Autonomy, Critical Praxis, Self-Realization, and Freedom: a Philosophical Analysis of the Banking Model and the Need for Aesthetic Education in the Learning Environment
Armstrong, Alexander J.
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In contemporary society, education practices have become characteristically unilaterally structured, giving rise to the subordination of self-realization of the student to institutionalized training of generic skills and capacities. Through an asymmetrical authoritarian student-teacher relationship, contemporary education disregards the student as an epistemic and practical viewpoint, thereby reducing the student to a passive recipient of knowledge whose main purpose is to memorize, replicate, and internalize the narrated program content. According to Paulo Freire’s work in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, this type of education is structured as a “banking” concept of education. Freire and I alike consider this model as a means of oppression through unilateral information acquisition and recognition, rule competency, and technical proficiency by limiting the development of the students’ critical capacities, the establishment of mutual recognition, the possibility for self-realization, and ultimately freedom. We may design and construct our machines for very specific tasks using a rigid formalized structure, but we educate ourselves, or so I will argue, in order to be autonomous and critical in the pursuit of creative and novel ways of taking up our real life engagements. By drawing upon various works by Hegel and Martin Seel’s Aesthetics of Appearing, I will propose an emancipatory model of education that contrasts with the banking model of education to elucidate what type of student and teacher a banking model of education creates. In doing so, I will identify both what kind of pedagogical structure contemporary education needs as well as the necessity of art and art practices in the learning environment in order for education to be liberating for its students. The model I propose reconfigures the learning environment by revitalizing art and art practices in the learning environment through an aesthetic education for the purposes of developing an aesthetic rationality. It is only in virtue of an aesthetic education that we become fundamentally able to critically, creatively, and reflectively perceive the world in its fullness and increase the breadth and depth in which we are able to access and take up our world. The emancipatory model thus is structured to reflect aesthetic experience, in which intersubjective dialogue, self-reflection, and a critical and creative praxis are all necessary constituents. Through the analysis of banking and emancipatory methods, I will make clear the necessity for an active and dialogical orientation towards what occurs in the learning environment so that the learning class will become critically able to assess their own pragmatic involvements, creatively cultivate a sense of autonomy, and to more aptly actualize self-realization through which they may become instigators of social change and ultimately free within the world to reconstellate their basic attunement to life.