Freire the Depositor

by , 2002

Assignment: What sort of teaching method does Freire use in his essay towards the readers? How does this either support or detract from the author's credibility? Are there ways to change the teaching method the essay exercises in order to make it more effective? If so, what are they?

Paulo Freire is extremely hypocritical in his essay, "The 'Banking' Concept of Education." He criticizes Brazil's current style of teaching its students (the banking concept) and proposes a utopian ideal of teaching that he calls problem-posing education. In this mythical system of teaching, the students and teachers become each other's peers. Instead of learning traditional book knowledge, these new pupils are instead taught how to use the creative capacities of their minds. They will be able to create original ideas and will all be revolutionaries. Although this new method of teaching seems very intriguing on paper, it is impossible to fully achieve. Paulo Freire's essay itself displays how this new system is impossible. "The 'Banking' Concept of Education" is obviously written in the old style of teaching and fails to be problem-posing.

In the banking concept, teachers hand down to their students facts without allowing them to be questioned, added on to, or subtracted from. Freire does the same thing throughout his essay whenever he gives us definition of new terms that he has introduced. The two main terms that are defined in the essay are the banking concept and problem-posing education. Freire describes the banking concept as a system in which students are turned into, "'receptacles' to be 'filled' by the teacher" (Freire 349). He also states that it is a system in which "knowledge is a gift bestowed by those who consider themselves knowledgeable upon those whom they consider to know nothing" (349). Teachers are assuming that they have all the answers and that it is their duty to give those answers to the pupils. Freire defines problem-posing education as the system that is an answer to the banking concept. The two systems are opposites. Further, problem-posing education is said to place teachers as "partners of the students in their relations with them" (351). Teachers and students are put on a level playing field in which both are equal to each other. This equality is supposed to create discussion between the teacher and student and should allow the two to learn from each other. The definitions of these two terms, the banking concept and problem-posing education, are very clear cut. Freire does not give the opportunity to explore the meaning of the terms. Different people might have different ideas of what exactly the banking concept or problem-posing education are depending on their educational background and experiences, but Freire does not give them a chance to think about their own opinion. This behavior does not display the Freirean ideals of teaching.

Another flaw in the Freire's problem-posing essay is his failure to include an opposing side to his argument in his essay. Instead of allowing the readers to make decisions for themselves, he forces them to blindly take in his own ideas. For example, he sees a world in which there is universal student conscientização, meaning that students hold the ability to make changes to society wherever they see problems. Students would become revolutionaries. They would be able to constantly come up with new ideas and would always be improving society, according to Freire. He fails to talk about the dramatic problems the abundance of revolutionary ideas could cause a classroom. Radical ideas are often on different ends of the spectrum and clash with each other in dramatic fashion. At the least, arguments and disagreements would be created. More likely, hatred and fights would be spawned. A problem-posing educator would have mentioned this in his essay and would have left it open for discussion. Freire did not. Instead, he blatantly stated his own position as the one and only side of the issue.

So how could Freire's essay have been less in the spirit of the banking concept and more like problem-posing education? A start is that he could have asked more questions. Asking the students (or readers in the case of an essay) questions is crucial in problem-posing education. If there is no room for discussion, then the author is simply "projecting an absolute ignorance onto others" and depositing information into the readers who have become nothing more than receptacles (Freire 349). Freire fails to ask questions throughout the entire essay. When he finally does in the concluding paragraph, he immediately answers his own question, leaving the readers with no chance to form their own answers. Why does Freire fail to ask questions in his essay? Does it perhaps stem from a lack of understanding of how to be a problem-posing educator? Or, is it simply that he thinks that he does not need to follow his own rules of educating?

There are also other things which could have been done to keep the essay from being so much in the style of the banking concept. Instead of roughly dispensing definitions, Freire could have opened up their meanings to discussion. He could have looked at how the terms could have various implications for different people. And, the opposing side to the author's arguments could have been explored. If Freire had done these things along with asking more questions, he would have been able to make his essay more problem-posing. It would have strengthened his position in the sense that it would be less hypocritical, but it would have weakened it at the same time by questioning its validity. This is the crucial problem with problem-posing education. Paulo Freire could not have written an effective essay using the problem-posing methods because they are flawed. Teachers and authors need to have the ability to tell their students and readers what the truth is sometimes. Not everything should be opened up to questioning.

Within "The 'Banking' Concept of Education," Paulo Freire's style of teaching through his writing clearly contradicts the style of teaching that he is promoting within the same essay. This hypocritical behavior has a disastrous effect on the credibility of his ideas. If he cannot implement the ideas of problem-posing education within his own essay, how can it possibly work in classrooms? I will answer this question myself because I am not claiming to be a problem-posing educator: It cannot work. Freire's system of problem-posing education will fail because it does not have enough structure. Unknowingly, Paulo Freire proved the flaws of his ideas in his own essay when he failed to utilize his own utopian teaching methods to teach us.