Schopenhauer’s article focused the spotlight on some of the critical weaknesses of the conventional learning paradigm. His assertions were not only scathing, but they were also accurate, especially when viewed from the perspective of the public education system (Letizia 119). Paulo Freire’s “Banking Concept of Education” framework strengthened certain aspects of Schopenhauer’s analysis. However, these two philosophers did not consider it important to talk about the motivating force in the creation of the current system of education. They did not provide any serious discourse as to the compelling factor that forces public educators and government institutions to implement the said system. If Schopenhauer and Freire went further, acknowledging the fact that the current educational system is not without value, the unexpected consequence of such bold action is to inspire a collaborative effort from different sectors to develop an alternative learning framework.
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Before going any further it is important to set limitations to the discussion of Schopenhauer and Freire’s commentaries on conventional learning systems. Thus, it is imperative to limit the scope of the study on public education systems, particularly the current K-12 program implemented in most schools all over the United States. One can make a commentary, that it is possible to expand
Schopenhauer’s remarks to include higher education programs, especially the basic courses offering undergraduate degrees. However, a counter-argument is also possible, stating that it is impossible to determine all types of learning programs all over the world. It within the realm of possibility that elite universities in other parts of the globe are experimenting on learning systems that incorporate Freire or Schopenhauer’s insights. Also, it is easy to modify or manipulate the learning expectations or learning outcomes of graduate programs in higher education institutions.
An in-depth review of Schopenhauer’s article allows the reader to appreciate the wisdom of the philosopher’s pronouncements. This process also alerts the reader to the possible flaws or limitations of Schopenhauer’s arguments. Thus, it is easier to figure out possible solutions to the perceived weakness of the current educational framework. The first thing that Schopenhauer brought it into the open was the failure of the public education system in producing graduates that can think with prudence and insight concerning the problems and challenges of the present age (Letizia 120). Forget about the idea of producing the next Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, or Steve Jobs, because one can argue that these men possessed something greater than an extraordinary thirst for knowledge.
One can also propose that Schopenhauer was thinking about the capability of learning institutions to produce graduates that can solve critical problems related to their work. Forget about the ability to solve energy or transportation problems, because this is asking too much from public educators. The mere fact that there are men and women able to provide instantaneous solutions to the problems staring at them from their work stations or area of responsibility is already considered a significant development in the history of mass education. It is not unlikely to imagine Schopenhauer’s minimum requirement as the practical ease that employees, business owners, and public servants, can generate new ideas and solve problems associated with their respective work environments. In other words, they get the job done because they can solve job-related problems without the need to call a supervisor or someone from top management. Schopenhauer laments the fact that even those with extensive learning experiences were unable to use intuition in developing an effective and cost-efficient solution by merely considering the resources available to them.
Schopenhauer also pointed out that graduates of a conventional learning paradigm were never taught how to make decisions or formulate ideas using intuition as opposed to the need to consult a set of manuals or scripted responses. Schopenhauer proposed a thinking process that relies on observational techniques, and the power to synthesize different types and different sources of information to create and implement relevant and effective solutions.
Schopenhauer was also correct when he said that students of conventional learning institutions were deprived of life-enriching experiences. He was probably thinking about the stark contrast between studying the images of a bald eagle on a projector slide or a computer screen as opposed to a real-life experience of observing the said bird of prey in the wild. It is probably more exhilarating and fulfilling to study the consequences of illegal logging by taking annual trips to a denuded forest cover as opposed to studying the said phenomenon through books and class lectures. It is much better to study the impact of domestic violence and criminal behavior in impoverished societies as compared to the dreary experience of reading about these controversial stories through books and online articles.
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Paulo Freire’s Insights
Freire strengthened certain aspects of Schopenhauer’s analytical discourse regarding the perceived weaknesses of conventional learning frameworks. Whereas Schopenhauer merely scratched the surface when it comes to students unable to develop original thought or discover new things, Freire described the mechanism that limits the learning process. Freire said that the flow of information is similar to a banking system wherein someone deposits something of value and a recipient is receiving the deposit and systematically keeping the said deposit to retrieve the same in an orderly manner.
One can make the argument that even in simplistic terms, the careful application of the “banking concept” can produce something significant for the teacher and the student (Freire 242). If the system of storage and retrieval has been perfected, one can just imagine its impact. Consider for instance its beneficial outcome in the life of an accountant, engineer, and doctor. When a problem is presented before them, they simply recall images or concepts related to the problem presented in their midst, and using a retrieval technique they can provide a specific solution that is in turn useful in treating a particular disease, solving a load-bearing problem in bridge construction, and in providing an answer to an accounting problem that wreaks havoc to the company’s compliance requirements.
It is indeed a good thing to have a flawless storage and retrieval system. However, this kind of process is limited to maintaining the status quo, and a terrible solution to the problem of inequality. It is also useless in the context of solving problems that are deemed unsolvable due to the lack of available information regarding the said phenomenon. For example, a doctor that uses the same technique does not have an answer to a person infected with the HIV pathogen. An engineer compelled to work in an unfamiliar territory characterized by intermittent earthquakes or flash floods may not be able to construct an appropriate bridge that can withstand tremors or excessive flooding.
Schopenhauer and Freire were correct in saying that a conventional learning paradigm is useless when it comes to innovative solutions or the need to deal with uncommon problems. Using the philosopher’s points of view, it is also easy to figure out that a conventional learning framework maintains the status quo. In societies wherein oppression is the number one social problem, the use of the “banking concept of education” simply perpetuates the enslavement of the people under a corrupt government structure, because the same pattern of behavior is expected to occur regularly. For example, before the emergence of the Internet, higher education institutions controlled access to critical information. Libraries and repositories of research materials duplicate the same function. Without a doubt, colleges and universities possess the authority to grant diplomas and certificates of completion. However, the Internet enables a significant number of the world’s population to access information that was inaccessible in the past.
