In his ‘foreward’ to Paulo Friere’s ‘Pedagogy of the oppressed’, Richard Shaul acknowledges the ‘culture of silence’ and the role of education as a route to ‘acquiring voice’ and a recent interview I engaged with for my EdD, has inspired me to reflect on my role as an educator, as a researcher and as a narrator. I wonder how much of who I am, how I am and what I think and do promotes the acquisition of voice within others, particularly those who belong to a socially oppressed group.
Friere refers to ‘conscientizcáo’ and presents that the perceived caveat of procuring forums for these perhaps otherwise unheard voices is that the critical consciousness will instigate anarchy. As the oppressed and the oppressors are engaged in an interchange, this so-called inevitable ‘destructive fantacism’ is just as readily a ‘fear of freedom’. In reflecting upon my own contribution to and perhaps even my obligation to this, I consider that it is about what we do and also about what we do not do to encourage critical consciousness.
Referring to a video about racism I saw as part of my basic youth work training many years ago, ‘Me feel it’, much of what restricts and oppresses the voices of others happens silently, covertly and sometimes unintentionally. The person I interviewed for my study stated that: ‘…me as a black person growing up in a white society and having to experience what I have and a lot of other black people have experienced these things…for me to sit in a class room now and listen to some of these phrases and some of these references, I’m thinking ‘ how out of date is it’ you know and what is it, what makes it right for us to follow these people’s processes by the letter?’.
A final thought, drawing on Friere’s assertions is the importance of perceiving ‘the reality of oppression not as a closed world from which there is no exit, but as a limiting situation which they can transform’. I hope that my own critical awareness will help to fuel the necessary transformation in my own work, because if education is a route to acquiring voice, then we as educators need to examine the interpersonal, contextual and material in a bid to open the necessary doors to ease this exit.