppression, authority, inequalities, we limit the ability for people to fully participate in a democracy. I struggle with moving from theory into practice, as so many of us are forced to take our enthusiasm for systemic changes and make them individual missions. Agency meets structure. It might be revolution that I’m looking for, but revolution without education does little to uproot the issues, and when we limit access to information, education becomes indoctrination.

    My next assignment is on conscientization. ;)

  5. Post

    All of these comments made me think a lot, so let me go one by one:

    bivey, let me just say that you’re right: I worded the “public schools” thing wrong, even as I thought it. Thus, I meant to say that it MUST happen in public schools because of the very nature of public schooling. You’re right on point.

    Nancy, conspiracy? What’s conspiratorial about the TRUTH!? :-)

    Kandeezie, thanks for the inspiration. I also struggle with putting it into practice. I know of a palce that dedicates itself to such an enterprise, but I’ve never been. That would be interesting.

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