Upon completing my reading of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed my heart was heavy. His words crept into my soul. I wept.
I had to sit and find the root of those tears.
It brought me right to my experience as a professional in our province. Freire wrote, “[Dialogue] is an act of creation; it must not serve as a crafty instrument for the domination of one man by another” (p.158). As teachers, we are the oppressed. We are the result of crafty dialogues which dominate. I have never felt that the dialogue that was so benevolently offered was genuine; that it didn’t have a predetermined outcome, that it wasn’t a set word which had opportunity for renaming (p.157).
The heaviness of the oppression sat deep within me as I read parts of the BC Ed Plan. You need only to look at the introductory section on effective teaching. One might think this initial conversation would share with readers how valuable and integral teachers are and recognize their important role in delivering and shaping the curriculum being proposed. I certainly thought that it would share an action plan of supports that would be put in place to assure effective practice, but I didn’t expect this version, “…this Plan will address widely-shared concerns about how our province’s teaching profession has been regulated. It will make sure teacher regulation protects both students and the public interest.” (BC Ed Plan, 4) Put aside the insinuation that we are currently not doing an effective job, what about the protection for teachers?
And, why is there a discussion about discipline in a formative document about curriculum? Crafty dialogue.
With further introspection I realised that Freire was triggering something else I have been wrestling with throughout my career. He named for me a dialogue that I have been having about how we shape our students’ acceptance and experience in our schools. How do we create a true community where every student is valued?
It brings me back to my on-going quest to ask and answer, WHY? If our why is to support and shape students who are confident, prepared, critical thinkers then why are schools naming their worlds on behalf of them? As Freire states, “…it must not be a situation where some men name on behalf of others. (158)
I’m especially drawn to our oppressed; our students who are already marginalized.
How are we are creating a school community which invites them in? And this invite does not rest on charity, because charity is only perpetuating the oppression. It’s us telling them that WE know how to solve the problem for them; that WE can determine how they can be included.
What we do need to do, as Freire suggests, is shape our school’s curriculum, with humility, love, hope and faith and with an honest dialogue, to assure that our students can shape their transformation.
I will not be silent.