To progress as a society, we need to rethink the way we educate our students. This begins at the most basic level: the teacher-student relationship.
The “banking” model of education is a pervasive issue throughout academia that has defined this relationship for far too long. In this approach, students are conceptualized as receptacles into which knowledge is deposited in the classroom, effectively minimizing their role in the learning process. Freire describes this concept as ‘narrative,’ where the narrating subject (the teacher) simply dictates the course content to students in order to ‘fill’ them with knowledge. The banking model assumes reality is static and unchanging. Students are largely led to memorize the course content, a practice which rarely results in successfully transferring knowledge outside of the classroom. In actuality, knowledge and the world around us is dynamic and situated in a cultural context. For education to be effective, it must be reconsidered.
Critical pedagogy provides a more effective approach for the modern classroom. Instead of playing a passive role, students are encouraged to think about and challenge the dominant narratives in society. At its core, critical pedagogy recognizes that social justice cannot be separated from education – as Freire suggests, knowledge is situated in a larger context that is subject to cultural, social, and political influences. Neglecting to recognize this is not only incorrect, but also fails to teach students to think critically about the oppressive structures present in society.
As teachers, we must stray away from the banking model and adopt a more interactive, critical approach in our classrooms. We must learn with our students, educating ourselves on the context and culture of the material we teach. We must recognize that not doing so fails to give our students the power to think independently, and fails to prepare the next generation of citizens to think critically about the problems we face.