Education As the Practice of Freedom

I am thoroughly enjoying reading Ibtisam Barakat’s Tasting the Sky and preparing for the Themes of Immigrant Literature course for Summer Session #1. I love the details of finding images of the texts’ book covers; details about each author’s life; background information on the time, culture and context of each plot. It’s like putting together the pieces of a ginormous puzzle. Once these are in hand, even though I keep trawling for more information as the semester progresses, I then focus my attentions to the structure of assignments and ever more effective ways of as serving as a catalyst for student engagement. In an ideal world learners teach themselves effort-fully, though without the resistance that, for a time, has them believing I am the enemy and I am not-so-simply yet delightedly along for the ride.

Of course, in a real sense I am the enemy- of confusion that is – and not of the learners collectively or individually. When pushed to my limits in the past, I have voiced aloud an apology for their previous years of conditioning and misinformation about themselves, their infinite and yet to be identified abilities, and the worlds within and around us. From time to time I share this excerpt from Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook:

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.”

If I offer it at a particular moment of openness or shared presence, more than a few grasp the invitation to self-liberation. Sometimes, one or more remember the Marley quote almost always on the Basic Writing syllabus and connect the two at once.

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds. (Redemption Song)

At such moments, the intersection of the human and divine is palpable. Thank you Paulo Freire, Lucille Clifton and others known or unnamed who have lived and encouraged the rest of us to live education as the practice of freedom.

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