Education as a Practice of Freedom

The heart of education is the education of the heart. The best education refuses to bureaucratize our minds. It leads us to live life as a process which enables us to live to become. Unfortunately, education is tainted by a sense of achievement or completion. Such a perspective limits learning. One thinks that one finished learning after formal education and forget that learning is a lifelong process. It is because education does not make us live-ready. This is why we seem to be facing resistance to learning both within our inside and outside of the classroom. We seem to exit the life of the mind very early and take up work as if it is the life of the body. Maybe we are transformed into educated slaves. We have to remind ourselves that our school is a deeply political space. We come to admit that domesticates us. our minds are anaesthetized. The destruction of the life of the mind seems to begin at the door of our classrooms. Classrooms are no longer learning spaces. The mind is no longer trained to think critically. Education has become a political action of silencing the pupil. The schools have put on a mask of being an apolitical institution and masking their role as silencing agents.

All along we were taught white lessons. The post-colonial turn made them saffron in our country. Unfortunately, it appears that there is a strong desire of the ruling elite to use education as an instrument to reinforce casteism as well as religious communalism under the garb of nationalism. Education is certainly not a practice of freedom. It has become about the colonization of the mind. Colonization has reached its completion. Today we are successfully colonizing our minds. We can no longer become counter-hegemonic. Education only teaches us to dominate or suffer domination. Colonization has not ended. Only our masters have changed. Earlier they were outsiders, today they are our very own who rule over us and their hegemony is internalized by us as natural and normal. The school is steadily training us to love our own self-exploitation. We are taught obedience and authority. Education is said to be an enabling process. It is supposed to enhance our capacity to be free. Hence, it is only education that can truly emancipate us. But unfortunately, the classroom seems to have become a space to enact rituals of control that are about domination and unjust exercise of power. It trains us to confirm. Non-conformity is looked upon with suspicion and is punished. School teaches us to accept our exploitation in silence.

Education can be different. It can be a liberating experience. But to change the scene of education, we have the challenge to de-school ourselves. We have to interrogate our pedagogies that silence and domesticate students. This would mean we have the challenge to convert our classroom into spaces that teach us to transgress. It might transform everything that we do about education. Learning might become exciting and fun. To allow it to happen, we have to give up the view that learning is a serious affair and excitement can disturb and disrupt learning. Excitement can stimulate learning. It can co-exist alongside intellectual engagement. Excitement is not just generated by our interest in ideas. It is a human thing. It is generated by our appreciation of the presence of each other in the classroom. Traditionally, we easily learn to recognize the teacher. But it is not enough. We have to learn to recognize the presence of the other as well as other ways of being humans in each and every student. Everyone does influence our classroom dynamic. Everyone can contribute. Everyone can contribute to creating an exciting classroom.

Teaching-learning is a performative act. This is why we can influence its processes as well as its outcomes. It can never be fixed. It has always evolved in dialogue with the learning community as well as the world beyond it. This dialogical openness builds the classroom into a learning community. We do have a sort of crisis in education. Students do not seem to want to learn and teachers do not seem to want to teach. Teaching and learning seem to have become a burden. Education appears to be unfortunately undermined by both teachers and students. Hence, we need to generate energy and excitement about learning for both teachers and students. We need to adopt new ways of knowing and rejuvenate our teaching-learning practices. This would require us to challenge the acceptable boundaries of our society. We will have to learn to trespass them so that we can learn to think and think that we can generate collectively new visions. We have to bring about a teaching-learning experience that celebrates transgression or crossing of boundaries. It is this transgression of boundaries that will go to make education a practice of freedom.

Anyone can learn education as the practice of freedom. It will free the teacher and student from the Platonic cave of learning where the student and teachers are chained to the assembly lines, desks and the fixed curriculum. What we need is engagement that would build critical engagement. This Socratic approach will generate a learning environment that we need to create learning communities excited about their education. This means we have to move away from the consumer model of education where knowledge that is produced somewhere is passively consumed in the classroom. This is a capitalist model of education. We need a classroom that becomes a knowledge production space as well as a space of knowledge consumption. This consumption cannot be passive. It has to be active and has to lead a reflection that transforms the lives of students, teachers as well as our world. It is this approach that educates us to live new ways of being human in freedom in our world. It leads to self-actualization and enables the students to take responsibility for the choices that they make when they are engaged in the process of education. It is also the process whereby both students and teachers grow together. Such an environment enables every person involved to live a fully and deeply human life.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao