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.

9 thoughts on “Too Big to Fail”

  1. I really like to argument you make here, especially how you narrowed it down to saying that while our education system may be viewed as too big to fail, most of us also view it as too big to change. Education reform is an enormous issue, and throughout our class discussions and blog posts we’ve often come across the question of where to start. I don’t think change would cause all hell to break loose; it might be a little hectic at first, but sometimes things have to get a little worse before they can get better, and getting better is the ultimate goal.

  2. Hey Taylor – nice post. I really like your comparison of the banking pedagogy to the “too big to fail” banking industry. I tend to agree with you on that front. The traditional practice of shoveling knowledge into the minds of the meek is so widespread and generally accepted that it’s difficult for change to take place. I found a pretty cool podcast on this today if you’re interested.
    Smells Like Human Spirit – Dr. Henry Giroux on the Pedagogy of Oppression

  3. A third take that might be interesting is: too sick to recover?

    Is the method of education simply too old? That we have made so many small changes on the theme conceived in the age of enlightenment that we no longer know what we original and useful, from what we slowly added until we suffocated the “fun” out of learning?

    I gave this to another blog but this one might be interesting for you all too:
    by Kenneth Robinson.

  4. I agree. I’ve often asked myself the “never ask question”, how can I alone make a change? Then this question is followed immediately by absolute doubt in myself and anyone else attempting the same problem. But, perhaps there’s also credit in that question I shouldn’t ask, because unless someone is power or significance, or has the support of significant people, is it possible to redefine the way an age-old institution operates? Like politics, the people that can probably make the most significant changes are those that seem only to be self-absorbed (e.g., big bankers/oil businesses; i.e. people that would have more influential power than the president), or indifferent about the issue. ~ most of this is just my opinion based on personal experience as it pertains to these challenges.

  5. I think you hit the sweet spot in your second paragraph: too big to change. The higher education system has gotten a lot of momentum towards becoming a tool for people to find a niche in the job market. It has become a vocational school of sorts, and a very profitable one. A lot of that quest for the truth that originated from the first universities has been sheded off with massification (less quality to reach a broader market). Can we revert this process without downsizing?

  6. Great extension from the banking analogy to its ramifications on a sick pedagogical system that just refuses to adapt. I can imagine several professors who would not update their methods from their set ways, and there’s no talking to these people. This reminds me of a beyond-boundaries discussion we had in the Future Professoriate class, where our group proposed that the biggest hurdle we need to overcome for higher-ed is to dissolve the huge ego-s that seems so all-pervasive in academia. That in fact has to happen somewhere along the way if the big pedagogical ideas we discuss are to become a reality.

  7. Thank you for writing your blog on actual financial institutions as I was also thinking of “too big to fail” while reading this week. I also think that the currently constructed education banking system may be a hard one to overthrow. I think that constructs like standardized tests and even grades in general have made it the most efficient way to get the results that are measured (do students pass tests). This system, however, ignores individuality and the importance of critical thinking, and therefore should not receive a bail out.

  8. Too big for sure. A behemoth that needs to change. I was wondering earlier about who will get to make the changes and who from higher up will have their back. We are a long way from Pink Floyd’s view, but… many of those people are still in charge. Maybe not a banking model, but perhaps a business model, just like Higher ED!! But really, the change will have to be sold, not forced.

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