Oakland Community College

2013-2014 Student Essay Competition

Paulo Freire, in his text Pedagogy of the Oppressed, discusses two models of education: the banking concept of education and liberating education. The banking concept of education views the student as wholly ignorant and incapable of acquiring knowledge independently, as if knowledge was "a gift bestowed" upon the student by the teacher. In the banking concept of education, "the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing, and storing the deposits" (Freire). Freire posits that when a teacher applies the "banking concept" to his/her practice as an educator; students become marginalized individuals, oppressed by a one-way system that limits the students' ability to actively engage with knowledge acquisition, upholding the very system that creates that marginalization.

Liberating education, on the other hand, overcomes societal patterns of oppression by creating an environment where all participants are "simultaneously teachers and students." In this type of education, the students are presented with problems that require solving, placing them in a position where they must engage, challenge, and inquire in order to acquire knowledge. In the process, students and teacher learn from one another mutually. Freire suggests that by applying this liberating style of education, we call into question traditional classifications of rich and poor, educated and uneducated, powerful and powerless, creating independent thinkers who can challenge and overcome oppression as a result of their education.

The broader availability of education, combined with the expectation that all Americans should earn a college degree, has caused more people than ever to pursue a college education. For some, the pursuit of that degree is driven by a personal desire for knowledge, experience, and growth. For others, however, the pursuit of a college degree is driven by market expectations and the desire for a job that pays a living wage. There is a sense that attending college is like checking off a box on a resume or job application, rather than the liberating opportunity for social change described by Freire. In fact, today's students might prefer a banking concept type of education, resting on the idea that if they can receive and regurgitate a certain amount of information, they should be entitled to their degree, and thus a higher paying job.

In an essay between 1,000 and 1,250 words, consider the following question: How does the expectation that all Americans should earn a college degree interact with Freire's notion of education as an opportunity to liberate individuals from oppressive and self-perpetuating social systems? What dangers and/or opportunities are presented by the tendency of some to see college education as a human right or entitlement? You may reference Freire's original work to expand your understanding of his position, and you should plan to support your essay with outside sources, using MLA style citation. Your sources may include studies into career options and/or transferring institutions.

  • First Place - $1,000

  • Second Place - $750

  • Third Place - $500

  • 5 - $200 Honorable Mention Raiders Store Gift Certificates

$3,250 in Total Prize Money Available