Humanize Me

A few questions arose while reading Friere’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”. Friere begins with a discussion of “humanization” and the “dehumanization” of the oppressed, a prominent theme of the first chapter. Additionally, he notes that one goal of the oppressed is to be “fully human” (56). He uses these two concepts – “humanization” and “fully human” – numerous times throughout the essay, leading me to meditate on what exactly he means by these phrases. Which brings me to my first question for Friere:

What does it mean to be humanized or fully human?

Is there an inherent state of being “fully human” that humans (perhaps even “users”) can attain? In application to broader themes of technology, I was brought to wonder

Is technology humanizing or dehumanizing us?

The child is perhaps “dehumanized” by sacrificing physical play and vital socialization during his or her early adolescence in exchange for the immediate pleasure of iPad video games. On the contrary, a child suffering trauma to her or her legs is “humanized” by prosthetic limbs, and upon walking again he is “fully human”. Are technology workers dehumanized by working long hours at home, trapped within the inescapable stream of work emails? Such language is furthered by Friere’s discussion of the duality of the oppressed and wanting to “live authentically”. To Friere, “Money is the measure of all things, and profit the primary goal”. Such is the perspective of oppressors, but also perhaps the way some activists perceive the tech industry; is the tech industry and its workers the dominant class, and therefore the oppressors of our society? There is no question that such a mindset is myopic and simplistic, but it led me to more critically analyze the state of pedagogy in technology, and in turn, my own education. Friere makes distinct two types of pedagogy. The first is an education used by “prescribers” to make the oppressed conform to our present system. The second type of education is a means of practicing freedom and ultimately, transformation of the “oppressor-oppressed distinction”.

In which category does our MIMS program fit into; a pedagogy to conform to the present system or economy, with an emphasis on developing strongly niche and highly desired skills in the technology industry? On a relevant note, Friere states that “our advanced technological society is rapidly making objects of most of us and subtly programming us into the conformity to the logic of its system” (33).

Or is our education a critical pedagogy with “praxis” as an end goal, the balance of theory and practice, of “objectivism and subjectivism” to achieve freedom to overcome “oppression”?

1 thought on “Humanize Me

  1. On a related note, I found the discussion of animal vs. human to be interesting. I think it can be argued that many animals are intelligent and have some abstract concepts of time and history. If an animal starts acting more “human” in physical or even mental ways, are they an oppressed species?

    As far as our own education at the I School goes, it’s a funny kind of dichotomy. On one hand, it’s good to be aware of social differences that come from doing an advanced degree. On the other hand, we would all like to have nice jobs and do what interests us most. How can we find the best middle ground?

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