“The more students work at storing deposits entrusted to them, the less they develop the critical consciousness which would result from their intervention in the world as transformers of that world.” (Freire, p. 2)
This week in “Leadership and Advocacy,” we start exploring the thoughts of Paulo Freire in “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” Freire discusses the “banking concept of education.” He states that students in this system are “receptacles” that are being “filled” with the “content of the teachers narration”. (Freire, p. 1) While pondering the “banking system,” images of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character in the 1990 film, “Total Recall” enters my mind. In this film, Schwarzenegger’s character is having disturbing dreams so he visits a company, “Rekall,” which implants memory chips within their clients to create a desired experience. Freire’s “banking” concept is not too different from Schwarzenegger’s experience. In “Total Recall,” the individuals in control did not want him to remember but wanted him to recall what they felt was desired and valued as important – which would keep him safe making him a “receptacle.” Freire explains that “receptacles” are expected to regurgitate information provided by the teacher (aka the authority) to the students (aka the oppressed). But just like Schwarzenegger, the students should fight to be free and freedom cannot be obtained alone. To escape the system, students must transform in order to become liberated. Freire suggests that no one liberates anyone else and no one becomes liberated alone; however, people liberate themselves in fellowship with each other. In essence, teachers and students should strive to become partners in learning and critical thinking and break free of the chains that “banking” goals create.
I agree with Freire in that education should seek to encourage critical thinking and not recall. Recall either recreates or directly builds upon the past. While critical thinking creates a new, unknown, path for the future.
As a leader seeking to change the condition of many individuals who have been repeatedly oppressed and labeled the “marginalized,” new paths are needed as old paths are not sufficient. To reach these new paths, I must transform and I need your help because one cannot do it alone.
As a developing leader, I like many find myself overwhelmed. After all, being a leader is an every day and every moment job. If one truly believes in the change one wishes to see in the world, it is embraced it in every aspect of their life and he or she strives tirelessly see that change materialized. However, true change takes time and is often a long, hard struggle with little evidence of progress during the plight. This struggle can be disheartening. So, how does one remain focused when entrenched with personal issues and daily obligations? A mentor recently shared a quote by Dan Eldon, which states, “The journey is the destination.” Initially, I was not sure why she chose this quote, but as I prepare my assignments for the week – it came to me. So often, we become consumed with obtaining the desired result and seeing goals actualized, we often lose sight of the lessons we learn during the process. It can vary from the note about empowerment posted by a classmate for a blog assignment (thanks Laura – http://lauragallo73.wordpress.com/) to adopting the thought “learning is a place where paradise can be created” from bell hooks (hooks, 1994 p. 207). There is beauty in the process of changing the world, because we transform-evolve. So, I encourage all leaders to stop, smell the roses, and enjoy the process.
hooks, bell (1994) Teaching to Transgress. Education as the practice of freedom, London: Routledge.
What does it mean to be courageous? When I hear the term, I immediately think of the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOCNY9pJ850). He, according to society, had all the physical attributes of someone who should not be afraid and exude confidence. He had a commanding statue, “authoritative” voice, and was born to be king of the jungle (natural born leader). However, he did not have any courage. Just as with anything, looks can be deceiving and things that seem natural and easy isn’t always.
A few days ago, I had a conversation with a young lady I mentor in South Carolina. She, a freshman in college, was explaining difficulties she’s experiencing and how these issues affect her performance in school. After listening carefully, not judging, or telling her what to do – she asks of me, “how do you find the strength and courage to keep going when you’re unsure of the outcome?” I merely responded, that I fear the thought of not trying more than trying and failing. This conversation made me reflect on the many aspects of courage a leader must possess and how it’s simple but complicated as illustrated by the Cowardly Lion. I conclude that courage comes about from many sources within: 1) Conquering what you fear; 2) Life experiences – succeeding and failing; 3) Leading with purpose
Some quotes to consider for each from great leaders:
1) Conquering what you fear
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
~ Nelson Mandela
2) Life experiences – succeeding and failing
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
3) Leading with purpose
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”
~ John F. Kennedy
“March on. Do not tarry. To go forward is to move toward perfection. March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life’s path.” ~Khalil Gibran
Attending college has become more of a necessity than a luxury despite the increasing cost of attending college. Many large corporations require at least a bachelor’s degree for entry-level jobs. However, many high school students question if they are “good” enough to attend or “college material” because they are often the first members of their families to attend college and as a result hidden physical and mental barriers exist when making this choice.
