Mohsen’s Post Discussion Comments about Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“EDUCATING THE NEXT GENERATION”

While Education is conceived narrowly as schooling, improvements to schools do not necessarily correspond to an improvement in the education of children. Whether or not children will learn does not depend primarily on what happens in school, but on the experiences, habits, values, and ideas they acquire from the environment in which they live.

Another limitation of the schools is that they concern themselves almost exclusively with the development of cognitive skills, or the passing along of factual knowledge and-at best -critical thinking abilities. Knowledge of facts and how to interpret them will not result in an educated population unless some wisdom or the goals and priorities that justify the use of knowledge-is also acquired. Thus, instead of concentrating exclusively on schools as the sites for change, we must take into account the broader processes involved in formative education.

The social environment is perhaps even more crucial for a young person’s future development, the facts are particularly significant when considered in conjunction with the rapid technological changes in life-style of the past few centuries, and specially of the last few decades. Human groups could observe which practices had positive consequences for the formation of the young and which had negative ones. this slowly accumulating knowledge could then be applied to education in a way that was relatively effective given the stage of development of the society. But since the beginnings of the industrial revolution, the life experience of the young people has been transformed again and again, and we have not had a chance to evaluate and understand the impact of these changes on the formation of individuals.

We help the young people lead lives that are full of energy, joy, and meaning, when their life-styles encourage passively, boredom, and alienation and reducing the effects of “age segregation” of young people, children and adolescents who spend their time primarily without their adult peers, to develop a more binding sense of responsibility and character.

Despite such very real difficulties, we do have bits and pieces of knowledge about the forces that shape children’s lives, but we lack a total picture, a workable blueprint that could serve for a societal intervention that is more than a local, partial solution. it is essential to lay down the foundation of a comprehensive study of the various forces that shape the hearts and minds of our children.

And what we need now is an approach that is interdisciplinary, combining all the perspectives bearing on the study of children’s lives on their actual context, from anthropology and economics to psychology and sociology, and that is closely tied to the community and business initiatives for change, so that the findings can inform action. without such understanding, the formation of future generations will be left to chance.

What is imperative is that our understanding of the forces involved in the formation of the next generation be comprehensive and systemic, so that we do not miss the potentially important interaction between different conditions, prudence dictates that we should focus on the most promising questions first.
Mapping the field of forces, choosing targets for research and intervention, could select for further study one or more factors that may be amenable to change environment on the life experiences of young people. The next logical step to find practical ways and to use the information. Useful psychological research to be implemented to connect between the generation of information and its application. Efforts should be devoted to the application of the findings as was devoted to the collection of the information. intervention in the formative of education.

Guiding principal for a successful education is helping young people to be happy now as well as in the future. This is not a revolutionary idea; Aristotle had noted 25 centuries ago that health, knowledge, power are good only insofar as they make us happy, but we want happiness for its own sake. The founders of the great American experiment in democracy considered the pursuit of happiness to be one of the most basic of human rights, which it was the government’s responsibility to protect. It is the legacy of the Enlightenment that we are now in danger of losing forever.

The most enjoyable experiences do, in fact, tend to come from the “right things”. that is, from activities that require skill, concentration, involvement, the arts, sports, music, a well designed science experiment, the solution of an intriguing math problem, a good conversation, a job well done. These are activities that lead to formative education, to personal growth, and to a lasting sense of happiness. In contrast, purposeless activity and passive entertainment are experienced as relaxing but rarely produce happiness.
We certainly cannot change this situation by simply telling the young that purpose and discipline will make them happy. The only convincing argument is the one made by example. it is for this reason that the isolation of young people from adults has such tragic consequences. If parents spent more time with their children, introducing them to the things they love-whether music or fishing, computers or volunteer work-the problems would surely diminish. But not every parent can do this. in such cases, the community must pick up the slack. Not because this is its moral duty, but because if the community cannot convince the great majority of its members that life can be enjoyable and meaningful, it will be destroyed by a generation of desperate people.

The problem is that in our current environment opportunities for passive and purposeless behavior seem to far outnumber opportunities for experiencing active, growth-producing happiness. The life-styles of even our most fortunate children, while providing comfort, physical health, and material objects, rarely offer possibilities for excellence. And because schools conceive their task to be to pass on information rather than to foster the love of learning, children tend to forgo the serious pursuit of formal education.

The central purpose of educational policy should be to understand better the dynamics of happiness and to find ways to increase its occurrence in the lives of the next generation. More than any other goal, to lead a future worth hoping for.

