“A Personal Experience in Banking Education”
After a difficult transition into high school I eventually made it past the dreaded freshman year. I felt as though I could conquer the world. I was awarded A’s and B’s through my hard work. Better yet, I supposedly had the best English teacher a Sophomore could be assigned. I hesitate to use her real name thus she will be referred to as Mrs. Doe. Students would rant and rave about how easy the class was. “All she does is read examples right off the exam,” they would say. I was thrilled about the prospect of obtaining an easy A. As I sat through a few weeks in Mrs. Doe’s class, I realized just how much I had been cheated. Banking education negatively affects the way we learn.
The concept of banking education brought on by Paulo Freire, a world renowned educator from Recife, Brazil is a detriment to the educational system. The students, Freire would say, “patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. Students are considered ‘receptors,’ which the teachers or ‘oppressors,’ fill with how they see the world. Freire would say that in regards to this style of teaching, “education is suffering from narration sickness” (318).
After the 2nd week of school I became numb to the teaching method of regurgitating back to Mrs. Doe her lectures ad nauseam. She attempted to teach how certain works should make us feel, and what symbolized what. Freire would say that this greatly hampered our ability to think authentically. To Freire, cognition can be broken down as such, “Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication” (322). As students in her classroom we were isolated in her own thought without communication. Freire was extremely passionate about the importance of communication. He believed that it was essential to our very nature to communicate as he said, “Only through communication can human life hold meaning” (Freire 322). Communication is an essential part of our nature. My Nana would push me in my stroller at the ripe age of 8 months and I would recite the passing license plates to her. She forever instilled that crucial part of my cognitive development, while in Mrs. Doe’s classroom it was quite the opposite. I remember feeling alienated in that classroom as there was not much speaking amongst each other. The only voices were the snickers from the children in the back of the classroom and of course her own. She seemed to drone on for ages while we just sat back and tuned out. Freire would say that yes we did listen, but it wasn’t with purpose. In his eyes we “listened meekly” (319).
Perhaps one of the more frightening aspects about the concept of banking education is the fact that the teachers are blissfully unaware of the damage they are causing to the perception of reality and the developing mind. The negative consequences are overwhelming especially according to Freire as he says, “Those who use the banking approach, knowingly or unknowingly (for there are innumerable well-intentioned bank-clerk teachers who do not realize that they are serving only to dehumanize), fail to perceive that the deposits themselves contain contradictions about reality.” (320) I would like to believe that Mrs. Doe was unaware of the mental constricts she was placing upon us. Mrs. Doe was well mannered and friendly before and after class true. However, she was distorting our reality, and reality to Freire is everything. It is how we see our world, how we perceive our consciousness, how we shape the future. When Mrs. Doe taught us that “The Old Man and the Sea” can only be seen as a religious allegory and nothing else, it hindered our ability to see the world differently. Although is a valid interpretation, it is not the only one. Without having any sense of reality we as humans suppress our notion of consciousness rendering us incapable of changing our situation. The students adapted to her style of teaching which Freire could not abide by. To Freire, “the more the oppressed can be led to adapt to that situation, the more easily they can be dominated.” (320) Adaptation at first glance can seem like a positive word. Someone who views his or her surroundings and can change their lifestyle to better suit the situation may be seen as an admirable trait. Freire on the other hand sees this style of education as falling into the hands of the oppressors. “The educated individual is the adapted person, because she or he is better 'fit" for the world. Translated into practice, this concept is well suited for the purposes of the oppressors, whose tranquility rests on how well people fit the world the oppressors have created and how little they question I,” says Freire. The same rang true in Mrs. Doe’s classroom as questions and interpretations were quickly shot down. One time in particular during a reading of Caesar, a student sprang up and offered his own interpretation to why Brutus helped to murder Caesar. She told the student, “what I say goes and that’s final.” Due to her knack for treating him like a “receptacle” as Freire would say. That student did not raise his hand again for the duration of the school year. To this student her style of teaching proved detrimental to his ability to learn through questioning. In future classes this student may be more hesitant to raise his hand and question ideas. This plays well into the hands of the oppressors who would rather keep our questions of, ‘why?’ at bay.
Freire would find the teaching methods of my Sophomore English teacher absolutely deplorable. Many teachers would say that education is a gift. While that seems like a positive metaphor, Freire would say that treating education as such, “Projects an absolute ignorance onto others” (320). We are only as strong as our weakest link, and if one person is unable to contribute to the group it affects us all. Everyone in that class could have learned something from the person sitting next to them, which to Freire, is how it should be.