Paulo Freire and Seymour Papert

This is an amazing discussion between Seymour Papert and Paulo Freire. Watch the videos below.

They discussed a fundamental issue in education; should the institution of school, which they call the second phase in learning, continue as it is? Both men agree that this second phase has an enormous problem, which is that kids learn during it to seek knowledge exclusively from adults, rather than exploring it on their own. Seymour Papert believed that access to computers would inevitably lead to over-throwing this second stage, and Paulo Freire disagrees. Paulo Freire suggested that the historical context of schools, and the political willpower to keep them the same, cannot be ignored when looking at their future.

It is an amazing conversation, and rich with information and ideas and worth watching to the very end. I noted with interest that the number of views of each video on YouTube decreases as you go down the page. I recommend watching all of the videos below as some of the most clarity in the conversation happens in the later videos as the two men dive into the distinction between their philosophies.

This conversation happened in the late 1980s (transcribed here). In my opinion, nothing has changed in most schools. We still have kids in schools learning that adults are the gatekeepers of knowledge. We still have kids who learn during the second stage not to question, but to accept.

The Internet has great potential to do away with the necessity of the second stage of learning, or at least radically alter it, but the political will-power to keep it the same has increased. The current standardization movement sweeping across the United States will do nothing to help kids develop a self-sustaining love of learning. The personalization of education movement in British Columbia is exciting because it has the potential to allow kids to chart their own course through the more formal second stage of learning, but if by personalization of learning we end up with all kids learning the same stuff, but at their own pace, we will have failed miserably to change schools.

 

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Part 3

 

Part 4

 

Part 5

 

Part 6

 

Part 7

Thanks to Joe Bower for pointing out the existence of this exchange between Paulo Freire and Seymour Papert.

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