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Panopticism by Michel Foucault

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As receptacles who are empty, students need to be completely open and passive, and the better they are at sitting still, taking notes, memorizing, internalizing, and showing mastery of what has been given them in examinations, the better they are as students. It is a one-way kind of teaching that works in systems where a dominant way of organization and a certain order is maintained. This works to preserve that order, by crafting the lessons in such a way as to make the students conform to a certain way of being and a certain way of living within that established order.

In Freire this banking concept is contrasted with educational modes where the underlying dynamic is characterized by problem-solving, inquiring, active engagement by the students, a joint exploration by students and teachers, honest dialogue, mutual respect, and approaching the world from the point of view of the students having the capacity to think and to learn, and to approach the world with the confidence to navigate through its myriad concerns. In this alternative model of education, Freire posits an inversion of the power structure, where the student, possessing the basic ability to perceive truth and to solve problems, is the basis for the creation of a social order.

Stated another way, this process is anathema to a system that wants to keep its members in a state of subjugation. Another way to think of this alternative education model is that it is a truth-seeking form of education, where the teacher is not superior to the students and is in sole possession of all knowledge, but is rather more of a patient and loving guide who engages students in active conversation and joint inquiry into the true nature of things (Freire).

The contrast between the two models of education are the contrasts that Freire sees between a way of viewing people as passive and incapable, and unenlightened individuals who need to be indoctrinated and processed to fit into an existing system that oppresses and that preserves a certain power structure on the one hand, and a system of education that threatens that status quo precisely by the inversion of the passive banking concept with an alternative that respects the innate capacity of students to be creative, to find things their own way, to grasp and to discover the truth, and to arrive at knowledge on the strength of their own capacities to do so.

In this alternative model, the status quo does not have a monopoly on knowledge, and that the teacher is not so much the gatekeeper of the status quo’s store of knowledge so much as a guide and a co-explorer so to speak, and the teacher and the student explores the nature of the subject matter being studied.

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