That licence to teach means nothing to me now.
Before the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoirist Frank McCourt began teaching, he had done "something dangerous", he began to "think".
I did the same.
Finally, from an oppressed schooled teacher at a university in Malaysia, I have recently metamorphosed into a critical pedagogue.
Innately inquisitive, I think my entry into culturally-diverse classrooms completely dismantled the schooled framework in which my personal understanding of teaching comfortably hinges.
Inside me deschooling has begun.
Talk about intellectual serendipity. While perusing Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) and Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society (1971), to my delight I stumbled upon A. Murad Merican's Reinventing Our Pedagogy and also Dzulkifli Abdul Razak's Perspective: Deschooling Society simultaneously published in Learning Curve (July 11).
Dzulkifli criticised our views of and attitudes towards examinations within the present consumer society, claiming "that we may be barking up the wrong tree thinking that examinations are the root of the problem of the present-day school and education".
Murad argued for "reinventing our pedagogy", putting an emphasis on deepening "consciousness" within the Malaysian educational system.
Let me touch on some points these two intellectuals raised.
In the midst of debates on test-driven curricula, it is crucial to define education. It is much more critical to find out who interpretated it for us, so we can counter their definition.
For these ends we need tools. As educators, we require a critical discourse and a radical love.
We need these tools to unveil the camouflaged paradoxes and hegemonic effects of naturalised and de-politicised discourses deposited to us, schools and universities.
These are not new tools. Freire and Illich have long offered us insights and alternatives at our disposal. We only need to resharpen them as we see fit in the complex social, cultural and semiotic spaces we navigate.
We need criticism to mitigate the enfeebling effects of schooled notion of examination. Premised on an assumption that examinees are homogeneous, standardised tests take away the dreams of the children.
Standard examinations, many contend, are necessary for fairness and equality, but such practice may not necessarily promote social justice.
Almost everywhere rhetoric abounds about celebrating diversity and uniqueness and, yet, we lose sight of a reality that one size cannot fit all. For example, the case of mainstream schooling imposed on Orang Asli children is deplorable.
When they fail in school because they flunk the exams, they are perceived as "lazy" and still much into their "cocooned" lives!
We need a discourse to revise such thinking: flunking exams is not tantamount to failing school.
This is one distorted reality we have been made to believe. As Dzulkifli pointed out in his article, "... examinations are just one part of an elaborate system called school and/or education ..." Given this reality, we need discussion to both counter such fixation with examination.
Schooling is also prevalent in tertiary institutions. University lecturers blame students for not thinking.
Ironically, I've seen many lecturers insult their students by feeding them tonnes of PowerPoint slides half of which students already know!
Aside from a critical discourse, educators have to share a radical love.
Without this kind of love, we cannot engage in meaningful conversations, and, in turn, we will inhibit consciousness. As Freire wrote: "If I do not love the world -- if I do not love life, if I do not love men -- I cannot enter into dialogue." With love we can break the "culture of silence".
With love, our vision widens. Without love, we turn blind like the Emperor flaunting his invisible clothes.
Illich strongly argued that school "smothers" our "imaginations", quantifies our creativity and even measures our happiness.
He said: "In a schooled world the road to happiness is paved with a consumer's index." When we share and experience love, we can debunk the myths perpetuated in the systems we consume and consume us.
Finally we need praxis -- reflection and action as Freire advocated. Murad wrote that the assessments for admission to schools and universities have to stay.
If they are to remain, then they need generous accounting for the marginalised, their idiosyncrasies, their dilemmas, their hopes, their dreams and their social futures.
And, then, we all act upon our "consciousness".
Let us not point to youth the paths. Let us help them create their own as they embark on an ontological journey of their choice.
In exams, I suggest we ask them to create choices -- not to pick from them. In the final exam last semester, I picked William Carlos Williams' poem This is Just to Say and asked the examinees to respond to the person who "ate the plums in the icebox" through a poem.
A poem in a final exam?
2010/09/04 JOAN R VALENZUELA firstname.lastname@example.org Born in the Philippines, the writer teaches English language courses to Engineering students at Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS. He is currently doing research on and with an Orang Asli community in Perak. Source: NST | Home | Learning Curve | Comment: From a schooled teacher to a critical pedagogue