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Mending the Gap
Silent murmurs stir around the auditorium at OPRF as Bill Gates, A.S. Neill, Paulo Freire, and I, Ann, stand on stage, waiting for these murmurs to turn into complete silence, so that we may begin our discussion. After discussing pieces these authors wrote about education in English class, my personal opinions on education were still unclear. I talked with other students who agreed that they too were still unsure of their take. On that note, I contacted Mr. Gates, Mr. Neill, and Mr. Freire and they agreed to discuss their views on education with anyone interested in listening at OPRF. My place on stage is to moderate the discussion and incorporate questions to help further my view on education.
Ann: Alright, alright if I could just get everyone’s attention. I would like to give our special guests a chance to introduce themselves. [audience claps]
Bill Gates: Hello, everyone. Let me tell you what a pleasure it is to be standing in such a wonderful high school right now. I am Bill Gates, for those of you that did not recognize me, and I look forward to spending time with you. I hope by the end of this discussion you have a clear sense of what you strive for in education. [audience claps]
Ann: Mr. Neill...go ahead.
A.S. Neill: Wow, it is great to be here. I am sure nearly none of you recognize me, so let me introduce myself. I am A.S. Neill and I appreciate the thought of being contacted because my educational view is rarely known and executed, so it is important to get my idea out there. At some point during this discussion, I do not doubt that my methods of education will appeal to you. [audience claps]
Ann: And last but not least…Mr. Freire! [audience claps]
Paulo Freire: What a delight it is to be here. At least for me, maybe not for you [chuckles to himself]. I am Paulo Freire, as your fellow student Ann introduced me, and I am here to make sure you students are receiving the correct education. For those of you who have read my book, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, you know what I am talking about, for those of you who have not read it, you should read it, but I will make clear what is in my book. [audience claps]
Ann: Alright everyone, so I will start by asking Mr. Gates a question, but Mr. Freire and Mr. Neill, you are welcome to jump in whenever you would like to. Okay, so Mr. Gates, I realize that your main concern is that in the future the United States remains a major competitor in the global economy and I realize how you think this competitiveness can be kept, but should we teach our students to think for the nation, and not solely for their individual goals? You also would like to see the United States double the number of science, technology, and mathematics graduates by 2015, are you in fact implying that these are the only areas of interest available to students?
Bill Gates: By no means do I intend to portray the idea that finding your individual passion is less important than the nation’s dreams. By becoming passionate about something, it will often lead you to help others and in return you will help the nation. Although I believe individual passion is very important, we are all a part of one nation, and must do our part to help out. I am not implying that science, technology, and mathematics are the only areas of interest available to students across America, I am only implying that we do not have enough students interested in these areas of studies, and we will not become more innovative as a nation if students do not become interested in these areas. Becoming interested in science, technology, and mathematics starts with the right kind of teaching of these subjects, and that is why the United States must improve on its school systems, so that more young people become interested.
A.S. Neill: Excuse me, may I cut in? Mr. Gates, we cannot force our young students to learn science, technology, and mathematics, they will simply be interested in it, or they will not. And we cannot make them attend these classes, they should be able to choose whether they think it is necessary to attend classes or not.
Bill Gates: [enraged] Are you crazy? I’m glad your school has worked out, but I believe that kids in your school, Summerhill, who choose not to go classes, and in return will not get educated, have the potential to become educated but need to be motivated by teachers and adults. Wanting to be educated is rarely a process that automatically happens; education must be pushed and forced. And how can kids realize what they are interested in without taking classes? They will not know exactly what they want to be when they are setting foot in kindergarten.
A.S. Neill: See Mr. Gates, that is exactly where I disagree. I believe children are inherently good, not evil. When we treat them in an adult way they will not act up, throw tantrums, or flunk out of school. They may take these actions at first, but they will quickly realize the harm in these actions and will strive to be better. And I do believe it is not impossible to develop a passion without further knowledge. We cannot push them, they must push themselves. Mr. Freire, what are your views on this portion of education?
Paulo Freire: Let me start by saying, I do not agree with either of you. Mr. Neill, your beliefs of education create equality between students and teachers, which is nice but, where does the organization of this education come from? Neither from the oppressor, the teacher, or the oppressed, the students? Our educational system must be leaning towards educational projects, instead of systematic education, but to fulfill the educational project system, there must be someone who organizes the program, and this organizer must be the teacher. We cannot be so free that we are disorderly, and we cannot count on all children to create order.[Turns to Bill Gates] Mr. Gates, I believe the type of education you propose to be right, is factual knowledge based, is that so?
Bill Gates: Yes sir, I guess that is so…
Paulo Freire: Well this should not be so. I call this narrative education. Narrative education is when the teacher narrates to the students what information they need to memorize, and the students become less human like, and instead become like containers or receptacles of useless information . Mr. Gates, I would like to incorporate a term you used, innovation. As you said, knowledge leads to innovation, but I instead believe that innovation leads to knowledge. We should neither practice narrative education, or another term I like to use, banking education, in our school systems today. We must encourage the idea of problem-posing education. This is the idea that the teacher teach the students, but the students also teach the teacher. It is an interactive environment, where the teacher does not just lecture to students but they talk to each other. This idea does not make the students equal to the teacher, but it brings them closer together.
Bill Gates: Mr. Freire, I agree, I do, that this is a good concept, but some classes are just not possibly taught that way! That’s just how it is.
Paulo Freire: [chuckles] Mr. Gates, I cannot believe this. Are you implying that some things plain and simple cannot be discussed? Everything, anything, can be discussed, and should be.
Bill Gates: How rude of you to laugh…but anyways, what I am trying to say is that some subjects are just more factual based than discussion based.
Ann: Sorry to cut you guys off but we have just a few minutes before the bell rings. I would like the three of you to know, that your discussion as lead me to deep thought, and I have developed what I think is important in education. First of all, I think it is important to at first be taught core subjects that every little kid learns. You cannot become passionate about one certain area of knowledge, unless you first learn background information from classes you are in. I agree with Mr. Gates, that some classes are strictly factual based, but I think discussion can still be easily incorporated into classes such as math, or chemistry, and discussion is important to the student’s understanding of the subject matter. Discussion helps students understand ideas more thoroughly. I do not agree on the basis that we must learn for our nation, we are individuals and no matter what students end up interested in, if they care about being successful, it will have a positive effect on our nation. I agree with Mr. Freire, that schools should have more of a problem-posing style of education. I do not agree with Mr. Neill on the concept that children will know what is best for them, because even now, at age 15, I am still sometimes unsure of what is best for me. Children need guidance, and will need it through the rest of their life. Schools cannot make the teacher totally equal to the child, teachers must always be slightly superior for education to work out. I hope the rest of you have learned as much as I have during this session! Let’s give a round of applause to our three very special guests! Mr. Gates! Mr. Freire! And…Mr. Neill! [clapping]