Emancipatory learning: a case to close the academic achievement gap
The current achievement gap for students of color is still at odds with academic measurement matrix. This is even true when educators from all walks of life are tightening their belts to realize the gap closed. Most of these educators want to see their triumph before they die.
Building on Jurgen Habermas’s critical theory, Sharan Merriam and her colleagues, Caffarella and Baumgartner, divided knowledge into three categories: ”technical, practical, and emancipatory” knowledge. Of these three types of knowledge, emancipatory learning stood out striking.
In this blog, I want to visit this strategy as a solution to ending the gap. emancipatory learning can be a solution to oppression and racism in societies, the fundamental cause of the gap. One caveat: the academic achievement gap exists not because teachers are doing a bad job, but because the greater society is divided along race and economic lines. And that division often makes its way to classrooms and standardized tests.
Merriam and her colleagues wrote that oppressive forces in society are responsible for the academic gap and that emancipatory learning is the answer. “Clearly, emancipatory knowledge has the most power to address the oppressive forces in society.” To these educators, emancipatory learning empowers, enriches, and entices minority students to critically examine and respond to their environments.
Similarly, Paulo Freire, an educator and a philosopher who was a leading advocate of critical pedagogy in the last century, wrote: “the oppressors use the banking concept of education in conjunction with a paternalistic social action apparatus.” Through this banking concept of education, institutions with an unjust design of pedagogies and curricula unconsciously compromise marginalized groups—students of color and women. The result? Technical indoctrination.
Emancipatory knowledge can be a counterforce to the indoctrination of people through unchecked, unbalanced power. Through reflective enrichment, emancipatory learning can help educational institutions to face reality and minority learners to engage with the wider world. In fact, the smallest amount of heightened state of consciousness and reflective relations can help marginalized groups identify negative forces and dance with it peacefully.
After all, we are the sole actors in our world and future destiny.