Freire, Paulo. “The Banking Concept of Education.” In Austin, Michael, Reading the World: Ideas That Matter, 2nd Edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010. Pp 62-66. Print.
As in much of post-colonial South America, Brazil in the mid-20th century was a nation of political turmoil. Oppression of various groups was not an uncommon governmental practice, and civil liberties which are so cherished today were trampled upon regularly. Though not born directly into such a condition, Paulo Freire (1921-1997) – an educator and philosopher, - witnessed firsthand the degrading dehumanization which took place in his native Brazil. Freire had succeeded in having some of his educational policies, developed over several years to support the poor, oppressed, and colonized, implemented in the early 1960s. In 1964, however, a military regime came to power which derailed his policies and arrested him for two months under charges of, “Subversive influence.”
Freire would later flee to Chile and the United States. It was during his stay in the latter as a visiting professor at Harvard that he published his seminal treatise Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), of which The Banking Concept of Education is an excerpt from the 2nd chapter. This work, which outlines his ideology for a new education system, cemented his place as an integral education theorist of the 20th century.
Freire evaluates the current system of education by using the analogy of a banking system. He explains that the methods used in schools are akin to depositors (teachers) and those into which deposits are made (students). Teachers perceive themselves and are perceived by students as authority figures who dictate when, what, and how something is taught. Operating under the presumption that the teacher is knowledgeable and that the student is ignorant, the banking system sees teachers depositing kernels of information into students’ heads which the students readily memorize and mindlessly repeat. Inquiry, therefore, has no place in the banking system, which prioritizes mechanical memorization, facts, formulas, discipline, and regurgitation of information over critical thought and the forging of new knowledge. Freire refers to this banking epidemic as a, “narration sickness”. “Narration [by teachers]” he writes, “leads students to memorize mechanically the narrated content.”
Freire likens the banking concept to oppressive sociopolitical regimes, asserting that the banking system of education is used to suppress individual thought and thus maintain the power of those in authority. Naturally, Freire decries such an institution. To replace the banking system, he proposes a, “liberation education” system which he likens to progressive political relations (which stand in stark contrast to oppressive authoritarianism). Supposing that, “Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferals of knowledge”, Freire’s liberation model supports a dialogical rather than lecture-based teaching method. Teachers and students will engage in a conversation as equals with the teacher posing questions without definitive answers; in turn, the roles of teacher and student are abolished in favor of teacher-student & student-teacher, each learning from the other.
In order for the liberation model to be effective, he argues, the banking concept must be abandoned in its entirety – no remnants of its principles can permeate the new system. Teachers must surrender their authority, and students must bear the responsibility of determining what, when, and how they are taught. If this structure is followed, Freire concludes, education becomes a pathway to freedom.
- Austin R. Justice is RCRC Chair and a tenured contributor specializing in classics, the American Civil War Era, and Lincoln studies.
Hi, I'm the website Admin. I look after the website as well as the chapter social media accounts.
Austin R. Justice
PMC of River Cities Chapter and Lincoln Forum & Colloquium Student Scholar.
Spencer M. Dayton