A Broadened Worldview

As I looked back through my blogs I realized that I liked to toss around the phrase “broaden my/their world view.” I used it to describe my own experiences and the experiences that I hope to create for my future students. Since this turned into my catch phrase during this course, I figured I should shed some more light on my understanding of it in relation to our last week in Peru and our concluding readings for the class.

A main component of broadening one’s worldview is realizing that there are other views and ways of life besides yours. I noticed this point as I read Duncan-Andrade’s article, Note to Educators: Hope Required When Growing Roses in Concrete, about critical hope. For me growing up, I had hope of college, a good career, and a middle-class lifestyle. I had hopes for this because that is the life and the world I grew up in. I didn’t have to worry about Duncan-Andrade’s various kinds of hope because I had been fortunate to have accessible opportunities. However, reading this article made me realize the existence of critical hope and the importance that it holds for those that were born into less educational and financial opportunities than myself. I can’t fully understand critical hope from the first person’s point of view, but I can recognize its importance and understand it as an educator.

I also understood a broad worldview to consist of knowing your widely understood place in your established society. For me, I was reminded and shown more proof that I am part of the financially well off. I come from a middle-class family where both my parents work. We live a very comfortable life and money has never been a major concern for us. However, my view of this can be affected at times by the environment that I am in at Marquette, a university known to have wealthier students. I catch myself getting caught up in this sometimes. I sometimes feel sorry for myself for not having as much as some of my fellow students, which is ridiculous! That thought should never even cross my mind, but I get caught up in the environment around me and it becomes my worldview. By broadening this I am able to remember the fortunate life that I lead.

Taking this idea a step further, it is important for students and people to have an understanding of their understood place in their established society. I don’t say this so people become complacent with their status, but so they challenge it. In my opinion students and people need to be aware of the roadblocks they might have in their lives. To understand and break through these roadblocks a comprehensive understanding of the world that surrounds them is necessary. A clear example of this is in Romero’s detailing of The Social Justice Education Project (SJEP) in his article “The Opportunity if not the Right to See.” The end of the article featured a poem by Liz Hernandez, a student in the SJEP. Her poem detailed the conquering and suppression of South America by the Europeans. She demonstrated a clear understanding of the world around her and the sources of the challenges that the world doling out to her.

While in the Cusco region we got a lot of history. We learned of the Incan empire, colonization, and how those two components effect the region and Peru today. I bring this up for two reasons. First, the historical information I gained on this trip about Peru and colonization was fascinating, but I was disheartened that much of it was not featured in any of my history or social studies classes growing up. In this regard my understanding of Peru and the colonization of South America expanded. Second, it sheds light on Peru’s current condition for me. Though these events transpired centuries ago, their effects can still be seen in the daily life of Cusco. Awareness of history and previous events adds to a fuller understanding a place and the effects on its people. Translating this over to the United States, we can look at Adam Fairclough’s article on Brown v. Board. Gaining a broader understanding of this court case’s place in US’ educational history gives us insight into the US’ present educational system and how we can move forward from here.

Finally, having a broad view when it comes to people is one of the most important understandings a teacher or person in general can have.  Prudence L. Carter’s article, “Black” Cultural Capital, Status Positioning, and Schooling Conflicts for Low-Income African American Youth, speaks to the multi-dimensions of a single person. Her examination of the various “faces” the African American youth put on in various groups indicates the necessity to look beyond the first layer of a person. As people we have to strive to gain a broad view of others and not just settle for our first assumptions.

A broadened view of the world and others can lead to less barriers in our society. By understanding each other, our societies, and our histories we can put together a clearer picture of our world and how to improve it. I definitely left Peru with a broadened view and hope to carry that with me as I continue my pursuit to become a teacher.

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Fair Recognition

The very last Peruvian school we visited was a small public school in Cusco. During our time there the principal and a few teachers informed us about the teacher strike that was being planned. They had asked and asked for more resources, but the ministry of education had failed to meet their requests. The strike would be indefinite.

Learning about the teacher strike in Cusco and looking at critical issues in education, I realized that I have a very limited understanding of the political side of education. Hearing about politics usually annoys me to the point that I just ignore them. However, I am understanding that that is no longer an option, especially if I am considering teaching at a public school. In addition, completely ignoring politics is a very unaware way to teach.

