Sunday, August 24, 2008

Freire Quote Part II

'The role of the educator is not to 'fill' the educatee with 'knowledge,' technical or otherwise. It is rather an attempt to move towards a new way of thinking in both educator and educatee, through the dialogical relationships between both. The flow is in both directions. The best student in physics or mathematics, at school or university, is not one who memorizes formulae but one who is aware of the reasons for them. For students, the more simply and docilely they receive the contents with which their teachers 'fill' them in the name of knowledge, the less they are able to think and the more they become merely repetitive. The best philosophy student is not the one who discourses, 'ipsis verbis,' on the philosophy of Plato, Marx, or Kant but one who thinks critically about their ideas and takes the risk of thinking too. No philosophers, no scientists, develop their thought without being challenged and confronted by problems. While this does not mean that a person who is challenged automatically or necessarily becomes a philosopher or scientist, it does mean that challenge is basic to the constitution of knowledge. Thus, when a scientist in search of one thing discovers something else, something not anticipated (this happens continually) the discovery originates in the attempt to solve a problem.

'It is this I defend: if scientific knowledge and the formulation of disciplined thought cannot be separated from a problematic approach, then the apprehension of this scientific knowledge and of this disciplined philosophical thought cannot be separated from a problematic approach to the very learning which the educatee must absorb. I sometimes have the impression (without being dogmatic) that many of those who express doubts about this rationalize their lack of belief in people and in dialogue through defense mechanisms. Their aim, basically, is to continue to be 'banking' dissertators and invaders. This fear of dialogue needs, however, to be justified. The best way to do this is to rationalize it, by talking about its non-viability and about 'time-wasting.' This means that between the 'distributors' or erudite knowledge and their pupils, there can never be dialogue. For those who think in this way, anti-dialogue is essential in the name of 'cultural continuity.' This continuity exists. Precisely because it is continuity, it is a process and not a paralysis. Culture only is as long as it continues to be. It endures only because it changes. Perhaps it would be better to say: culture only 'lasts' when it is part of the contradictory interplay of permanence and change.

'Those who fear dialogue prefer lengthy and erudite discourses full of quotations. Instead of problem-posing dialogue, they prefer a so-called 'reading-control' (which is a form of controlling the students rather than the reading). This does not result in any kind of creative intellectual discipline, only in the subjugation of the educatee to the text, the reading of which has to be 'controlled.' Sometimes this is called evaluation. Alternatively it is asserted that young people should be 'made to study,' or 'forced to know.' Such educators have no wish to run the risk of adventuring into dialogue, the risk incurred by problem-posing. They retreat into their discursive and rhetorical classes, which have a lulling effect on students. Enjoying narcissistic pleasure of the sound of their own words, they lull the critical capacity of the educatee to sleep.

'Dialogue and problem-posing never lull anyone to sleep. Dialogue awakens an awareness. Within dialogue and problem-posing educator-educatee and educatee-educator go forward to develop a critical attitude. The result of this is the perception of the interplay of knowledge and all its adjuncts. This knowledge reflects the world; reflects human beings in and with the world explaining the world. Even more important it reflects having to justify their transformation of the world. Problem-posing supersedes the old 'magister dixit' behind which those who regard themselves as the 'proprietors,' 'administrators,' or 'bearers' of knowledge attempt to hide themselves. To reject problem-posing dialogue at any level is to maintain an unjustifiable pessimism towards human beings and to life. It is to lapse back into the practice of depositing false knowledge which anaesthetizes the critical spirit, contributes to the 'domesticating' of human beings, and makes cultural invasion possible.'

-Paulo Freire, from Education for Critical Consciousness, published in 1973 by Continuum

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