Critical Pedagogy: Ownership of Ourselves

In this blog, the focus will be on the topic of critical pedagogy. I was astonished while reading Paulo Freire’s philosophy on critical pedagogy in an oppressed climate in his book (1968) pedagogy of the oppressed on how it relates to our nowadays way of teaching in our public schools in Jordan. Since it is my first time encountering this philosophy, it was a relief to find answers to my questions of What are the goals of teaching and learning? Is education culturally driven? Or is it influenced by other ideologies? It was all summarized in his explanation of the banking view of education and its form of oppression, in his book he explains it in the teacher-student relationship as depositing money in a bank. According to this view, learners are expected to “receive, memorize and repeat” what teachers deposit (Freire, 1968).

Critical pedagogy is a philosophical set of educational and social movements that advocates the issues of social justice and democracy and the right to express as part of the teaching and learning activities. Yes, in our days, we still have oppression in education in many forms that it might not look like oppression as it is now part of our lifestyle. When a teacher teaches and students are taught, when students are not allowed or provoked to be themselves and express their values, ideas, and believe, just because it is not part of the teaching act is a form of oppression, not to mention the act of discrimination due to any value is certainly oppression that must be vanished.

Reading about critical pedagogy reminded me of the movie Mona Lisa smile by Julia Robert that was screened in 2003, I love this film, as it is not only about the passionate teacher in the 1950s that wants to change and inspire her students but also about the power of having your own way of thinking against the norms and the tradition of your own culture. The story of the film focuses on the different teaching methodologies and views that are incompatible with the dominant culture that has been fought against and resisted by the administration and the students themselves because of any reason, fear or discomfort, however, eventually will have an influence on the people and students.

It has shown that being critical in education is not easy nor fast to imply, however, it is necessary for fruitful change in learning.

Ira Shor, a professor that wrote about successful examples of critical pedagogy, suggested that students undergo a struggle for ownership of themselves because oppression has been deep into our daily life from home to schools. He emphasized the role of the teacher to help and motivate the students to accept their own existence. However, the difficulty is when resistance appears as a form of religion, ideology, and fear of change. But what can we do to give students a voice in the classroom? Teachers should reinforce, challenge, and ask students to share their stories. Be aware of our biases and allow the learner to express freely. I quote from Freire:

“ Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so both are simultaneous” (Freire,1968 p.68).

which can be interpreted that teachers must become learners alongside their students. Teachers must become experts beyond their field of knowledge and immerse themselves in the culture, outcomes, and lived experiences of the students they aim to teach. We need to encourage our students to critically thinking and reflect on what you required to be rather than what you want to do.

Freire, P. (1968). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum