Education: Liberating or Oppressive?

Education can be both oppressive and freeing depending on the student, the teacher and their relationship. If a teacher does not allow a student to free his or her mind and express themselves in their educational environment then that environment can easily become oppressive. Paulo Freire does a good job of explaining in chapter 2 of his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed the manner in which many classrooms teach oppressive education, explaining that teachers often try “to ‘fill’ the contents of his narration — contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that endangered them and could give them significance. Words are emptied of their concreteness and become a hollow, alienated, and alienating verbosity” (pg.1, Freire). Students must be able to explain their thoughts and concepts in class and be allowed to choose what they are learning to be true or false rather than agreeing with everything mindlessly. The best way for knowledge to be created and supported is “through invention and re-invention, through restless, impatient continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other” (pg.1, Freire). Classrooms are strongest and most liberating when the professors and students have a mutual respect for one another and the professor is not afraid to learn something from the student on occasion. As Bell Hooks explains in Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, “any classroom that employs a holistic model of learning will also be a place where teachers grow, and are empowered by the process” (pg.21, Hooks). Teachers and students can learn from one another and gain knowledge simultaneously. The oppression of education occurs when students allow themselves to be passive and mindlessly agreeable and teachers believe that they have domineering power over the classroom and whatever they say is fact. In order to fight this oppression, students must enter class with “ the conviction that it [is] crucial for [them]… to be an active participant, not a passive consumer. Education as the practice of freedom [is] continually undermined by professors who [are] actively hostile to the notion of student participation” (pg.14, Hooks). In order to keep education liberating and not oppressive, students and teachers must work together to make sure that the knowledge that is being created within the classroom is helpful, healthy, true, and supportive.


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