1. In his book Some Thoughts Concerning Education, John Locke suggested ways that reading might be introduced to young children. In Section 150 of the book, Locke wrote, “Contrivances might be made to teach children to read, whilst they thought they were only playing.” Explain what Locke meant by this, basing your thinking on examples from the reading. Then, discuss whether you agree disagree with Locke and why.
Locke details methods with which to get children to read by presenting it as a game during play time. With this quote “This being a play amongst you, tempt him not to it, lest you make it business”, he suggests a plan to make learning and reading exciting by introducing it to them as a game or some other form of play. This way it’s not being forced upon them in a manner that they will resist or try to avoid. He takes this concept further by suggesting: “ when the play is done the ball should be laid up safe out of his reach, that so it may not, by his having it in his keeping at any time, grow stale to him.”. Here Locke proposes taking the ball or whatever method of presentation you choose from the child after a set duration of time so as not to let this method become boring. Children tire of their toys and games quickly, especially if they are freely and readily available at all times. In this way, Locke advises setting a time limit on the use of the toy or game through which the child is learning, making him or her eager to want to play with it again and again.
Locke’s little bit of deception suggests the old adage of using a little bit of sugar to help the medicine go down. Children want to play, they don’t want to sit still and be force-fed information that they may not be interested in receiving or ready to embrace at certain ages. If you turn learning into play time, then everyone essentially wins. The child is enjoying him or herself and learning at the same time. They may not realize it yet, but the information will be received and retained over time. Through this method, the child is more open to understanding the information in his or her own way and education becomes more effective and productive.
2. Jane Addams “foresaw a compassionate, interdependent world revolving around the principles of social justice, fairness, tolerance, respect, equal opportunity, civic responsibility and hope for every individual, family and community”. To that end, she founded Hull House in 1889, where she instituted numerous innovative educational opportunities for people living in poverty. Describe two of these innovations that you believe have had the greatest impact on communities and/or education today, and explain why.
Addams had specific intentions behind the institution of Hull House, and she founded it on a series of specific guiding principles. She intended it to be a place where individuals could come to live and work and help teach others to be more well-rounded and contributing members of the community. To her, it was a lack of opportunities, not a low moral character, that fed into poverty. These were good people that she wanted to help, they just required some training and that’s what she offered at Hull House. This was often for the benefit of foreign-born individuals who were not learned in the American culture. But Addams did not want them to abandon their own ethnicities in the bargain. She believed a school’s responsibility was to present the pupil with “a culture so wide and deep and universal” that it allowed the child to integrate their own culture with that of the one in which they were now living (Lissak 1989). Learning the English language and understanding American values and ideas would allow them the ability to participate in the “valuable products of American civilization” (Lissak 1989).
These attitudes have endured to this day as understanding the culture in which one lives offers a direct correlation to succeeding in that culture. Whether it’s the culture of the workplace or the culture of a heritage, understanding how that culture acts and operates is paramount to being able to get ahead.
But Addams also went further than just helping these people acclimate to the mores and norms of the American experience. She offered classes on art, music, literature, and philosophy, infusing the Hull House education with more than just the basics of how to survive. These teachings helped open the minds of her students to greater ideas of thought. Expanding the imagination and the perceptions of belief helps her pupils become not only better educated, but more informed about the world around them. General education is important to the evolution of every young mind, and Addams’ schooling helped innovate the parameters of what we know as general education courses in schools today. These classes help lay the groundwork for more vocational or specialized training further on. Many universities mandate courses of general study before students can pursue their chosen majors. It’s a concept first popularized by the philosopher Plato, and Addams helped define it for generations to come at Hull House.
3. This week, you learned about Paulo Freire’s thoughts on oppressive educational attitudes and practices. In your own words, analyze Freire’s philosophy with regard to how education can liberate the oppressed.
Freire’s philosophy about education incorporates theories of revolution and the importance of a focus on critical thinking about the social and political realities around each and everyone of us. Anyone who merely accepts the world around them is settling for a way of life that has been designed and enforced upon them by others. To simply live by these parameters is to be imprisoned and oppressed. Acting up against these preconceived notions of the social and political is to deepen one’s own insights and beliefs of the world. He goes on to define the oppressor and the oppressed with respect to pedagogy. The oppressed are considered objects by the oppressing classes, and only until peasants can think critically about the world in which they live, that has been built for them by those who intend to keep them under their boot-heel, will never be able to change their station in life. Understanding the very nature of their oppression is the only way to rise above it.
He goes on to depict the oppressive relationship between teacher and student in which he describes a “banking” concept to education: “Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated account. Worse yet, it turns them into “containers,” into “receptacles” to be “filled” by the teachers. The more completely she fills the receptacles, the better a teachers she is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are. Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor.” (Freire 1993). The very manner in which students are taught in this method is, by definition, oppressive as it does not enable the student to think for him or herself. The teacher is forcing his or her own beliefs, attitudes, and practices on the students, filling them with his or her information, not allowing for the students to find their own information for themselves. Only through an inquiry-based style of education, where students are free to ask questions, explore theories and concepts, and are able to seek training that reflects their own life experiences, will they truly be granted an education free from oppression. The “banking” style of education engenders passivity among the students and declares the teacher as omnipotent, possessing the only knowledge that is to be repeated back by the pupils in equal measure as it was given. With Freire’s problem-solving approach to education, this allows the students to ask questions while proposing a two-way street in which both teacher and pupil exchange ideas and concepts through a free-flowing dialogue. This isn’t to suggest there aren’t great amounts of parity between teacher and pupil, a teacher may glean very little information from a set of nine year olds in a math class, but the approach of equal footing between the instructor and the class, no matter what age or skill level, promotes a balanced dynamic in the classroom that only serves to benefit the student in a far greater capacity than that of an oppressive “banking” relationship.
Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum Books, 1993
Lissak, Rivka Shpak. Pluralism and Progressives: Hull House and the New Immigrants,
1890-1919. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.
Locke, John. Some Thoughts Concerning Education. Vol. XXXVII, Part 1. The Harvard
Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14; Bartleby.com, 2001.