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Reflecting on “Education as that which liberates” and “Worldwide Education Revolution”: Themes from the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) Conferences, 2011 & 2012

To reflect on/about something requires that we have a memory of some aspects about such a thing we are wishing to reflect about. In this podcast, I wish to reflect on the CIES 2011 theme “Education is that which Liberates” as a gateway to preparing our minds to the CIES 2012 theme “The Worldwide Education Revolution”.

In my view, as expressed in the poem I read, with Yvonne Kamugisha’s vocal accompaniment in song, during our opening highlighted session, there is a need to push the boundary of our discussions beyond the comfortable zone of educational rhetoric and what sounds like genuine problematizing of education framed within an appeasing of (higher spirits and) forces that could jeopardize our professional careers, if offended. We educators, in this sense, tend to be very superstitious; aware of the realities of everyday injustices yet holding on to the constant appeasing of those who have the power to influence our economic security. We engage in the problematic to the extent that it is within the comfort zone of the dominant powers in our most influential institutions (e.g., government, funding agencies, universities, etc.). This conflict between the awareness (and dislike) of social injustices and social evils amidst the need to preserve our socio-economic comfort turns the old Sanskrit motto “education is that which liberates” into a myth, adding to the many myths that have characterized formal education since its inception. This is not to say that all educations are myth-laden, but that the dominant form of education, upon which we have made many messianic claims is myth-laden; perhaps only by virtue of our own narcissistic presentation of such education as the solution to the world’s problems, which in turn dictates how we shape its appearance in regards to curricula, values, and ultimate goals. If we were true to our own struggles with global injustice and even more true to the fact that, despite our claims, we often contribute to the perpetration of such injustice, perhaps we would be myth-ridden in our articulation of the ends of the education we promote.

Today, it is very fashionable in academia to claim militancy for social justice; yet, we often miss the fact that claiming social justice does not imply living a social justice life-style. We are comfortable talking about social justice and liberation, to some extent within comfortable philosophical settings, yet we are not bold enough to confront ourselves about how our human core has been tempered with by misconceptions of the essence of justice and, therefore, of liberation. Does education really liberate? If my answer is ‘yes’, I will be succumbing to the status quo; if my answer is ‘depends’ or ‘maybe’, I will be succumbing to the realm of mere intellectual argumentation; if my answer is ‘no’, I will be entering a rebellion against all that I have been taught that is founded on some of what I have learned from those who have sacrificed their comfort for the sake of those who are not recognized as part of the mainstream—in this case, I may not be denying the mere fact that “education is that which liberates” as much as I may be accepting the possibility of another form of education as a means of liberation provided I do not frame such education and freedom within the framework of my comfortable perception of what it means to be an educated person, i.e., a liberated person.

In my article “African Renaissance and Globalization: A Conceptual Analysis” (http://escholarship.org/uc/item/8k7472tg) I argue that,

there is a deeper dimension of freedom demanding that its meaning be interpreted by the oppressed in a way that the oppressed auto-conceives its nature. This auto-conceived meaning is beyond one that is communicated (even if consensually) to the oppressed; that is, beyond what a class of educated and concerned people think freedom means. Therefore, it is imperative that those who interpret freedom and progress do so in view of, not only the audience’s languages but also, their cognitive processes and abilities…

This, then, would lead me to reflect about a true “worldwide educational revolution”.

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