After reading Freire’s essay I reflected on all of my education experiences inside and outside of the classroom. Out of all of my years on this planet, learning things from professional educators and loved ones, the one person that really stuck out was my seventh grade history teacher. I knew his teachings were the perfect topic for this essay. I started off trying to remember what it was like being face to face with the ‘angriest man in the world’ for five hours a week, slowly spilling my thoughts and memories on paper, editing, revising and changing things more times than I can remember. Sometimes tossing out entire paragraphs and then later regretting it. The more I wrote, the more I remembered how his ‘teachings’ didn’t work and how I was glad to finally be out of seventh grade on the last day of school. I went from trying to make it look really intellectual and complex to straight forward and simple. There is no point in trying to earn style points if I put it down for a few days just come back to a confusing paper that I can’t even understand. Being able to step back and say “No Josh, that’s just glorified nonsense”, and then delete or change it is something that I probably wouldn’t have done before and that makes me proud. I want the reader to know that I completely agree with Freire, the education system is flawed. I don’t think that majority of teachers and students know it is, I think they have just been going with the flow for so long they just sort of except it for what it is. Everyone needs to “The ‘Banking’ Concepts of Education” at least once.
The “Banking” Concept of Education
After reading Freire’s “The “Banking” Concepts of Education”, one type of teacher stands out to me. Anyone that has set foot in a middle school or high school has had that geography or history teacher that had absolutely no business what-so-ever being in front of a blackboard. Nine times out of ten, that teacher was also a coach. The problem is that their real passion is in the gym or on the field. Sadly, for the rest of the un-athletic student body they have nothing left to offer. When it comes to oppression in the classroom, coaches usually lead the way.
When I was in seventh grade, we had a first year history teacher named Coach Anderson. After the week of class I nicknamed him “The Angriest Man in the World”, the name stuck and spread throughout the student body. We would say things like “The angriest man in the world isn’t going to like this”, or “the angriest man in the world gave me detention”. It even got around to the staff, I once heard my English teacher refer to him in that way. He earned the name from his unnecessary volume and strict rules, he was always hollering about something. At least once a week another teacher would come in the room and ask him to keep it down because they were testing across the hall. It was more than his rules and the volume of his voice that made the students feel ‘beneath’ him. He carried himself in such a way that it made you not want to ask questions or be involved in any way, which was a pretty tough. In the subject of history there is only correct or incorrect, black or white. When a man walks around with a frown on his face and his chest out you don’t want to bother him if you’re only twelve. As a teacher, you image needs to be friendly, knowledgeable, and inviting. If students would have felt more comfortable interacting with him, there would have been a lot less grey in the class. In fact, we often felt that his class raised more questions rather than answered them. It’s a shame too because we could have really learned some things if he would have been more approachable.
His real passion was football and it showed, he didn’t know much about anything else. Every day in class he had prewritten notes on the projector. If he was yelling about something he was leaning back in his chair and watching us write. We would take ten pages of notes a day and at the end of the week we would have a quiz or a test with only ten questions on it. I remember we had a “big” project due, we were supposed to interview older people (Adults) and ask questions about historical events during their lifetime. We were either supposed to record it or write it down word for word on paper. Well I thought that him and his class were a joke so I just handed in a blank tape and labeled it “”Big” Project”., a week later he tells me I got an “A” on it. Looking back on it all now, he was extremely lazy or just didn’t care.... or both.
What he lacked in effort he made up for with stupid rules. If you fell asleep, talked in class, or walked in late, you had to do what he called ‘airplane arms’. You had to stand up in front of God and all of your classmates, hold your arms out perpendicular to your body and stay that way until he said you could sit down. His teaching and disciplinary skills had a lot to do with how the students and other members of the staff perceived him. Even if he had started being a decent teacher midway through the year, the students were so fed up with him that it wouldn’t have mattered. The title of “The Angriest Man in the World” didn’t stick for nothing. He only talked to other coaches, and from what I heard, they weren’t too fond of him.
Relationships run nearly everything; businesses, partnerships, churches, and nearly everything that relies on more than one person. There is no award for being the “Drill Instructor of History”. Students depend the wisdom of their instructors to help them think critically. However, this can only go so far if the instructor can be bothered to answer a few questions. Someone can tell me all about the Civil War until they’re blue in the face, if I’m really going to learn about it I need to do some of my own thinking (even if what I’m thinking about are hard facts that have already been proven) and come up with my own questions. No one ever got a chance to even attempt to do that in class.
Freire states that “Through dialogue the teacher-of-the-students and the students-of-the-teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher-student with the student-teacher. The teacher is no longer merely the one-who-teachers, but one who himself taught in dialogue with the students, who in turn while being taught also to teach.”(324) This makes perfect sense to me, if he would have taken the time to be less of a bully he himself could have learned to be a better teacher while we were busy becoming little seventh grade historians. The bottom line is if we would have felt less oppressed and more like an equal to him, all parties involved would have walked away a lot happier. We would have actually learned something and he would still be teaching; spreading knowledge to those who need it and helping them evolve into contributing members of society rather than just handing out C’s and discouraging. That is essentially all he did, no one wanted to spend an hour with the angriest man in the world so most people missed the class or sometimes the whole day entirely, which was another problem in itself. You were disciplined for not showing up without a doctor’s note or a letter from a parent. He was the only teacher to do this because one: everyone missed his class more than any other, and two: he enjoyed making students writes essays on their own time that had nothing to do with what he was ‘teaching’.
Oppression in the classroom in bad for not only the students and but the professors as well. Being too fixated on being the dominate roll instead of focusing on what really matters. Freire says “Oppression-overwhelming control – is necrophilic; it is nourished by love of death, not life.”(322) I don’t believe that he is trying to say that all oppressors love death. I think he means that they are unhappy and therefore not in love with life. Not giving students the proper techniques to fully function and utilize their potential and exercise their critical thinking reflects very badly on the instructor. Students, fellow teachers, future employers, and alumni well always look back and think “That’s the guy that could have done better.” I have to say that that’s pretty harsh title for someone that worked hard for years in college to earn a teaching degree. One can only speculate that teaching is not really their passion and they just sort of fell into it, or perhaps they fell out of love with the profession once they were confronted with the responsibilities of being an educator.
What really befuddles me is why does this form of ‘teaching’ even exist? Why go in it if you don’t like people, much-less want to create a bond with them? Maybe that’s why this is an issue, when an unhappy/antisocial person is forced to interact with people, they tend to do as little as possible. In other words, Showing up to a class you don’t want to talk to and making them copy notes is a fantastic way to avoid interaction and a bonding relationship without them even noticing.
Children enter a classroom a blank slate, a ball of clay ready to be molded into something more than a meaningless, ambiguous shape that has no function. Whether or not he knew it he had the power to change a lot of lives, and I suppose in some ways he did. Unfortunately for everyone involved, not in the way we all hoped.
Bartholomae, David, and Anthony Petrosky, eds. Ways of Reading. Freire “The ‘Banking’ Concepts of Education” Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2008. Print.