Essay, Pages 7 (1512 words)
Paulo Freire severely scrutinizes the banking concept of education. He dislikes everything about the traditional teaching method, where the teachers just fill the students with information and hope the students retain it long enough to spit it back out to them on tests. He argues that students are led to “memorize mechanically” the information lectured by a teacher. He would strongly oppose the use of grades in the schooling system.
Truly, students are getting graded on how well they can memorize random facts as the tests that encourage memorization of material make up a very large portion of the grading system.
In his strong argument against the banking concept of education, Freire gives in a little to the opposition, as he admits, “they [students] do, it is true, have the opportunity to become collectors or cataloguers of the things they store.” I feel that this is the key to individuality in school. Freire is correct in the way that he portrays the schooling system.
Students mostly just receive and memorize information from their teachers; thus, they never really critically think about the material. Nevertheless, the techniques that each individual student learns and masters to accomplish these demands shape his/her success later in life. I agree with Freire that, with respect to truly learning the material and retaining the knowledge for a long period of time, simple memorization is very poor. Last year, I took an AP United States History course. The material covered in the course was the same as the material I “learned” in my eighth and ninth grade United States history classes.
The only difference was that this time around, we were going to study the content further in-depth, which Freire might find pleasing. Once the course got underway, I soon realized that I had to completely relearn the material, as I had completely forgotten everything I learned in the eighth and ninth grade classes.
It was not because I did poorly back then, but because after the ninth grade class was over, I had no need to retain that information. I was no longer being graded on United States history, and thus, I flushed that information out of my brain to make room for new material to memorize. Once my senior year AP course began, all of the similar material seemed new to me. In Doing School, Denise Clark Pope explains a very similar phenomenon that Eve Lin experienced. “Once she took an exam, she said most of the facts she had memorize ‘emptied out of her brain.’ She was required to move on to the next assignment to keep up with the pace of the class. Taking time to reflect or to engage with the material would only slow her down and adversely affect her grades.” (Pope 155-56). Freire would oppose this. He would want students to slow down and really analyze the information thoroughly. On the other hand, I feel that in today’s fast-paced society, being able to shift gears so quickly is a necessary trait. I attended a medium-sized school, Saucon Valley School District, all the way up from kindergarten.
With about two hundred students graduating each year, we all knew each other fairly well. However, since sixth grade, I embarked on a journey with about twenty other students. We chose to follow the path of an “honors student” taking more rigorous classes than others. We attended almost all of the same courses every day of the year and got to know each other and hang out with each other outside of school a lot more than with others in the grade. By high school, we were so closely knit that someone came up with the name, the “honors family,” and it just stuck with us ever since. The label was true though. It was like a family, as study sessions were conducted before big tests and all-nighters were pulled for group projects. We pushed each other to do better and worried when others were falling behind.
Yet, just like most of the students in Doing School, we were very competitive about our grades as we strove to get the highest marks on a test or paper. I do not believe any of us went as far as Eve Lin did though, in relation to keeping her summer college class a secret just so that she had an edge on everyone else (Pope). Although it was not as extreme as in Faircrest High School, competition in the “honors family” at Saucon Valley was definitely present. Competition, motivation to succeed, and enthusiasm was amongst the “honors family.” I wish the same could be said about the rest of the grade. During my senior year, I decided to take Calculus I and II at Lehigh University, and thus, had scheduling conflicts at high school. The Honors Government and Economics class overlapped with my Calculus courses, so I needed to simply take the regular class of Government and Economics. Here, I got a glimpse of how other classmates performed in class. I interacted with many of these students in extracurricular activities and even in Physical Education, but very rarely in a core class.
The desire to learn was very low in my Government and Economics class. It was not that these students were not intelligent. They just merely did not care about their grades, GPA, or class rank. Many of these students were perfectly fine with getting a C in the class. After all, a C was a passing grade. Passing was all that mattered to them. Many were fine with doing the minimum to get by just so that they could graduate high school and adventure out into the work force. The teacher seemed to realize the situation as well; she gave very little work to the class throughout the semester and based the tests off of the already-filled-in note packets she handed out regularly. Very little material was covered, even though the class lasted over ninety days. Overall, this class seemed like a complete waste of time for me. I was not coping with stress, competition, or a rigorous curriculum like I had for the rest of my classes.
There was very little motivation for me to truly gain knowledge from the class as well, since I was already getting an A in the class and did not need to take time away from my other classes to study for tests. After taking the class and looking back upon it now, I realized that I can take literally nothing productive from it. It was a waste of time that did not provide me with any skills necessary or helpful for my life after schooling. Unlike the average students’ classes, the “honors family” classes gave me the necessary practice for the real world. I received so much more knowledge than others on how to succeed even with obstacles in my way. These traits and techniques on how to succeed are very similar to those Denise Clark Pope outlined in the conclusion of Doing School.
Throughout high school, I gained and perfected an absolutely necessary trait of success: time management. The five students at Faircrest High School were always making the best of their time. They worked on homework during class periods and took free periods and weekends as a time to catch up with their work (Pope). Similarly, I needed to do the same if I wanted to keep up with the “honors family” work. I participated on the school soccer team in the fall, basketball team in the winter, and baseball team in the spring. The time after these extracurricular activities was insufficient to complete my work. I needed to use as much free time throughout my day as possible to complete assignments. As one might imagine, one evil coming from such a workload and extracurricular activities is stress. The students Pope researched at Faircrest all underwent stress. I, as well, was under an enormous amount of stress.
Big projects seemed to always be due at the same time, and final exams were always clumped together in a two-day span. Many members of the “honors family” sacrificed their well-being through a reduced social life and poor sleeping habits in order to complete the workload. In return, we mastered the skills of coping with stress and managing out time. These skills will benefit us in the long run as we enter adulthood and the work force. Often times I did not understand why I was pushing myself to such a limit. I thought to myself that most of the students not motivated to achieve success had such an easier life. They went through school carefree and had loads of free time after school and on the weekends to hang out with friends. Nevertheless, I knew why I chose to push myself to the limits. I knew that my time to shine would come later in life and all my efforts would be worth a life full of success; the characteristics for success were instilled in me through the competition of grades and the workload I endured in school.