Pedagogy of the Oppressed

My colleague and I were agitated over methodology of a new professor several weeks before the end of spring semester in 2003. Some of them were so enraged to have an argument with him. (How dare!) Anyway all students, maybe 15 or 16, did not understand his way of teaching. Even though a few said that it might result from cultural differences, most of them, including me, criticized him for neglect of duty, teaching. One of a graduate even asked the sole American in the classroom if it is the way how they are taught in America. If so, did we accept his attitude and methodology as advanced ideas or democratized ideas? Probably we might do on the premise that a lot of Korean still believe the American Dream. However what can be expected from the United States who indoctrinates American ideology? A country who forces students, even foreign students, to recite “The Pledge of Allegiance” and “My country, ‘Tis of Thee.” Or what can be expected from the United States who is governed by American corporations? A country who permits to sell Big Mac at public schools.

Anyway his instruction was excessively student-centered, to the extent that he did not have to be in the classroom. Students had a discussion and talked about their own experiences. But he often assumed the attitude of an idle onlooker. He had never even tried to give any feedbacks to students’ papers. The boundary between teacher and students did not exist in his classroom in a sense that any students could become a teacher. However unfortunately not vice versa. What he overlooked was the dialogue (which is mentioned by Freire) between teacher and student, I think. It might cause the oppressed, students, to fail to be liberated. Nevertheless, my colleagues as well as I could not avoid criticism. We were too naive to discard the banking concept of education. We, as receptacles, were ready to be filled by teachers all the time. We might not unconsciously allow a teacher to become a student, complaining that he did not provide summaries for us.

When I just started TESOL program. I wondered whether I could learn from the instruction based on the seminar. But at the end of the first semester, I was surprised at recognizing that it really worked very well. It means that problem-posing concept of education is feasible. In the traditional education, teachers and students need only a bunch of resources to store up their knowledge. Hence the rote memory makes it possible to recite “The Pledge of Allegiance.” Exaggeratingly speaking, students can be imbued with chauvinism through meaningless memorization, not knowing that it is just ideal. However unfortunately it also makes them to be restricted in the invisible system. As Freire contended, what the skill they need is to decode the meaning of “The Pledge of Allegiance” in the society, not to memorize it. That is what teachers must do for a change.

On the contrary, banking education maintains and even stimulates the contradiction through the following attitudes and practices, which oppressive society as a whole:
(a) the teacher teaches and the students are taught;
(b) the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing;
(c) the teacher thinks and the students are thought about;
(d) the teacher talks and the students listen - meekly;
(e) the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined;
(f) the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply;
(g) the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher;
(h) the teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it;
(i) the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which she and he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students;
(j) the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects.

Excerpted from “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” written by Paulo Freire

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