Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ethics for Activists - 17

As i re-design the Popular Education for Social Change class that i teach at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, i've been re-reading Pedagogy of Freedom (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998) by Paulo Freire. Paulo's work has guided me my whole adult life and i'm always surprised and delighted to learn new things from words i've read and assumed i'd understood. Once again i'm impressed with Paulo's thinking and am reading and re-reading Chapter Four of this book: Teaching is a Human Act. It is providing me with some answers (and, perhaps more importantly, questions) about something i find particularly difficult to theorize as well as put into practice: how to train popular educators - not only in the necessary skills and so-called competencies of the work, but also in the dispositions that i believe are necessary. Not that one can teach such things as humility or compassion. But i do believe there are ways to support the growth of such things in people. For the next several weeks i am diving into these questions as i concentrate on finishing a manuscript about trickster pedagogy. So here are some words from Paulo that inspire me and that i hope might do something similar for you:

Is my curiosity able to express itself? Is it growing? In my opinion, one of the essential qualities that an authoritative, democratic teaching practice ought to reveal in its relationship with the freedom of students is a sense of its own self-confidence. It’s a self-confidence that expresses itself in a firmness of action or of decision in regard to its respect for the freedom and autonomy of students, its ability to discuss its own positions, and its openness to reviewing both itself and its previously held positions.

If the teacher is imbued with self-confident authority, there will be no need for a speech about it at every available instant. If there is self-confidence regarding its legitimacy, there will be no need to ask anyone: ‘Do you know to whom you are speaking?’ (pp. 85)

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