Too Big to Fail

While reading some of Paulo Friere’s ideas in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” (or translated ideas, rather) I could not help but make the connection to the saying we all heard and read about incessantly a few years ago regarding particular financial institutions in the United States, that they were “too big to fail.” The connection started because I was not exactly paying attention as I was reading and came across the term “banking concept of education” and immediately thought he was talking about Chase. I then focused in on the reading and realized while I was not entirely incorrect, it was more about the interactions taking place between tellers and customers and how education mirrors these uninspiring, detrimental transactions between teachers and students.

For some reason, though, I kept getting stuck on the actual bank part, which then got me thinking about that saying “too big to fail.” After reading Joe Kinchloe talk about critical pedagogy in school I think I was able to figure out why I could not get that saying out of my head. Coupling the ideas of the oppressed vs. those in power and how teachers need to challenge themselves to become critical complex educators it made me realize we live in a world where our education system is viewed as too big to fail. Or maybe not fail exactly, but too big to change. Teachers, and probably even students, look at how the education system works today and while they may agree it is not perfect, would most likely say that it is working well enough so why would there be a need to radically change it? Why start a revolution if the situation is not dire?

One may read Friere’s words and think, “But we are not oppressed here in the United States, so this is different.” That obviously depends on multiple factors (that I will not get into here), but I think it is worth pointing out to someone who may think that that our education system can be paralleled with our banking system in that regard. We are lead to believe everything must remain the way it is because if it were to change then all hell would break loose, when really it would just be challenging the powers that be.

Finding Our Humble Conscience (Not via Fox News)

I kind of have to admit that discussing inclusive pedagogy, diversity, microaggressions, privilege, power, intersectionality, and the many other terms associated with our society is exhausting to me. I do not mean to say these things are unworthy of our attention, because they are more than worthy, but when you live on planet Earth (and not planet State Farm with Jake) you can be consumed by issues dealing with all of these topics on such a consistent basis that it is the only thing you can focus on! It can take over our entire day if we choose to address the bigotry or we can choose to ignore it, which is often times the only way to get our necessary work done.

We live in a world full of stupid people. It is learned stupidity, but many embrace it as well and wear it like a badge. For example, while interneting I came across a recently published post on a “news” channel’s website that helped further support this point. I do not plan on linking the story because I think somehow that will count towards their clicks or ad revenue or whatever, but as you can probably guess based off of my title the person who wrote this thing was (and still probably is) a white dude. He is writing about the University of Tennessee’s announcement back in August regarding the use of gender-neutral pronouns in the classroom and with a closing line like “I wonder if they’ve got a gender neutral word for idiot?” you can tell that he does not understand the significance of something like a gender neutral pronoun nor does he care to understand. And it is more so the fact that he, and many other people in our society, does/do not care to even try and understand the other persons’ side is what makes this sort of thing so disappointing.

I would be lying if I said I did not think these gender neutral pronouns were weird, but when I took a second to think that I am a white, heterosexual male, then it occurred to me that most things in my proximate world are not very weird. Instead, they are very normal and that is not by chance. From here it would be easy for me to dismiss something unfamiliar to myself and go back to my comfortabubble, but that is where it is our duty to try and be inclusive, and to try hard to see the view from the other side because it is difficult for it to just come naturally to our brains. After doing that then it became very easy to see that even though these terms are not something familiar with me, I can see their purpose and how they may help.

What helped to drive home this point about having to try hard to command our brain to think consciously in certain situations was the article by Shankar Vedantam. He talks about how easy it is to let our brain just sink back into unconscious thought, which can be detrimental regarding our views on people, race, gender, etc. because we are not critically evaluating our own views on these topics in that scenario. He says, “I have become, in some ways, much more humble about my views and much less certain about myself,” which are great traits to strive for, in my opinion.

If more of us took the latter’s ideas of viewing society/ourselves (humble, open-minded, introspective) vs. the former’s ideas (arrogant, closed-minded, judgmental) then I think inclusivity in a setting like pedagogy would be much more manageable, but it is clear there is still a fight to be fought so we will continue pressing to help those realize it may not be so obvious, but you have to try to see it from a perspective that is not your own.