This brought me to another teacher protest, but one much closer to home. It took me to the 2011 and 2012 teacher protests of Scott Walker’s Act 10 proposal. I went to a private school so my teachers were unaffected by the bill, but I remember hearing about the hordes of teachers that called in sick and made their way to occupy the capital building in Madison. The story made national news for a while as proposed cuts to public employees’ unions, health care, and pensions became a reality. At the time I had a very limited understanding of the events. I saw the protests and knew that teachers were unhappy, but I lacked much of the background information.

From a few articles, my prior knowledge, and talking with my parents and my professor, I gathered a fuller understanding of Act 10. I learned of how it essentially dismembered the unions for all public employees, except firefighters and policemen, when it took away collective bargaining (CNN and Jim Fangmann). I was presented with the two sides of this, one being that it gave districts more power to usher out bad teachers, but it also took away the power of teachers’ seniority. It left them in vulnerable positions to be replaced by cheaper, but less experienced teachers. Act 10 also made public employees pay more towards their health care and pensions. A change that would make them pay the equivalent of employees in the private sector, (New York Times). However, if teachers are already making less then these shifts are noticeable.

The part that I keep getting hung up on is that this act that was effecting all Wisconsin public employees (except the Fire and Police workers), but the main one that I continuously heard and read about were the teachers.

Based on my understandings of this issue in Wisconsin, the teachers protested the loudest because they were negatively affected the most. They had the most lose. Which brings me to a deeper problem than the changes that were made in 2012, but to the issue that teachers were financially unable to withstand Act 10. In a New York Times article one Wisconsin teacher stated that, “’I love teaching, but I would have to start looking for a new job, period,’” in response to the notion of Act 10’s approval. As I piece together this issue, I am trying to put on my Paulo Freire goggles. I am trying to discover more about the trend of seemingly underpaid teachers. I am curious if it relates back to gender pay inequality because teaching is and has been a predominately female field. I also wonder if it is just that teachers work less months in the year than other professions. 

This led me to dig a little deeper into teachers’ salaries in the US. However, I am still left scratching my head. I found a few sites that argued that teachers are overpaid. Cite listed teachers’ hourly rates to be only a few dollars less than engineers (which I don’t understand how that can be accurate), (Forbes).  Other articles thought them to be underpaid based on comparisons with other countries average teacher salaries or teacher pay decline in the last few decades, (cbsnews). Figuring out how much and if teachers are over or under paid is difficult. There are so many factors that go into to determining it. It is hard to make a generalized statement on the fairness of all teachers’ salaries.

What I did gather from digging a little deeper and from looking at the response to Act 10 was that teachers felt underappreciated for their dedication to their careers. The numbers that turned out and the loud response that they coordinated proved this point. I can’t make a steadfast statement that all teachers should be paid more, but I do believe that we need good teachers and that those good teachers deserve to be fairly recognized for their dedication.

Sources Mentioned

http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/02/20/wisconsin.protests/index.html

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/think-u-s-teachers-are-underpaid-heres-how-bad-it-really-is/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/warrenmeyer/2011/12/22/the-teacher-salary-myth-are-teachers-underpaid/#50bd03a33137

Cultural Worth

Normally, when I think about my culture I don’t think about it because I felt that I didn’t have it. My family doesn’t adhere to any of our nationalities’ traditions and customs. I failed to recognize that this as culture because I understood culture as being outside the mainstream. I saw it as something more unique. I didn’t think that the way I lived my life and the way I viewed the world constituted as culture.

Back in high school we had one day a year that we called culture day or something. It was put on by the Spanish department and each classroom had a different cultural aspect of various Spanish speaking countries. They had crafts, food, dancing, and more food. I very specifically remember attempting some of the dances and getting the foot work terribly wrong. It was a fun day because if you had a study hall you could get food and do some crafts. Some kids would also use this as an opportunity to skip class.

This brings me to the thought of various cultures’ places and power within schools. In one an article by Tara J. Yoso, Whose Culture has capital? A Critical Race Theory Discussion of Community Cultural Wealth, she brings up the concept that all cultures have cultural wealth. She then mentions specific kinds of cultural capital: aspirational, familial, social, navigational, resistant, and linguistic. I agree with her article and believe that there many cultural groups and communities have cultural wealth. However, this wealth is not always valued or seen in schools. It seems that the dominate culture often takes precedence.

