"Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world."
and to those who suffer with them
and fight at their side
Paulo Freire uses the term "critical consciousness" in his analysis of the current model of education in action at this time in nearly all modem countries.
- as one in which the teacher is the depositor and the students are simply depositories
- the teacher issues standard communiqué's (instead of actual communication) which students passively receive, memorize, and repeat;
- knowledge becomes a gift bestowed by those who are certified and therefore deemed knowledgeable upon those who are considered ignorant
- teachers and administrators of the system develop the instructional program content and students are forced to adapt to it
- and the more students work at storing the deposits, the more they accept and excel in the passive role impressed upon them and thus are completely denied the opportunity to develop any ability of critical consciousness(Friere 257)
This is, in fact, the standard, way of teaching that any of us have ever been exposed to. I personally, until recently in my academic career, have only experienced this type of education.
Freire continues his analysis to conclude that the educational system mirrors the oppressive society as a whole; students are oppressed by being completely denied the opportunity to think for themselves, and therefore grow and progress through the levels of the model of critical consciousness, which will in itself be discussed shortly.
This is demonstrated a countless number of times in everyday life.
In further delving into the concept of critical consciousness, I have referred to a text in which Freire deals almost exclusively with the topic of such, Education for Critical Consciousness (see Pedagogy of The Oppressed).
- With the first stage being that of a "semi-transitive state", in which individuals are pre-occupied entirely with survival.
- The next stage in the model of progression is that of "transitivity of consciousness", which at this point individuals are able to reflect on themselves and their roles and responsibilities, thus allowing them to dialogue with others and with society at large.
- In communicating with others, people are initially in the third stage, a state of "naive transitivity", which can be most commonly characterized by an oversimplification of problems, both personal and social.
- If an individual does progress further in the model, he or she will reach the level of "critical transitivity", which results in a more in-depth analysis of problems and an increase in agency. "Agency" in this case refers to the state of being in action. It is of note, however, that this progression is not automatic in any sense and may in fact never be achieved. If an individual does not progress beyond this level, the result will be that of moving into a "fanaticized consciousness", a reactionary state wrought by sectarianism, a narrow-minded adherence to a particular viewpoint.
- In the final stage, an individual ultimately moves into the state of "critical consciousness", or conscientizacao, the awakening of critical awareness resulting from educational efforts and favorable historical conditions.
In the next stage, the transitivity of consciousness, the average adolescent is found here. The teen knows that he is here, and is able to reflect on that fact and on how he interacts with society, thus demonstrating some level of consciousness. Yet the adolescent’s mind has not developed nor is he mature or experienced enough in life to begin to understand the ramifications of his actions or even his mere presence.
The third stage of naive transitivity is where the average man lies.
It is in the next stage, the level of critical transitivity, that is where the so-called educated man lies, according to Friere. Although it is Walker Percy, in his text
The American couple, the tourists, had and,
"in-depth understanding about the world and the resulting freedom from oppression."
"accept [ing] the passive role imposed on them… and the fragmented view of reality deposited in them." (Freire 258),
Another such example of attaining critical consciousness may be illustrated by the camper at the Grand Canyon. In this case, a tourist wants to experience the Grand Canyon in all its majesty, though on his own terms. In this sense, the camper is much the same as the American couple tourists, although the camper has come to this consciousness before he even began the journey.
In her essay entitled Arts of the Contact Zone, the author herself, Mary Louise Pratt, demonstrates the ability to utilize the power of critical consciousness in the educational system, as Friere suggests ought to be done.
"unify the world in the class’s eye by means of monologue that rings equally coherent, revealing, and true for all."(Pratt 528)
Pratt instead, revels in her work in the Cultures, Ideals, Values (Pratt 528) course and in the knowledge that both students and teacher were forced to become aware of the oppressive element and take action against such in order to effectively communicate across the cultural, social, economic, and political barriers in the classroom, or contact zone as Pratt refers to such.