Education as a Political Act: Dewey, Freire and the (International Baccalaureate) Theory of Knowledge Curriculum
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Active learning should be the ultimate aim of education. I argue that it is a three interrelated-step model of curriculum: one which promotes critical thinking, involves dialogue and ultimately indicates growth. It is a model intertwined in an intricate web of ideas borrowed from John Dewey and Paulo Freire. In this thesis, I analyze the International Baccalaureate (IB) Theory of Knowledge (TOK) curriculum as an example of a document that seeks to foster active learning. To be able to analyze whether the IB TOK curriculum promotes active learning, I dissect the curriculum in terms of its philosophy and objectives. Curriculum theorists do not agree on a universal definition of curriculum. Therefore, I explore four distinctive theories of curriculum and theory in order to find a definition that best fits the IB TOK curriculum and philosophy: 1) curriculum as a body of knowledge to be deposited, 2) curriculum as a product theory, 3) curriculum as a process, and 4) curriculum as praxis. I argue that in order for active learning to take place, the three components of active learning need to exist together. Active learning needs to promote critical thinking as a means to understanding one’s self and others. And, active learning needs to involve dialogue to enable people to become fully aware of their own position within the community and the world, and that of others. Critical thinking and dialogue in turn ensure growth. Growth is defined in terms of conscientização and Praxis; this is premised on two conditions: 1) to become aware of the realities in one’s life; and, 2) to take informed and practical actions to change these assumptions. It is then, I argue, that learning becomes active. It is indeed, as Freire would say, breaking away from ‘silence’ imposed on us by oppressors and attaining “the freedom of the learner” in Dewey’s words. It is only through active learning that individuals can critically think, enter a meaningful dialogue with others, and ultimately have the courage to act, and as a result create a life which is meaningful—not just for themselves but for everyone.