Communication is the Key to Education

Providing each student in the school system with a good education should be the goal of every educator, but this rarely happens due to poor instruction by teachers. Paulo Friere’s 1968 book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, argues that problem posing education is better than the unfortunately popular method of banking education. Banking education is when the teacher tells students material they are supposed to memorize, while problem-posing education requires more communication between the teacher and student. Freire believes that banking education results in the dehumanization of both the students and teacher while problem-posing education strives for individuals to be more “fully human.” You might be asking yourself, why would someone write an essay on this long and old text. So did I at first. But, I’m a special education major, and I’ve realized that Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed still offers important points, such as oppression and communication in education, for future educators to consider. Too many contemporary classrooms resemble the oppressive banking method Freire hoped to destroy.

Oppression is when someone with power or authority has overwhelming control. Freire says that when teachers narrate information to students, having the expectation for students to memorize what the teacher said, is oppression. The teacher is the oppressor while the students are the oppressed. Freire calls this banking education. With this method, education becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor; hence the term “banking” education. Freire believes that in the banking approach to education “students are not called upon to know, but to memorize the contents narrated by the teacher.” This suggests that students aren’t learning anything, rather memorizing concepts and then forgetting them because it has no meaning to the students. Freire feared that this style of education limits creativeness and liberation, which is the student’s ability to form their own thoughts.

I agree, this method of banking education does discourage human beings from making their own decisions. Banking education also teaches students to be passive, that they’re supposed to listen and accept authority rather than question or challenge it. When I was a sophomore in high school, I took an AP human geography class. The teacher gave a lecture every day and the students were expected to remember certain concepts and facts once a month for a multiple-choice test. I didn’t learn much at all in this class, because even though I memorized the information for the test, I forgot it the day after because it meant nothing to me. The only thing this class taught me was how not to teach. Freire would classify that teacher’s method of teaching as banking education, because she just presented a lecture to the students for an hour and a half, there was no communication between the students and teacher. Just telling a student something won’t teach them anything. Freire says, “Only through communication can human life hold meaning.” For students to learn anything, there has to be some type of teacher initiated interaction between the student and teacher.

According to Freire, educating through communication is the only option if teachers want to transform students into people who can think critically and have their own thoughts. “Problem-posing” education utilizes communication and relationships between teachers and students. Freire says problem-posing education is when “The teacher is no longer merely the-one-who-teaches, but one who is himself in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also teach. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow.” Freire insists that problem-posing education is the only type that should be practiced. This type of teaching prioritizes student centered learning. Freire wrote, “In problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world and with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation.” This type of education helps students realize they have freedom from limits on thoughts and behaviors.

Freire believes that problem-posing education is humanist and liberating, and I agree with him. When I was a Junior in high school I took an American history class, and it was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken. The teacher of this class facilitated many class activities where we interacted with the teacher and other students. She used the elements such as communication and relationships that Freire says are a part of problem-posing education to teach. I learned so much in this class because the teacher engaged her students by talking through events and concepts together, instead of just telling us. In addition to learning about American history, another big thing I took away from this class is how to be an active and productive member in society. I appreciate all of the time and energy my teacher put into this class because it molded me into a person who is aware and can perceive reality. I think that teaching through communication and interactions requires more effort on the teacher’s part, but it should be the norm in every classroom. Teaching shouldn’t be easy, it takes a lot of work to create accommodations and changes to make sure that every student learns what they should.

Present and future educators should use Freire’s suggested method of education, having communication as the focus in their teaching style. I believe that when educated through communication, men and women can transform the world. Problem-posing education prepares the future generations to live in and be an active member in the world who can build the future with knowledge of the past and hope for the future. I don’t know about you, but I want a future that has promise, that is built upon knowledge, confidence, and hope (find another word), not fear and uncertainty.