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5 Responses to Mohsen’s Post Discussion Comments about Pedagogy of the Oppressed

  1. Burk Ketcham says:

    This is an interesting book, which is essentially a manual of revolution for helping the oppressed to overcome the oppressors. It has to be read in the context of someone from Latin America who had a close living association with the masses of oppressed peasants and urban poor. These conditions date back to the original colonization of Latin America by the Spanish and Portuguese and by capitalist domination of some countries as in the case of the banana republics.

    It is a difficult read because the author uses few examples to advance his case and most of it is just philosophical words, many of which, such as praxis, are not commonly used in North America. Many of his sentences are very convoluted and of the type spouted by intellectuals in a jargon only they can understand. This author does not know how to write in plain Spanish or English in a manner understandable to the oppressed masses he claims to support.

    Having just spent some time in Cuba where a Communist dictatorship was the result of a revolution to overthrow the oppressors, I found a lot of contradictions in the theories advanced by Freire. Although there are good aspects of the Cuban revolution and freedom from domination by the US may be one of them, one can observe that the masses are still under the yoke of new top down oppressors (the Castros) who do not allow and would not permit a pedagogy of the oppressed. In a meeting with Cienfuegos University professors and English speaking college students I asked how much criticism of the government is allowed in the arts, literature, drama, etc. After waiting for one of them to find the nerve to answer the question about all we got back can be summed up in two words – “A little.” In effect the government is doing the thinking and discourages thinking by the masses and even the intellectuals.

    These words from pages 94 and 95 seem to apply to Cuba: “Unfortunately, however in their desire to obtain the support of the people for revolutionary action, revolutionary leaders often fall for the banking line of planning content from the top down. They approach the peasant or urban masses with projects that may correspond to their own view of the world, but not to that of the people. They forget their fundamental objective is to fight alongside the people for the recovery of the people’s stolen humanity, not to “win the people over” to their side. Such a phrase does not belong in the vocabulary of revolutionary leaders, but in that of the oppressor.”

    From page 126: “The leaders cannot treat the oppressed as mere activists to be denied the opportunity of reflection and allowed merely the illusion of acting, wheres they would continue to be manipulated – and in this case by the presumed foes of manipulation.” In Cuba there is no private advertising but there are ubiquitous government signs extolling the benefits of the revolution, humanitarian principles, exhorting the people to stay united, produce more, encouraging strong family life, etc. I call that a form of manipulation. The government is doing the thinking.

    Although the following words from page 141 apply to the oppressors they could also be applied to the revolutionary leaders in many Latin American countries after they have won the revolution: “Accordingly, the oppressors halt by any method (including violence) any action which even in incipient fashion could awaken the oppressed in the need for unity. Concepts such as unity, organization and struggle are immediately labeled dangerous.”

    No wonder those Cuban professors and students were reluctant to answer my question about any action on their part to awaken the oppressed.

    There should be a Pedagogy for Revolutionary Leaders after the Revolution.

    Burk Ketcham, March 2012

  2. Ron Boothe says:

    Paulo Freire’s excitement and enthusiasm, writing in the late 1960’s about what he thought the future held, is palpable. The revolution is coming! The oppressed are going to finally rise up and throw off the shackles of their oppressors! And this revolution, based on Marxist principles, is expected to be informed, shaped, and midwifed into existence by the methods outlined in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. One of the main tenets of Freire’s pedagogy was that a teacher and his or her students should be on an equal footing. The role of the teacher, he argued, should not be merely to impart special knowledge to the students. Rather, the teacher and students should participate equally and learn from each other.

    That goal sounds lofty in principle. However, looking back some 40 years later, the main emotion engendered in me while reading Freire’s book is a profound sense of sadness, the kind that comes from witnessing the lack of fulfillment of someone’s hopes and dreams. Although the problems faced by the oppressed are as abysmal today as they were in the 1960’s when Freire was writing, the solutions championed by Freire now seem dated and naive. And they simply did not work.

    So why didn’t Freire’s ideas about pedagogy work in practice? One major factor is that the knowledge base that is required to maintain a modern, high technology society is based on a multitude of facts and complex theoretical perspectives that have been built up incrementally over many generations. A primary function of education in such a society is facilitating transmission of this accumulated knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next. That way every generation does not have to try to accomplish the impossible endeavor of reinventing the entire accumulated knowledge base from scratch.

