Monday, April 07, 2014

Paulo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Cover I have finally read, and am still digesting, Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, so please don't expect a full appraisal here.

I wonder what I would have made of this if I had read it when I was 18? 40 years on, I didn't find it a particularly comfortable read. For me, the Marxist jargon (What is praxis?) in which Friere's work is framed is less of a problem than the adversarial stance of Marxism. In his opening remarks, Friere presents "this struggle" as inevitable. I could go with a collaborative approach, which is revolutionary enough in its own way, rather than a full blown revolution. I don't read many books where Mao, Guevara and Lenin feature so prominently in the bibliography.
"Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement."
My problem is with Marxism. Not with Marx, but with Marxism. Like all false narratives which present the world in terms of binary division, it is simplistic and flawed. Overall, I am much less attracted to Frier as the solution than I am to Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society. Like Illich's work, this is very much a child of the 60’s. How true does it remain in the face of neoliberal governments and education policies on both sides of the Atlantic? Nevertheless, The opening words of the foreword, about dehumanization, and moreover, the choices we must make between humanization and dehumanization, are plaintive in the face of learning analytics.
More and more, the oppressors are using science and technology as unquestionably powerful instruments for their purpose: the maintenance of the oppressive order through manipulation and repression... There is no such thing as a neutral educational process. Education either functions as an instrument that is used to facilitate the integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it. Richard Shaull, Foreword
I wonder how many "learning technologists" have read Friere?

Friere goes on to discuss the ahistorical nature of animals. You cannot be conscious without knowledge of how we got here. Chapter 2 introduces the "banking" concept of education and argues for problem-based learning and authenticity.
A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level, inside or outside the school, reveals its fundamentally narrative character. This relationship involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient, listening objects (the students). The contents, whether values or empirical dimensions of reality, tend in the process of being narrated to become lifeless and petrified. Education is suffering from narration sickness. The teacher talks about reality as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable. Or else he expounds on a topic completely alien to the existential experience of the students. His task is to "fill" the students with the contents of his narration— contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance.

In this context (in case you were wondering), where education equals dialog, open educational resources sits squarely within the definition of oppression. 

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