I have grown up surrounded by the notion that education, especially higher education, is necessary to have a more fulfilling and meaningful life; in order to be liberated. While it is true that education can, if done properly, liberate, it is very interesting to look at the ways that education can actually oppress. Learning information just to pass a test is not enough to liberate, there must be an emotional connection to the information and a purpose behind the learning. Bell Hooks explains that learning can only become liberating when both the students and professor are vulnerable and emotionally connected to the information. Hooks explains that we need a “holistic approach to learning “so that “education could be the practice of freedom”(bell, 14). This can only happen in small personal settings with individualized attention, which is one aspect of education that liberal arts schools provide that universities do not. Hooks explains that learning for more than just a grade is very important. In our society, however, I feel that this scenario does not occur often. Most students pick their majors based off of what they think will get them a good job. We stress about our GPA’s and want to do well in our assignments but in the mean time are losing the value that higher education is meant to provide us with, we are missing out on the liberation.
Hooks explains that learning is supposed to be an “engaged pedagogy” but as Freire explains this is often not the situation. Freire explains that “any situation in which ‘A’ objectively exploits ‘B’ or hinders his and her pursuit of self-affirmation as a responsible person is one of oppression”(55). This situation still happens often today. As Freire explains the oppressed need to be involved in the new pedagogy as it is only the oppressed that can liberate both the oppressed and the oppressors. However, a problem with this is that “liberating education requires political power and the oppressed have none” (54). How then are the oppressed able to create a new liberating pedagogy when they cannot have “liberating education”? This situation happens today due to the ever-increasing price of attending college, especially a small college that will allow for the sort of liberating teaching that Bell encourages. If the oppressed cannot afford to attend college then how are they to become liberated? In this sense, small and expensive colleges close their doors to the oppressed making the distinction between the oppressors and the oppressed more distinct and leaving both groups dehumanized.