Friday, November 21, 2008

The Ethics of the Pedagogy / Social Policy Split

Is it ethical for national education organizations to focus on improving pedagogy and not on basic social and material inequalities that impact on learning?

For an example, I've looked to the The International Reading Association (IRA), but almost any education association would do.

From their website:
The International Reading Association (IRA) is a professional membership organization that promotes high levels of literacy for all by improving the quality of reading instruction, disseminating research and information about reading, and encouraging a lifetime reading habit.
If my earlier post about the vision difficulties of children is correct, then it would seem impossible to improve literacy for many kids without first dealing systematically with that pre-pedagogical challenge. In other words, the IRA's "mission" cannot be achieved unless we look beyond pedagogy. But they have explicitly limited their mission to efforts focused on pedagogy.

Some other examples from its website which I do not have time to look at more systematically.

See this brochure: The Role of Reading Instruction in Addressing the Overrepresentation of Minority Children in Special Education in the United States. As the title indicates, the brochure focuses only on instruction. There is no mention of any other issues. And none of the recommendations in the brochure point to anything other than pedagogy.

That brochure at least limits itself to pedagogy in its title. This one, Supporting Young Adolescents’ Literacy Learning, does not. Yet it looks only at instruction and says nothing about something as basic as vision care while at least seeming to give an overview of what is necessary to support "literacy learning" in general.

In this case, especially, is there a danger that people reading the brochure will assume that the problem really is all about pedagogy? Is there a danger that a brochure like this might actually have negative impacts on fights to improve literacy by pointing us away from basic issues like vision?

So, back to my question.

Is it ethical for national organizations like this that have at least some influence to limit themselves to pedagogy when, in many cases, there is substantial evidence that pedagogy may not be the core problem for many students?

And if there are at least legitimate questions about whether this stance is ethical, where can we draw a reasonable line where their responsibility to raise issues stops? Vision care seems obvious (that's why I picked it) but supporting an increased Earned Income Tax Credit for poor families (which might make a real difference) seems to go way too far afield, at least to me. (Or does it?)

This may seem like a pretty abstract "academic" question, but I think it's actually quite important. To the extent that there is movement towards an acknowledgement that schooling mostly can't be solved by dealing with schooling, where does that leave groups whose focus has only been on schools?

(Feel free to correct me about my understanding of the IRA's position--it's just an example.)

(oops--IRA not NRA. Fixed.)


Dan W. Butin said...


Nice reframing.

To position your argument slightly differently, most good empirical statistical analyses that I’ve seen suggest that school-, teacher-, and class-level variables account for, at most, 20 percent of variation in student achievement. Leaving aside for the moment the issue of standardized tests, etc., such data strongly suggests that to focus on any pedagogical or curricular intervention without acknowledging non-school factors is quixotic.


Nancy Flanagan said...

I'm not certain that it makes sense to assign ethical responsibility for social justice advocacy to education organizations, any more than it's logical to ask educators to provide more than a good education for children who've been handed a bad deal in life.

Nor am I clear that any efforts by large, well-funded organizations, such as teacher unions, make much of a dent in policies designed to improve social conditions for learning--beyond small local programs, where the educators personally know children needing assistance. If your example, the IRA, spread its resources, goals and influence over a larger field, might it not weaken its focus to the point where it has less impact?
I'm thinking here about the hedgehog concept--defining a core mission and concentrating on doing it well.

Mainstream education non-profits and disciplinary organizations that rely on grant funding may also be scared of associating themselves with social justice thinking. I'm not saying this is a defensible position--it's not--but I do understand that "follow the money/keep the doors open" impulse. When you're fighting the prevailing trends in what gets funded, you can lose good work and accrued influence when the money dries up--think FairTest here.

I'm not suggesting a retreat from democratic equality, only a thoughtful response. The danger in suggesting that educators, individually or in groups, cannot significantly improve teaching and learning until larger social problems are adequately addressed is that it renders educators powerless to do much of anything.

Aaron Schutz said...

Nicely put, Nancy.

But are they education organization or, in the case of IRA, "education improvement" organizations?

