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Problem solving


Decolonize the mind


Below, you'll find excerpts from Know Thyself on helping students write about race, class, school and society. Putting issues like race and class on the table helps students and teachers more directly address issues of equity in the world, and in the classroom, in the context of each students' experience and writing.


Section 8: Decolonize the mind (To free ourselves from mental slavery)


"Decolonization" refers to the period in the mid-20th century when the colonial empires of Britain and France begin to unravel through revolution, eventually ending in voluntary d'issolution. However, many writers and activists have observed that the process of decolonization must continue, for the impact of colonialism lingers for generations after nations and peoples have gained independence. The process has been called the decolonization of the mind.


Turn to one of the following sections to fight for freedom on the battlefield where you have the most control: your own mind.


Respond to great thinkers on race, class, gender, language . . . and freedom. Read an excerpt from one of the great leaders of liberation, and respond with your own ideas: p. 147


Reflect on your own identity, and how it seems to merge or conflict with what the school wants from you: p. 186


Problem Posing for social change. Work alongside your teacher to identify a problem in your education, research its dynamics, then plan for and implement change: p. 187




Problem Posing and Critical Consciousness


This section has been adapted from Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, in which he outlines a "problem posing" education, where students think deeply and act personally for social progress (2000).


Freire describes a problem-posing education as one in which the student and teacher work together for mutual liberation from the traps of oppression inherent in traditional "top-down" models of education.


At the close of Chapter 2, Freire describes the dynamics and potentials for "humanization" for student and teacher in a problem posing education....


Next step: Further explore the problem posing cycle of "Critical Praxis," to engage in the process of learning for liberation.


In chapter 3, Freire warns that we must avoid "verbalism," words without action, as well as "activism," actions without critical analysis. He argues that "praxis" is the right combination of analysis and action, avoiding the extremes of empty words and empty actions (pg. 87-88).


Praxis, as Freire describes it, envisions the teacher and student as engaging in learning and change together. This requires a dynamic view of reality. In other words, for real praxis, we must see reality as not fixed and unchanging, but something that people can act upon together for progressive change.


In The Art of Critical Pedagogy, Duncan-Andrade and Morrell outline a five step cycle for critical praxis, in which the teacher and students engage in learning together that seeks to name real problems and make real change (2008). The following chart from their text maps the steps in the process that we'll undergo together (p. 12).


The first step is posing a problem, putting words to the factors and forces that have made education a problem for you. Think about your personal experience, and the broad social forces that have shaped it. Let's dialogue together. You write in your space on the left, and I'll respond on the right.


1). Posing a problem. What has made your education a problem for you, in your personal experience, but also in terms of broader social issues, including the dynamics of race, class, gender, and language?


Problem Posing: Student puts words to the problem:

Problem Posing: The teacher responds in dialog:


2). Investigating a problem. Analyze the thinking people do that allows the problem to persist, and even grow. Research the problem in terms of its origins, its history, its dynamics, its enablers, its resistors. Think about "research" in terms of self-examination, interviews with people you know, social observations, local history, as well as scholarly articles on the topic.


Problem Investigation: Student co-researcher:


Problem Investigation: Teacher co-researcher:


3). Develop a plan for action. What can you do personally to solve the problem, to make a difference, big or small? What can we do together, as teacher and student, as a class, as a school, as a community, as a city, nation, world? Think about "action" in whatever terms you can, so long as they will have an impact, big or small, on resolving the problem.


Action Plan: Student problem solving:


Action Plan: Teacher problem solving:


4). Let's do something about it, together. Get out there and do something. We'll report our activities here.


Do something about it - Student activist:


Do something about it - Teacher activist:


5). Re-evaluate the situation. What's the state of the problem? What went well in the process of problem posing, research, planning, and action? What could we do better? Reflect below on the process.


Re-evaluate - Student reflection:


Re-evaluate - Teacher reflection:




Andrade, J. M., & Morrell, E. (2008). The art of critical pedagogy: possibilities for moving from theory to practice in urban schools. New York: Peter Lang.

Biko, S., & Stubbs, A. (2002). I write what I like: selected writings. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Du, B. W. E. B. (1903). The Souls of Black Folks. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/ 408

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum International Publishing Group.

Garvey, M., Hill, R. A & Universal Negro Improvement Association (1983). The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association papers. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Noguera, P. (2008). The trouble with Black boys: And other reflections on race, equity, and the future of public education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.






Problem solving


Decolonize the mind

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