Problems of the Traditional Educational System Essay Example

In "the Loss of the Creature," by Walker Percy and "Pedagogy of the Oppressed," by Paulo Freire, both authors examine the problems in traditional education systems, which correlate to the strong presence of authority and the resultant lack of mental freedom. Percy proposes the solution of individuals taking ownership of their knowledge, while Freire introduces to concept of education: "banking concept of education" which regards student as a receptacle of knowledge and the "problem-solving solution" that suggests students and teachers engage in conversations as equal. Freire advocates the latter to replace the former. This essay will focus on analyzing the connections of between the two essays by examining their commonalities in criticizing the presence of authority and the consequences of this presence as well as the differences between individualism and collaboration in ideas and remedies they each proposed.

Both Percy and Freire examine the unequal relationship between educators and students and absolute authority that pressures students to conform to the current education system lack of advocation for individuality. Freire uses the banking depository process as a metaphor for the relationship between the teachers and students in a traditional class setting: students are "patient listening objects" and the teachers are "narrating subjects". The teachers' goal is to deposit knowledge into the students (71). The main goal of this type of education is for students to successfully deposit the knowledge instead of truly actively engage in the knowledge and explore the relations between themselves and the knowledge. This cultivated passiveness contributes to the fact that the teacher is the only driving force in proceeding the educational process. The education experience becomes the monologue of the teachers. Therefore, this system that is characterized by the dominant role of educators implies their absolute authority over their students who passively engage in class.

The Authority in Traditional Education

Similar as Freire, Percy also uses the metaphor of tourism and consumerism to suggest the strong presence of authority in the acquiring of knowledge to his audience. Like learners in the banking model of education solely receiving information from their teacher, tourists are guided by people that planed their touring routes. Exposed to things that their guides design for them, the tourists lose the freedom of exploring and receive information passively. In this setting, the tour guides' roles are similar to the teachers, they demonstrate strong dominance over their subjects. Relating to the educational environment, Percy puts forward the concept of "educational package" that the educators prepared for the students. The package is a representation of the educators' authority and refrainment of freedom of knowledge that is similar to the information the teachers delivers in Freire's essay and the routes the tour guides planned for the tourists. Thus, the students and the tourists are expected to consume those "educational packages". Through this method of education, the educators allow little room for the freedom of minds and undermine their subjects' activeness in attempting to gain knowledge on their own. This powerful dominance of their subjects is an authority that influences people in constructing their own ideas because it is hard to present completely fresh views on certain topics under the existence of established authority.

Hierarchy is the Irreplaceable Part of Traditional Education

As for the consequences of these problems in the education system, both authors explore the resultant dehumanization, the hierarchy that existed due to the imbalanced relationship, and the individual's detachment from knowledge. The authors believe that the results of education are dehumanizing individuals and impeding them from achieving individuality and making sovereign attempts to gain knowledge. Percy's discussion of dehumanization is emphasized by sovereignty and self-consciousness. According to Percy, the ultimate loss of sovereignty occurs when there exists no realization of this loss. As mentioned above, the tourists give up their freedom of seeking knowledge. Percy describes the person recognized as "tourist" as a person undergoing "impoverishment". He writes, "The worst part of this impoverishment is that there is no sense of impoverishment" (54). This failure in self-perception demonstrates the complete loss in individuality and the "surrender to sovereignty" (54). Thus, the person is dehumanized as a mere consumer of information.

Focusing less on single individuals than Percy did, Freire put emphasize of dehumanization of the traditional education method in a broader social context. He proposes that banking education which integrates people into the social structure created by the educators is dehumanizing and makes pupils the "beings for others." In this scenario, the educators and administrators similar to the "the oppressors" (Freire 74). He also argues that in the educational atmosphere he criticizes, humans are objectified as "depositor, prescriber, domesticator" (Freire 75). This idea manifests similarity with Percy's idea that students should not be regarded as "receptacle of experience", but as a being who has complete conscious and self-awareness to the educational experience (Percy 58). Both Freire and Percy believe that a person merely receiving information that is granted to him by others is not fully involved in the educational experience and is dehumanized.

In addition to dehumanization, both authors discuss the hierarchy of education system. Percy introduces the system of laymen and experts—consumers and planners—to illustrate the dominance of one side of an educational environment. The authority was in the hands of people that design and plan knowledge for people. The way of how that information gets to the individuals are controlled not by individuals themselves. Percy espouses the attempt to acquire knowledge independently with true ownership and rejecting the influence of the "authority" that hold by people who rank higher in the system.

