One of the most famous books written by Paulo Freire, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, was published in 1970. He is a well-known Brazilian educator and philosopher. In this book he criticizes our education system comparing it to a Bank, where the educator is the depositor, a person who places “knowledge” in the student, who is the depository. Has our education system changed significantly in the last 40 years, since this book was made available?
Not only Paulo Freire but so many philosophers, sociologists, ecologists among so many others, have been reflecting, discussing and warning us about how unwisely we are doing things. Our staticness against our reality reminds me of a poem:
(Excerpts from Hieroglyphic Stairway, a poem by Drew Dellinger)
“It’s 3:23 in the morning and I’m awake…
because my great great grandchildren won’t let me sleep.
My great great grandchildren ask me in dreams,
What did you do while the planet was plundered?
What did you do when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something ?…
When the seasons started failing?
surely you did something?
As the mammals, reptiles, and birds were all dying?
surely you did something?
Did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
What did you do once you knew?
What are we doing once we know? It feels like we are trapped in this voracious capitalism system which our school system complies with. When Paulo Freire in the second chapter of his book reflects on what he calls “Banking Concept of knowledge”, it makes me wonder how much this sort of education has changed. It certainly has changed a bit, but surely and unfortunately not fast enough to stop ourselves “humans” (beings which are believed to be intelligent and reasonable) from depleting the natural resources of the Earth, resources that we need for our own survival. It also made me wonder that the people who plan what should be deposited in the depositories are the same who don’t want pupils to develop a critical consciousness which would, according to Freire, result in their intervention in the world as transformers, they would become “beings for themselves”, and of course this would undermine the oppressors purposes of maintaining the oppressed unaware about his own situation. This system has lasted all history, hasn’t it? Just think about it!
Most of teachers, whom innumerable are well-intentioned, don’t realize that they are serving only to dehumanize, for once they were also depositories. If only people realized that this sort of education is being nourished by love of death, not life. Paulo Freire compares schools, which are overwhelming controlling and serve the interests of oppression to necrophilia. You might think that it is been exaggerating, but the more you know and slowly start to wake up, the more you understand how Freire is right in his comparison.
Have they taught you that the main fuels in the world are causing the planet to warm up causing an imbalance to our delicate environment? Yes, probably they have, but have they helped you and your colleagues to create and implement a “real” solution for that or just to write something on a paper and present it to the class? Or you just had to do a research and then present it to your class?
Has it been discussed in your classroom that most of the products that you eat or wear are made by people who work in slavery conditions? And they are made with products that are causing an ecocide, destroying our biodiversity? Have they told you that as a consumer you have the choice to boycott products that are against your principles?
Did you feel that everyone within the school was respected and treated in the same way, or was there a hierarchy to be followed? How did the students with a low academic grade feel?
Our schooling system serves well to the oppressors whose interests lie in changing the consciousness of the oppressed, and not the situation which oppress them (Freire, 1970). Is it in the school curriculum to empower the students to face and change our decaying reality? You might think it is not possible, however the oppressed are the vast majority in this world, so it should be. Still, in most of countries where people have access to any sort of marketing, individuals are daily brainwashed about how much you need to have to be someone, and most fall for it, not enquiring themselves if they really need and how was that product made?
What make us humans? Does things make us humans? Aren’t most of “things” we have being building dehumanizing us for they are exhausting our own unique home Earth? Is the content which is shared/taught at school really relevant to build a better world? Is school freeing us or imprisoning us?
Until when our dehumanizing education system will prevail?
What are we doing once we know?
* I wrote this post as a way to share my daily struggle in humanize myself again. The more you study and look for information the more you start to discover that you have been lied to/or denied information your entire life. My husband and I are trying to change so many things in our lives to be able to live in a more respectful way with our home Earth, it hasn’t been easy as for instance, disrespectful leading brands are everywhere, leaving us with very little choice. Is that human or is it capitalism? Is capitalism humanizing? Hope is essential for the ones who believe that something can be done. My will is to help teachers in Brazil in their initial formation to empower and free their students and themselves. A scholarship has been denied to me recently and my disappointment led me to read Paulo Freire’s book and to write this post. I can’t lose my hope and I won’t.
I just would like to remind that there are indeed many educator who humanize their students through education, unfortunately the vast majority of the population is oppressed by our capitalist system. We need a rEVOLution and it starts within yourself.