Just as I experienced, I don’t think that members of the dominate cultural group realize what power their culture holds. It surrounds us so it doesn’t seem different. Then when we only allot a day or a week for other cultures a hierarchy is created. It can send a message to students that are not of that dominate culture that theirs is not valued as much.

Secondly, culture is hard to teach. When I become a teacher, I want my students to have a broad understanding of the world and its cultures. It is hard to do this though because to truly understand a culture one needs to experience it. It is hard to create those kinds of experiences in a classroom.

In my opinion, to break through these difficulties we need to be honest with students. We need to layout the various capital that cultures hold. We need to include that the dominate culture does often hold more mainstream power, but we have to assert the other forms of wealth that other cultures have. We can challenge students to look at their own culture and find what strengths they hold. In regards to infusing other non-dominate cultures in the classroom, we can look to books, media, and art by members of other cultures to teach students. We can reexamine our curriculum and find where the dominate culture is too dominate and where others are lacking. We can even the scale in the classroom and allow all students to see that they have cultural worth.

I Don’t Mean to Impose

While we have been in the Cusco region, I have observed a common theme: a loss of voice and power to the more dominant group. I have seen this is the history we have been learning during our time here. One clear example is the Spanish coming to Peru and imposing their culture, religion, and societal organization on the Incan people. Through these actions the indigenous peoples lost power and were told what was best for them.

When the Spanish arrived, many Incan buildings were  knocked down and then built upon. So the foundation of certain churches, homes, and commerce buildings are made of Incan stones. We got the opportunity see these structures on the Barco church tour in Andhuaylillas. The churches were erected on the ruins of Incan temples. Some of the Incan stones are still visible and in one church they had an alter that was most likely from the original Incan structure. These churches were built on the Incan stones to cancel out the Incan religion with Catholicism. It was a tactic of conversion, but also persecution. These churches are in places that the Incan held sacred. They were places that they praised their gods.

Even in the language of Peru is proof of the Spanish’s imposing on the original peoples. The dominant language in Peru is now Spanish while Quechua, the indigenous language, is known, but does not hold the same power that Spanish does. An example of this is in Lima where one third of Peru’s population resides and where Spanish and English are languages predominately spoken. Quechua is still spoken, but mostly in the Andean and Amazonian regions.

Through the conquering and colonialization of the indigenous people, the Inca lost their voice. They were enslaved and persecuted by the Spanish that came here. They had little to no say and their way of life was taken from them. They were told how their way of life would be.

I, unfortunately, see this theme in education. Historically and currently in educational systems some peoples voices  were/are lost. They were/are instead told the best way they should be educated. I think of the article by Gloria Ladson-Billings, From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools. Ladson-Billings brings up instances in US educational history that mirror the events of the Spanish and the Inca. She mentions the lack of educational opportunities and educational restrictions that were continuously placed on minorities in our country. She brings up the silencing of voices and the lack of power that peoples had over their own education.

Even now our schools are created in a way that the students’ and families’ desires for their education is often overshadowed by the desires of bigger power systems. This is often the government, but as privatization of schools continues these decisions are also made by religious groups and private businesses. This is not to say that these groups do not have good intentions for students, but it does represent a situation where the voices of students and their families are imposed upon. It is true that some students and families have the choice as to what kind of education they want, but not all people have this ability. Some families must take whatever the larger powers have to offer.

I believe that by giving students and families a louder voice in the educational system, we can move closer to educational equality. Groups that currently don’t have that voice deserve to be heard. They are their own best advocates and have insights that can help educate their kids. There is so much variation in the world that there is not one perfect formula for education. This is why we must look to the individuals and families that are receiving and facing the positive or negative effects of education. Their input can lead to more equal schools and a more just system.

