Something that has been on my mind a bit lately was an encounter I had with a friend of mine several years ago. When I had first moved to Hawaii to do my master’s degree, we had a friend of a friend who already lived there and so he showed us around town and taught us all about what it was like to live in Hawaii. It may not have been a classroom environment, but he was a teacher to me and my wife because so much of living in a different culture was new to us. At one point the conversation became political, and he talked about a senator (I don’t even remember who it was at this point) who was doing a good job. And I remember taking that at face value that there was a senator in Hawaii who was doing good things for the state. What happened to my critical thinking skills at that time? Had I just seen an authority figure telling me information and regressed back to the banking model of education? Politics of all subjects is one we can think critically about!
Reading this week about critical pedagogy has had me thinking about the way in which knowledge is constructed and not just information for teachers to graciously bestow upon students. The “teacher” in this scenario was someone who was giving his political view (not fact) about a politician’s performance. Especially nowadays, I’m finding that who you talk to can result in very different views of how a politician is improving or deteriorating the current state of affairs. The world around us is constantly changing! (hence the “current” state of affairs) So who is to say that knowledge can be static?! This is why learning being a collaborative effort (where knowledge is constructed) instead of a one way message (banking model) is so important. How many times through your college career have you heard that education helps you use your critical thinking skills? I remember hearing that message so many times that I’m surprised how I’ve ever again had a moment in which I didn’t think critically.
I think this week’s topic builds so well from last week’s focus on inclusive pedagogy. Instead of education taking place only one direction, from teacher to student, learning can go both ways and even sideways. Just as my friend (a teacher to me in that scenario) had information to pass along to me, his views came from the context of his culture. He and I differed in socioeconomic status, age, race, where we grew up, etc. This created a situation in which learning could go both ways because of the diversity between us. Now imagine how much diversity exists in a class of over 40 students from multiple countries! And this diversity happens in every educational environment, yet it is left stagnant in the traditional banking model of education.
This is part of what I love about being in the counseling field is that learning never ends. As a counselor educator, my students can learn from my experiences, but I can also learn from what they have to offer. By modeling that experience, they can remain open minded to learn from the diverse clients that they will see in their time counseling. Being culturally aware can involve being open to the varying experiences of others. This parallels how critical pedagogy involves multiple directions of learning as opposed to the one way direction of the banking model of education. Hopefully we as educators can remain open to learning from our students just as much as we teach them. And students can be open to multiple perspectives, unlike the experience I shared above. But hopefully by me reflecting on this, it allows me to better embrace diversity and a critical pedagogy in the future.