The crux of the matter: WHAT IS LIBERATING EDUCATION?


Consider the three children in the theme photo once more:  They don’t know it yet but they are on an educational path that is powerful in awakening their curiosity and sense of self-confidence–a path of liberating education that deserves to be better known and practiced.  In brief, liberating education inspires students who understand themselves to be oppressed to have such perspectives in their learning and skills–and confidence in themselves–that as they mature, they will demand human rights/justice for themselves and for others.  Such learners understand themselves to be change agents working for a just world and they take satisfaction, at times joy, in doing that work.

In school their teachers, as a result of excellent training, have come to think of themselves as facilitators of learning.  All of them are from the same village community as the children, so have a good idea of what the children already know, which they can build on with new learning.  Their teaching strategy is to pose problems for the students, which stimulates them to think creatively and openly about what else they need to learn to find a workable solution to the problem.  Teachers value good questions that the students raise that move the discussion forward.  Learners are often formed into groups of four to stimulate each others’ thinking, which they then bring back to the whole class.  In this largely Maya-K’iche’ community all but one of the teachers grew up speaking the indigenous language that most of the students speak in their homes. With that skill the teachers, especially in the early years, teach much of the time in the language most of the children speak at home.  This has the effect of awakening pride in the language and culture of the great majority of the children.  And, because the students experience the excitement of learning, they find the range of human emotions in their learning, depending on the subject matter at hand, including the joy that is reflected in the faces of the children in the theme picture.

As they move up through the grades they learn the actual history of how indigenous people have been exploited economically and politically through the centuries since the Spanish conquest.  They learn in detail how their own village was destroyed and some of its members massacred.  All of them, teachers and students alike, face the challenge of overcoming the belief instilled by the dominant culture in the country that they are lesser beings and that their culture is not to be valued on a level with the “superior” dominant culture.  Teachers do everything in their power to have the children develop self-esteem and confidence in speaking in public.  This, along with learning about the centuries-long exploitation of their people, leads the students, as they mature, to refuse to be marginalized and determined to work for an oppression-free world.  This is the path of liberating education that the students of the village are on.

I invite you to leave a comment below.

Seeds of Freedom: Liberating Education in Guatemala.  This is the fourth weekly post about the issues raised in my book that is a case study of liberating education in a remote village in northern Guatemala.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by roger stover on February 26, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    Clark,  Thanks for the lucid explanation about Liberating Education.  It’s amazing to see that children so young have an understanding that they are oppressed and can grow up to do something about it.  It’s also equally amazing that the government didn’t try to shut down such ideology for being subversive.  Roger     Roger Stover University Park, FL 34201


    • Thanks, Roger, for your comment! Obviously children develop their sense of how their people have been (and are) oppressed over time in age-appropriate ways. But that is definitely part of the curriculum. So far the government hasn’t taken a position against the village schools. In fact, government education supervisors in the region where the village is located have been very impressed with the quality of education in the village. However, if the level of criticism of the government reaches some cross-over-the-line level, the crackdown could come. The government will, however, take into account that the village has a lot of international support and officials would have to see what the village is doing as a very contagious threat to come down on it, I think.


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