12 January 2010

Learning #4: Don't underestimate the ingenuity of others.
One of twelve in this series

By now, most people are familiar with William Kamkwamba. His story reminds me of a book that has shaped my thoughts on how to embrace the ingenuity of individuals who are often perceived as those who "need saving." Pedagogy of the Oppressed, hosts a number of powerful and thought-provoking quotes. While seemingly focused on education, it speaks to a much broader conversation about how we can sometimes overlook the values and insights of those who are in a lower economic or oppressed situation because we think they need to be removed from this place. William's windmill story reminds me that things can shift because of personal ingenuity. By reading a book about energy at 14 years of age, William's world view was enhanced and he saw himself as part of the solution.

"...every human being, no matter how "ignorant" or submerged in the "culture of silence" he or she may be, is capable of looking critically at the world in a dialogical encounter with others. Provided the proper tools for such encounter, the individual can gradually perceive personal and societal reality as well as the contradictions in it, become conscious of his or her own perception of that reality, and deal critically with it."

"We simply cannot go to the laborers - urban or peasant - in the banking style, to give them "knowledge" or to impose upon them the model of the "good man" contained in a program whose content we have ourselves organized. Many political and educational plans have failed because their authors designed them according to their own personal views of reality, never once taking into account (except as mere objects of their actions) the men-in-a-situation to whom their program was ostensibly directed."

"To investigate the generative theme is to investigate people's thinking about reality and people's action upon reality, which is their praxis. For precisely this reason, the methodology proposed requires that the investigators and the people (who would normally be considered objects of that investigation) should act as co-investigators. The more active an attitude men and women take in regard to their exploration of their thematics, the more they deepen their critical awareness of reality and, in spelling out those thematics, take possession of that reality."

"Revolutionary leaders commit many errors and miscalculations by not taking into account something so real as the people's view of the world: a view which explicitly and implicitly contains their concerns, their doubts, their hopes, their way of seeing the leaders, their perceptions of themselves and of the oppressors, their religious beliefs (almost always syncretic), their fatalism, their rebellious reactions. None of these can be seen separately, for in interaction all of them compose a totality."

Paulo Freire
Pedagogy of the Oppressed

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