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“In the banking concept of education, knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing” (p.319). This deep, powerfully accusing sentence by Freire shows his attitude toward the idea of banking information.  But he has a right to feel this way, as those of us who have experienced this style of teaching before should feel, as well. Most people go through our educational system and experience at least one teacher who uses the banking concept of education to run his or her classroom. I can think of a few classes I’ve taken that have been like this. All four years of high school, I took a Spanish class. Two of the three years were taught to me by the same teacher, and she used this concept to teach thirty students. Every day, we would all enter the class, she would talk, using the phrases, “like,” “so,” “um,” and “okay” hundreds of times in a single class period (yes, multiple times we actually kept track), the students were nothing more than names on paper, objects that listened to her babbling words, and we were expected to spit everything back out for her on the test. Of course, there were questions about the material; it was a foreign language class. But she would answer in a confusing, monotone, unhelpful way that showed her disinterest in the class and in us.

It’s not necessarily that she didn’t care about our grades, it’s that she didn’t care about investing into us, the ones to give her the grades. She couldn’t understand that we were people too, not just drones who would “patiently receive, memorize, and repeat” the information she gave us (p 318). We were her mechanically filled containers and receptacles, as Freire would put it. The learning environment wasn’t an environment at all, as the actual term “environment” implies living things in a living ecosystem with the crazy, unpredictable order of nature (notice the focus on living, because she didn’t). Instead, the classroom covered in posters and phrases in different languages and all the knick-knacks she had only communicated to us the bare minimum of their subject. We only noticed them when she would point them out. And that’s because we weren’t expected to take part in her class; we were expected to observe her teaching for an hour.

My high school history teacher was the same way. He would lecture for the entire class, assign the reading equivalent of his lecture for homework, and then go sit at his desk. Every time it came to teaching, we were only meant to absorb, like a dirty sponge. Most of the learning one could do would be from class distractions (also known as a lecture, apparently). We, not even kidding, talked about everything from what hot dogs are made of to the first condoms to the use of the first condoms to being shot by a taser gun to wetting one’s pants after being shot by a taser gun to killing someone by shooting them with a taser gun to, finally, as a girl in the back of the class put it, “hot dogs are made of what?!?” Needless to say, the class was very unsuccessful.

But for every three bad teachers, God sends us one good teacher. And Freire says something very interesting on page 322 that helped me identify this. Freire says, “Yet only through communication can human life hold meaning.” He goes on to add, “Authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation, but only in communication” (italics not added). It’s from these good teachers that we learn how truly not-so-good the other teachers are. It’s from reading literary pieces like this, then expanding on them, that we students learn to become more than students. Freire described this work in a manner so genius, so thorough, that one is forced to look back on his or her life and reflect. Thank you Freire, for understanding us students, and thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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