Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Week Fifteen

Reading Reflections:
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, 71-86
            One of the books I have been reading for my research paper is Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. I encountered this book for the first time last semester in my Social Justice & Social Change class while studying education as a means of social change, but this semester I am reading it with a focus on Bible study as symbolic peacebuilding. For this journal, however, I will be reflecting on chapter 2 of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, in which Freire contrasts the banking method and the problem-posing method of education (83).
            Freire describes the banking method of education as “an act of depositing” (72), in which the teacher is all-knowing and all-powerful and the students simply comply and receive the knowledge the teacher deposits in their minds (73). He argues that this type of education “serves the interests of oppression” and that it reduces students to mere objects rather than humans in relationship with the teacher (77). However, Freire proposes an alternative to the banking method of education, which he calls problem-posing education (79). This method of education “embodies communication” between the teacher and student with the goal of both the student and the teacher learning from the dialogue that is education (79-80). In the problem-posing method, the teacher is “engaging in dialogue with the students” at every point in the educational process (80). Freire describes this as “education as the practice of freedom— as opposed to education as the practice of domination,” noting that this liberating and relational form of education enables “authentic reflection” by drawing on the resources of people, relationships, and community (81).
Most interesting in this chapter was the idea of consciousness as a result of education— that problem-posing education fosters consciousness of and reflection on the world (83). By and large, I have experienced my education at Bluffton as problem-posing, dialogic, liberating education, and it has certainly resulted in this type of consciousness and reflection. Freire says that “in problem-posing education, people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation” (83). I have been a student in educational settings using the banking method, but ultimately I have found my home in a place that is largely characterized by problem-posing education. In many ways, it is easier as a student to simply receive, remember, and repeat information— this type of education does not shift worldviews or lead to deep life questions (and crises). Problem-posing education, on the other hand, does exactly what its name implies— it poses problems. As a student, I find myself wrestling with these problems, asking big questions, and discovering answers that change my life and worldview. Problem-posing education simply demands more of students (and teachers!), but Freire is right— it is a liberating experience, and best of all, it is an experience shaped by relationship, dialogue, and community.
Journal Article Reflections:
            First, I read a poem in El Interprete called “Lavatorio,” which is a poem about washing the feet of our brothers and sisters who have crossed borders and journeyed across this strange land. The poem expresses the reversal in God’s Kingdom, and serves as a reminder that acts of humility are the way of the Kingdom. Looking forward to my summer, which will be filled with opportunities to welcome and serve my Hispanic neighbors, this poem was a great poem to read and reflect on as I begin the transition into this time of service and peacebuilding in my church and community.
            Next, I read an article called “Sacrificing the Sacrifices of War” by Stanley Hauerwas in the Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace. In this article, Hauerwas argues that “war is a sacrificial system and any alternative to war must be one that sacrifices the sacrifices of war,” the greatest of which is “the sacrifice of our unwillingness to kill” (2). He explores how war creates meaning in life, and argues that building a sustainable peace requires the identification and creation of new avenues of purpose (3). Ultimately, Hauerwas suggests that “the Christian alternative to war is worship” (8). He argues that it is not the church’s responsibility to articulate a plan to end war, but to be the end of war (8-9). For Hauerwas, Christ’s sacrifice is the alternative to the sacrifices of war— this is where meaning is located for Christians, and for this reason “war has been abolished” (9). On the whole, this article was a fascinating read. For me, this tied together two major concepts from my Christian Theology and Theories of Peace & Conflict classes this semester. First, learning about pure sacrifice versus scapegoating in Christian Theology gave me a framework for thinking about sacrifices of war in addition to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Second, Hauerwas’ argument for an alternative to war that “sacrifices the sacrifices of war” (2) reminded me of the concept of replacement rituals in symbolic peacebuilding. Christ’s sacrifice is at the core of Christian peacebuilding, replacing and transforming the cheap sacrifices of war.
Vocational Discernment:
            This week, my vocational discernment has been fueled by everyday educational experiences such as reading Hauerwas’ article. As I near the end of the semester, I am seeing something more than light at the end of the tunnel— I am seeing an integrated and synthesized vision of the things I have learned over the past fifteen weeks. Reading Hauerwas’ article for this class prompted discussion of concept from two other courses, and this is far from an isolated incident. My research paper for this class will likely include sources from nearly all of my other classes, precisely because each one has impacted the way I understand peacebuilding and my own identity and gifts as a peacebuilder. So, what does this have to do with vocation? For me, it has to do with vocation because this semester is proof that my many passions such as peace, Hispanic ministry, biblical studies, and even public speaking really can come together in surprising and exciting ways.

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