Research and history indicate that English learners are part of a group that has been culturally marginalized and economically disenfranchised. “For too long, the histories, experiences, cultures, and languages of students of color have been devalued, misinterpreted, or omitted within the formal educational setting” (Delgado-Bernal, 2002). English learners have dealt and continue to deal with issues of race, culture, and language in our schools. Those issues negatively affect the overall learning experiences of English learners and many other students of color.
As an Educational leader, reading Freire's (Freire, 2010) work on oppression was a transformational experience. Freire's ideas about the banking concept of education as an instrument of oppression deeply resonated with me. This concept critiques the student-teacher relationship as narrative, with the teacher feeding the students simple facts and “sonority of words’ that lack the power to educate or transform (p. 71). When this occurs, education becomes a banking system “…in which students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor” (p. 72). Freire concludes that knowledge is more than a mechanical transferring of facts and information. Knowledge is a process of inquiry in which the teacher and student communicate and share knowledge; in the world, with the world, and with each other.
This banking system mirrors the oppressive systems that exist in our society. It “serves the interest of the oppressor,” maintaining a dominant role while imposing a passive role on the student. It dismisses the student’s ability to construct knowledge from the knowledge they possess, depriving them of the opportunity to develop critical consciousness, or conscientização, and undermine the oppressor (Freire, 2010). In analyzing current program practice in our school districts, the banking concept is evident in many classrooms today. Students, including students with limited English proficiency, are expected to listen attentively as the teacher teaches, never acknowledging the student as an equal partner in the teaching and learning process. The teacher teaches, but whether the student is learning is almost a mystery that can only be solved or proven with standardized testing results, once a year. The student becomes a passive participant in the learning process.
Education is a democratizing process that should be constantly evolving and becoming. Freire’s critical educational theory views education as a problem posing process that requires all to become one with the world and develop critical consciousness. Conscientização is needed in order to achieve praxis, the knowledge required to change an oppressive educational system. Without praxis, the much needed social transformation of current oppressive systems for many students of color will not occur. Our students can no longer wait. We are in desperate need of that transformation today.
Delgado-Bernal, D. (2002). Critical race theory, Latino critical theory, and critical raced gendered epistemologies: Recognizing students of color as holders and creators of knowledge. Qualitative Inquiry, 8 (1), 105 -126
Freire, P. (2010). Pedagogy of the oppressed.