I agree that organizations like this can't fight for everything. But that's why I used the vision example. The whole focus on pedagogy for kids who can't see seems just a little odd, doesn't it?

And your response seems to assume the split between pedagogy and social justice that I'm questioning. What I'm asking is whether this split, itself, makes sense. And if it doesn't, then what split would make sense?

Are we pedagogues, or are we scholars and organizations seeking to improve education?

Nancy Flanagan said...

I think that, in practice, just about any ed organization you could name would be defined as an "education improvement" force. Rhetorically, they may describe their work or mission as endorsing both equity and educational (not schooling) ideals, but on the ground--not so much.

The schism between the purer purposes of educating human beings and the technologies of pedagogy does not make sense, I agree. But integrating beliefs about what it means to be an educated individual or the purpose of an educated society into educational practice--schooling--is a battle that started a long time ago, and is still being fought (unsuccessfully, I would argue) in most ed schools. And today, the discourse in the general public is blatantly anti-ed philosophy, anti-pedagogy and anti-social justice. Read any of the screeds against Linda Darling-Hammond on the most-read education blogs in the past week? Frightening. I guess I am choosing to see organizations dedicated to improving instruction as the good guys, and our allies.

I belong to the Music Educators National Conference. Most of their work is technical and performance-oriented. They do partner with Save the Music and other organizations that give kids access to instruments, but that's hardly social justice work. Still, I would be hard pressed to describe anything they do as founded on a less than a fully ethical base.

I think the most important thing any organization can do is support individuals--practitioners--in their efforts to teach and run schools in socially responsive ways. Each child who understands justice and equity, and believes he has the power and the right to change his own circumstances and life path is one step closer to a truly educated society. And more likely to engender real change.

Thanks for a good conversation, Aaron.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

Hmmmmm... part of me wishes we could have these kinds of back and forth conversations routinely on this's what we designed it for....but part of me thinks it's just too intense to be regularly sustained. On the other hand....I have to say this is quite enjoyable, to watch our participants reframe their points of view in terms that embrace the values and commitments of the's almost dialectical. :-)

Nancy, in response to your latest, couple of random thoughts.

1. Providing musical instruments to poor children IS social justice work. Equity is truly important for education...and the arts are fundamental, NOT supplemental.

2. "The discourse in the general public" idiotic. Sorry, but the attacks on Linda's ideas and vision are simply wrong-headed (if not inaccurate), and they result from BAD EDUCATION, most directly.

3. So in keeping with point number two, YES, it is important to give "each child" an understanding of justice and equity, and the belief that "he has the power and the right to change his own circumstances and life path."
4. But, um, Nancy.....I think we need a little Marxist antithesis here to your Hegelian thesis. It isn't so much the IDEAS that a child has about justice and equity that bring us to an educated society (although these are important); it's the material, economic, health, nutrition, sense of personal safety aspects of life that provide the basic support for an effective education in both "skills" and "ideals." I'm thinking Mazlov's hierarchy of needs here. I think that's what Aaron is suggesting too, in his discussion of the importance of effective and appropriate vision screening for reading instruction.

In short, attempting to give students the "belief" in their "power" and "right" without giving them the material conditions of success is not only impossible but potentially rather cruel, isn't it?

Aaron Schutz said...

Nancy, one key disagreement I have with you is here:

"I think the most important thing any organization can do is support individuals--practitioners--in their efforts to teach and run schools in socially responsive ways."

Social change is not usually about what individuals do, it's about what collectives do. That's why I'm concerned about groups like IRA. They represent some of the limited collective capacity of the education field. When such collectives decide not to use their capacity to pursue goals that would seem central to their own stated mission, it seems extremely problematic to me.

Yes, organizations are worried about social justice. But you don't have to frame it so generally. You could frame it around "kids can't see". I seriously doubt that IRA would have problems if it supported a campaign for change. Everyone can see that's unjust. It doesn't seem radical. That's part of what community organizers do: reframe issues to make them sellable and palatable enough to win.

Part of the problem with the vision issue is that it is mostly unknown. This is in part as a RESULT of the work of groups like IRA which have chosen what to focus on, and thus have pointed the public and policy-makers away from issues like this. It might make a real difference in kids lives if the IRA decided to put out a brochure on this issue.

