Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Higher Education Today

Paulo Freire says, “The educated individual is the adapted person, because she or he is better “fit” for the world” (Pedagogy of the Oppressed). It can be argued that universities have largely become mechanisms that mold students to conform and adapt to the normative structures of society, rather than question the status quo. How often do we see a "problem-posing" environment in the higher education lecture-based or even seminar classroom?

Here's an interesting video created by students at Kansas State University: "A Vision of Students Today." You can find more information on the ethnographic project here.

One student in the video says her bubble tests won't help her deal with or prepare her the problems of the world--war, ethinic conflict, hunger....

Another student says, "I did not create the problems. But they are my problems." Higher education should promote pedagogies that encourage real dialogue in which students explore and understand their place in the world as both oppressors and oppressed, along with their potential to create and re-create new realities. Freire calls this "Conscientizacao," threatening the place of the status quo and questioning the prevailing picture. Going beyond the statement, “This is how life is,” and understanding one’s place within social mechanisms. Individuals and groups have the power to change the narratives of reality.

The college classroom has the potentional to be what Freire terms "co-intentional," but often isn't.
Teachers and students (leadership and people), content on reality, are both Subject, not only in the task of unveiling that reality, and thereby coming to know it critically, but in the task of re-creating that knowledge. As they attain this knowledge of reality through common reflection and action, they discover themselves as its permanent re-creators. (Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 2007)
Another of my favorite essays that's only somewhat related: William Deresiewicz's The Disadvantages of an Elite Education."