Sunday, January 23, 2005

Russell's post and my response

Russell here. I?m in Group A, so here?s a posting. Theissues raised by Freire/Searle/Graff et al. are quiteprovocative. Notice the way academics can snipe at eachother and resort to name calling: ?loony,? ?bad argument,??hostile.? I?m used to telling my composition students thatif you can?t make a point without making an enemy, youdon?t know jack squat about rhetoric. I?ve seen a video ofa lecture by Freire. He first had the lectern taken down sohe would not be looking down at the audience. A teacher ata conference presumably once told Freire that she tried totake a social activist role in her classroom but ended upgetting fired for being controversial. His response??We dowhat we can, not what we want.? If you instill a liberationideology in your students, what happens when your students?conception of social transformation is to work for suchnon-progressive causes as the enshrinement of anti-gaybigotry in the state constitution via an anti-gay marriageamendment (passed overwhelmingly in Missouri), or givingCreationism equal time in public school science classrooms(e.g., Evangelicals were the majority of the Board ofEducation in Kansas recently), or banning Huck Finn andCatcher in the Rye from English classrooms (petition driveunderway in two suburban Kansas City districts)? Would youregret having raised their revolutionary consciousness andwish they would go back to being docile?When the current Iraq war started, I was at the 4 C?sConference in New York City. One 4 C?s officeholder spokeat a general session and delivered a blisteringdenunciation of Bush and the war. (He had taken part instreet protests the day before and had an unhappy encounterwith law enforcement.) That?s interesting for two reasons:He knew he could safely assume that this ballroom ofEnglish teachers agreed with him, and he knew they wouldnot be satisfied to just oppose the war philosophically, sospecial sessions were created to mobilize against the war.That was teachers. Now let?s look at students. One of myCMSU colleagues does a unit on protest writing in her compclasses. One requirement is that each student mustactually, in some form or another, protest something. Shetold me she often has students who swear they can?t thinkof a single thing to protest about. I was walking down thehall once, and when I passed her classroom, I heard hersaying, ?Protest me! Protest this class! Protest myrequirement that you protest! But protest something!? Seemy point? If Freire was writing to teachers, he waspreaching to the choir. It is students who will dig intheir heels at the thought that education should be arevolutionary act. If you doubt that, ask your femalestudents for their reaction to the word ?feminist.? Thatwill depress you for days.

Have you been in a school lately, Russell? I don't see how Friere was preaching to the choir. That means to me that all teachers already understand Friere's point, and teachers do not see themselves as bankers ready to fill the students with knowledge. Generally, teachers like students who sit passively and do exactly what the teacher says. Teachers want control. Teachers want to lecture. It seems like all Friere wants is chance for students to be active learners and learn from inquiry rather than only learning from what the teacher tells them and then being quizzed and tested on that information.

What I think you say in this email is that students should only be given the opportunity (by teachers presumably, from what you say) to be revolutionary only if they espouse ideals that you support. Friere would never support that in a million years. I don't think he would make judgements about what is okay for students to support. No one that steps in my classroom will agree with all of my thoughts. I don't feel like the classroom is my place to share all of my thoughts and opinions on politics. Being a teacher in a classroom is powerful position. I don't want to sway any student to think like I think. I just want them to think. I'm bothered that you may think it is only okay for students to think one way--your way.

Is it okay for a teacher to share his ideology and then silence or mock any students in the class that don't support his view? For Friere, it does not matter what students support as long as they have ideas and think and interact instead of sitting passively and taking in a lecture by the know-it-all teacher filled with knowledge and truth.

I want some clarifications on your point. Because when you said, "see my point" I wasn't exactly sure what you meant.

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