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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Beware of Banking Education

Mary repeatedly takes the children into new spaces, wanting them to have more than just a “banking education,” Paulo Freire's term for education that is very structured and teaches mainly by giving students facts and figures to memorize, also referred to as “transmission teaching” (Giroux, 1992, p. 31).  Freire (2000) felt that teaching students in this manner was akin to making deposits of money in a bank, and hence the term banking education [link ].  This kind of learning amounts to rote learning which Montagu (1983) was very much opposes. 

Although humans are born with an innate need to learn, and “the child is the most avid learner of all living things on this earth” according to Montagu (1983), children need to actually learn how to think and learn, which entails:

not only information processing and analyzing but also ordering and classification.  The process is one of discovery, the perception of patterns in relations, and the distinction between those that work and those that don’t.  In later life, this is precisely what the scientific mind does and that the artist accomplishes.  Learning in this sense is essentially a creative process; unfortunately that is not as modern “education” sees it.  Contemporary “education” teaching with its emphasis on rote learning, takes the essential element, creativity, out of learning and renders it mere instruction in technical skills . . . .  (pp. 145-146)

Montagu notes that too often, we merely instruct children on what, rather than how to think, giving them answers to remember rather than problems to solve, requiring rote memorization. Montagu (1983) condemns this type of education as “one of the last surviving forms of ritual slaughter, tending to undermine one’s ability to think” (p. 140).

Montagu and Freire both propose a different and more effective method of learning, one that is more participatory and experiential, allowing hands on interactivity, which is more natural to children, versus being more passive receivers of transmitted knowledge.  This more participatory kind of learning encourages more creative divergent thinking, which is more pedomorphic, as opposed to calculative thinking, which is geared to one line of thought and is more gerontomorphic. 

Montagu (1983) recommends instead instilling a sense of wonder and discovery, where school could become a “magic casement that opens on unending vistas of excitement,” instead of “a restrictive, linear, one-dimensional, only too often narrowing experience" (p. 147).  Montague highly recommends:

good movies, good theater, the ballet, dance, art galleries and museums, good periodicals of every sort, all substantially contribute to that human literacy that is at once them most vital and the most rejuvenating of all our accomplishments.  We learn by looking toward the future, and how we learn, and what we learn will to a great extent influence that future. (p. 147) ∆RC[mp5]

Lastly, Homi Bhaba’s concept of the "third space" provides a hybrid position between fundamentalism (gerontomorphic) and its liberal response (pedomorphic), and is similar to what Mary Poppins herself does, providing a third space between the fundamentalism of George Banks and the liberal response of his wife, Winifred.  Bhaba (1990) explicates: 

Rather hybridity to me is the "third space," which enables other positions to emerge.  This third space displaces the histories that constitute it, and sets up new structures of authority, new political initiatives, which are inadequately understood through received wisdom . . . . The process of cultural hybridity gives rise to something different, something new and unrecognizable, a new area of negotiation of meaning and representation. (p. 211)

Lastly, we see this move afoot in the culture, during the 1960s at the time that Mary Poppins was released.  The gerontomorphic strategy was be represented by the establishment, while the pedomorphic strategy was adopted by the counterculture.  These two opposing strategies were polarized during that decade, and still are in our world today.  Mary Poppins represents a third way, between the fundamental and the liberal, and the course that Anzaldúa (1999) and Bhaba (1990) posit, a hybridity between banks may be our only hope.   During the scene-play, we will see these gerontomorphic and pedomorphic dynamics play out further.  Another “in-between” third space is liminality, so let us take the opportunity to take yet another look at liminality. ∆RC[mp6]

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