Reader Response #6 Gary Musisko

In “The Banking Concept of Education,” Paolo Freire examines the traditional educational structure, and proposes fundamental changes in the way teacher-student relationships are considered.

Freire’s focus is the narrative character of the classroom, where the instructor is the subject and the students are objects. The author asserts that this event–classical Western schooling–is really about the teacher, and the students are to memorize the spoken words of the teacher. It is in this way Freire compares students to receptacles which are to be filled to differing degrees by the instructor, according to his or her talent.

In this “banking” style of education, the students’ involvement in the process of education is limited to a passive role, one which Freire considers to be dehumanizing. The old form, Freire posits, is more suited for the meek and uncreative. The author identifies an overt dualism in the classroom, where the teacher is knowledgeable and the student knows nothing, to name but one among an extensive list.

I respect Freire’s potent mind, but it seems unfair to so barbarically attack the system that produced the Hadron Collider and “On the Origin of Species.” But, things change through such activism; you know, “out with the old.” Also, Freire’s article is couched in some pretty revolutionary language, so he probably knows what he is talking about. Whatever he is prescribing for the future is probably fair, so I am comforted.

The article invokes the pendulum everyone talks about, however. Power is finite, or I think it is, anyway. And I really think Paolo Freire is talking about power, here. One way to view such sweeping systemic changes is that people, heretofore subjugated, can gain (long) deserved power. That is tough to condemn, unless you are the human being who happens to hold the power today. Are those who hold power covetous and exploitive by nature, or is theirs the de facto role played by “them?” Should people who have, from the Darwinian perspective, “earned” their power be expected to willfully give it away to those who feel they deserve it by virtue of sentience alone? And what happens when the new people get the power? Do they give themselves so much credit that they believe they will break the cycle of human nature?

Freire’s message is clear where group work is concerned in this course because we have to get things done, and dictation is inefficient at best, and impossible without a viable threat to make to our compatriots. Futuristic, synergistic thinking is good for this project, so thank you, Mr. Freire. Is Paolo a man’s name? I think it is. Thank you, Freire!

Gary Musisko

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