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Monday, February 20, 2012

K+12 and Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed"

With the government's project to push K+12 program to "to raise the country’s basic education course to world standards and produce high school graduates ready to be employed even without a college degree," (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Oct 7, 2011) we wonder if our education system will improve and make our youth globally competitive.

I hope our teachers will focus on improving themselves and truly get serious about not only what they teach, but more so on how they teach. The best teachers I had set themselves apart from the common ones by telling me, showing me, explaining to me, making me feel about a subject matter. Subject matters are generic - it's in the syllabi - but only the great mentors can lead you to the heart of the matter.

Here's my review of Paulo Freire's "Pedagogy of the Oppressed."

(Picture from Wikipedia)

I have always believed that education is the greatest catalyst for change. But education is not measured simply by knowing how to read and write or count from 1 to 10. Education does not mean having a PhD or an MA after one's name. Education means more than knowing who Plato is or what the square root of 4 is. Education can be meaningful only if it serves some purpose, meaningful purpose.

As a catalyst for change, education should be the bond to link humanity into one brotherhood. Education ought also to change man's flights from poverty to economic freedom. Education should liberate mankind from oppression and from their oppressors. This is the kind of education Paulo Freire is heralding in his masterpiece the "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" (1970).

What is the "pedagogy of the oppressed"?

As Freire puts it, pedagogy of the oppressed is the "pedagogy of men engaged in the fight for their own liberation." And liberation, according to him is "a childbirth, a painful one." This liberation then brings forth a "new man" which is no longer the oppressor, no longer the oppressed, but a man in the process of achieving freedom.

But that is the ideal. To be able to understand why there is a need for this so-called "liberation" or "childbirth," one has to examine where the world is as far as the majority of the indigents are concerned, and where it is as far as the powerful minority are concerned.

Who are the oppressed and who are the oppressors?

It is not difficult to categorize an oppressed from an oppressor. One can simply look at them, and he can identify who is who. There is no dividing line between these two classes of people, but a big marginal difference - that which makes pinpointing as easy as identifying black from white, day from night, the poor from the rich.

Basically, the oppressed suffer from two social maladies: fatalism and self-depreciation. The oppressed rely greatly on fate, and see their sufferings as a will of God, as if God is the "creator of the `organized disorder.' "This distorted view of God leads the oppressed to give credence to the power of fate and fortune. More than being fatalistic, the oppressed are seen to be consciously or subconsciously internalizing the opinion, mostly negative opinions, of their oppressors on them. When they are told that they are sick, lazy and unproductive, the oppressed would in the end be convinced that they indeed are what their oppressors brand them - sick, lazy and unproductive. This very low self-esteem somehow hinders them from raising above their lot.

Ironically, the oppressed want to be like his oppressor, to imitate him, and to follow his style. In asking for agrarian reform, the oppressed do not particularly want to be free in their toil, but to acquire land, and then become themselves landowners, i.e., to become bosses. As Freire puts it quite bluntly, the oppressed find in the oppressors their ideal of "manhood." The oppressed's ideal is to be "men," but for them to be "men" is to be oppressors.

The oppressors, on the other hand, believe that the term "human beings" belongs only to themselves, and the others who are not like them are simply "things" at their disposal. They find it normal to dehumanize others, and to violate their rights. For them, the only rights that exist are their rights: "their right to live in peace, over against the right of the oppressed to survival." For them, money is the measurement of all things, and profit the primary goal. "For them, `to be' is `to have'." Thus, their goal is to accumulate all the money they could put their hands on. They put their fingers on every pie so they could have a share of everything.

Who process the childbearing of liberation?

The great humanistic and historical task of the oppressed is to liberate themselves and their oppressors. It is given that the "liberation" cannot come from the oppressors, in the same manner that "violence cannot be initiated by the oppressed but by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognize others as persons."

As the oppressors steal the humanity of the oppressed, they too are stolen of their own humanity. This very act reduce them to being beasts, completely dehumanizing themselves. On the other hand, as the oppressed fight for their freedom and try to take away the oppressors' power to dominate them, the oppressed, too, somehow restore to the oppressors the humanity they had lost in their practice of dehumanization. It is like giving their oppressors good bread after the oppressed have taken away from them the spoiled loaf. Simply put, it is the oppressed giving their oppressors the gift of salvation.

Who are the "developers" of the pedagogy of the oppressed?