    And this transmission of accumulated knowledge from one generation to the next cannot happen in an educational system in which all opinions and beliefs are treated as equally valid. An educational system in which the opinions and beliefs of everyone are given equal weight will lead only to entropy, not progress. Would you be comfortable driving across a bridge over a deep river gorge if you were informed that its design and construction was based on a group decision by students in which the prevailing view was that every idea about how to build a bridge was just as valid as the ideas of formally trained engineers? I would not! And the same goes for other disciplines where a complex body of knowledge has accumulated, including the biological and social sciences. Would you want to be treated for a debilitating genetic neurological disorder by a drug whose formulation was based on a group decision by students in which the prevailing view was that every idea and belief about biological theories was just as valid as those of formally trained biologists? I would not! (And yet I have students in the college classes I teach every semester who argue that they should not have to learn about biological theories of evolution because those theories have no more validity than their own personal theories, a modern instantiation of Freire’s ideas!).

    There is recent evidence within the field of my own expertise, behavioral neuroscience, that one of the defining attributes that separates humans from other animals is the ability to pass on accumulated knowledge from one generation to the next. (See for example the recent published scientific paper: Dean, LG et. al., Identification of the social and cognitive processes underlying human cumulative culture. Science 2 March 2012). Thus, Freire’s ideas, although formulated with the best of intentions, may not conform with basic biological human nature. Perhaps this is why his pedagogy, along with many other aspects of Marxist ideology, ultimately failed.

    Ron Boothe
    May 20, 2012

  3. Mohsen Mirghanbari says:

    In reply to the last posted comments on “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”
    Does, whats good for the goose is good for the gander theory really work? NOT ALWAYS. While there are no easy solutions resolving the need to better educate the future youth, there is one thing clear-that there is a great separation of the masses, understanding what those needs are and how to implement it.
    The 2011 documentary film “In Search of Superman portraying the youth movement across America, demanding a better education system, I attended the film and its discussion, accompanied by a guest speaker and an auditorium packed audience, anxiously awaiting for a miracle-resolving the education issues.
    With the speaker’s focus on winning votes for her upcoming State Senate Campaign and raising funds for her education reform proposals, and the adult audiance suggesting more money, smaller classroom size (23 vs. 24), fighting for teacher unification, but not a beep about books and education or teaching concept and most of all-what do today’s kids want, not what we thing is good for them.
    In the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s the world admired America’s education system, mainly because students experienced lab work (hands on learning) and student involvement, perhaps today’s confusion among parent and educators should be attributed to the 80’s social changes, the electronic era. Paulo Frier’s assessment of early child development should not be dismissed as a Marxist ideology, rejecting the concept of Student/Teacher learning method, that the little “White Tigers” are incapable of teaching themselves. Research would show otherwise, that the same “Bastard Tongues” help create languages, test scientific technological programs, animated and electronic gadgets, etc.
    One cannot co-exist without the other, that there are no super heroes, and that more money does not equate to better education, or perhaps our focus should be on getting the adults re-educated and up to date and not the student, and as long as we maintain our know it all behavior the social misunderstandings will continue to hunt us negatively.
    Mohsen.

    • Mohsen Mirghanbari says:

      Leonard Pitts Jr. a syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald published an article referenced to his perspective on education and his reasoning of the public eduction system’s failures, I have excluded his personal political views and remarks from the article, because my intent is to focus on education and how it should be taught and not any political motives, etc.
      “A WAR ON CRITICAL THINKING”
      Replying to some recent headlines from the alternate universe of modern conservatism: The 2012 platform of Republican Party of Texas astonishingly proposed to “oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values certification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority”.
      The Texas GOP has set itself explicitly against teaching children to be critical thinkers, his criticism includes educators who lament the inability of (American) children to think, to weigh conflicting paradigms, analyze competing arguments, to reason, ruminate, question and reach a thoughtful conclusion, specially in an ever more complex and technology-driven world.
      For what it’s worth, the Texas GOP spokesman Chris Elam says that that language was not supposed to be in the platform, “that it was an oversight on the subcommittee’s part”, a remarkable explanation, that such an asinine position was even under consideration is hardly comforting, that something so neon escaped notice of both the subcommittee and the full platform suggests that the Texas GOP could use a little critical-thinking instruction itself.
      You may read the article in its entirety at Miami Herald website, or Seattle Sunday Times editorial (Sunday August 22, 2012) Leonard Pitts Jr., his email address is “lpitts@miamiherald.com”
      Which bring to mind that we shared a few thoughts on education discussing Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, I thought it may be worth posting the above so the education oven stays hot until summer’s end.
      Mohsen

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