Literature Review on the Literary Works of Freire, Hooks, and Dewey Alyssa V. Soto-Garcia
Florida International University
Education is one of the fundamental elements necessary for any individual to achieve
success. It is the school system that is charged with the significant task to encourage its students to grasp at new opportunities, consider new ideas, and to achieve new heights that they did not think possible. Additionally, it is the teacher’s duty to guide their students throughout the learning process, to ensure that they are thinking to their full potential, and to inspire them to seek out a better way of life. Although these may be the ideal components for the education system, or a student-teacher relationship, there are areas in this field that are still left wanting.
Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Bell Hooks’s Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, and John Dewey’s Democracy and Education are all literary works that aim to fill in the blanks of modern day teaching. The authors each present areas in which the educational system in modern day society are failing and that require reform. Freire, Hooks, and Dewey offer insight from personal experiences, extensive research, and their individual observations to educate the reader on the aspects of education that must be transformed if we are to give the future generation a true chance of success.
PEDAGOGY OF THE OPPRESSED BY PAULO FREIRE
Freire’s (2000) work dives deeply into the concepts of humanization, dehumanization, oppression, and education. He begins his analysis by explain ing to the reader that dehumanization and oppression go hand in hand. The author explains that those members that oppress another are actively dehumanizing the oppressed party (Freire, 2000, p. 44). In turn, this process makes the oppressor dehumanized for taking advantage of a group they do not consider their equal. Just as well, in allowing themselves to be treated so, the oppressed contribute to their
dehumanization (Freire, 2000, p. 48). To transform this cycle of oppression, the oppressed must consider two stages. The first is that the oppressed must fully grasp the structure of their oppression and actively work to convert the old ways into a newer, humane one. Only by understanding its components are the oppressed able to reconstruct their society, not just for themselves, but for all. The second is that once liberation from oppression has been established, the structures that lead to oppression must be made extinct, and the new constructs of the liberated society without oppression must be spread and made accessible to all. In this way, liberation can become a permanent function of society (Freire, 2000, .54). According to Freire (2000), the oppressed are the only party capable of changing their status for they are the ones with a true understanding of what it is to be oppressed (p. 44). However, the oppressed often fear changing their status from oppressed to revolutionists as they have grown accustomed to conformity and fear.
The concepts of dehumanization and oppression also pertain to the education system, more specifically to the teacher and student relationship. In this instance, the student is regarded as the oppressed and the teacher as the oppressor, although they too may be oppressed by those in a higher position than they are. In Freire’s (2000) discussion, the term banking is used to describe the depositing of information by teachers into the minds of the students (p. 72). In doing so, it prevents students from contemplating or formulating their own thoughts and ideas on a subject. Instead, the students receive and memorize the information deposited to them without any critical thinking on their part or any true knowledge acquired on the subject. When the student becomes accustomed to merely being the receptacle to the information the teacher provides, it is then that they fall under oppression. They are unable to defend themselves with their own individual thoughts and are less likely to contribute enough intelligence to change their oppressive society.Rather,they adopt the ideology of those that have taught them. According to Freire (2000), “Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students” (p. 72).To resolve this issue, the author suggests that the students and teachers not merely teach or be taught, but that both parties equally teach and learn with each other. When dialogue between students and teachers take place, it must convey both reflection and action for there to be any true communication (Freire, 2000). This type of communication is what Freire argues is imperative to education.
TEACHING TO TRANSGRESS: EDUCATION AS THE PRACTICE OF FREEDOM BY BELL HOOKS
Hooks’s literary work, based on personal experiences both as a student and teacher, offers insight into the principles, methods, critiques, and ideology that she has witnessed throughout her time in the classroom. It is within her collection of essays that she stresses the importance of adding excitement among the students by engaging them in the areas of study they will be sharing in as well as valuing every student’s personal contribution to the classroom dynamic (Hooks, 1994, p.7). According to Hooks (1994), instructors must truly value the subject they are teaching and be willing not only to empower their students with knowledge, but themselves as well (p.21). This includes teachers taking the same risks in teaching that they ask of their students (Hooks, 1994). In order to transgress from the old ways of teaching, Hooks (1994) calls for teachers to embrace a newer form that strives to construct a better school of education that shows society a “joy in cultural diversity, our passion for justice, and our love of freedom (p. 34). Once teachers understand that they must also cater to a multicultural setting, learning and accepting the different ways that different cultures think, and learning the cultural codes necessary to teach their audiences more effectively, will they be able to transform teaching in a way that broadens the mind to explore new ideas and challenges freely (Hooks, 1994, p.41).