As with anyone, many things make up my identity. I am an African American female from a rural town. I literally grew up on a farm located on a dirt road in a small community. I am also a first-generation college student and embrace this aspect of my identity proudly. This identity trait is shared with many and we all have different stories, different plights, and outcomes. However, we all share some of the same difficulties when choosing to attend college. My first year as a small town girl at a research one, predominantly white institution was very difficult for many reasons. Firstly, adjusting to college culture was a challenge. I went from attending a school of approximately 250 students (9-12) to over 16,000 students. However, this was not the daunting aspect of this experience, it was the financial constraints I was placed under. As a student from a low-income household, I was left to support myself financially. Luckily, I did have scholarships and grants but had to quickly learn how to be self-reliant. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on time each year to ensure the maximum aid was important. I did not know that dates mattered until I missed the deadline the first year and spoke with a financial aid counselor at the school and she explained it all to me. However, financial aid was not enough, so I worked two to three jobs on campus while taking a full course load each semester. So, while my roommates received checks from their parents monthly to pay for food and supplies, I was working nearly 20 hours a week. However, they were very supportive and offered rides and helped whenever they could.
Another constraint was not being able to see my family. I decided to attend school approximately four hours from home and did not have a car. It was difficult for my family members to take time off from work to visit me, so I often felt alone and different from the others because I was always trying to make ends meet. I probably could have made smarter decisions financially, but did not have much guidance and just focused on surviving. Financial and social constraints caused depression and resentment.
However, despite all that I went through I am stronger as a result and have a passion for encouraging students like me through the process in hopes they don’t give up or make the mistakes I made. I feel more programs are needed to actively assist first-generation college students through many steps of the process:
- Creating a college-bound culture as early as middle school
- Educating parents about college culture, financial options, and completing paperwork prior to the student graduating
- Providing all first-generation college students with either an adult mentor or peer-mentor in high school and at least the first year of college
- Encourage first-generation college students to join a support group during their first year of college
- Encourage first-generation college students to attend schools that have support programs just for them that will aid them in answering questions, finding help and building a support system
Many colleges and universities are taking strides in ensuring first-generation college students are successful. However, we all must be vigilant as in 2010, USA Today reported that 25 percent of low-income first-generation college students drop out of school within their first year and 89 percent quit before earning a degree within six years (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2010-03-30-FirstGenDorm30_ST_N.htm ).
Unlike many, I made it through the struggle and I’m currently a doctoral student in a top-ranked program. However, I am the minority and I hope through advocacy and leadership I can have an impact on this population to ensure more like me are able to pursue their dreams through education.
Learn more about the plights of first-generation college students by viewing videos created by “First in the Family: Your College Years” :
I Am Woman; Hear Me Roar
On March 3, 1913, 5,000 suffragists from across the country gathered in Washington, DC, to demand the right to vote. Despite the racial tension of that time, the founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority (my sorority), one of the largest African American women’s organizations in the country, participated in the Women’s Suffrage as part their first public acts of service. Imagine 5,000 strong, bold, and determined women walking down Pennsylvania fighting off insults and hurled lit cigarettes as they stood up for something they believed in to make it possible for women like myself to vote. As I reflect upon this momentous anniversary, I am reminded that their work is not complete. As evident in the fact that women still earn less than men, it’s harder for women to maintain leadership positions, and some career fields still have a lack of women representation. In addition, I reflect upon an article I read, “Female Veterans Are Fast Growing Segment of Homeless Population” which cited that 45% of homeless veterans identified as black, 41% white, and 7.6% Latina. Many of which suffer from PTSD or experienced sexual trauma while in the military. There is so much work to be done to help others.
Therefore, I challenge my women readers – list what you’re doing to uplift your gender in celebration of Women’s History Month. Men – what will you do to advocate for women?