If the structure does not permit dialogue, the structure must be changed.
To educate as the practice of freedom is a way of teaching that anyone can learn.
Between March 4 and May 13, we participated in the training by the School of Public Life on critical pedagogy. On six occasion we spent a day together and took a look at critical pedagogy from many angles, learnt about its origins and forerunners in Hungary, met teachers who work with practices close to critical pedagogy, learnt about ‘forum theatre’ which motivates spectators to change the world around themselves, about participatory action research, about non-blindness, the glass-elevator, Lemonland and the oppressive and liberating nature of technology, participated in a teachers’ meeting and wrote an action plan.
We came from many places, bringing together different teaching and learning experiences. During the training we also learnt from each other, not by chance only, but because this is a fundamental part of the approach.
Critical pedagogy breaks up the traditional teacher-student relation; the process of learning is the common creation of knowledge, the teachers are replaced by the companions helping the common learning: the facilitators. Critical pedagogy is theory and practice at the same time. It represents a firm – leftist – set of values, which becomes authentic and interpretable in the pedagogical – teaching and learning – practice. In the training we together collected (see figure) – on the basis what we experienced – what we consider as critical pedagogy, i.e. we learnt the meaning through practice and created something new, which we – following the principles of critical pedagogy – do not take for carved in stone, are any time ready to discuss among ourselves or with anybody else.
This theory overthrows the hierarchies of the Prussian-style educational systems that we take for normal. As every idea, every theory is constantly being challenged; the teacher loses the position of sole holder of knowledge. A natural consequence of this process is also that it constantly questions the ruling oppressive systems and searches the hidden dynamics if power. Critical pedagogy does not stop at the (often) self-centered profession of "teaching-learning", but aims at abolishing the disclosed unjust relations and at creating – or letting the oppressed create for themselves – alternatives, that end hierarchy itself. It is very important to note that the goal is not to lift the oppressed – as thereby easily new oppressor could emerge – , but to liberate and to be liberated, i.e. to end oppression as such.
During the training each day we felt how we more and more adopted the critical approach and practice. This was to a great extent due to the methodology that our trainers carefully selected (and, as we later learnt, constantly re-designed) to fit the subject and the group. After a time we realized that we have developed a common set of values that made us force some external trainers to involve us more or even to contest their own statements.
Obviously the experiences of the training did not only influence our thinking and acting within the "school". Although we were interested in and critical towards different subjects, there is one thing we all learnt: to some extent we all became – if possible – experts in oppression, and are able to spot injustice stemming from oppression in ourselves, in our private life and in society, politics. We search the flaws at a systemic level, rather than on the level of the individual, be it an oppressor or an oppressed. The question remains: with the knowledge acquired, how are we going to deconstruct the system, which is entirely built on oppressive practices?
Bori Buda, Nóra Feldmár, István Tompa (actor-participants)
What is critical pedagogy?
School of pedagogy
Process of challenging
Criticism of structures of society and inequality
Knowledge is not a privilege
Revolution of love
Method of teaching/learning
What is its methodology?
Democratic way of operation
Student determines the conditions, environment
Dismantling, alternating the role of teacher/student
Process is the key/essence
What are its goals?
Changing power structures
End need/motive of oppression
For whom is it?