The alternate title for this post is "Ignorance is bliss." Are there things I don't want to know? I don't want to know what the kitchen of my favorite restaurant looks like, and I don't want to know exactly what my teenager says about me to his friends. Once I know these things, I can't go back to my state of ignorant bliss. I flew first class from Tokyo to Dulles one time; I will never be happy in coach class again! There is a big price for learning certain things, at least for me. OK, restaurants and air travel are trivial, but my teenager's true thoughts would be another matter. I choose not to learn that information because I'm afraid of the price I'd pay. Of course, I know ahead of time there is a price, and I have a choice in the matter. I choose ignorance (I'm a coward).
On the other hand, what if I didn't know what price education might extract? Perhaps I would listen to the teacher who coaxes out my stifled, inner voice. Maybe I would take a risk and allow myself to learn. I recently read Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, an autobiographical account of the author's journey to find his public, English-speaking voice in middle-class 1960s-70s America. When he was 8, Rodriguez's Mexican born parents put him in private school to learn English and receive a good education. The theme of Rodriguez's learning journey is the huge price he and his family "paid" for education: loss of Spanish, private family connections, inner (ignorant?) home voice. When I look at this story using a sociocultural lens, I see how Rodriguez's education moved him out of his inner (cultural) circle into public, gringo (social) domain. Furthermore, once "there," he could not "go back home" as he put it. His life was changed by education. He is forever part of the public, and the price was loss of family bonds and innocence. He accepts this, he chose this, and his eloquent account of education's "price" is worth a read.
Are we adult literacy educators--elite do-gooders-- really helping our learners when we show them the way out of their inner culture to the larger social without some kind of warning of what's ahead? (Actually, I think they already have an intuition about this. My question shows ignorance on my part.). Ultimately, it's a personal decision to learn. It's a freedom to assume the "cost" and take the risk of learning. It's a freedom to decline it, too, as long as you realize what path you are choosing. There I go again, elite do-gooder, making assumptions for others.
I see the cost of education as being a kind of Freirian exile between the inner and outer, private and public
At times in one's fight for justice, one neglects seeking a more rigorous knowledge of human beings. One may underestimate the power of the dominant, ignore the deep-seated presence of the oppressor in the oppressed, and end up in exile. Exile is a space-time dimension that one has not chosen, and where one arrives marked by rage, fears, suffering, early longing, love, broken hope, and also by a certain shy hope one that signals return There is also the wish and the need to remake oneself remake one's broken dream (Freire, Pedagogy of the Heart, p. 66).
I'm looking ahead to Fiore and Elsasser's (Elsa Auerbach's, my own program's) generative literacy curricula and wonder what form of exile we may be imposing on learners. There I go again. It's not my (our) decision to make; students make their decisions when they walk into the classrooms. Still, I don't know if I wish this exile on anyone; it's lonely out here.