Furthermore (and this is a somewhat different argument, I think) education has always been the "cheap" way to think about social justice. And as we have long known, if we are honest with ourselves, on a broad scale improved education is unlikely to do much about social justice if measured by standard forms of academic achievement. So when we focus on education as the "solution" as the IRA does, we are buying into a failed social justice strategy.

Anonymous said...

so are any of you members of the IRA? If you are then ask for vision screening to be added to their mission statement... or if not have you considered calling them up and presenting them with the vision info and seeing if they would add this to their mission statement?

Before you assume that they are not willing to consider these items you must ask first... sometimes what is so obvious to one has not even been considered by another.

As Mary Chapin carpenter said, "It's too much to expect, but it's not too much to ask."

Aaron Schutz said...

As I said, my point is not about IRA specifically. They are just an example of a broader issue.

I have no idea whether they'd be willing to do this, but I'm sure they'd have to do go through an internal dialogue process to decide whether they would add this to their mission. Which brings us back to the question about what the mission of organizations like this should be.

Let me be clear that I'm not trying to critique the IRA in particular. My bet is that it has just never occurred to them as a body (probably some individuals have thought of it) to do something besides pedagogy. It's outside their paradigm. The question is, is their paradigm problematic?

Again, someone who actually knows something about IRA history could tell us better. I know very little about that organization in particular.

Nick Burbules said...

Great discussion. If I can throw in my two cents: unlike you whippersnappers, I was in grad school soon after the Coleman report came out. It was, in my opinion, a shocking event, a sea change of a sort. You can even draw a straight line from that report to Christopher Jencks, Bowles and Gintis, and the whole revisionist tradition in critical progressive thought in the 70's and 80's.

It was appalling to ed school types to consider the possibility that very little of what they do made a large systemic difference in the absence of broader social reforms -- reforms over which they had very little influence.

And so, gradually, little by little, we saw a backlash toward the critical revisionists: Why can't you be more constructive? Don't tear us down, tell us what we CAN do, etc. I have had a thousand exchanges like that with teachers and teacher ed colleagues over the years.

And so, little by little, the critical revisionist perspective disappeared. It got replaced by various forms of critical pedagogy and neo-progressivist curricular ideas that turned the discussion back into what can be done IN schools. Schools of ed were much more comfortable with that.

Hard-line critics like Hank Levin -- just to take one of my heroes -- turned their efforts toward reformist interventions meant to make schools better. Who can argue against trying to make schools better?

So the problem about the narrow horizons of professional societies is a symptom of something that I see as much more intrinsic to the professionalized field of education and of education schools more generally. It's our version of "close the classroom door and let me teach."

Aaron Schutz said...

Thanks, Nick.

I hadn't thought about it that way, but I think part of what we need to do is think differently about the critical theory ideas of the past. Instead of critique with little idea of how to do anything significant, we need to tie our critiques directly to specific actions, at least as examples.

That's why understanding the literature and history of community organizing, for example, is so important--it provides concrete ideas for action.

And I think examples like the IRA and vision care bring us out of abstract arguments about "social justice" (which is a state, not an action anyway). They provide a way to start thinking concretely about moves to shift our thinking away from just education as a solution to the problem of education, but are not so vast and radical that they make everyone want to go home and pull the covers over their heads.

Is it possible for educators to start facing the real limitations of education as a tool for fostering social and material equality honestly? Only if we can see concrete examples of how we can realistically act on this different way of thinking.

(I have tried to push the same kind of thinking, earlier, with postmodernism, trying to tie versions of it more directly to specific ways of thinking about empowerment and resistance. Which, of course, made some posties uncomfortable and led to accusations that I didn't "really" understand what I was writing about. Because if I did, I wouldn't have been able to say something so concrete.)

Nancy Flanagan said...

Aaron: "Is it possible for educators to start facing the real limitations of education as a tool for fostering social and material equality honestly?"