It is impossible to imagine the founders of Google and the online store known all over the world as Amazon to develop a radical business model if they relied only on the store-and-retrieve system of learning. There was no article or book written concerning the algorithm that powered the most powerful search engine on the planet. In the same manner, Amazon utilized a supply-chain-management approach that was probably utilized by car manufacturing companies and not an online bookstore business. This type of innovative business strategies requires a higher level of synthesis and abstract thinking that is not encouraged in traditional learning systems.
Forget about the lack of innovative thinking capabilities. The real danger of conventional learning paradigms is in its power to perpetuate wrong thinking. Consider for instance the idea of pursuing a college degree that promises a bright future for the diploma holder. Thousands of American college students invested in higher education believing that the old way of doing things is still in effect. It took a long time to see the real-world impact of globalization, and the realities of business strategies before students and parents alike recognize the futility of going after business degrees or office-related diplomas.
Thousands of college students are unable to find decent jobs in an age when different skill sets are needed. The need for the moment is not to study something in preparation for a comfortable office job but to acquire skills in preparation for the life of an entrepreneur. Factories and businesses are being shipped to China, India, and Mexico. Nevertheless, skilled business owners can respond to the needs of the community. However, those who did not understand the fundamental changes in global business environments continue to complain and struggle against the perceived weakness in governance when the real problem is in the way people acquire and process information.
Identifying the Compelling Factor in Establishing a Public Education System
It is indeed a wonderful idea to discuss Schopenhauer’s and Freire’s analytical framework on the failures of conventional learning systems. However, it is a challenge to start a revolution and transform the way public education is being implemented in this country without acknowledging certain principles regarding the necessity of a K-12 program or similar learning paradigms.
There are at least two compelling factors that caused the creation of present-day conventional learning institutions. First, it is the byproduct or the consequence of the requirements of an industrialized nation. Second, the current system of education is not only a knowledge acquisition process, but it is also a system that was established to keep children off the streets while their parents are working in the factories or offices.
Schopenhauer and Freire’s failure to address these two compelling factors or causative forces that brought about the emergence of a K-12 program or similar learning frameworks weakens their argument because it is not rooted in reality. In other words, it is now easier to label Schopenhauer and Freire’s view as overly romantic, such as, the need to go back to a period before the advent of the Age of Industrialization. Nevertheless, it is impossible to go back to that period. The Age of Industrialization transformed the world to an extent that major cities were established as a direct result of the unexpected population and business growth in urban centers from Tokyo to New York.
Acknowledging the impact of the Age of Industrialization in the establishment of the public education system enables the analyst to realize that the proposed system was effective in solving the problems that were brought about by the rapid urbanization of growth centers all over the nation. Besides, the learning system that was established as effective in producing the type of workers needed to sustain the country’s march towards greater industrialization. It is impossible to imagine the emergence of companies like Ford, IBM, Unilever, Nike, and RJ Nabisco without the presence of public educators ready to transform the uneducated masses for them to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to operate factories, balance accounting books, treat those who are sick, and advertise the products produced by the business titans of the 20th century.
In acknowledging the said causative factors, Schopenhauer and Freire are now compelled to accept the fact that the conventional learning systems that they were criticizing were effective in developing the right kind of workers and specialists to sustain the needs of an urban behemoth like London or Shanghai. As a result, they are going to realize that to establish a new paradigm, they need to address the problem of nurturing children when both parents are at work. They need to recognize the problem of educational costs because the alternative they are proposing is an expensive substitute.
Although the challenge of creating an alternative learning system becomes more daunting after looking at the issue with realistic expectations, it is not prudent to ignore Schopenhauer and Freire’s criticism concerning the limitations of the current learning framework. One of the most inspiring aspects of the philosopher’s criticism was in the realization that a new learning paradigm ensures the creation of an egalitarian society. Also, the students produced by that system are not automatons but brilliant and insightful people that can create effective and relevant solutions to the problems faced by ordinary people.
Schopenhauer and Freire’s views require a realistic analysis tempered with the realities of conducting business, as well as the insights gleaned from the study of human history. One of the most critical factors that were overlooked in the discussion of conventional learning systems is the impact caused by the Age of Industrialization. It is not practical to ignore the lessons that one can acquire by studying the implications of having unprecedented urban growth due to the impact of factories and migration. The rapid growth of urban centers and the business expansion of the industrial sector created two major problems. Business owners need capable workers that can run and manage the factories. They need educated people with the skill to store and retrieve critical information to solve predicted problems. Without a doubt, it is good to have a genius or two revolutionizing the travel or energy sector.
However, the more pressing problem was the maintenance of the factories and other business establishments. It is also important to acknowledge the effectiveness of the traditional learning systems in producing skilled professionals able to advertise, track the expenditures, and treat those who are sick. It is in the process of acknowledging the impact of the Age of Industrialization that people can begin to appreciate the cost required to transform the current educational system. It is not going to be an easy task to overhaul and transform the K-12 program because mothers and fathers are eager to go to work. One of the ways to handle the changes required for an upgraded learning system is to probably require one parent to stay at home. An alternative solution is to hire experts or tutors. Another solution is to develop a learning framework that enables students to leave the confines of a traditional classroom to acquire a different type of education. In any case, it is an expensive process. It is something that requires a great deal of thinking, not a romantic way of considering the past.
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Freire, Paulo. “The “Banking” Concept of Education.” Ways of Reading. 8th ed., edited by David Bartholomae and Anthony Petrosky, Bedford- St. Martin’s, 2008. 242-254.
Letizia, Angelo. Democracy and Social Justice Education in the Information Age. Springer, 2016.