To the Mountains

So we are now in the Andes, which are very different from those of the candy variety. We repacked our bags and caught a flight to Cusco this past Friday morning. It was somewhat bittersweet to leave our homestay that we had grown accustomed to, but we were all ready for some change of scenery. The flight to Cusco was a mere hour long. The pilot took us through numerous layers of clouds. As we passed through them, the view outside my window looked like the stereotypical image of heaven. Just pure white clouds and nothing else. It prompted a small existential crisis for me, but I took a nap and got over it. When we landed our number one concern was to avoid altitude sickness. I think we are at about 11,000 feet currently, which our low-lander bodies aren’t used to. However, I’ve stayed hydrated and have rested a lot, (two of my favorite past times) and I feel fine. 

 While we are up here, we are staying at a Jesuit retreat house in Andhuaylillas. I am quickly learning that it is very nice to know some Jesuits and those associated with the Jesuits because they will put you up and feed you well. Surrounding us is the mountains, the town itself, and San Pedro, a beautiful 17th century church. The community itself has been difficult to read. This town is about an hour and half away from Cusco. The historical church and the proximity to Machu Picchu seem to bring in some tourists so there are areas to buy souvenirs, but the parts of the town beyond the central square appear more focused on agriculture or are small businesses.

 We have experienced another cultural transition as we see and begin to understand the Peruvian Andean people and the society around us. Life in the Andes is much less hustle and bustle for us and, it appears, for the people that live here than it is in Lima. It slightly reminds me of the slower pace that tends to exist in Northern Wisconsin.

 Prior to our departure, I was able to piece together a clearer image of Lima’s educational situation. I definitely don’t have the full picture, but I have a fuller understanding on how economic status, location, privatization, and government play a role in their educational system. I have all of these aspects dancing around in my head about Lima, but I must now work to see how this area that is not Lima conducts their educational processes. I also must keep in mind that there are obvious variations even within this part of Peru. Finally, I have to keep the United States in my mental mix. I can’t forget the educational climate at home where I will actually be teaching.

My best strategy for taking in all these components and looking at them in conversation with each other is to just keep my eyes open. I want to observe and participate in as much as I can. However, I don’t want to pass initial judgement or too critical of judgements. The education here will have differences from my own, but it does not mean one is better or worse. This time will provide me with more options and understandings of education.

As we move forward on this portion of our trip I am curious of the presence or absence of technology in the classroom here? I am wondering about how the Andean culture presents itself in the classroom? I want to see where this culture differs from that of Lima, but I also want to see if there are any broader themes and values that seem to be present in Peru. Finally, I wonder about how Cusco organizes and runs its educational system with the geographical barriers of the Andes Mountains?

 Hopefully, I will gain some answers to these questions and a better understanding of this region.

Of the Highest Quality

The notion that everyone should have access to a high-quality education is one that most to all people would agree with and want to for society. But the question of what makes up a high-quality education is what trips us up repeatedly. It isn’t something that we can universally measure. There are too many variations among us as people.

It seems in the United States, we have been searching for this golden goose that will magically create the conditions for all students everywhere to succeed. I do believe that most of the educational reform was made with good intentions that were aimed at creating conditions for a high-quality education. Whether it was desegregating classrooms, LBJ’s Elementary Secondary Education Act, No Child Left Behind, or Race to the Top, it seemed that all these legislations that were supposed to solve some problems caused others. However, it obviously doesn’t work when we universally apply an educational policy to every student. There is too much variation. We can’t meet the need of every student with one view of a high-quality education.

The difficulty arises because a high-quality education has the tendency to look different to different people and in different contexts. My mind goes to the variations in socioeconomic statuses. Many times students from more affluent families go into school with more resources causing those from less fortunate background to already be behind. It is hard to create a universal standard of high-quality education because these students are not starting from the same place. If these students are starting at different points how can we universally apply a high-quality education?  

Yesterday and today we had the opportunity to visit two schools in Lima. La Immaculada, a Jesuit run school, and Cesar Vallejo Escuela, a public school, gave us further insight into the schooling situation going on here in Lima. The first school, La Immaculada, was beautiful. It was at the foot of a hill and had three soccer fields, open air hallways, a small zoo (yes, I said zoo), and a water treatment plant that they used to keep their school green. Cesar Vallejo did not have a zoo, but still had open air hallways, a lot of room for kids to play, and good-sized classrooms. It was extremely evident though that La Immaculada was a wealthier population than the student average students of Lima.    