And that's the problem with the question that started this discussion: once we have established that practitioner organizations may be inadvertently contributing to reproduction of privilege simply by concentrating on concrete actions rather than societal inequities--where do we go from there? What does the first grade teacher/IRA member do, tomorrow, with children who must be taught to read?

Collective action begins with individual awareness. I still believe that we are better off actively teaching now for democratic equality--focusing on innovative curriculum and instruction--than spending time critiquing the limits of educational organizations'purposes and scope.

Acquiring musical instruments for kids who can't afford them is a great thing to do, but it's not social justice work. It's fundraising. Teaching kids to identify the power of music in cultural shifts--that's social justice work. We need both, and we don't need to put them in a hierarchy.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

Wow. The insights here are running several directions that might seem incompatible.

Nick, thanks so much for offering the historical perspective. Yes, I think educators have been struggling with these issues since the Coleman report. "Close the classroom door and let me teach" is a good metaphor for not only what teachers sometimes do, but what us education professors do as well.

Nancy, as best as I can discern, you are a teacher...first and foremost. Of COURSE you want to defend the "innovative curriculum and instruction" rather than "spending time critiquing the limits of educational organizations/purposes and scope." That IS "critical pedagogy" (as Nick referred to it), and it is incredibly valuable. It's what I tell my preservice teachers when they inevitably come to realize that social inequities aren't being adequately addressed in today's schools...I tell them to resist "social reproduction" and "standardization" and seek to help each individual attain a critical thinking perspective on the relationship between democracy and capitalism. (That's the short version, of course.) After all, teachers have a primary job--teaching--and we should prepare them to do it well and to do it in a manner than potentially fosters social justice. Of that, everyone here agrees (right?).

But "we" include more than classroom teachers! What we recommend to classroom teachers--and the tools that we try to give them--are just one aspect of "our" work. Some of us are historians (who might look into the ways in which the Coleman report led education professors towards the "revisionist tradition in critical progressive thought" and the subsequent backlash); some of us are philosophers (who might look into the ethics of social action work, school funding inequities, or organizational mission statements); some of us are community organizing experts (Aaron always says he's NOT a community organizer....but he's gradually moving toward becoming one...organizing his profession...wink). The Gordian knots of the school/society matrix require multiple avenues of activity.

What we SHOULDN'T do (in my opinion) is start throwing around accusations that others who may see their roles in this differently are somehow wasting their time. THAT leads inevitably to infighting among progressives (we've seen this before!) and retreats into various camps (and professional organizations) and away from the Public Commons where, I think, this blog is situated and where we should always welcome new perspectives on the problem and support different types of people doing different types of things.

In your latest, Nancy, you wrote: "Collective action begins with individual awareness." Can I rephrase that? "One potential way to foster collective action is to raise individual awareness." There are other ways. One can take a concrete action that results in whole classes of people being more ready to gain that awareness, for example. (Find a way to give every kid access to music the eventual upsurge in individual awareness....just an example.)

What's more, we should always encourage cross-disciplinary and cross-profession dialog and ruminations such as Aaron's rhetorical examination of the IRA's mission. We need to remember that such efforts are ALWAYS treated with suspicion by people from various "camps" (notice how quickly Aaron's discussion led to accusations like yours: "that's the problem with the question that started this discussion") who want to be encouraged in their chosen avenue of work rather than told they are wasting their time. Those kinds of accusations are easy to make, and they run both ways.

I guess what I'm saying least for the purposes of this blog, let's try to ask the question "what can *I* gain from this particular line of thought, or this particular perspective" rather than "what's wrong with this perspective." We need a space where "radical" or at least "innovative critical" thinking is tolerated, if not encouraged.

teacherken said...


I think it is important that all voices communicate. For many of us in the classroom one frustration in recent years is how rarely our voices and perspectives have been part of the discussions on education policy. For whatever limitations those of you in the university setting may feel you have, they are miniscule compared to what we confront - and here I agree with you that although Nancy might now be a doctoral student, she still thinks and expresses like the classroom teacher she was for so many years.

One reason I asked, through Sherman, to participate in this group blog, was to offer the perspectives of one still in the K-12 classroom, where the impact of policy decisions often hits so hard.

