As a student I have read several essays, all in different but connecting points of view that explore in depth the diverse ways of education, educating in the literate arts, learning, using the information, and applying it to life. In reading the controversial opinions expressed throughout these essays, the question, “What are the literate arts good for?” has crossed my mind more than a few times. Four authors that elaborate on the concept of determining the purpose of literate arts education are Paolo Freire in The Banking Concept of Education, Mary Louise Pratt in Arts of the Contact Zone, Richard Rodriquez in The Achievement of Desire, and Richard Miller in The Dark Knight of the Soul.
Freire’s The Banking Concept of Education focuses not mainly on the purpose of the literate arts and education with the literate arts, but the fact that if it isn’t taught correctly, then it is useless. In detail he describes education as a dehumanizing action in today’s schools (323). He also challenges this concept with what he believes education should be as opposed to what it is. In his opinion, education should be a problem-posing way of teaching (327). Freire communicates that it should trigger a deeper, more critical way of thinking and a more prominent drive for inquisition in students’ learning strategies by saying “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other” (319). Rather than just reading to memorize, he expresses his belief that a student should be taught to challenge and elaborate on what they read.
When I read Rodriguez’s The Achievement of Desire, I immediately saw a connection between his and Freire’s writing. Rodriquez writes about his personal educational experience. He refers to himself as “the scholarship boy” and describes his learning process as being completely motivated by his teachers. In his writing, he expresses his view of them as being ultimately knowledgeable, and communicates his desire to have the same knowledge as them. To do this he tells of how he isolated himself because this is how he felt he could obtain the same knowledge that his teachers had (515). Eventually Rodriquez writes about his utter loneliness and tiredness of just reading and rereading, and describes that he had a feeling that something was missing when he says “I became impatient with books. I wanted experience more immediate. I feared the library’s silence. I silently scorned the gray, timid faces around me. I grew to hate the growing pages of my dissertation on genre and Renaissance literature. (In my mind I heard relatives laughing as they tried to make sense of its title.)
I wanted something – I couldn’t say exactly what” (531). He communicates in his essay somewhat of a hidden example of what Freire calls “the banking concept of education” (319). In Freire’s essay, he elaborates on the fact that in the banking concept, the instructors make themselves superior to their students in a way that says they are the ones that know everything, while the students are depicted by the instructors to know nothing (319). This makes a connection with the Rodriquez’s of some aspects of his own experiences. Rodriquez and Freire’s essays are similar in the sense that Rodriquez proves that the banking concept is a legitimate concept. Rodriquez unknowingly uses himself as an example of the banking concept and exhibits an interesting connection between his and Freire’s opinions.
Mary Louise Pratt writes about what she calls “the contact zone”. She depicts the contact zone through examples of people using literate arts to branch out of their comfort zone in a particular community and up to a more advanced level where they are able to gain an ability to express their intelligible thoughts to people that are experts or at a higher level than themselves (487). Pratt communicates that this ability to use the literate arts well in the contact zone is important in the aspect of expanding and improving oneself intelligibly and as a whole (485, 486). Richard Miller addresses the concept that teaching the literate arts may not be as useful and applicable to students’ lives as many make it seem.
He elaborates on the fact that although so much emphasis is put on the importance of making students use strategically critical ways of interpreting what they read, it will not protect them from the real world (423). Miller’s theory challenges Pratt’s in a way. Miller implies the unimportance of the literate arts in the future lives of students in the sense that literate arts cannot attend to the issues in our culture, while Pratt stresses the importance of the literate arts in that learning to use them in a self-reflective way can improve one’s ability to confront the issues in our culture, and confronting the real world may be largely considered a problem of the real world in and of itself.
Although all four of the authors mentioned previously have valid points, my opinion in relationship to theirs takes quite a leap. Freire’s essay is the one I could relate to the most seeing that the vast majority of my thirteen years of previous education was based upon the banking concept of education. I agree with Freire’s opinion that the depository way of educating students should be eradicated, however I do not agree that it will have such an abominable impact on the world as he describes it will. I have the same agreement and disagreement with Miller’s essay. In my opinion the teaching of literate arts should not be so entirely focused on how it will fix certain problems in our culture or improve our culture, but I have an understanding of how it could affect it.
The fact that all of the authors mentioned in this essay make legitimate points and connect triggers my thoughts. When I combine all of their ideas and opinions I come to a conclusion that perfectly describes how I would answer the question “What are the literate arts good for?” My belief is that the literate arts are not supposed to be so deeply dug into that they control how society acts and reacts. The literate arts are only considered negative when they are connected to aspects that they don’t necessarily need to be connected to, such as the “violent culture changes” Miller mentions in his essay (423).
Literate arts allow the mind to be able to explore, create, challenge, remember, and argue with intelligence, and is this not the main goal of our society? I believe it is, as well as being more knowledgeable and critical in our ways of thinking, blossoming out of our routine mindset, and venturing out into what Pratt calls “the contact zone” (487). We as people can use the literate arts to choose how we learn and how we use it. Therefore, my opinion is a combination of Freire’s, Pratt’s, Miller’s, and Rodriquez’s. The literate arts are supposed to be viewed as a tool used for the improvement of the natural way of human thinking as well as a way for people to rise out of the norms and communicate with each other with more complexity and freedom to choose our own unique way of using them.
Freire, Paolo. “The Banking Concept of Education.” Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Ed. David Bartholomae, Anthony Petrosky. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 318-328. Print. Miller, Richard. “The Dark Knight of the Soul.” Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Ed. David Bartholomae, Anthony Petrosky. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 420-444. Print. Pratt, Mary Louise. “Arts of the Contact Zone.” Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Ed. David Bartholomae, Anthony Petrosky. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 485-498. Print. Rodriquez, Richard. “The Achievement of Desire.” Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Ed. David Bartholomae, Anthony Petrosky. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 515-532. Print.