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English 103: Independent Thinkers

December 28, 2017

My childhood was less stable than a three-legged chair, and as a ward of the state, I bounced around like a pinball missing out on much schooling. Although, I do recall attending class in Juvenile Hall with one teacher who gave such lengthy oratories they left me winded—mentally. Out of all the information that she pumped into us like watered-down steroids, I can only remember that her son was a Muslim who took his prayer rug with him to school. Ms. “What’s her name?” used what Paulo Freire referred to as the “Banking” concept of education. In his essay of the same title, he described this method as a sort of mechanical narration in which the teachers are depositors and the students are containers. The problem with this style of schooling is that when knowledge is treated like something to be stored in a container, it eventually begins to spoil like old cottage cheese. So, how do we fix this way of teaching that “leads men and women to adjust to the world and inhibits their creative power” in order to create independent thinkers whose ingenuity will expound on the world and not leave them to conform to the status quo?

Imagine that you are taking guitar lessons down at the local shop and your mentor shows you how to play an Iron Maiden song and the introduction of “Stairway to Heaven? So, you’ve learned a few chord progressions that are fun to play, but by simply memorizing these songs, you are left without a complete understanding of the functions of these chords and the extent of what you can do with them. Without learning and understanding the theory behind the knowledge that you have gained, what have you gained at all? By only playing another’s tune and following the status quo, our creativity is snuffed and access to true knowledge limited. The knowledge, or the knowledge of what to do with knowledge, “emerges only through invention, re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry humans pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” It is not enough to appropriate the ideas of others, but we must expand on them and make them our own.

Must we always accept what we are told as absolute truth? Are we allowed to believe that in some cases there is more than one right answer? The “banking” concept of education implies that there is only one right answer, and it is the answer that we are told. This method dares to suggest that at some point learning ends, for when the container is full and the bank is empty, what is there left to be known? Contrarily, life itself is going through constant change, compelling us to continue learning. Indeed, as Paulo Freire affirms in his essay, “The unfinished character of human beings and the transformational character of reality necessitate that education be an ongoing activity.”

Effective education requires an interactive partnership between teacher and student. While teachers should be acknowledged and respected for their academic experience over the student, teachers should always keep an open mind to the responses of their pupils. In this way, students are not left to conform to a rigid environment but are empowered to improvise, invent, and create for the betterment of their environment. By simply proffering the idea that there is more than one acceptable perspective, allowing trial and error, asking questions and starting conversations, students are encouraged to think for themselves, and to think outside of the box.

In my minimal experience and observation, it seems to me that students of “higher learning” are expected to think critically about what they are presented, while the curriculum in grade schools is simply meant to be accepted. In Carmine Gallo’s book, “Talk Like Ted,” he quotes Robert Green as explaining in his book, “Mastery,” that “feeling motivated and energized, we can overcome anything. Feeling bored and restless, our mind shuts off and we become increasingly passive.” Interaction, inspiration, passion… These are the tools that will break the chains of intellectual oppression and guide the minds of independent thinkers.

The Thinker, Auguste Rodin

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One Comment
  1. It was only once I left school I gained an interest in proper learning, reading up by myself on topics I found interesting. It took some years to undo the damage the kind of schooling you mention.

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