One reason I have chosen to be involved in education policy, including carefully cultivating relationships with politicians, epsecially those on the relevant Congressional committees, is because - for better or worse - I have some skill at communication, at making comprehensible to those not in the classroom the reality of what we encounter.

You are correct - those of us in the classroom should not view those of you, historians and/or researchers, in the university as adversaries, but rather as people who also often feel as if what they know and perceive is too ignored in the making of policy. As I do in much of my blogging, I hope that we can find ways to emphasize - and broaden - the areas of common ground upon which we can stand together.


Sherman Dorn said...

I think there's a huge gap between the IRA-and-vision-screening question, on the one hand, and the type of proposals that occasionally (or more often) come out of radical caucuses in MLA and other organizations. When organizations make statements that come from their claim to expertise, that can have some influence on the broader world. "We're reading specialists, and it's a serious problem when children from poor families do not have access to vision screening and corrective glasses and other treatment." Then there's "We're reading specialists, and we're against the occupation of Iraq."

Well, I'm against the occupation of Iraq, and I've spent some resources and time trying to address that, but I didn't do that within the confines of AERA, or the History of Education Society, or my other professional organizations. Let me skip the philosophical questions about organizational purpose and cut to the chase. To be honest, for all the conference sessions I've enjoyed and learned from over the years, I still wouldn't trust any of my professional organizations to be able to organize a 100-person rally at City Hall, let alone do something with real consequence in organizing terms. They organize academic conferences. That's far removed from organizing an election or social change. You may note that Barack Obama did NOT ask Felice Levine to be a major campaign operative. That isn't because Levine is incompetent at her job. It's because her job doesn't give her the skills to do what Obama needed. And for the academics from Chicago (and elsewhere) who have been heavily involved in the campaign, you may note that the utter failure of their professional organizations to endorse Obama didn't harm either their involvement or the campaign.

And you know what? That's okay. My professional organizations are my professional organizations. They're not my home, my politics, my family, or my employer. When organizations can make public policy statements coming from their expertise, they should. But we're too smart as academics: we can probably connect an organization to any social cause by a chain with no more than six links (a la the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, as applied to academic organizations). The fact that we can construct such a plausible chain doesn't mean it's wise for either the organization or the cause for a professional organization to get involved. You want to change the world? Get involved in community organizing.

Aaron Schutz said...

Wow. Okay. Couple of comments.

First, Nancy, I would argue that part of the problem is that teaching for equality would involve teaching kids some skills for gaining power. Of course, most schools can't do this. But a few can. And that could make a real difference. so I think we need to think differently about what teaching for equality means. And I believe that even teachers who are not in non-traditional schools might find ways to harness these insights to support their students.

Second, teachers are not just individuals in classrooms. They are usually, for example, members of labor unions, and these unions have a great deal of power over what happens in schools. The more they understand about power, the more they can leverage this collective power.

Third, I think it is right that critiquing without having some options for people is incredibly problematic. But I, at least, DO have some options for people--at least as examples. So there ARE things that even individual teachers can do differently. Part of this involves focusing on innovative curricula that think quite differently about inequality and empowerment. I'm actually trying to finish a quite practical paper about our effort to do this in a school--both about our real failures, and the insights we gained.

Forth, as Craig and I have been trying to emphasize, we're not trying to say what others are doing isn't incredibly important. We are saying that if that is ALL we are doing it is inadequate. I think that's legitimate. Not everyone needs to think about social issues, but when almost no one in the field is, that, it seems to me, is a legitimate problem. Note that while I obviously have my own answer, I framed the initial post around a question about whether I am right.

Fifth, to go to Sherman's point, it is right to say that few educators can be organizers. A few can, and I think we should nourish those possibilities.

However, as he also notes, there are many things that educators and scholars can do to support community organizers more effectively. That was part of my point in my review of the Oakes and Rogers book: they ran into trouble when they tried to BE organizers, but could be quite important when they acted in a supporting role with established groups. The point of educating educators and scholars about organizing is not necessarily to make them organizers, but to make them more useful to organizers and able to interface better with organizers (and there are other ways to engage in social change besides organizing).