It was hard to judge if these schools were providing their students with a high-quality education or not (we were not there nearly long enough). They both obviously cared deeply about the students that walked their halls, and they conducted their schools accordingly. However, I am still unsure if this is enough to warrant the label of a high-quality education in the eyes of most of society. Sometimes it isn’t solely the information that an education provides a student with, but the confidence that it helps them create. That is why for me a high-quality education should provide the tools and inspiration for students to willingly pursue knowledge during and after their formal education. I think that creating thinkers that are excited about broadening their understanding of this world would lead to a quality education. This means that students are receiving not just information in the classrooms, but the ability and the confidence to further pursue their education in whatever capacity they choose.

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Aims

During our time here, we have looked at numerous philosophies on education. Each philosopher had an end game for their ideal student. This ranged from making them a good democratic citizen, to being a critical thinker, to ridding them of the bad tendencies that people are born with. All these thinkers had certain aims for people. Aims, that they believed, could be achieved through their theories on education.

As a student in the college of education, I have yet to contemplate deeply what the aims for my students will be. I do believe that as a teacher it is vital that I have an ultimate goal for what my students will achieve. I also think that there should be some sort of philosophy behind how a teacher teaches, whether it is purely their own or based on someone else’s. There should be reasoning behind why one teaches as they do.

On a contradictory note, I do not think that teachers should allow their end goal for their student to consume them. We too easily get caught up in where we want students to be, that we fail to see where they are and the progress that they have made. We can’t let our political and ethical objectives overrun our classrooms. They should just act as guidelines and reasoning. They should not fully encompass a teacher’s mind as they teach and interact with students. The final aim for a student can have the power to overshadow the actual student.

We have had the opportunity to visit the after-school program, Encuentros, that is based in El Agustino. We had met with them before, but this past week we were able to see their programs in action.  

We were given the chance to practice our soccer abilities some more this last Tuesday. We played with the kids that are involved with Encuentros. We were grouped with the 10 to about 12-year-olds. Fortunately, I had both height and weight on most of the kids, so I was able to play half-way decently. Their coach set up a few drills for them and us before the game ensued. There was a language barrier between us and the kids, but we were still able to communicate. We ended up going back and forth asking for what various words meant in English or Spanish.

Thursday, we were able to meet up with a different portion of the program. We travelled up the mountainside to another part of El Agustino. Getting up there was a bit precarious for me because of my fear of heights and the speedy moto taxi that we rode in. However, once we reached the top we were greeted by a group of girls that were excited to welcome us. Again my inability to speak Spanish presented a challenge, but we were still able to get to know them. The program included some reading, writing, and dancing. I personally enjoyed the dancing the most. The life of the kids in this area was so starkly different than any I had ever encountered, but they were still your average kids that wanted to play and laugh.

I bring up these stories because that were great opportunities not to contemplate too hard on the educational philosophy of what we were doing. We were able to just focus on having fun with the kids.

A Critique of Critical Thinking

Bell Hooks informs her readers about the student’s desire to stay passive, to continue to absorb information as it is given to them. She states that students prefer to be able to just sit and be told. I oddly enough can relate to this. I think of my recent college schedule and how I was annoyed that many of courses demanded my participation beyond just showing up. Even thinking back to high school, I preferred the classes where teachers just lectured.

Hooks then places this concept in conversion with the student’s aversion to critical thinking. As I read her words I, again, can relate to this assertion. As I reflect on my educational career, critical thinking was always a task to be dreaded. I think most specifically back to my middle school social studies class when we were posed with a few regular questions and then a few critical thinking questions. The regular questions were easy and often just recitations of information that could be found in the text. The critical thinking questions, however, demanded more thought and a longer answer. We dreaded those questions.

For me the it seems that the critical thinking that I was posed with and that students are still often posed with don’t quite constitute as critical thinking. Or it is critical thinking that is unexciting or un-relatable. I feel that many times the critical questions don’t appeal to the student’s imagination. When critical thinking is just delivered to students as a question heading on another worksheet, it makes sense that students don’t care for them.

