Archive for the ‘rural education’ Category

How do they do it? Liberating Educators in the Classroom. Post #1

“Liberating education” has a nice sound to it, but what actually happens in the classroom?  As you read about it here, how does it compare with your experience of education?  Your comments at the end of the post are most welcome.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s start with the big picture.  Consider Paulo Freire’s* masthead challenge, “Education as the Practice of Freedom!”  His clear opposite of that was “Education as the Practice of domination.”  You may remember María Hernandez, a Santa María Tzejá teacher, from an earlier blog post.  (pictured left) As a child she was a student in a classroom in SMT shortly before the Guatemalan army burned the village to the ground.  The teacher at that time was likely a soldier acting as a teacher who told students they would get a swat of a stick for each error they made in math that day.  She made 13 and his one option for her was where she would like him to hit her.  She said, as she told me about this searing experience, “All over my body.”  In that class hers was an extreme experience of Education as the Practice of Domination.  The central notion of that kind of miseducation is teacher dominance of the students, whether by, as in this case, corporal punishment or, more usually, by the authoritarian, oppressive practice of the teacher talking all the time to students who are expected to be submissive and quiet.

Continue reading

Advertisements

“The Past Is With Us:” (Violent) History in Real Time

Theatre group in 1995How do we engage and challenge teenage students in their guts and heads at the same time?  How do we make history come alive in a way that changes the way they think about themselves and their future?
      Background:  Santa María Tzejá, Guatemala, was burned to the ground in 1982 in the country’s civil war.  The population was separated, with half fleeing to refuge in Mexico and the rest remaining at the village site.  Twelve years later the original population was reunited at the village site.  Here’s where the story begins.

Continue reading

Open for debate: “Education is not politically neutral!”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
For the first several years that I visited the village, beginning in 1985, there were almost no books in Santa María Tzejá, the case study that is the basis for my book.  There were no computers, no internet.  There was no lined-in electricity.  Students in the school received just two notebooks and two pencils.  Teachers had their books from which they could teach the state curriculum.  The goals of that schooling were to give very basic reading, writing and math skills, along with isolated facts about national heroes and a superficial patriotism built around the flag and national holidays.

Continue reading

When education doesn’t liberate

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
In Santa Maria Tzejá, the village described in my book, there was a time before the village was destroyed in 1982 by the Guatemalan army when the state sent a pair of abusive male teachers to the village’s school.  People thought they were probably soldiers passing as teachers.  Whatever their background, they were abusive.  One day a girl named María was in her math class when the teacher said students would get whipped with a stick for every mistake they made that day.  María made 13 errors.  He offered her one option, “Where would you like the blows to hit you?”  She said, “All over my body.” The memory of that day pains her to this day, now that she is a teacher in the village with a very different teaching style.  But it is obvious that a steady diet of that kind of treatment over time would condition students to be submissive in class and to have low self-esteem as learners.

Continue reading

Allies are often necessary but beware of the baggage they bring!

The three first graders in the theme photo don’t know a thing about allies, but the powerful form of education they received wouldn’t have been possible without a host of allies that worked with the village in a variety of ways.  From Padre Luis Gurriarán, the Spanish priest who provided the initial support and training for the settlers of the new village, and on into the future, allies have played vital roles in the development of liberating education in the village.  Randall (Rolando) Shea first became a middle school teacher to SMT refugee students in Mexico and then joined the reunited community in Guatemala in 1994 and became the organizing principal of the new Santa María Tzejá middle school and drew on his US funding network to support the school.  My church in Needham, MA became a partner ally of the village and provided the money to make it possible for the teachers to work full-time in the village schools.  A Roman Catholic agency, PRODESSA, provided amazing training in liberating education for the teachers drawn form the village population.  There were many others, but these were the key to the unfolding educational process of the village.  But there is a down side, as well.

Continue reading

The crux of the matter: WHAT IS LIBERATING EDUCATION?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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. Continue reading

“Not in our wildest imagination!–full education for our children?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These three first graders were obviously enjoying their studies enough to stay in from recess to continue their learning.  Reaching back a few years to a time before the village was settled in 1970, the community’s future founding generation could not have imagined such a picture of excited happiness about learning on the part of their children.  To test that idea I asked one of the founders, “imagine when you were working in the plantation fields as indentured servants/slaves a prophet appeared like a ghost of the future to tell you that one day all of your children would be educated through the middle school level and a very substantial number would graduate from high school, with a significant group continuing on to university studies.  What would you have thought?”  He said without hesitation, “We would have had no idea what to think.  It was beyond our wildest imagination!”  What makes this account so significant is that right up into the 1960’s the founders of Santa María Tzejá were land-poor or landless compesinos–peasant farmers–who were nearly all illiterate.  Many had never set foot in a school and in their childhoods had hardly known what education was.  The men were trapped by their own families’ survival needs in a kind of slavery to the country’s owners of massive cane, cotton and coffee plantations during the harvest season.  Further, as indigenous people they were a despised population, not capable or worthy of any education.  They were thought fit only for hard manual labor and were appropriate subjects for terrible abuse.  Yet, within a relatively short span of years they would experience what would previously been imagined by them as an educational miracle for their children.  This is a remarkable story described in the book.

I invite you to leave a comment below.

Seeds of Freedom: Liberating Education in Guatemala–third weekly post on my new book