Pre-Trip Orientation: Niswarth Seminar #1

In our first pre-trip seminar for students at Phillips Academy, Andy Housiaux lead a discussion around Paulo Friere’s ideas within his book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”.  The opening question, “What is the purpose of schooling?”, evoked many thoughtful responses and connected various themes of literacy, citizenship, habits of learning, equality, …  Mr. Housiaux then introduced some Freirean ideas around pedagogy:

  1. The purpose of schooling is freedom
  2. Banking education vs. Liberative education (problem-posing education)
  3. Praxis – cycles of reflection and action
  4. False generosity vs. true generosity

Student reflections on the meeting:

Dylan: The part of our first meeting that struck me the most was the discussion of “false generosity.” * Since I became involved in service years ago, I have thought about issues similar to false generosity. However, after spending considerable time thinking about these issues I dismissed them. I discontinued those thoughts because I always came to the conclusion that “I’m only in high school so this is all I can do.”

When Mr. Housiaux told us the type of service that a high school student does is not false generosity if the student is consciously working toward true generosity, I felt much better. It made me realize that if my service does not have a lasting impact now then it will in the future.

*False generosity and paternalism: The point Freire is making with these terms is that when a system is structured so that there are oppressors and oppressed, some of the oppressor class feel genuine compassion toward the suffering of the oppressed. They move to isolate that suffering and to aid it, not to address the structures of society which are the root causes. Thus, to the extent that they relieve any suffering they do so by hiding from themselves the genuine causes, their own privilege as oppressor class members.

Matthew: What is education? What is schooling? What are our roles and responsibilities as both educators and the educated? These are just some of the questions brought up in our first Niswarth discussion. Before this discussion with Mrs. Bardo, Mr. Mundra, and Mr. Housiaux, I had thought of Niswarth in a rather simple way. "This summer, I'm going to India," I told myself. "And I will be working in schools, teaching kids, and helping to improve the lives of a few people, hopefully." Now, though, I look at Niswarth in a far more complex light. Yes, we are doing what I just described, but it is also more than that. We will be examining communities and the role that education plays in them, as well as the role that education plays in the lives of individuals. And, as an extension, we will be examining both ourselves as educators and the educated. I don't know what conclusion I will come to at the end of the trip, but I can certainly say that I am excited to find out.