Let’s travel back in time to my social studies class again. We would regularly have critical thinking questions at the end of our book assignments. We saw them as a hindrance that made finishing our homework quickly more difficult. However, in the same class I remember an activity where my teacher placed us in groups and gave us a list of tasks we had to complete. There were various things on the list that aligned with a need country would have. For instance the tasks would be to make wheat out of string (food), make a mini book out of construction paper (education), or make a bridge out of popsicle sticks (infrastructure). We all had the same list, but we all had different materials to complete these tasks with. We all freaked out a minute when we realized that our group didn’t have the necessary materials to complete our project. We soon realized that we had to trade amongst ourselves to finish our assignment, like what an actual modern country would have to do. Everyone became very invested in it and it was an extremely memorable lesson (hence me mentioning it in this blog).

I bring up this story because I believe that students need to critical think and actively engage in learning. I also think that students need and want opportunities to be excited about critical thinking. They want to share their thoughts and insights on situations and ideas, but we often restrict them with how we have been presenting critical thinking and participation to them. To push students towards these things they need opportunities to see the viewpoints of others, to relate topics to the real world, and to arrive at their own conclusions based on what they have encountered. It is the teacher’s job to present the student with these opportunities by giving them the tools, information, and the know how to develop their own critical thinking abilities. By setting up one’s classroom this way, students won’t have a chance to be passive.

My experiences in Peru have pretty much been an ideal critical thinking and active learner scenario. I am experiencing numerous other viewpoints from those of my classmates to those that we have crossed paths with at Universidad Antonio Ruiz De Montoya, Colegio Roosevelt, the service groups and kids in El Augustino, our host family, and many others. Our class discussions have given me an opportunity to relate what I am experiencing with readings and concepts within education. Finally, this blog gives me a chance to work through and voice my individual thoughts.

However, not all educational experiences can be like my Peruvian adventure and not all schools and students have the resources for it. As I begin to move toward my career as a teacher, I realize that I have to create experiences like this one, but within my classroom. I have to create opportunities that breed active critical thinkers with whatever resources I may have.  

 

 

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

“Out of sight, out of mind,” a phrase and effect that I often take advantage of. These instances include ignoring a paper that is due, avoiding my room when it needs to be cleaned, and looking at Snapchat instead of finishing my blog. In these minor examples, the effects of my lack of attention are not that drastic: my paper isn’t quite as polished as I would like, my room remains messy, and finishing this blog takes slightly longer than it should. These are small hindrances that I can deal with. However, the trouble arises when it is the big issues that are out of sight and so often out of mind. The issues we should be stressing and focusing  on are too regularly forgotten by the majority’s daily consciousness because they are out of our sight.

In Lima “the Wall of Shame” seems to try to create an “out of sight, out of mind” effect. This wall, that is situated between the neighborhoods of Santiago de Surco and San Juan Mirafloras, exemplifies the stark socioeconomic contrasts that have developed in Lima. On Santiago de Surco’s side, there are predominately affluent homes that are around 1,000m2, while San Juan Mirasfloras’ side of the wall consists of small homes, “made from scrap material, surrounded by the sand and earth characteristics of Lima’s desert landscape,” (Boano & Desmaison). In addition to the size differences there is a noticeable variation in accessibility to water. San Juan Mirafloras again having the disadvantage in this situation.

It’s difficult to reflect on things that you can’t see or that are not presently in front of you. The “Wall of Shame” seems to act as a barrier that stops any major reflection within these communities about their stark differences. When the differences are blocked off, they seem to be easier to live with. I think this goes for both sides of the wall. When you are not actually seeing all the privileges that others have, you probably aren’t stressing about them on a daily basis. Same when it comes to seeing how much others don’t have, when you don’t see it directly, it makes living your life a little easier.

However, as I been seeing throughout my time in Peru and in our class readings, learning does not come from the easy. Learning comes from the reflection on the differences that exist in our world. The wall stops any learning that could come from these two communities coexisting so closely together. Yes, the argument could be made that the wall itself can act as a symbol of the inequalities that exist between these two communities and people can reflect and learn from that. However, I think the wall acts as more of a cover up for both sides. Each side does not have to literally see the discrepancies. They aren’t constantly seeing the faces of their wall counterparts and the life they are leading.

