Teaching to Win or Learning not to Lose?


It's been a while so I am going to go back to a classic "Lowetide" style introduction to start us off. This handsome fellow is Paulo Freire, a Brazilian thinker and scholar of education. He's been on my mind a lot lately because I've started and now finished teaching my first ever University course, a 3rd year lecture on the Sociology of Education. Freire is something of a legend in the field, one of the founding fathers of an area of study known as "Critical Pedagogy." Critical pedagogy looks at fundamental inequalities that exist in the classroom, in the way that teachers teach and students learn, the way that management types and policy makers decide what is to be taught and why. In the early 1970s, Freire wrote a book called "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" and I think that some of what he has to say applies to our young and confused Oilers team. (By the way, yes, we are a hockey blog again. We've just been busy with other projects for about 16 months, during which the team was so bad it was barely worth thinking about.)

Anyhoo, as I said, there is a young and confused team on the ice. As fans, we really don't know who or what they are. They seem to lack an identity. One of the primary functions of education is to socialize students. This process is often how students develop a sense of self and learn to interact with others. It's possible that the lockout combined with a new teacher (Ralph), a new curriculum (Ralph's system) and a rotating cast of crap in the bottom of the roster has delayed the socialization of the team. That is a possibility and also why I wanted to look at Freire's understanding of education. Freire looks at traditional education as something of a "Banking Model", in which teachers deposit knowledge into the docile minds of the students, and students withdraw that knowledge in order to write exams and papers etc. etc. Freire asserts that the teacher is the narrating subject while the student acts as a patient, listening object (Freire, 57), that the teacher’s role is to “fill” the students with the contents of the narrative, which are almost always detached from reality (ibid, 58). It is a conscious attempt to minimize or even annul the students’ creativity to serve the interests of the oppressors, in this case, the State. The oppressors then use their supposed “humanitarianism” to preserve a “profitable situation” in this “banking model” of education (ibid, 60). This could be interpreted as the State attempting to maintain a hegemonic control over knowledge in the classroom, socializing the students to believe the values of the State without question. The State, in this case, would be the Oilers organization and the oppressor is obviously the Hydra-headed beast known as "MacTamblowe". They know the team isn't going to stop making money so why bother putting any work in? They can just switch up the teachers at will and the message won't change. Why else would Bucky and Smith still have positions?

Enter Ralph. He has a reputation for being a communicator first and foremost. Ralph has a teaching style unlike any that the last few Oilers coaches have employed, and while the team has languished under the oppression of previous regimes, perhaps Ralph's new vision could work. Ralph is a motivational speaker and prides himself on creating an atmosphere where the players and coaches engage freely in dialogue, and that coaches can learn from players, too. It's a different approach to thinking about the game. What would Freire think about Ralph's revolutionary approach to teaching?


Dialogue is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world. Hence, dialogue cannot occur between those who want to name the world and those who do not wish this naming—between those who deny others the right to speak their word and those whose right to speak has been denied them. Those who have been denied their primordial right to speak their word must first reclaim this right and prevent the continuation of this dehumanizing aggression… Dialogue is thus an existential necessity. And since dialogue is the encounter in which the united reflection and action of the dialoguers are addressed to the world which is to be transformed and humanized, this dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one persons "depositing" ideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be "consumed" by the discussants (76-77).

As Freire states, without dialogue there can be no communication, and without communication there can be no true education. This is perhaps the most radical statement in the entire book. We cannot begin to be educated or act as educators unless we communicate. 

The Oilers have shown signs of promise this season. When they are engaged, they play well, particularly when they actually have the puck. Unfortunately, they are maddeningly inconsistent, but at least it looks like the team might finally be learning not to lose. It's possible that had the team gone through a proper training camp to learn Ralph's systems, maybe they would have been a bit better. However overcoming years of oppression is hard to do. There is still a sense of defeatism in the team, and that will take time to overcome. Acquiring better players might help, too, but that is on MacTamblowe to work out. The players, like the fans, need to demand more from the State or threaten to bring it down. Some players like Taylor Hall appear to be capable of instilling a revolutionary spirit, but too many are still stuck inside of the old model of learning, where thoughts are mere deposits, not ideas to be explored creatively and passionately. With an offseason and a proper training camp, perhaps Ralph's critical coaching will pay off, the Oilers will actually develop an identity and start to win consistently, not because of but rather in spite of the organization's inability to care for its people and provide the necessary means to succeed. 

As I asked so many times in my class this past year: "whose interests are actually being served?" Something to think about...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A little education 2 videos 1 article


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oz267A6jhbw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH7Ty8iPh5c

http://markdurie.blogspot.ca/2013/05/the-woolwich-killing-we-must-fight-them.html