Living in a World of Depositors and Empty Receptacles

Throughout the development of education, educators have made the old fashioned teacher-student relationship a norm. Although some are content with the norm, others have expressed otherwise through works of writing. Pedagogy of the Oppressed outlines a theory of oppression and the source of liberation. In Freire’s view, the key to liberation is the awakening of critical awareness and the thinking process in the individual. This happens through a new type of education, one which creates a partnership between the teacher and the student. This ultimately empowers students to enter into a dialogue and begin the process of humanization through thought. Traditional structures within the educational system reflect oppression through the enslavement of students. In Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire provides readers with the argument that the “banking” model of education should be replaced by the “problem-posing” model.

To Freire, the traditional teacher-student relationship consists of the banking model of education. In this oppressive model, the teacher is the oppressor who retains control during teaching. The student, however, is expected to follow. As the follower, a student is to be passive and not think on their own. He further explains how teachers deposit information into students, who are empty receptacles for these deposits.

Freire proposes problem-posing education as the successful alternative to traditional education. Problem-posing education is structured to encourage thinking in students. In this form of education, the teacher and the student enter into partnership and join in a dialogue to jointly come to conclusions about problems. The solutions must not be predetermined by the teacher, but instead must be come to together during the process of dialogue. The teacher and students learn from each other.

These two particular models of banking and problem-posing are more than similar to lecturing and active learning. For instance, in lecturing, students are expected to synthesize lecture discussions that are solely led by the lecturer. Like Freire’s theory of the banking model, lecturers deposit information that they believe is important to learn into students, who are the empty receptacles responsible for listening and memorizing all information given in order to be successful. Moreover, the problem-posing model emphasizes active learning as students will ultimately learn through actual involvement. Active learning encourages questioning, and in many instances, the professor might learn a thing or two as well.

Before, I simply thought of the models of education as lecturing vs. active learning, but now I can associate oppression and liberation with these models thanks to Paulo Freire. A part of the chapter that was particularly compelling to me was towards the ending found on page 83 or page 11 of the PDF. In this scene, a culture group in Chile was discussing the anthropological concept of culture. Somewhere along the discussion, an ignorant peasant gives significance to the idea that a not-I cannot exist without a non-I: “Now I see that without man there is no world” (82). Here, Freire gives readers a reference to how individuals cultivate the banking model into their individual thoughts. Overall, Freire’s descriptions of education resonated with my own experiences because I myself have felt limited in a lecture. Depending on the professor, some of my classes never even held on discussion among students. Although I knew my full potential was in critical thinking and active learning, I did not question this traditional teacher-student relationship for the simple fact that I was the student, not the educator.

Did Paulo Freire’s descriptions of education make you think of the traditional teacher-student relationship differently? If so, how?

Was there ever an instance where you challenged the traditional teacher-student relationship? If so, how?

Works Cited

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum, 1968.

2 thoughts on “Living in a World of Depositors and Empty Receptacles”

  1. To be a student, one of the things you have to do is challenge your professor or teacher. Putting the system in “special categories” is not going to change the fact, that some to most students just don’t take full advantage of being a student. For example, when a professor is incompetent, what is the possibility of any of the students, that professor is teaching, is going to complain about him or her to officials?

  2. Freire’s descriptions of education did not necessarily make me think of the teacher-student relationship any differently because it was quite apparent for years that this is the nature of our education system. All we know of education through our years of formal grade school is that we learn through meticulous memorization, and dedication to repetition. Nothing is really absorbed, such as methods of critical thinking or application of ideas in a real-world scenario. Instead only facts are absorbed and spit back out during the times of examination. I always understood that what I was being taught throughout grade school wouldn’t matter to me at all after I took the exam, and it still is this way in parts of college. His explanation of a more ideal system of education is far more valid and beneficial to students because they can gain something with practical application potential once they leave school.

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