A few nights ago I watched a documentary entitled Jesus Camp, about an Evangelical Christian summer camp. It was a very striking example of how strong the influence of our own education processes affect our ability to consider and react to the world. The children depicted in this film represent the susceptibility we have while growing up in a cultural model, and also how alluring the idea of being “right” or “powerful” could be, especially as a child in part of an elitist or dominate community.
What is the filter through which people are learning? In the beginning of this clip the church leader rants about issues that correlate to a political agenda, there is another moment (in this clip at 5:00) where a mother home schooling her son explains the inaccuracy of global warming which is reflective of the ties this religious group has to the republican perspective in government. What better way for government to control the focus of its citizens then by linking religious and political belief?
Is this education or is this manipulation? And also, what is seeping into our formation of beliefs in not so obvious ways? It is important to recognize when “information” serves as an aid to a larger structure. Paulo Freire, an educator and brilliant thinker who has focused on the role education plays as a means to liberation, stated in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed:
“Education as the exercise of domination stimulates the credulity of students, with the ideological intent of indoctrinating them to adapt to the world of oppression (78).”
Within the framework of any culture or society the basis of education, or passing down any form of knowledge essentially comes from whatever the teacher believes to be true. An example of this is how in most schools tests are formed on the basis of answers being either right or wrong. But that enables the student from forming their own perspectives and feelings about the world around them.
This reminded of a piece I read of James Baldwin, from a speech he gave entitled “ A Talk to Teachers”. This statement encapsulates both the fear and power that come with true education:
“The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education, finally, is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white, to decide for himself whether there is a God in heaven or not. To ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity. But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around.”
So what exactly is education? Is it something that happens to us, or we are a part of it?
What decisions do we have in choosing what we learn?