Banking Education: A Conspiracy Theory

Chapter two of  Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed reads with the same sort of urgency as  any section out of The Communist Manifesto. Freire uses powerful language to deliver a sense of romance and importance to his cause, which is educational reform. Although I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had assumed his cause to be something bigger, on the grander scale of overthrowing a government or something like that. (Ok, maybe I am being dramatic but I found Freire’s style a little overwhelming).

Freire presents two systems of education: “Banking” education and the alternative “Problem- posing” education. The most important difference between the two systems is that “Problem-posing” education seeks to further “the pursuit of full humanity”(85), whereas, “Banking” education does not, and is therefore “dehumanizing” in a way that suits the interests of  “the oppressors”(Pedagogy of the Oppressed 74).

Freire refers to these “oppressors” as the “dominant elites”(78) whose aim is to “change the consciousness of the oppressed”(74). “Banking education” is one method by which the oppressors are able to perpetuate the indoctrination of the oppressed “to adapt to the world of oppression”(78). All in all this theory of oppression is very moving, however, I find the presupposition of the existence of these “oppressors” the most disturbing. I can’t help but question who these oppressors are. Is there really a small minority which controls and manipulates society, “who care neither to have the world revealed nor to see it transformed”(73)?

Maybe it is just a misunderstanding. Maybe there are no “oppressors” who connive and aim to oppress the rest of us. Maybe the negative “banking education” system is just a consequence of something that was once/is necessary. The classical purpose of public education was to educate better citizens, for the sake of the city and the common good. Freire proposes a sort of education which aims at the “pursuit of full humanity”, which has a lot to do with developing the individual in direct contradiction to the classical state or the common good. So yes, the current system of education operates under a few tenets that are innately concerned with dominion but they reflect certain core tenets of our society— our society which operates under rules and allows operators within the freedom defined by those rules. Maybe our society is shifting towards the individual and the “pursuit of full humanity”, in which case an educational reform is in order. Or maybe what Freire was calling for is not just an educational reform but a complete societal shift via education. Either way, trying to reform society or to promote an educational paradigm that is incompatible with current society, is a big task.

2 responses to “Banking Education: A Conspiracy Theory

  1. I agree with you in that I think Freire is a bit dramatic; however, I do think his statements concerning the negative impact the “banking concept” of education has upon students to be very relevant in terms of the modern world. Just based upon my own experience, in certain classes I will learn to the test, focusing on only the information I think will show up on the exams rather than seeking to know and understand the material. Because the “system” bases so much of future success upon one’s grades, I feel like I don’t have time to learn just for the sake of learning and developing my critical analysis/thinking skills. Sometimes I cannot read for a class I find fascinating and think will help me to develop a certain type of skill when I have a really big exam in a prerequisite class for my pre-professional major because I have to cram for a full week before for fear of doing poorly in that one course. The emphasis placed on G.P.A., and pursuing a “practical major” is not a phenomenon generated by students…in all seriousness, it is created by the “big man” or society. When I don’t have time to read for a class I actually enjoy because my G.P.A. will suffer, I don’t really think about the freedom I have within the guidelines imposed by society; rather, I question why so much of my future is tied to an acronym. Therefore, I think that Freire’s take on philosophy, though dramatic in some places throughout his paper, to be a very relevant and powerful. In my opinion, there is something wrong with our system of education, and even though it is an incredibly tall order to refine it, I truly believe that Freire’s ideas are a step in the right direction.

  2. To answer your question, or give my opinion, on whether there is a small minority that controls and manipulates society, I think that yes, there is. They are two things: money and education. They are both connected. We spend money to go to a school/institution so that we will have the skills to make more money. So, in a nutshell, our lives are all about school and money with a little bit of fun throughout the years. If you think about it, we are all living to be successful in life, and being successful, to most people, means having enough money to comfortably support yourself and whoever else you are responsible for. Society has taught us that in order to do this, we must get a degree. It’s pretty horrible, how we live, but it’s society and it’s life; we have no choice but to “adapt to the world of oppression”(78).

Leave a Reply