The leadership of the modern church has been influenced by the businesses of our time; the ethics of our congregations modelled themselves on the rhythms of the capitalistic systems of colonial expansions. Our education models have suffered much of the same fate. Paul Freire, in his piercing book ‘Pedagogy of the oppressed’ delves into our paternalistic models of teaching. Models that are essentially designed to oppress and has as its end result the stifling of creativity. (You can read the chapter here).
On reading this book I realized, sadly, how the church of our day mirrors the culture in its uncreative and often stifling method of teaching.
In chapter two of his book he argues against an educational model that he terms the banking model. According to this method, the teacher is the person with all the knowledge and answers and it is his/her job to transfer knowledge into empty vessels (the students). In this model there is a definite hierarchy between student and teacher – the latter is the subject exercising control and dominion over the objects.
In this model no creativity is allowed for the student. A successful student is the person who listens to the teacher and accepts the knowledge uncritically. When the student parrots the teacher’s information, we see it as a result of good education. Freire argues that it is not.
“Education is suffering from narration sickness.”
What do we want to happen with a sermon? What is our educational model for teaching in church? Are we following the banking model?
One of the scary thoughts mentioned by the author is the result of an education model based on the banking method. According to him, students are incapacitated to do. They become passive listeners, neutered from any creativity. They initiate nothing because the knowledge conveyed to them is not interactive. In essence they have not wrestled with it themselves. The monologue killed any possibility for them to get their minds wrapped around the teaching subject. He describes the wrestling,
Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry, human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.
Neutered by the teaching method, they don’t act on the knowledge. They become hearers and not doers! And contrary to pastor’s belief of member slackness we might be the problem!
Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.
This solution is not (nor can it be) found in the banking concept. On the contrary, banking education maintains and even stimulates the contradiction through the following attitudes and practices, which mirror oppressive society as a whole:
(a) the teacher teaches and the students are taught;
(b) the teacher knows everything and the students know nothing;
(c) the teacher thinks and the students are thought about;
(d) the teacher talks and the students listen — meekly;
(e) the teacher disciplines and the students are disciplined;
(f) the teacher chooses and enforces his choice, and the students comply;
(g) the teacher acts and the students have the illusion of acting through the action of the teacher;
(h) the teacher chooses the program content, and the students (who were not consulted) adapt to it;
(i) the teacher confuses the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which she and he sets in opposition to the freedom of the students;
(j) the teacher is the Subject of the learning process, while the pupils are mere objects