By Stacey Jones
How did we get here? With depleting resources, increased marginalization, global warming and political conflict, we face huge challenges ahead as we educate Youth for a future of uncertainty and disruption. How can we as educators, parents and students together better understand our roles in the world and, most importantly, take-actions for lasting positive change. After reading two of progressive educator Paulo Freire’s books, many teachings have resonated with me as we see the world go through challenging times. It is impossible to capture all of his teachings within this one article, but here are some key points that may help educators and parents take positive action.
Freire discussed the recognition of the unfinished self and willingness to change for a better world. Becoming aware that we are unfinished and need to raise our consciousness towards what Freire described as a critical consciousness, could in fact lead to transformative changes within our communities. ‘Critical consciousness’ is when somebody has an in depth understanding of the world and they allow space for perceptions and perspectives that are contradictory. Most importantly, someone with a critical consciousness takes action against oppressive elements (unjust inequity) in their own lives that have been illuminated by their understanding.
Paulo Freire implies in his book, “Daring to Dream,” that the unfinished self provides us with hope, generates possibility for transformative learning to occur, and allows for transformative actions to take place in the world. Maybe now is a good time to recognise our unfinished selves. Given the current events in Asia, there is a sense of growing awareness towards collaboration and creativity amongst educators. With a demand to shift both cognitively and practically, in some ways this uncertainty could be a chance for us to further engage in socio-political issues and play a role in critical action for a better world. For change to happen, we must actually want to change or come to a stage where we have to change. It is important for us to consider our perspectives and privileges within society and how many individuals are becoming oppressed under unjust circumstances due to the coronavirus outbreak. With acts of Xenophobia towards the Chinese people, maybe now is a better time than any for us to take an introspective view of ourselves in the world and how we are unfinished and still learning to expand our cultural awareness as global citizens.
Below is an interpretation of the levels of consciousness proposed by Freire and the beliefs associated with them.
- Semi-Transitive Consciousness– Unable to control circumstances, defensive to protect themselves with an inability to change their personal situation. “A culture of silence takes place” because this state makes the individual feel like their voice has no power.
- Naive-Transitive Consciousness– Problems are individualised and happenings are coincidences or accidents. The individual believes in a fragmented and disconnected world.
- Critical Consciousness– In-depth understanding of the world and place within it, which allows for recognition of social and political contradictions. This individual has the ability to act on these oppressive elements, illuminated by their understanding. Everything is interconnected.
How can we achieve Critical Consciousness in education?
1. Authentic Dialogue
Creating opportunities to discuss, learn, and understand more about the self in safe and open spaces with others.
2. Use of Language
Understanding that the language we use creates meaning and meaning creates reality. How can we empower each other through the language we use rather than oppress others?
3. Different Perspectives
Using systems thinking tools, we can draw upon many socio-cultural, environmental, and economic perspectives. These tools help us gain understanding of their interconnected dynamics.
3. Removing Power
Choosing a learning mindset and being open to ideas of others. It’s critical to recognise our own privileges and the roles we play within societal structures.
Creating opportunities to be intentional about our actions and providing space to reflect on them. Well thought out Service-learning models provide a cycle of learning that includes: investigate, plan, act, reflect, and demonstrate. It’s important that we take the time to act intentionally and reflect critically.
5. Critical Action
Acting to disrupt, change, and innovate systems that create elements of inequality and oppression once they’ve been identified.
When developing and delivering programs around leadership, global citizenship, service-learning, and social innovation, we can consider all of the above principles. If we avoid these principles and believe that we don’t need to grow, we fall under the illusion that we are already critically conscious. When we think that we can grow in silos, we may very well take actions that are restricted in perspective, carrying an oppressive and destructive role within our world. We are all unfinished learners, with a responsibility to the world–now is a great time to get comfortable with this idea. Using the above principles, you can develop more critical learning for yourself and for your students. A pedagogy that Freire could only have dreamed of, as one of his book titles suggests: “A pedagogy of HOPE!’’
How might we challenge ourselves to become more critically conscious for transformational change? In writing this blog, I reflect on and recognise my own unfinished self. I know that Freire’s writings are extensive, with many teachings to still be learned. I feel hope as I strive to transform myself, which in turn will transform my actions and inspire others to take similar journeys to make this world better. Like Freire claims, authentic dialogue can only be achieved through the continuous interaction with others in a space of trust. We are human beings having a human experience and learning about that experience, on even the most basic level, is a lesson that can be very useful within education today.
Freire, P., 1970. Pedagogy of the oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin
Friere, Paulo & Friere, Ana Maria Araujo, 1933-2007, Daring to dream: Toward a pedagogy of the unfinished, Paradigm publishers, Boulder, CO