A Philosophy of Education


“There is no true word that is not at the same time a praxis.  Thus, to speak a true word is to transform the world.”[1]

I find my greatest privilege and fullest gratitude when I consider my own process of education.  I have studied under profound teachers. I have sought them out as much as they have embraced me. My dream to teach has been shaped by my teachers and their ability to ‘speak a true word.’  My entire life might be read as a practice attaining the knowledge, experience, and authority to follow my teachers – to speak true words. My concern with this essay is to briefly explain what I mean when I commit to such a goal and how that goal affirms Paulo Freire’s conviction that to speak a true word is to transform the world.

I have spent most of my life hours inside the institutions of the American educational system. In primary school the educational institution was integrated with the Christian church. My teachers were concerned with learning that embraced a spiritual inheritance. The legacy of our revolutionary leader was taken seriously. He was our ordained teacher because his words could be relied upon to be both true and transformative.

Throughout my education I have relied on liberating voices to rupture and intervene on violence, untruth, and injustice. I intend to follow those radical legacies – legacies with many names, encompassing many movements that have marked history with a passion for love, justice, and liberation.

The legacies that exist in my education are particular and commit me to a pedagogy that integrates libratory theory with just practice. This was the risk that defined the life of many of my educators – an integration of truth with transformation. It is a radical pedagogy that carries with it the remainders of inexhaustible hope and redemption; remainders that give me the strength to arrive, give, heal, comfort, endure, listen, learn, educate and let go.

This pedagogy is a hybrid of many threads. It leans on feminisms and critical theory. It is committed to intervene on oppression, silence, and inequality. It refuses strict fragmentation and multiple rigid dualisms that invade common discourse: religion/science, mind/body, male/female, human/nature, subject/object, good/bad, etc.   This pedagogy remains loyal to legacies that drift into sub-altern histories, socio-ecological techniques, evolutive dimensionality, libratory psychology and deconstructive praxis. It is a creative empiricism and a postmodern cosmology that is both pragmatic and performative.

This pedagogy draws from these configurations of theory to develop its practice. It is a practice grounded in community through deep residency, challenging group work, and Socratic dialogue. It prioritizes research that begins with participatory action (PAR) and uses ethnography, not only to understand the ‘other’ but to situate self in relation to worlds. It builds worlds that intervene on alienated subject positions and resists internalized violence.

Education is a human practice and one of our rarest gifts. The production of education becomes the work of generative praxis pursuing what Paulo Freire calls conscientiation. Freire writes, “the term conscientizacao refers to learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality.” [2] In this space education is alive, and it becomes a practice that speaks truth to power. Education becomes a generative praxis that affirms experimental risk in research because it involves itself in radical space where intimacy, political relevance, and transformational capacity is always already present.

Education becomes a practice of freedom, justice, and healing. [3] It interrupts dominant forms of oppressive power by building resistant communal bodies – marching, speaking-out, writing, healing and celebrating. Education reminds us that the gifts of the spirit will never be exhausted. It still surprises us. Education is a gift of libratory alchemy; it gives material form an opportunity for grace and expression; transformation is an experience. It is a social act that demands the creation of engaged and responsible individuals laboring for the beloved community.[4] Education is a tireless hope. It affirms its history and forges new beginnings. It forces teaching to become the practice of inspiration, discovery, and creativity. It holds space for tears, laughter, play, Eros, contemplation, confrontations, movements of images and sound, even entertainment and impossibilities. It directs its gaze toward co-extensive horizons that bridges self with world, other, and body.

Education is extremely powerful, and insofar that it produces power/knowledge configurations it remains a precarious site of exchange.[5] Legions of bodies will emerge onto the global landscape with knowledges, intents, desires, particular histories, visions and struggles. These bodies are our children ad infinitum – to the most serious limit of imagination we must consider the legacies they will encounter; legacies for which we bare measures of responsibility. It is their actions that will stand as the test our educational efforts in the present must answer.

I am a product and benefactor of globalized education. At least in part, I am the future measure of its success or failure. The full implications of its investment will continue to define my life. I am indebted to its care and the calling it sets before me. The journey that education takes in the future is not only the responsibility of institutional policy or administrative techniques but individual inspirers, risking relevant pedagogy.  This is the space where I claim ownership. This is the space where I speak true words and transform the world.

[2] Freire, Paulo.  Pedagogy of the Oppressed.  35.

[3] hooks, bell.  Teaching to Transgress.  15.

[4] “Beloved Community” is a phrase that Martin Luther King made popular especially in relationship to institutional change.  I learned the power of this phrase and commitment from Shirley Strong, Dean of Students at CIIS.

[5] “The exercise of power perpetually creates knowledges and, conversely, knowledge constantly induces effects of power…Knowledge and power are integrated with one another, and there is no point in dreaming of a time when knowledge will cease to depend on power…”  Foucault.  Power/Knowledge. 52.

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