As mentioned earlier, pedagogy of the oppressed is "the pedagogy of men engaged in the fight for their own liberation." And from these same men came the developers of this pedagogy. They are the ones who recognize or begin to recognize themselves as oppressed. The "childbearing of liberation' cannot be processed by the oppressors neither can they develop or practice the pedagogy of the oppressed. Developing the pedagogy of the oppressed by the oppressors would serve only as an agency of their egotistical nature as they make the oppressed "objects of their (false) humanitarianism."

In this regard, Freire envisions the "libertarian pedagogy." This libertarian pedagogy is a kind of education that encourages learners to challenge and change the world, not merely uncritically adapt themselves to it. The content and purpose of libertarian pedagogy is the collective responsibility of learners, teachers, and the community alike who, through dialogue, seek political, as well as economic and personal empowerment. Programs of libertarian education support and compliment larger social struggles for liberation.

As empowerment is the result of a libertarian pedagogy, it is distinct from building skills and competencies. Education for empowerment further differs from schooling both in its emphasis on groups, rather than individuals, and in its focus on cultural transformation, rather than social adaptation.

Freire clearly shows that education can indeed be a catalyst for change. He truly understands that change cannot come from one person or from one sector. Change has to come from the majority who values freedom. And to liberate man from dehumanization is to educate him that he should not allow himself to be dehumanized.

What is the Banking Concept of Education as opposed to Problem-Posing Education?

Most of us, in one way or the other, have been educated the same way: the teacher talks and we, the students, listen; the teacher asks questions and we students answer; the teacher narrates the chronological order of Philippine presidents and we students memorize the order. Freire says that education has long suffered from this "narration sickness." And it's high time that we took some medicine.

Freire differentiates two educational concepts namely, the Banking Concept of Education and the Problem-Posing Concept of Education.

In the banking method of education, passive learners receive deposits of pre-selected, ready-made knowledge. The learner's mind is seen as an empty vault into which the gold bars of approved knowledge are stored. This approach is also referred to as "digestive" and as "narrational" education. In the banking education, the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the students are objects or containers that are filled by deposits of information. The more full the container, the better the teacher. Those students who are easiest to fill are considered better students, and those who are difficult to fill are judged to be "problem" students.

The banking method of education therefore serves the oppressive society by 1) "mythologizing" reality (by giving false, superficial and inane interpretations of culture and reality); 2) resisting dialogue; 3) treating students as objects of assistance; and 4) inhibiting creativity.

In opposition to banking education, Freire supports a problem-posing education designed to help people "come to feel like masters of their thinking by discussing the thinking and views of the world." In problem-posing education, the teachers are no longer the bosses but "co-investigators" who approach a community of learners from the standpoint of the students. The students are guided to learn about the important themes that govern their lives.

These themes are what Freire calls as "generative themes" which are the "codifications" of the learners' experiences of political significance and are likely to generate considerable discussion and analysis. Obtaining these generative themes of discussion from the learners necessitate that the teacher represents situations familiar to the individuals. Peasants, according to Freire, become interested only when the codification (representation of the learner's day-to-day situations - a drawing, a photograph) relates directly to their needs. The teacher then asks questions that trigger various levels of interpretation and critical reflection of the learners.

Moreover, there have been failures in the "moralistic education" which sermonizes against certain vices of the peasants (alcoholism), and that which presents examples of virtue something which the peasants do not exactly consider as a manifestation of virtue (having one room for eating -dining room, and another for cooking - kitchen).

Problem-posing education is a libertarian pedagogy in the sense that it: 1) demythologizes (as opposed to the banking education's mythologizing) reality by posing problems about these facts of life; 2) regards dialogue as indispensable in the recognition of reality; 3) motivates students to become critical thinkers; 3) bases itself on creativity and stimulates true reflection of reality; and 4) takes people's experiences as a starting point.

Given that education is a political act, the teacher, being a facilitator, and the class, being a cultural circle, the two must be directly and connectedly engaged in the critical analysis of social reality. And it is not enough that both parties know what the reality is, they also have to understand and recognize the causes of this social reality - on why there is the reality of poverty and illiteracy among the oppressed and why there is a massive wealth among the oppressors.

It can be told that through Freire's work "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," our awareness has been stirred of the need to educate properly not only the privileged, but also the underprivileged of the role of culture in social change, not only in developing countries but also in developed ones. Today, in the context of global and social extremities, increasing levels of marginalization and new and larger range of poverty, these ideas of libertarian education must be re-thought, adapted, challenged and if need be, re-invented to face the new global neighborhood.

However, in a country where democracy reigns: a vote is a vote regardless who cast it. Scheming politicians and power-starved political dynasties keep the masses from knowing any better. For to educate a poor means to liberate him from being a fool. And only fools vote for these leeches. (Gawd! I hate being so negative!)

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