Furthermore, in the case of IRA, we don't necessarily need them to be community organizers. Just coming out in support of vision care, and holding it up as a significant issue could be an enormous support for community organizers and various advocacy groups and politicians. And, I think, their failure to raise it up has an impact as well, pointing us AWAY from vision care as an issue. So their NOT raising this issue is as much of an ACTION as actually raising it. It involve a decision about how they will frame the world of the classroom for others. How collectives use or fail to use their influence has consequences, and I think it's reasonable to hold them accountable for these consequences. It would be nice if progressives were better "organized" to push their organizations in social policy directions that seem relevant.

I would agree that making statements about Iraq, on which the organization has little credibility, is not particularly useful. But on areas like vision, I think it could be critical. And I'll bet there are a LOT more areas like that where these groups could take a more strategic and active role in coalitions. If you want to speak out against Iraq, join a different organization. (My church-based organization doesn't speak out about abortion one way or the other, but that doesn't mean that members have no opinions or don't belong to organizations (or even individual churches that do.) The Iraq issue may represent a desire to be PC without the capacity to be strategic about the use of whatever power particular groups might have.

As to Craig's implication that I'm kind of being an organizer. On a VERY general level, I suppose, but absolutely not in terms of the techniques it would take to really "organize" the profession. I'm not in any significant role in any organization in the profession, I'm not working hard to develop a strong network of relationships that would give me the capacity to have more influence, and I've managed to piss off some key influential people in at least one area that I'm deeply concerned about. In these senses, I'm really only acting as a scholar of a particular kind--for good or for ill. Organizationally, aside from whomever might read these posts, I have essentially zero influence.

Jim Horn said...

One of Aaron’s original questions:

“Is it ethical for national organizations like this [the IRA] that have at least some influence to limit themselves to pedagogy when, in many cases, there is substantial evidence that pedagogy may not be the core problem for many students?”

I agree that this is a really important question that goes to the core of what educators do, whether individually in the classroom or collectively through professional associations. The problem that I see with the question, however, is the dichotomy that it suggests for any potential response. Literacy and illiteracy are pedagogical problems, yes, but ones with huge social implications. A most blatant social implication would be the millions of sharecroppers, for instance, who have been swindled because they could not do the math or read the agreements they were signing. The solution is straightforward, though still profound, and those who focus on reading and math literacy often view their efforts toward competency in reading and math as the appropriate social justice work that can be done in the schools.

A more nuanced social implication, but one that is relevant to any area of teaching—and particularly to the International Reading Association—is grounded in the pedagogy, itself. And with the exception of a couple of old bulls like Stephen Krashen and Ken Goodman who have been vocal opponents of the Reading First Mafia, the IRA reading experts and comfortable academics have been conspicuously quiet during the past eight years of blitzkrieg phonics and scripted reading instruction that have wasted $6,000,000,000, while causing unmeasured damage to the future learning capacity of young children.

Larry Cuban, in his intro to Frogs into Princes . . . , reminds us that “at the core of every school reform is a solution (or compromise) hiding an idea, a belief, or a value” (p. 6). This remains true, particularly when reformers insist on their own objectivity by choosing science, for instance, as the ultimate arbiter, even as they redefine science to fit their ideology. And in a sad effort not to appear ideological (and to protect federal contracts), we and the IRA accept the depositing of an unending supply of desiccated facts, abstracted concepts, and disembodied skills (decoding and otherwise) into the next generation, all the while calling it education, in a free society, nonetheless.

Freire had something to say about pedagogy and social justice, I seem to remember. I think he might say that buying eyeglasses for the poor is a great initiative for any association, including the IRA, but if the IRA really wants to help create a just society while doing its job at the same time, it should advocate for pedagogies that allow or, rather, demand, competency, autonomy, caring, commitment, and democratic living to become the outcomes for which we should be held accountable, now and forever. To do less would be to deny children their rights to become fully human.