According to Marc Clarà’s article “What is Reflection? Looking for Clarity in an Ambiguous Notion,” he states that reflection occurs when, “two converging events, which had been previously seen as inconsistent, incongruent, unclear, incoherent, are now seen as absolutely coherent within the situation,” (265). However, if these two events are never brought together, according to Clarà, reflection is not going to happen. In my mind that then means that no solutions will occur either. I worry that this the situation at the “Wall of Shame”, various other areas in Peru, the United States, and even Milwaukee. Places where socioeconomic and opportunity variances are not brought together in the majority’s collective sight and mind. Obviously, people are aware of inequality issues, but people are often not reflecting on them every day because they are not seeing these differences every day.

So, what is education’s role in all of this? For me I believe that education provides society with the opportunity of presenting these inequalities to students on a regular basis. If students are reflecting on these differences that arise in our society on an almost daily basis, they will hopefully carry that skill and concern with them. They will be aware, so when they see a wall they will, hopefully, look over it. They won’t choose the easier route and the majority will begin converging events to find a broader truth. Then, again hopefully, they will do something to make things better.

 

Freire’s Agents of Change

This past week for our class readings we dove into Paulo Freire’s articles on pedagogy. He emphasized the importance of the critical why, or the “epistemological curiosity,” (this one makes me sound more educated). He wanted teachers to create classrooms where students ask these important whys to find the underlying cause of the structures and normalcies of our society. He wanted students to understand the issues, find the source of them, and begin work to change them. He desired students to be agents of change.

So the obvious next question would ask what the teacher’s role is in Freire’s theory. He doesn’t want teachers to just foster a student’s curiosity in anything and everything, but he wants them to encourage learners to look at the issues in our world and ask why things are the way they are. This is heavy stuff. It means questioning the systems that are in place that many of us have knowingly or unknowingly accepted. This is where the tricky part comes in. Sometimes we as people of our societies don’t look at the actual problem. We look at the superficial problems and questions and fail to dig deeper. Is it up to the teacher to know that these problems are out there and to understand their true sources? Or are they more of a co-learner meant to search for the answers of the whys with their students?

In Freire’s Pedagogy of Freedom, he somewhat answers this question by stating that, “there is no true teaching preparation possible.” He does, however, also say that a “critical attitude” is necessary for the teacher.

If one is to approach teaching as Freire recommends, it is a bit daunting. The teacher m wants the teacher to provide the students with the tools they need to ask the critical whys about our world. The teacher should not tell the student, but allow them to arrive at their own conclusion. If the teacher just tells the student about injustices, they students may just absorb the views of their teacher. In addition, the student would fail to gain an understanding of the process of the critical why themselves.

To conduct a classroom that encourages students to become agents of social change, teachers must be agents of change themselves. Freire does not come out and say this directly, but if teachers want their students ask the critical whys, they themselves must have some sort of personal curiosity and desire to improve the world around them. This requires the teacher to be inquisitive and determined to find answers. It also means the teacher must show commitment to the process of the critical why. Finally, teachers must desire and recognize the accessibility of a more equal world.ust let go of the reins and allow students to venture into sometimes uncharted territory, questioning the systems that contribute to their society’s makeup.

I saw a similar process to Freire’s in the 8th grade class I have been with. I already mentioned the social justice project that they are working on, but I wanted to reexamine it in light of Freire’s article. The students have all chosen their own issues that they wish to see change in. Freire would appreciate that they are looking at aspects of society that others might overlook and that they are asking deeper questions about them. However, it is unclear if the students are looking at the root of their problems (the critical why) or just the superficial problem. It is hard for me to tell because I wasn’t with the class when they initially arrived at their topics, but it seems that their projects are just focused on bringing awareness about their. Secondly, these students are planning protests to bring their issue to public notice, but students are not required to execute these protests. Freire would obviously want all his students to follow through on their protests to fully be agents of changes. Finally, in this class the teacher also chose an issue that needed to be changed. She is also digging into this problem and looking for ways to bring about awareness on it. Freire would appreciate this co-learning. He would appreciate that the teacher is also getting close to being an agent of change and directing her students down the same path.

Freire’s thoughts on teaching were developed from his experiences with poor, rural areas where students were dealing with the negative repercussions social injustices. He wanted those students to understand the societal problems that were dragging them down. However, his theory seems to fit well in any classroom that desires its students to become agents of social change. To bring about long-term change in our world, we must find that critical why and encourage others to do the same.