Essay 1: The Flaws of the Education System

In recent discussions of how to better the lives and education of students enrolled in the current education system, a controversial issue has been whether the instructors’ method of teaching or the curriculum being taught is the problem. On the one hand, some argue that teachers are instructing students to memorize facts instead of understanding of the material to its full extent. From this perspective, students are being treated like bank depositories, their brains being filled with useless facts they will soon forget. On the other hand, however, others argue that the introduction of a liberal education is the way to revolutionize education and student lives globally. In the words of Martha Nussbaum, one of this view’s main proponents, a liberal education “‘liberates’ students’ minds from their bondage to mere habits and tradition, so that students can increasingly take responsibility for their own thought and speech.” According to this view, students become more independent and learn more freely while receiving a liberal education. They are able to speak freely and think analytically for themselves. In sum, then, the issue is whether teachers need to adapt to a new teaching method or liberal education needs to be enforced.

My own view is that a liberal education will not only allow students to fully grasp lessons and new information, it will also benefit the world as a whole. Though I concede that the banking concept needs improvement, I still maintain that before instructors can change their methods of teaching, they must change what they are teaching their students in order for change to occur. For example, liberal education allows students to understand different cultures and nations; they become humble and learn to respect every human around the world. Although some might object that in order to master a subject with intent for a job or success, one should focus in that area, I would reply that studying one subject does absolutely nothing in aiding to form an “interlocking world” (Nussbaum 2). The issue is important because in a world where so many are deprived of education and are trapped in oppressive societies, students who have access to education should have the abilities and the drive to help.

When it comes to the topic of the baking concept of education, a common debate has been whether teachers are oppressing their students by not giving them any say in the material they are learning. Most people will readily agree that the teachers should control what they teach in their classroom because after all, they are the ones with superior knowledge; however, where this agreement ends, there is the question of taking students’ creativity and authentic thinking skills away from them. Students must comply with whatever their assertive teacher decides to teach, and they have no freedom or say in their education. Whereas some are convinced that a teacher’s first task is to fill a student’s brain with the contents of their lesson, others maintain that, with this method, students are simply learning to be passive instead of stand up for anything they believe in, and they will not have any motivation, or skills, to make a change in the world in the future. In the words of Paulo Freire, one of this view’s main proponents, “The more students work at storing the deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world” In other words, by teaching students this way they are in no way able to make the world a better place or make themselves better people. In sum, then, the issue at hand is the fact that students that are being taught by this “banking concept” that Freire describes are being oppressed and believing that they have no control over their future.

My own thoughts on the subject are that students deserve a say in what they learn and how they apply it to the outside world. Though I can see why some may think that teachers should have the right to assert their authority, I still stand that they should not take away any creative freedom from their students; a liberal education gives students this ability to express themselves. For instance, a liberal education allows its students to be, “fully human, by which he means self-aware, self-governing, and capable of respecting the humanity of all our fellow human beings” (Nussbaum 3). Even though some might disagree that a liberal education is the proper way to give students this opportunity, I would assert the fact that establishing a global community is necessary in building a better world for students to grow in. The best possible way for this community to come together is through the art of liberal education and getting the opportunity to learn, understand, and appreciate the way other people live. The issue is crucial to today’s world because students should set a precedent for those who come after them; they should be accepting and knowledgeable of the world around them, and they should get the opportunity to have the education that teaches them how to do so.

While discussing the importance of a liberal education, an ongoing issue has been whether this curriculum and new system truly creates a safer environment for students while still creating intellectual individuals. On the one hand, some explore the idea that focusing on one subject is more efficient for the student’s future and their career. According to this side, studying a single subject is, “pre-professional” and is helpful in paving a path. Those who oppose this however, may argue that studying one subject does not expose a student to any other cultures’ needs or way of life; therefore, this way of educating a group of people will not benefit the world as a whole. As specified by Martha Nussbaum, one of this view’s main intellects, only liberal education has the power to produce, “global citizens who can think well about the problems of today’s world.”  Basically, Nussbaum is stating that if education is reformed this way citizens will become more aware of their place in this world and strive to better those who are oppressed both in our own regions and those who are oceans away. At the end of the day, the debate is whether a liberal education will serve as the base of establishing a global community in which the oppressed can receive a liberal education, and nations understand and value each other’s cultures.

