A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

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“A mind is a terrible thing to waste” is the motto for The United Negro College Fund. I remember reading these words on the way to City College. The message I got is that the mind is a valuable tool that can open up the world to a person, a young African-American person in particular, and education is an entrance to more choices and greater freedom but has the current educational system accommodated the potency of a person’s mind. If I asked Paulo Freire, he would definitely say no. Freire was introduced to poverty and hunger during his childhood due to 1929 Great Depression in Brazil. This monumental experience built up his dedication to improve the living conditions of the poor. At the time, literacy was a prerequisite to vote. Being able to vote meant one’s freedom and they hoped not to fall under primary, economic, social, or power reinforcement by the established authority and to be able to decide their own fate. Education provides more choices and a greater freedom. Through his controversial essay “The Banking Concept of Education”, Freire views modern education, the banking education, as “an act of depositing” (257) in which “the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat” (257). He claims that this way of learning is a misguided system that murders creativity and transformation. Hence, he proposes a revolutionary way of teaching, problem-posing education. Problem-posing education focuses on critical thinking and creativity, leaving behind memorization and repetition. After careful consideration, Freire’s complete refusal on the banking concept of education and his absolute support on problem posing education is not the answer to achieve the ultimate goal of education. None of the educational concepts presented by Freire are perfect. Nevertheless, we cannot discard the banking education and then convert entirely to the problem-posing education. The key is to compromise. By combining banking and problem-posing education together, we will be able to come up with a highly versatile educational concept that really makes education as an entrance to more choices and greater freedom.
Can the banking education stand by itself? No, there are many flaws in this educational system. The first flaw of banking system is the totalitarian of the teacher. Freire notes “the educator’s role is to regulate the way the world “enters into” the students”. In this case, the teacher is portrayed as a dictator in the classroom. The teacher determines what right and wrong from his/her own perspective. This style of teaching sacrifices the students’ creativity and critical thinking because they are discouraged to deviate from the accepted norm, which is once again defined by the teacher. My high school history class reminds me of this concept. In class, my teacher would narrate a historical event derived from an approved textbook. The students had to write down every single word he said. He is the one to define the hero and the villain of a historical event. Then he would ask our idea on the particular event but he would only agree with the ideas that were in agreement with his, just like Freire’s argument, “the teacher chooses and enforces his choices and the students comply” (258). He would accuse the diverged student of knowing nothing and lack of nationalism, turning their perspectives in accordance to his own perspective. He only told us one perspective of the history, our country’s perspective. Furthermore, the higher authority, the ruling government, shapes our country’s perspective. Every time there was a reformation in the government body, the textbook would change, especially the history textbook. Thus, school is a place where inquiry space is limited, a place where students are brainwashed through uncontested totalitarian of the authority. Without problem-posing which challenges totalitarian, the true purpose of education –being an entrance to more choices and greater freedom-- cannot be achieved. Students will only...
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