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Friday, March 26, 2010

Education: From Paulo Freire to Henry Giroux and Back Again

From: accessed March 26, 2010 from an article by Henry Giroux, Rethinking Education as the Practice of Freedom: Paulo Freire and the Promise of Critical Pedagogy
Education is not neutral. It is always directive in its attempt to teach students to inhabit a particular mode of agency; enable them to understand the larger world and one's role in it in a specific way; define their relationship, if not responsibility, to diverse others and to presuppose through what is taught and experienced in the classroom some sort of understanding of a more just, imaginative, and democratic life. Pedagogy is by definition directive, but that does not mean it is merely a form of indoctrination. On the contrary, as Freire argued, education as a practice for freedom must attempt to expand the capacities necessary for human agency and, hence, the possibilities for democracy itself. Surely, this suggests that at all levels of education from the primary school to the privileged precincts of higher education, educators should nourish those pedagogical practices that promote "a concern with keeping the forever unexhausted and unfulfilled human potential open, fighting back all attempts to foreclose and pre-empt the further unraveling of human possibilities, prodding human society to go on questioning itself and preventing that questioning from ever stalling or being declared finished."[9]
I came across the above excerpt when--well-- I can't tell you exactly how I ended up at the above quote because to retrace my steps through the aether of the internet portals that led me there would require more recollection than I am capable of mustering.

I wanted to write about Freire because the NAEA's national conference features him and I have to admit that I know very little about him other than the snippets that were collected over the years during various classes. 

To tackle the topic that is Freire and his legacy is impossible in this forum so instead, I will focus on the above quote from Giroux--not to imply that my response below will necessarily have any relevance due to my tendancy to drift off-topic, but one can hope.

Deconstructivism and other components of the postmodern legacy which promote a critical understanding of society are certainly nothing new within the art education field.  Critical examination of visual imagery present within popular culture can be quite revealing as to who and what is being addressed and whose agenda is best served.  It can be quite revealing as to how pervasive this can be within the advertising field in which the disparity between the constructed ideal of the observed is seldom congruent with the self-image of the one observing.  The trick is to help students understand what is happening beyond the images that they encounter in their day to day life so that they can not fall into the trap of blindly accepting what is presented to them.

I lost the source, but there is evidence that it is a teachable skill--i.e. students can be aided to view the world with a critical eye but it takes someone to make the effort to help them do so.  The same source also stated that students will seldom develop these skills on their own so it is critical that there are role models within our youths' lives that help them out because it is much too easy to walk thorugh life with your eyes closed.

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