Threshold Concepts, Part 2: What is Knowledge?

(This is Part 2 of a 5 part blog series in which I write about conceptual thresholds I’ve crossed in teaching. You can read Part 1 here.)

Knowledge is always already in-becoming, not motionless, static, or objective

Even though I’ve thought a lot about the social constructedness of reality, for some reason I had deeply considered what that might mean for my teaching practices.

Reading Friere helped with that. Before taking this class I knew about Friere. However, I had not taken the time to really delve into his writing, so this semester’s encounters with Pedagogy of the Oppressed was great. I took pages of handwritten notes, much of the book challenging and resonating with me and my educational philosophy.

My second threshold concept arises from two short passages in Friere: “Education is suffering from narration sickness,” the teacher talking, narrating reality “as if it were motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable” (71). And the second, which melts my heart and gives me such hope for the future: “Dialogue cannot exist in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people” (Friere 89).

I see these two sections of text interacting with each other because the first names the pathology: narration sickness caused by teachers talking as though their expertise grant them a position of ultimate power in the educational setting. The second highlights the necessity of “dialogue,” which can only exist in the presence of “profound love for the world and for people.” That profound love prevents hubris and opens up the space for dialogue and discussion.

I don’t think the concept of “narration sickness,” which I’ve felt and also unwittingly created in my own classes at times, will ever be one that I can forget. If I slip into narrating knowledge as though it is something I have the corner on, I’ll trip on this threshold. Hopefully I’ll catch myself and reopen myself to dialogue and the always in-becoming nature of learning.

Works Cited

Friere, Paolo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos. Continuum, 2005.

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