Banking Education

My reactions to the Freire article accessed here, that was shared on Learnfest Beta by Nick Thody.

First, let me be clear that I agree with a lot of what I have read by Freire. I certainly accept that the model of education that we tend to adopt is based on an unhealthy dichotomy between the roles of the teacher and the taught. I further agree that the structures of schooling reinforce that dichotomy, and that this process is unhealthy for the individuals involved and the cause of most of the problems that we find in schools. 

My concerns about this article are that he appears to create a different dichotomy, and then paints one side of that so bleakly that the chance is missed for those between his poles to question their own practice. Banking Education has become a straw man that allows us all to say that we are not so bad, therefore we must be on the good side. I also note that the way in which Frieie writes the article is didactic, assuming the void of understanding in his readers needs to be filled by his greater knowledge. He adopts exactly the banking style he decries. For me this prevents self criticism from the reader, and serves only to force us to choose whether we are good or bad. Let me explain why.

Large Glass.

The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors

Marcel Duchamps

My concerns about this article are that he appears to create a different dichotomy, and then paints one side of that so bleakly that the chance is missed for those between his poles to question their own practice. Banking Education has become a straw man that allows us all to say that we are not so bad, therefore we must be on the good side. I also note that the way in which Freire writes the article is didactic, assuming the void of understanding in his readers needs to be filled by his greater knowledge. He adopts exactly the banking style he decries. For me this prevents self criticism from the reader, and serves only to force us to choose whether we are good or bad. Let me explain why.

On page 2, he paints the picture of Banking Education with properties a to j. I know of no teacher in the school where I work who would be prepared to see that as a description of their practice. It is Dickensian in the extreme. There may be teachers who operate like that, but I have met very few of them as I have travelled around the world. Now, that may be because I have worked in excellent schools with libertarian attitudes who would all adhere more to problem solving education than banking education. But it does not mean that these schools, nor these teachers, have no aspects of banking tendencies in them. Freire’s approach allows them, and us, and certainly me, to stand back from the horrors of the banking model he describes and smugly claim our seats on the libertarian side of the argument.

And yet, when I look at my own classes, and my relationships with students, the dichotomies are still there. However much I try to teach through problem solving, to share my ignorance with theirs, to engage them in discussion, to bring out the creative constructive nature of learning, I still operate in an unequal relationship. Where we sit, who stands up when, who speaks when, who defines the curriculum and the tasks, the language we use, the clothes they wear, who decides when the bells ring, what subjects they can be offered, what they must study when, how they use their technology, and on and on and on. These all stem from an unequal relationship. It is still a banking model even if it has very few of the aibutes described by Freire.

In terms of methodology, I would see some questions and challenges to teachers and school leaders to identify the aspects of inequality in their relationships and structures. Then, of course, we get to the nub of the problem. Many, if not most, teachers and  certainly most parents believe that this inequality is both inevitable and right. The answer is not a Freireian dichotomy. It is not either complete equality or oppression. We need to challenge the holy cows of inequality and ask whether they are a necessary function of the existence of a school and the desire for education, or whether they are a fiction or a prop to establish the false importance of a teacher to give them control.

I would suggest that the school, rather than the students, deciding what hours it should be open is probably a necessary inequality, however much we might consult them. However, my students calling me “Sir” all the time, despite how often I ask them not to, is an unnecessary prop which serves purely to flatter my ego.

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