In "Empowering Education," Ira Shor argues that schooling should be more focused on student participation and empowerment rather than the memorization of facts and standardized knowledge. He believes that "to teach skills and information without relating them to society and to the students' contexts turns education into an authoritarian transfer of official words, a process that severely limits student development as democratic citizens" (18). By relating the subject material to the students own lives, their critical thinking will be more in depth because they are connected with the material rather than bored by a long, typical lecture. (Click here to see the advantages and disadvantages of these commonly seen lectures) Through this participatory approach, the students' educational experiences can be transformed through empowering dialogue. Resistance is seen so often in classrooms because the students are bored by or rejecting the standard mode of instruction. By encouraging this participatory learning model, students will become engaged with the material by having the ability to make connections to their lives, their families, their community, and the greater society. Being in control of the learning process holds students more accountable and makes them more likely to achieve greater understanding.
In the second chapter of the Shor article, he proposes a model to show how the participatory model can be applied in classrooms. The teacher is seen as the "problem poser" in this example. "Problem posing focuses on power relations in the classroom, in the institution, in the formation of standard canons of knowledge, and in society at large. It considers the social and cultural context of education, asking how student subjectivity and economic conditions affect the learning process" (31). Rather than following the traditional classroom lecturing routine, problem posing teachers use the students backgrounds, experiences, and opinions to shape the curriculum. By doing this, teachers and students are able to connect through sharing their opinions and learning from each other, rather than from a "central bank of knowledge" determined by the government. Everyone's point of view is explored in this model and the students express their understanding to gain more knowledge and understanding of how the material relates to themselves and how it plays out in society.
I really liked this article and the subject material that it focused on. I agree with Shor and find his model to be really interesting. Though this article took me all weekend to read since it was a little long and really hard to focus all my attention on it during my dance competition this weekend, I thought that this article ended our formal readings nicely by combining all the material we have explored this semester and laying out a plan to enact these teachings in our own classrooms one day. Empowering education was a really big theme in my high school, and I recall experiencing some of the approaches used in Shor's article in my high school classes. It was really cool to read about the different approach to classroom learning, and I liked how he provided such detailed examples.
I wanted to connect this article to Delpit because I feel that it really exemplifies the culture of power. Shor says that education is politics. It is not neutral, but it encourages the status quo or the domination of white, male culture being placed in the school curriculum, rather than the history of the oppressed and minority groups. This is because those in power and frequently least aware of their power and they are the ones who determine the rules of the culture of power. This is seen in the curriculum set by the government. Those that are in power in our society get to decide what teachers must teach, while those who are not in power are frequently left out or forgotten. However, Shor shows us how we can manipulate the curriculum by using the participatory approach to explore and question the required curriculum rather than accepting and memorizing it without critically examining it.
Talking Point: Has anyone been in a participatory, problem posing classroom environment before this class? How has your education and understanding of the material differed from typical classes?