*** REVISED VERSION #2 ***
Arms crossed, seated upon a barstool, podium cast to the side, blankly staring at our midsized classroom. Yes – this is how I spent every other day of my advanced placement language and composition class. My teacher, (whom we will refer to as “Mrs. Scabs” just in case any previous peers of mine stumble upon this blog) was an odd woman. I can honestly say I didn’t learn a single thing in her class that entire year – at least nothing of importance that I can recall. Mrs. Scabs is the epitome of Paulo Freire’s ‘Banking’ concept. She simply handed us novel after novel with the expectation that we would read, we would learn, we would write, and move on. Alright, I admit it, I did learn how to write a well-rounded in-class essay within 40 minutes, but still. Anything of substance was thrown out the window. There isn’t a thought within my head that remembers any stimulating class discussions. Please; take a moment to sympathize with me… We endured some of the densest novels known to man; well-known pieces of literature such as “Ethan Frome”, “The Scarlet Letter”, “The Jungle”, and so much more. I can promise you right now – these novels are beautiful. By any means, I don’t mean to disrespect or belittle their authors. They are packed with interesting diction, syntax, symbolism and imagery. I am simply trying to make clear how awful it is read such well written literature and be stuck with a teacher who never took the time to expand and initiate discussions. There are so many things that could have been discussed and debated. They really are interesting – just not as interesting as they could have been. This was the first class I had ever been placed in that made me want to hurl. Her essay prompts were nearly impossible to comprehend; detail after detail concerning hidden meanings and imagery was difficult to portray within a 40 minute time span. It still amazes me that I passed – hardly of course.
After hearing about the ‘banking’ concept, and finally being able to officially learn about it, I feel so relieved. It’s like this weight has been lifted off my shoulders and can finally proclaim: YES! Someone does understand! Teachers need to realize that just because they’re lazy and might be able to learn from nothing but personal work, that not everyone works that way. Sure – we may be young, but we can raise some pretty controversial topics that make great for conversation. Of course, Freire writes in such a way that he is incredibly persuasive without me even realizing it at first. He certainly makes the thought of a “problem-posing” type of world sound appealing; almost an airtight plan!
I really enjoyed the way Freire presented the topic of problem-posing. He had a lot of great one-liners and phrases that summed up the way I felt exactly. For example, on page 263, he states “Problem-posing… strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality”. To me, this is most brilliantly stated! I love the emphasis he put on ‘critical intervention’ for a couple of reasons. First, today’s times are all about critical situations. Everything we do is dependent upon something/someone else. The competition we face in every aspect of our lives calls for critical decisions in order for us to rise above and prove that we’re something more than the typical man or woman. I am impressed with the way he puts the emphasis on how critical things are nowadays. Second, the way he words that, critical intervention, implies that we are in need of something that has never been done before. It is time to step it up and change the way things are! Things are clearly not working; there are flaws around every corner. Teachers are awarding points to kids who don’t deserve them, simply because they want to get them out of their classroom and onto the next teacher who can ‘deal with them’. However, if teachers would realize the reason these kids aren’t passing their class is because THEY are the ones who aren’t properly conducting their classroom, we wouldn’t have such a problem on our hands. I agree with a lot of what Freire said because I am one who is partial to class discussions and hands-on activities. But like any genius plan, it always looks great on paper first.
Freire also spoke a lot about consciousness and unconsciousness. He states on page 260, that “the individual is spectator, not re-creator. In this view, the person is not a conscious being; he or she is rather the possessor of a consciousness: an empty “mind” passively open to the reception of deposits of reality from the world outside…” You see – he feels that the banking method restrains students from thinking for themselves on a real-world basis. He strongly feels that since they are viewed as ‘empty’ containers to fill, that won’t be able to properly think for themselves in a critical situation; in a job, relationships, schooling… anything that effects where you end up in life. He feels that the banking method turns students into machines that are incapable of thinking consciously – unable to think in the here and now.
Along with his fear of loss of consciousness, Freire also worries that the agency of the today’s youth has been compromised. He feels that it, meaning the banking method, takes away your agency to act for yourself. Problem-posing gives students and teachers the option to mold and create a system that works for them. He goes on to say on page 261, “… to restore [their] capacity to act. But can [they], and how? One way is to submit to and identify with a person or group having power. By this symbolic participation in another person’s life, [men have] the illusion of acting, when in reality [they] submit to and become part of those who act”. By this, I believe he is trying to explain that by giving teachers the ability to pose questions, and act in a way to stimulate the thoughts of students, the students will be handed this illusion that they share the power and/or authority to act as they please. Essentially, it gives students the will to keep interested in their classes and ultimiately to have the desire to further their education. Freire feels that within banking, the authority, agency, and power all rests on the teacher; that they are not equal with the student. However in problem-posing, he feels that they are equal and that they do share a particular role in the way the classroom works and functions. He feels that “education consists in acts of cognition” (263) – which means education requires conscious acts of participation and decision making. I agree, but only to a certain extent. Not everything a student learns in a classroom requires 100 percent full attention, participation, and active involvement. It’s impossible for a student to sit for six or so hours in a day without getting distracted. At times, I feel that Freire is being too aggressive when stating his opinion. Yes, agency is important, and conscious agency is even greater, he could easily tone it down and still get his point across.