Similar to Percy's system, Freire's usage of "oppressor" and "oppressed" to characterize the relationship between the learner and the authority also demonstrate the hierarchy existed in the education system. He argues that the educators exaggerated this action of oppression as a way to benefit the oppressed. (Freire 74). The oppressed planned the education of the oppressors as the experts planned the education package for the consumers of the package. As a result, the freedom and individuality and the ability to form independent perception diminished during the process due to the pressure and dominant power of the educator in the teacher-student relationship allow no room to foster those abilities.

Inside the hierarchy of education mentioned above is the title and identities that people subconsciously place themselves in: a consumer, an empty bank account, and a depository of knowledge. It is mentioned in both essays that a person is used to his title as a consumer of knowledge and his identity as an ignorant individual. Percy believes that when people perceive themselves as "laymen" instead of a sovereignty knower, they are enabled to explore the world around them independently due to their inability to acquire answers and knowledge independently (Percy 56) They could percept things because of the knowledge they gained through education, but they are unable to know the process of learning without the guidance of educators. Unlike Percy's focus on the influence of titles on individuals, Freire depicts the admittance to titles in the whole educational environment as a factor that strengthens the hierarchy that lies in education. The students' acceptance of his role as an ignorant being justifies the teacher's superiority as the "oppressor" of the hierarchy in the system (Freire 72).

Percy and Freire both mention the absence of the connection between the knowledge and the individuals. Percy reveals that the traditional education package of direct presentation of facts devalues the knowledge. He writes that a traditional educator is unaware of "a whole ensemble of relations" existed between their pupils and the knowledge they taught (Percy 57). He suggests that the "well-designed" education package that is presented to the students impedes them from making the direct connection with the knowledge itself. Instead of emphasizing on how knowledge is presented and how individuals are unable to separate knowledge from the package, Freire attributes this lack of connection to the education methods and educators that are involved. He writes that the information that was received by students from the "banking method" is "hollow and alienated" from them (Freire 71). He describes the relationship between the student and his perception with the world as the students are "in the world, but not with the world." They are isolated from their surroundings and enable to utilize their perception of the surrounding to make interactions that cause transformations and changes. Same as Percy, Freire believes that the education that regards student as sheer receiver of knowledge will result in an inner alienation between the knowledge students absorbed and the students themselves.

Although Percy and Freire have similar ideas regarding the problems of the education system and the liberation of minds, their approaches differ: Percy stresses upon the idea that in order to gain liberation outside the frame of authority, individuals should become their own authority. In contrast with Percy's idea rooted in individualism, Freire claim that authority and true knowledge emerge in the conversation with individuals and the ultimate goal of liberation is to "praxis" to transform the world beyond with those conceptions gained through communication (79). In response to the problems they examined, the authors propose different remedies. As for Percy, he believes that the only person who can recover independence of the attempts to gain knowledge is the person himself. It requires his self-consciousness and the awareness of the current situation. He advocates individuals to explore novel route in life rather than following the "beaten track". He believes the effort of becoming an independent knower could only be done without the involvement and influence of others. Practically, he suggests an alternative approach to knowledge from wholistic education package: one should directly interact with the knowledge and use the rest of the package as facilitation of learning. Thus, separate the knowledge from the whole education package and allow individuals to recover the sovereignty of their minds and knowledge (Percy 58).

How to Change Educational System

Freire proposes a different solution to achieve the freedom of minds that is not based on individualism like Percy's solutions. To break through the imbalanced relationship of the teacher and student relationship, he proposes the "problem-posing education" that leads student and teacher to engage in conversations, where the teacher is not merely the one teaching but also learning from his students (Freire 80) He believes the action of human precepting the world with consciousness in order to transform the world is praxis of liberation. Therefore, freedom can be taught through this education method with the effort of people involved. Moreover, the freedom that they gained through the experience through this education is shared. As he argues that the "pursuit of full humanity" cannot be carried out in isolation or individualism, but only in fellowship and solidarity" (Freire 85). To Freire, the freedom of minds is achieved through communication instead of through individual endeavors.

Both Percy and Freire elaborate on the theme of humanization and the methods of learning that cultivate full and independent people. It is true for both of the authors that education should enable people to achieve freedom in minds and avoid submitting to authority. Practically, what we can adopt from the concepts of these two authors is to be aware of the authority that powers over us and keep a heightened consciousness in the ideas we adopted from others. Furthermore, we should look for profound correlations in the world around. Our perceptions should go beyond the stage of identification with the preexisting knowledge to the phase that we are able to discover and know under own will and develop our own arguments regarding things we identified in order to be truly involved.


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