Here’s a chunk of Chapter 2, Pedagogy of the Oppressed for your reading pleasure once more. It's just too relevant not include to sum up my rambling for me:

The capability of banking education to minimize or annul the students’ creative power and to stimulate their credulity serves the interests of the oppressors, who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed. The oppressors use their “humanitarianism” to preserve a profitable situation. Thus they react almost instinctively against any experiment in education which stimulates the critical faculties and is not content with a partial view of reality but always seeks out the ties which link one point to another and one problem to another.

Indeed, the interests of the oppressors lie in “changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them”;[1] for the more the oppressed can be led to adapt to that situation, the more easily they can be dominated.
. . . .
The solution is not to “integrate” them into the structure of oppression, but to transform that structure so that they can become “beings for themselves.” Such transformation, of course, would undermine the oppressors’ purposes; hence their utilization of the banking concept of education to avoid the threat of student conscientizacao.

The banking approach . . ., for example, will never propose to students that they critically consider reality. It will deal instead with such vital questions as whether Roger gave green grass to the goat, and insist upon the importance of learning that on the contrary, Roger gave green grass to the rabbit. The “humanism” of the banking approach masks the effort to turn women and men into automatons — the very negation of their ontological vocation to be more fully human.

. . . .
It follows logically from the banking notion of consciousness that the educator’s role is to regulate the way the world “enters into” the students. The teacher’s task is to organize a process which already occurs spontaneously to “fill” the students by making deposits of information which he or she considers to constitute true knowledge.[2] And since people “receive” the world as passive entities, education should make them more passive still, and adapt them to the world. The educated individual is the adapted person, because she or he is a better “fit” for the world. Translated into practice, this concept is well suited to the purposes of the oppressors, whose tranquility rests on how well people fit the world the oppressors have created, and how little they question it.
The more completely the majority adapt to the purposes which the dominant minority prescribe for them (thereby depriving them of the right to their own purposes), the more easily the minority can continue to prescribe. The theory and practice of banking education serve this end quite efficiently. Verbalistic lessons, reading requirements,[3] the methods for evaluating knowledge, the distance between the teacher and the taught, the criteria for promotion: everything in this ready-to-wear approach serves to obviate thinking.

Aaron Schutz said...

Yes, banking education is bad. Yes, we should teach students to be critical thinkers. Yes, Dewey said this a century ago, long before Freire.

No, it's not enough. No, thinking critically does not, by itself, give you access to approaches for effectively resisting inequality. No, learning to think like middle-class educators (as I argue this basically does) is not enough to empower students. No, we haven't proved able to effectively and consistently teach this way in schools from oppressed, high-poverty areas.

To be non-PC, it's not clear to me that this Freire, at least, is particularly relevant right now in the sense that it brings anything that progressive educators don't already know or think. Instead, it reinforces the idea that we should stay the course.

The progressives have tried to push this basic approach in different forms, by itself, for a hundred years. Time, I think, to see if other strategies that don't go against the anti-banking model can help.

Anonymous said...

Aaron said,"...Furthermore, in the case of IRA, we don't necessarily need them to be community organizers. Just coming out in support of vision care, and holding it up as a significant issue could be an enormous support for community organizers and various advocacy groups and politicians. And, I think, their failure to raise it up has an impact as well, pointing us AWAY from vision care as an issue. So their NOT raising this issue is as much of an ACTION as actually raising it."

In response I ask again... have you called them up and presented the vision data to them? If not then my friend you are part of the very problem you are railing against. It is obvious to you that this is something they should address... for whatever reasons it is not on their radar - make it so. If they ignore you or say it is beyond their scope then... well you move on to someone else that will make it their business... OR in fact YOU go do it. They are not running their organization the way you would like... join it and make changes or create your own organization and do those things you see they are ignoring or just can’t cover.

I think is outrageous to sit in your comfortable computer chair and rail against something you see as so important... you ask whether THEY are in fact unethical for ignoring it... are you?

Aaron Schutz said...

Sent to the current president, incoming president, and vice-president of IRA:

"You might be interested in a blog discussion about the ethics of the split between pedagogical reform and social reform by professional education organizations. The focus is not on IRA, but IRA was used as the example for the dialogue.

It's here:"

Anonymous said...

Good job Arron.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world" ~Ghandi

sexy said...