Just kidding, although it’s tempting to leave it at that. I think education is incredibly important, but not all forms of education are equal. To explain the types of education that I believe are most valuable, I turn to one of my favorite educators. One of the most paradigm-shifting books that I have read about education is Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, so I will include a few quotes from that book below that help explain some of my current views of education.
“Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”
Institutionalized educational systems often operate in the former way. Even education at higher levels do not always encourage critical thinking or dialogue in classrooms, and it creates an environment of conformity that maintains the dichotomy of oppressor/oppressed in society. I believe, contrary to what Goodreads says, that the above quote is from Richard Shaull’s introduction to Freire’s book and should not be attributed to Freire himself, although I could be mistaken. (If you get your hands on this book, I encourage reading all of the introductory material. It is well worth your time!)
“Leaders who do not act dialogically, but insist on imposing their decisions, do not organize the people–they manipulate them. They do not liberate, nor are they liberated: they oppress.”
This quote falls in line with Freire’s beliefs about using dialogical methods in the classroom. According to him, teachers need to learn how to humble themselves to the point where they are considered teacher-students and their students are considered student-teachers. In this environment, everyone is learning and growing together, which removes the typical hierarchy of knowledge-holders.
“For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.”
I don’t think I really need to explain this one further. 🙂
Freire was a humanist, and yet as I read his book, I realized how much his theories align with my beliefs as a Christian. His explanations of the oppressor/oppressed dichotomy call to mind passages from the Bible about freedom. Specifically, I think about Isaiah 61:1-4 (ESV), which reads as follows:
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
The emphasis is mine, but I highlighted those phrases because I wanted to show how Freire’s work resonates with my faith. I think too often the world’s liberators are at odds with the church, and that makes me sad. As Christians, we should be actively pursuing freedom and liberation, not because we want to be the great white saviors, but because we value our fellow man as reflectors of God.