To be filled or to be fulfilled

Accept the passive role! Fill your bucket from the knowledge that I give you! Only my knowledge can fill your bucket!

While reading for this week I kept having flashbacks to classrooms in which I learned to be the passive student and accept the knowledge that the all-knowing professor gave to me, then spit it back to them on an exam.  I (probably like others in the class) got pretty good at this.  Some of my professors were worse than others at practicing the bank method of education.  These were as bad as Freire describes with full lecture halls, the prof talking for 50 min non-stop, students frantically taking notes to go home and memorize.  Freire calls for a complete tearing down of the banking system and says that most profs would fight this because they would like to preserve a system which is profitable for the powerful (them).  In my flashbacks, I can definitely see some of my banking profs having this attitude.  The know-it-alls who obviously enjoy feeling like they know everything and that students should sit down, shut up, and listen to their brilliance in the subject they are teaching.

However…  I’m not sure I completely buy into the complete destruction of our banking education for the complete replacement of problem-proposing education (PPE).  I really like the spirit of Freire’s PPE in which you force more student interaction with the world around them, teaching students how to think instead of what to think.  But I also see the importance in the transfer of key concepts in what could be considered as a deposit of knowledge (the ugly banking education way).  I think some things just need to be taught and accepted by the student so that the class as a whole can move onto more exploratory, challenging, and interesting problems.  Therefore I think a mix of these strategies is appropriate and indeed is what I have enjoyed the most about my favorite profs and classes in the past.  I like classes where you are given the tools (the prof makes a knowledge deposit) and then you get to play with those tools to solve interesting problems (more PPE style).

Or… am I not understanding Freire correctly?? For examples, I’m reading this as, classic lecturing is narrative and therefore bad and needs to be removed from the classroom.  Is there such a thing as cognitive lecturing that is okay and can stay in the classroom?  Would Freire be okay with my plan of some traditional lecturing mixed with problem based learning?  Or would he say I’m snatching away my students’ purpose and replacing it with my own purpose (insert evil laughter here)?

Just an aside… I felt like Freire was a little dramatic in his attack on banking education.  You can definitely tell the man had some passion, but maybe a little over the top with the comparison to slavery…

Category(s): GEDI

5 Responses to To be filled or to be fulfilled

  1. Really good points. I agree that it might not be realistic to ditch the banking system altogether. Some things really do have to be memorized to be useful – anatomy, or other medical topics, for example. I don’t want my doctor to just be able to remember what a certain muscle/bone/etc. is called by referring to a book. In other topics, the memorization just has to precede the problem proposing education. How can you apply biology or physics concepts if you don’t thoroughly know the basics? There needs to be a balance of both in the classroom.

  2. I agree with you. And I think somewhere in the readings he did say something along the lines that traditional “banking” education system is okay sometimes, just not all the time. As Ken Robinson said in the TED talk we watched in class, we need some standardization (uses medical tests as an example), but we also need to have some customization, and allow students to pursue their passions and dreams.

    Thanks for sharing,

  3. I agree about not being certain about “completely [buying] into the complete destruction of our banking education for the complete replacement of problem-proposing education.” There are certain area of education that I’m not certain we can have open discussions on. For example, anatomy is a subject with a right answer. I’m not sure there is a better way to teach a subject that requires a fair amount of memorization. I think we need to understand the importance of balance in learning. We do need banking education for some areas. Ultimately, I don’t think Freire was considering some of the necessary areas that banking education can touch on, but we do need openness and understanding in education along. I don’t know if you can have critical thinking without learning the basics. We just need to learn how to balance passion and engaging students with foundational learning that sometimes can only come from banking education practices.

  4. I think it’s useful to think about the right medium / tool for the job. Traditional lecturing is strongly implicated in the “banking” model of education, but I don’t think that means we need to jettison one to replace the other (and I do think that disrupting the banking model wherever possible is a good idea.) We’ve read about “what lectures are good for,” and there was an op-ed over the weekend that brought out some advantages to lecturing ( But back to the right tool for the job: The way we produce and access knowledge has changed profoundly in the last 20 years. Yes, there is still (will always be) a certain amount of rote internalization of information and knowledge about what stuff is and how it works, but increasingly our human “advantage” depends less on how much we “know” than on how well we can access what we need to know to solve a problem or make something new. This is very Freirean. (He was ahead of his time for sure.) I do think lecturing makes good sense in some contexts — but using it to pass on information, or make deposits in the students’ knowledge base should move to the dustbin of history.

  5. Jacob, while I agree with you that students need to learn some key concepts in any discipline, I disagree that “information transfer” is the only way to teach those concepts. Students can still learn the important concepts by interacting with the concepts and trying to critically analyze them. As Freire notes, students should be introduced to the “methodological exactitude” with which they can approach the “key concepts” in any discipline instead of just accepting them as taken for granted truths. I agree with Amy (in teh previous comment) that it is necessary for the educators to think about an appropriate way to teach important concepts instead of just following the “banking system” of transferring information to them in a lecture.

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