Changing Systems Not Hearts

Freire states that there is no knowledge without practice. Without practice we would be “[walking] in a circle, without the possibility of going beyond the circle” (p. 99). However, to go beyond the circle that Freire refers to we must also form theories to determine how we are going to contribute and how we are going to help people grow. Theories are our “vision of what ought to be or what they can become” and helps us decide who or what we want to put our energy towards (p. 100). Freire explains the importance of respecting the knowledge of the people while also searching for more knowledge “beyond the common sense of people, with the people” and understanding that knowledge changes just as reality does (p. 101).

Horton begins the conversation of neutrality with the idea that it doesn’t exist. Neutrality is what numbs us from the reality of the world. It is putting on blinders and ignoring the world around us. It is “being what the system asks us to be” and “following the crowd” (p. 102). To create social change we must take a side and justify it. We must learn about the society we live in to make moral and rational judgments. Something that Horton had said that really sparked my attention was that “we don’t change men’s hearts” but rather, we change the system (p. 103). Horton emphasizes that it doesn’t matter who people are if they’re in the system because “they’re going to function like the system dictates that they function” (p. 103). When I first read the line that “we don’t change men’s hearts,” I was confused and a little angry. My immediate thought was if we don’t change their hearts and convince them that the world is worth investing in how will we ever create social and societal change? As I read on, Horton changed my perspective completely. He made me realize that my approach was not the most effective and made me look at things in a whole new way. I realized that I wasn’t looking at the bigger picture and how little of a difference changing hearts would make if there was no systemic change. Freire continues the argument that neutrality hinders our true potential as humans who can create change in the world by stating that it “is the best way for one to hide his or her choice” (p. 103). Freire’s statement is what I believe to be the reason that many people claim neutrality. Many people fear being the person to speak out and not follow the crowd. It can be hard to choose a side when we know that it means people will express hatred towards us but when we do decide to say “this is what I stand for and this is what I believe,” we begin the conversation that can create great social impact.

I have always had an inner passion for service but it wasn’t until my first service learning class that that passion was truly ignited and transformed. Each experience I have had in the community has given me more reason to come back. Although some community partners were better fits than others, the eye opening experiences I was having in the classroom made me more and more engaged and inspired to find communities that did work for me where I could apply what I had learned. When I enter these communities I have always been treated with love and kindness. The community has always been a place where I have met people with the purest of souls and kindest hearts. The emotional connection I have with the people I interact with and the feeling I have when I leave the community fills me in a way no other experience can or has. They are the people who come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same.

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