Jatwell Digs Freire

What I particularly enjoy about Freire’s piece is his rejection of the “banking model” of education. I’ll be honest, when I was a student, I enjoyed a good lecture from some of my more old-school professors, but I certainly learned more from classes that encouraged participation, discussion, writing, presentation, etc. One of my favorite metaphors for teaching styles is the binary of the guide-on-the-side vs. the sage-on-the-stage. Arguably, teaching styles lie more of a continuum  than the false dichotomy these metaphors make them appear to be, but it’s a nice, crystalizing way to think of two different approaches in the classroom, and as much as possible, I attempt to be a “guide-on-the-side” rather than droning on as Freire’s “bankers for teachers” do.

This entire concept of encouraging students to teach seems (as most things) strongly tied to the idea of alerting students to the fact that they operate within diverse systems of Discourse communities. Freire claims that reformation of education “must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contraditction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students” (72). Lester Faigley makes a similar argument in his “Competing Theories of Process.” He asserts that social views of composing such as those pertaining to Discourse communities operate under the assumption that “individual expertise varies across communities, [and] there can be no one definition of an expert writer” (535).

Thus, students coming into the class with all sorts of writing experiences bring valid writing knowledge to the table. Alerting students to the fact that the Discourse communities they operate in and the dominant Discourses of society are simply different and only exist in a social hierarchy rather than any sort of actual taxonomy that ranks students’ home Discourses as “less than” is an important first step in helping students to understand Discourse communities and how to successfully operate in academia and other communities.

Q1: Freire claims that there exist many well-intentioned teachers who “knowingly or unknowingly” wind up using a banking approach to pedagogy and knowledge (75). How does an instructor become aware of this?

Q2: Is the banking model something we can wholly avoid? In the Faigley piece I mention above, he claims that the reason many people struggle in the discourse community of the academy is not because they are incapable as writers, but simply because they lack the necessary knowledge of their field/vocabulary to succeed. This knowledge has to come from somewhere, yes? I understand that exposure to the discourse itself is helpful, but at some point we have to tell students what to notice in a discourse, yes? Isn’t this teetering on the precipice of the banking model of teaching/knowlege?


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