Education and Liberation
Some people think education is an act of depositing facts, in which the students are the receptacle and the teacher is the banker. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues lectures and makes deposits which the students receive and memorize. This “banking” concept of education, allows the students only to receive, file, and store facts told to them. In the final analysis, it is the people themselves who are filed away through the lack of creativity, transformation, and true knowledge in this misguided pedagogy. The reality of man is his thoughts. Devoid of inquiry, apart from the exercise of generating knowledge, individuals cannot be truly human. True knowledge emerges only through invention: a restless, impatient, hopeful inquiry which human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other. In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who are “knowledgeable” upon those who “know nothing”. Projecting ignorance onto students actually negates true education because this arises through agency and inquiry.
Education must begin with the resolution of the teacher-student dichotomy, so that both are recognized as simultaneously teachers and students. They are simultaneously co-creators of knowledge and collaborators walking a path of discovery. The banking concept of education regards humans as manipulable, submissive objects. Students fail to develop the critical consciousness of intervention as transformers of the world. Passively, they adapt to the world handed to them, and to the fragmented view of reality it describes. Fragmentation of the mind and not coherence is engendered by the banking conception of education.
To annul the creative power of the students and to inculcate their submissiveness serves the interests of those in power, who do not wish to see the world transformed. The state of the world as it is, is profitable unto them. Charity and “humanitarianism” are held up to pacify the people and preserve a profitable situation. Education must foster critical faculties unsatisfied with a partial perspective of reality – minds that always seek out the connections which link one fact to another and one reality to all the rest. Fragmentation weakens the mind of the slave class upon whose backs the profits of the privileged depend. The interests of the privileged lie in changing the consciousness of the underprivileged – not the situation which oppresses them. To achieve this end, the privileged use the banking concept of education.
The underprivileged are considered marginal outsiders, and deviants from the norm of prosperity and justice inculcated by the social order. As the excrement, or pathology, of a healthy society such outliers receive the stigma of “incompetent and lazy” folk. This stigma is used to justify a situation in which the disenfranchised are maintained quiescently in the social order doing the jobs and occupying the social rank that no one else would willingly accept. The banking concept of education avoids the threat of mass increases in spiritual consciousness, prevents unity of thought, and obviates activism toward wide-scale social reform.
The banking concept of education never proposes to students that they critically consider reality. It will deal instead with memorization as the vital question, and insist upon the importance of submissiveness and compliance as the measure of grading and evaluation. The “constructiveness” and “benefit” of (banking) education masks the effort to turn women and men into automatons. Many of those who use the banking approach, do so unknowingly, for there are innumerable well-intentioned teachers who do not realize that they are serving only to dehumanize their students.
The true educator must from the outset make efforts which coincide with those of the students to engage in critical thinking and the quest for mutual good. His or her efforts must be imbued with a profound trust in the majority of students and their creative intellectual powers. To achieve this, “teachers” must be partners of the students in their classrooms.
Grammar memorization, reading assignments, standardized testing, the hierarchy between teacher and student, and the criteria for teacher promotion: everything in this cookie-cutter approach serves to obviate thinking and boycott actualization of intellectual potential. The bank-clerk educator does not realize that there is no epistemic authority in his paid position as teacher: knowledge is not already known; it needs to be created. Teacher-student solidarity requires honest, respectful communication. Only through dialogical engagement can pedagogical, institutional, or community life find meaning. The teacher’s thinking is validated only by the authenticity of the students thinking. The teacher cannot think for his students, nor can he impose his thoughts on them. Thought has meaning only when generated by action upon the world.
Banking education begins with a false understanding of men and women as objects. Instead of “biophilia,” it promotes “necrophilia.” Life is characterized by growth in an organic, functional manner. Necrophilia loves all that does not grow, is mechanical, and stale. Memory rather than experience; subservience other than agency; owning rather than manifesting, is what counts. The necrophiliac loves control, and in the act of controlling kills life. The banking concept of education, which serves the interests of oppression, is necrophilia. Based on a mechanistic, static, naturalistic view of consciousness, it transforms students into receiving objects. It attempts to control thinking and action, leads women and men to submit to the world, and inhibits their creative power. When their efforts to act creatively are frustrated, people find themselves unable to use their faculties. This impotence leads to suffering.
We must abandon the banking method of education and replace it with the posing of problems relevant to human beings in their relations with the world. “Problem-posing” education, responds to the essence of consciousness: intentionality. “Problem-posing” education avoids lecturing and embodies honest communication. It epitomizes the method of consultative reflection. It is a pedagogy in which known facts are intermediates between people in their mutual quest for new knowledge. Known facts are not — indeed cannot be — the end in itself. Dialogical relations empower people’s capacity for cooperation in perceiving insights into knowledge and generating its further extensions.
The teacher becomes the convener of the class and the provider of prodding questions. With the students, he becomes jointly responsible for a process in which all generate knowledge. His authority must be on the side of freedom of thought, not against it. No bank-clerk teacher teaches, and no bank-account-student is self-taught. People research together, mediated by the world, using cognizable objects available to all in wikipedia, in textbooks, and on the internet. The teacher does not regard known facts as his private property, but as the object of reflection for himself and the students in their quest for mutual human betterment. In this way, the problem-posing educator constantly re-forms his reflections in light of the reflections of his students. The students—no longer docile listeners—are now critical co-investigators in dialogue with the teacher to find a solution to new human problems. The teacher presents the material to the students for their consideration, and re-considers her earlier considerations as the students express their own. The role of the problem-posing educator is to create, together with the students, the conditions under which knowledge is most effectively, and energetically generated. Problem-posing education involves a constant unveiling of reality. Students, as they are increasingly posed with problems relating to themselves and their world, feel increasingly challenged and motivated to respond to the inquiry. The challenge is interrelated to other problems within a holistic context, not as an isolated theoretical question. The resultant comprehension tends to increase total consciousness. The students conclusions to the challenge evokes new quandaries, followed by new investigations; and gradually the students become committed to a life of insatiable learning.
The “problem-solving” model of education is a practice of freedom—as opposed to the banking model of education which is a practice of domination. Through fragmentation, robbed of their minds, there is nothing to unite people in resistance to the exploitation of the powerful. The new liberatory pedagogy denies that man is abstract, isolated, independent, and unattached to the world. The world does not exist as a reality apart from man either, however. Consciousness neither precedes the world nor passively follows from it. They dance together the path of life.