My belief is that liberal education can provide everyone with a deep and clear understanding of the world around them, making the world a more accepting and overall safer place.  Although I agree with Freire that up to a point, how a teacher instructs can mold a student’s educational gain, I cannot accept his overall conclusion that changing this method is the only fix needed to completely better a student’s educational experience as a whole. For example, in order for there even to be teaching methods to be changed there must be established educational opportunities in third world countries. A liberal education has the potential to educate people in these nations, especially the oppressed women (Nussbaum 5). Nevertheless, both followers and critics of Freire’s theory will probably argue that the banking concept of teaching is not working effectively. I would reply that, this is absolutely true, but it does not supersede revolutionizing the entire educational system and providing everyone with a liberal education. Ultimately, what is at stake here is the future of the world; a global community should be established, to form better international relations, and help those who are oppressed be able to rise up and get an education. 

When talking about bettering the lives of those who are oppressed, one issue that is often disputed is if education is the solution to their oppression. Some say, that their economic status or the background they are born into sets them up for failure for life. From this perspective, there is no way that those who are oppressed can move up in the world, and absolutely no way they can achieve any leadership roles in society. Others contradict that with the fact that learning how to simply read and write can lead these people who are stuck in awful conditions to a higher place in the socioeconomic pyramid. According to Fredrick Douglas, one of this view’s main supporters speaks of his oppression as a slave “I wished to learn how to write, as I might have occasion to write my own pass. I consoled myself with the hope that I should one day find a good chance.” Douglas’ point is, by learning how to write he had the opportunity to escape his masters and attempt to be a free man. Also, he speaks of learning to read. The moment his master told him that a slave who could read would be, “forever unfit to be slave”(Douglas 1). It sparked his interest even further to be educated. Once he could read, he invested himself in abolitionist movements featured in the papers and looked up its definitions in the dictionaries; this led him later to become known as one of the most respected African American people of his time (Douglas 5). Education helped Douglas rise up from slavery, and liberal education has the power to help uneducated women in countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan (Nussbaum 5). The oppressed do not need to feel weak forever; they can have the ability to rise up from the ruins and become leaders. In sum, then, the matter in question is if liberal education has the power to give these oppressed women the education it gave Fredrick Douglas; can a liberal education help these poor citizens become leading intellectuals in the real world?

In my opinion, education does have the ability to change a person’s life. On the one hand, I agree with Freire that students will feel less like subjects if their teachers incorporated them in the lesson plans. But on the other hand, I still insist that the best way to abolish an oppressive environment is to incorporate a liberal education. For example, “the female leaders of the nations of South East Asia, both academic and political, tend to be people who have been lucky enough to get a liberal arts education abroad; these, of course, are likely to be the wealthy few” (Nussbaum 5).  These women, who once were oppressed, were able to rise up because of this American idea of a liberal education. With the aid of art, literature, and dance, women get the opportunity to express themselves like they never could have before. The topic is significant due to the fact that creating a global and just community requires everyone to have education readily available to them; women deserve this education as much as any other group of people.

In conclusion, then as I suggested earlier, defenders of altering the banking concept can’t have it both ways. Their assertion that Freire’s “problem-posing” method would resolve the issue of why students are lacking meaningful education is contradicted by their claim that the relationship between teachers and students needs to be altered as well. In order for students to feel comfortable enough to speak up and make a change a liberal education must be implemented. A liberal education has the power to make the oppressed feel empowered, and change the way students think about the entire world, including other peoples and their cultures. A liberal education can make not only the classroom a better place to learn and grow in, it can make the world a better place to live in.