Paulo Freire’s essay ‘The Banking Concept of Education’ and Walker Percy’s essay ‘The Loss of the Creature’ ultimately share the same message that students without a struggle are not able to use their education to confront real-life situations. I believe that meaningful learning is a process that takes place daily. Everyone learns in a different way and at different speed. I feel that it is a gradual process in which one learns imperceptibly depending on what they have been able to grasp in or from the kind of mistakes made. I would define meaningful learning as a process in which one is exposed to new interesting information, knowledge or experience that one could use in their upcoming life if needed, and help them from committing any additional blunders related to it. One aspect that can affect meaningful learning are the preconceived notions that are built from numerous different sources; it could be media, books, other people, outings or from experiences that are driven by their own pure personal desire. For me, it is meaningful learning if one has used their individual perspective and critical thinking to come to a conclusion and educated them from the information acquired.
I feel that having predetermined notions is not a terrible thing but it is important that one should be open to other aspects. To shed some light on my concept of meaningful learning, I would like to use the example of my visit to Red Fort, India. I went with some preconceived notions since I had heard a lot about it from my close friend. Percy states in his essay that, “the sovereign discovery of the thing before him is rather measuring up of the thing to the criterion of the preformed symbolic complex” (460). Percy, in the above statement argues that having a preconceived image through media, books or other sources can lead to false appreciation. While on the other hand, Freire’s states that education becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits, which the students patiently receive, memorize and repeat (318).
In the above statement, Freire claims that the banking concept of education thereby changes humans into objects. Humans have no independence and therefore no ability to rationalize and conceptualize knowledge at a personal level. Both Percy and Friere claims that any notions built on the basis of additional sources cannot lead to a meaningful experience. As per Percy, I lost sovereignty on my trip to red fort by having preconceived notions and not thinking critically about it, while as per Friere, I was the depository and my friend was the depositor, which affected my learning of a meaningful experience. From my experience, I disagree with both of them. On my trip, I found that the fort had its wall engraved with timelines and details of how and when various events took place in that fort in the historical era. The fort had old weapons preserved, which the emperor and their soldiers were using in the historical era. I captured a lot of images and videos but was also able to experience the site to the fullest.
I spent an entire day at the fort, which was truly an amazing experience and learnt a lot more about it than what I had heard from my friend. My experience at the Red Fort made me believe that having some preconceived notions can be encouraging and productive in opposition to what Percy thinks about people having symbolic complexity and not able to experience the sight for what it truly is. According to Friere’s banking concept, my friend was the depositor and I was depositories, had I not been a depositories in this case, I do not think I would have even visited this place and would have missed out on a meaningful learning experience. From my experience, I do not agree with Percy regarding his view on how to acquire real experience. In such a tech savvy world, it is most of the time not practically possible to be unaware about things. I feel that not understanding its significance before jumping to any conclusion can lead one to disappointment and loss of sovereignty.
Later another incident occurred in my life when I decided to move to the United States of America, everything was different to me. I had enrolled myself as an international student in college. I was not a fluent English speaker as compared to all the students studying here. I enrolled myself into an English course along with other four different courses. English was not easy to read or grasp the first time through but gradually after few lectures in which there was continuous communication and questions asked during the class I could comprehend. Communication between students and their teachers is the key to learning. I remember before giving assignments, my teacher would supply us with background information as to how to begin, how to use key words, make clear sentences and etc. She was a resource for me. She not only gave information on what we were reading but called upon us to formulate an idea and share it with the class.
When the teacher allowed my classmates and me to converse, we could come up with new ideas and shared with her to get her opinion. She would either say that we made an excellent point and that she never thought of it before or might even share a better knowledge with us from her experience about it. This reminds me of Paulo Friere’s quote that, Through dialogue, the teacher-of-the-student and the students of the teacher cease to exist and a new term emerges: teacher student with student-teacher. The teacher is no longer the one who teaches you but one who teaches himself in dialogue with the students. They become jointly responsible for a process in which all grow (324). Friere also states that, both should simultaneously be teachers and students. The teacher no longer knows everything and students know nothing (319). The role of students and the teachers are not necessarily what need to be altered. From my experience, I agree with Freire that the role of the teacher and the student will always remain; however, it is the distance between role and authority of the two, which should change.
They are now partners. This example also relates to the story of the Falkland Islander by Walker Percy, who, by himself learnt through his own actions. He took a jack knife and started digging to see for himself and learnt with a different perspective then that of a biology student who would diagnose as per given instructions. In my case, I was given that freedom to critically think and come up with ideas by different perspectives. I was exercising the sovereign right and was master of my own creation. I could have taken help from my teacher but I believed in myself that I could do it and even when in trouble, my teacher was there for me as a true guidance and subordinate to show me the path. Thus I strongly agree with Walker Percy that, “The Falkland Islander explores his dogfish and he is the person exercising the sovereign right of a person in his lordship and mastery of creation”(467).
I certainly agree with Paulo Friere’s problem posing education method and Walker Percy’s studying method as both has led to a meaningful learning experience in my life. I was not only able to think and decide for myself but it also helped me gain a lot of confidence. It made me realize that I might have missed out on certain meaningful learning experience if I had not been given a chance to think by myself. The bottom line is that education should provide tools and practice in critical thinking for students, not absolute answers. I completely agree with Freire’s argument in this chapter. In fact, I feel that it is one of the most meaningful pieces of educational literature that I have ever encountered.
Frieire, Paulo. “The ‘Banking’ Concept of Education.” Ways of Reading. Boston: Bedford, 2011. Percy, Walker. “The Loss of Creature.” Ways of Reading. Boston: Bedford, 2011.
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