Hooks (1994) brings into focus another useful tip for instructors that include incorporating student’s individual life experiences with classroom topics (p.84). From her observations as a teacher, Hooks (1994) has found that often times when students share from their experiences, class discussion is deeper and they are more enthusiastic about participating (p. 86). This allows the opportunity to relate the classroom teachings to real life experiences from their personal backgrounds while also teaching the students to share knowledge respectfully with one another. This type of respectful communication or sharing of ideas that the author encourages among students is also encouraged among teachers and critical thinkers that wish to transform the educational process (Hooks, 1994, p. 129). Communication among believers for a new teaching era would allow for an understanding of education from all parts of society, giving the opportunity for theories and ideas to be challenged or built upon. Hooks (1994) raises the issue that teachers that “cannot communicate well cannot teach students how to communicate” (p. 151). Like Freire, Hooks stresses the idea that teachers must also be students just as the students must also be teachers; guiding one another to explore new topics in the education process that can better transform the educational system in our society.
DEMOCRACY AND EDUCATION BY JOHN DEWEY
In his book, John Dewey begins by expressing the importance of education in social life and how communication is essential for knowledge to pass through the generations. Dewey (2012) stresses that it is imperative that knowledge is communicated well to the future generations, especially as society moves quickly in both knowledge and technology (p. 13).
Although the author believes that the sharing of knowledge and experiences is important, he also adds that it cannot be truly accomplished by merely dictating to them. Students learn best when they can associate with the subject under study. The best way to achieve this is by ensuring that educational institutions follow three steps: that they break up the information and teach it in an order that would make it more understandable by the student, encouraging behavior that agrees with the status quo of the society, and maintaining a good environment for teaching that allows a student to learn to their full potential (Dewey, 2012, p. 27). Dewey (2012) also encourages that students learn to socially interact with one another so that each may share ideas into the topics they are learning; in essence, putting communication into practice (p. 8).
Additionally, Dewey adds that the process of educating a student must have a particular aim in mind. In other words, the subject first presented for teaching must be organized in a way where there is a goal set that will be reached in the conclusion of the lesson (Dewey, 2012, p. 109). The author expresses that it should be the teacher’s objective to teach their vast knowledge to their students, expanding on information that they have gathered from their experiences (Dewey, 2012, p. 196). This knowledge should be expressed in a way that is relatable to their pupils in order for them to best grasp the information being taught to them. However, Dewey continues this thought by saying that it is the teacher’s responsibility to determine the best teaching method available for their students, as each member has a different way of learning and grasping concepts (Dewey, 2012).
The literary works of Freire, Hooks, and Dewey establish a thorough analysis of the issues within the modern education system while equally suggesting approaches that all educators can take to ensure that their students receive the most of their learning experience.
There are many educational establishments that would benefit greatly from incorporating a portion of these suggestions, especially the juvenile detention centers. Based on the data presented by the website article, Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform the Juvenile Justice System, “education for the 70,000 students in custody on any given day is setting them even further back in their ability to turn their lives around” (SEF, 2014). This is a great number of youths that are given an inadequate education while in custody that are more likely to recidivate once thrown back into the community. If anything can be learned by the authors of these pieces is that without the proper education and without the proper educators, there can be no improvement in society for the future generations. In fact, by maintaining poor educational methods that do not engage the students into thinking beyond the capacities that society has laid out for them, the entire human race will go backwards in intelligence and cease to grow. This goes especially for those juveniles that live in poor socioeconomic neighborhoods, or who are in custody, that have very few good educational alternatives presented to them. They must be able to receive a well-rounded teaching experience so that they too have the opportunity to succeed in their future, preventing them from further, or possible, criminal activity.
The Mississippi Freedom School is an example of a school whose goal is to broaden their student’s minds by encouraging them to ask questions; drawing upon their interests, so that they would be able to respond to these questions using their personal experiences as an example. This school aims to transform the way they teach their students, at times improvising their curriculum, to steer away from the ineffective constructs that most of society currently uses. This school wanted to ensure that their educators asked open-ended questions, linked the subjects to student’s personal experiences, stressed the importance of learning, encouraged students to learn their own history, and to show that the Freedom School was established to change the way teaching was accomplished (Emery, Braselmann, & Gold, 2010). In the end, this is what the majority of schools should strive for; a place where teaching and learning work hand-in-hand, all for the purpose to push our generation, and those that follow, forward into a brighter future.