Ralph Waldo Emerson and Paolo Freire's Visions of Traditional Methods of Education
Paulo Freire and Ralph Waldo Emerson share a similar vision in regards to traditional
methods of education. A main common view is that both writers feel that the current education
system in most places does not allow for people to reach their full capacity. Freire and Emerson
share many other ideas regarding education such as their view of practice and theory and of free
thinking. Their works are among the most thought-evoking.
In ?The American Scholar? Emerson places a strong emphasis on the role of books in
education and their usage of conveying ideas. He states that, ?Books are the best things, well
used; abused, among the worst? (p. 297). This refers to his thought that the idea behind books is
indeed a well thought out one. However, aside from the possible misuse of books, there are
certain tasks that a book can not accomplish. Many are relevant only for a period of time, after
which they become obsolete and new books are required. This is one of the reasons that Emerson
feels that books alone can not provide a concrete education. They must be supplemented with
additional studies, or, according to Emerson, book studies should be combined with experiences
and applied to life. To read for the sake of knowing information is pointless; instead, man should
read with the intent to apply newly obtained knowledge to his life. Man should read with a
dissecting eye, and pick apart the prose, keeping what is relevant and discarding what is babble.
This captures the true purpose of books. Paralleling Emerson?s view of books is Freire?s idea of
theory and praxis. Man can learn all there is to know about a discipline yet he cannot fully grasp
it until he has begun to exercise his newly ascertained information. There is indeed a difference
between strictly learning theory and learning theory through practice. The theory or ideas can be
deposited in a person?s head and he or she is to put into action the unrefined concepts. Freire is
opposed to this ?Banking theory? (p. 357) because he feels that it is inhibiting to the mind. In his
mind, problem-posing theory is the proper route, due to the fact that it actively engages a
person?s own ideas and personal thoughts and makes him analyze and question reality.
Freire classifies standard systems of education to be a banking system. This label is used
in a literal sense, in that Freire feels that a human brain is like a vault. In the banking system
teachers deposit information in the student and it is to be expected that the student will retain the
information until a withdrawal is requested, at which point the information will be regurgitated
back in the same form that it was put in, without any processing of the information. This idea
assumes many things about the teacher-student relationship. Among these assumptions are that:
the student begins education...