Archive for the ‘indigenous’ Category

When education doesn’t liberate

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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.

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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.

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The crux of the matter: WHAT IS LIBERATING EDUCATION?

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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