Education: Liberating or Oppressive?

Prior to reading the first two chapters of Paulo Freire’s book, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I was completely unaware of the underlying impact education had on its students. Day after day I would attend classes and would be strictly told to memorize this and do not forget that during lectures. I was indeed what Bell Hooks described as a “passive consumer.” By being a passive consumer in the classroom, I was being oppressed by an oppressor and what was even more alarming was I did not realize that it was actually occurring. Bell Hooks describes the current state of education by adding, “The idea of the intellectual questing for a union of mind, body, and spirit had been replaced with notions that being smart meant that one was inherently emotionally unstable and that the best in oneself emerged in one’s academic work” (16). Teaching has become an oppressive cycle where educators first oppress their students by teaching with dictator-like qualities. This causes students to be fearful and timid in the classroom and forces them to become memorizers rather than critical thinkers and analyzers. Freire writes regarding freedom in Chapter 1 of his book, “The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require them to eject the image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility. Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibility” (47). These oppressed and frightful students then become the educators and continue this teaching method in their classrooms, thus this oppressive cycle continues over and over again. So the real question is how do we break this cycle of oppression? What can we do to foster liberation in the classroom? I see liberation beginning to bloom in liberal arts colleges were discussions are encouraged and seminar classes are offered. In this CSP alone liberation is fostered by our weekly small class discussions and when we signed contracts determining for ourselves what we wanted to achieve and get out of the class, not just a list of facts and dates. Clearly, colleges like Oxy strive to liberate their students, but other educators do not employ the same method. I believe that students need to recognize their oppressors and decide for themselves to change this vicious cycle by becoming educators who strive to liberate their students and make them independent thinkers and not memorizing robots.

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