On “Making Education More Equitable”

In Paulo Freire’s seminal work on critical pedagogy, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire states “[T]he more radical the person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, to see the world unveiled.” During the talk “Making Education More Equitable” with Dr. Cottom and Dr. Shedd, it was impossible not to hear the echoes of Freire’s immortal words throughout the conversation. As proponents of critical pedagogy and of equitable education, be it as students or educators, we are all very much aware of the transformative nature of education, be it as a tool for conformity or radicalization. Many of us value education for the latter, as a method to better recognize and dismantle the unjust institutions and machinations in place that serve solely to disenfranchise the underprivileged. The talk with Dr. Cottom and Dr. Shedd revealed much of the infrastructural fragility within many educational institutions, be it the stratified re-entry process of COVID-19, or the vast disparities in funding for schools. 

To paraphrase Dr. Cottom, we must reframe the national discourse on higher ed, retrain our tongues and our minds to think and speak of higher education as a collective necessity and societal good, as opposed to a tool for individual social mobility, as even the most well-meaning individual can often do. Again, to reference Dr. Cottom, when a system works, it works. Many of us are critically unaware of the indoctrination process inherent to our capitalist system, and refer to education as a means to escape our current stratum of privilege, or lack thereof. We become unwitting participants of injustice, perpetuating the same system that initially denied us the privilege we coveted. Dr. Cottom’s words are deeply resonant and profound for a few reasons, not the least of which being the agency it gives all of us to incite change. The praxis of social justice work can take on many forms, such as public protest and community organizing, but it can also be as subtle as changing one’s own mindset. Even reframing the context one views themselves, as well as their own society, is in itself a revolutionary act, perhaps the first that one must perform. 


I wish I could say it began with the end of the world. That the illness began with the pandemic. That my life paused when everyone else’s did. But that just wasn’t true. Fact is, I’d been on pause for a while. I was bored, unhappy, and I’d long since abandoned any agency I had in changing the matter. I came rationalize my malaise as the natural result of an unprecedented upheaval of normalcy, but in truth, I knew the ills plaguing me far predated the pandemic. I knew the feelings of self-loathing, of inadequacy, of ennui, of listlessness; those demons existed far before the apocalypse. The circumstances only served to exacerbate them. Without the mundane distraction of everyday life, I had nothing to prevent me from spiraling down, deep into the well of worthlessness and despair. And without the privilege of interaction with others, I had no one to pull me out from the abyss. Or, so it seemed, at the time. See, it’s often in those profoundly ugly lows that we finally begin to find ourselves. It’s when we begin to examine what isn’t working, and why it isn’t. When our needs become eminently clear to us, and we begin to understand how to meet those needs ourselves.  It’s when we finally learn to define ourselves on our own terms. Perhaps more accurately, redefine. For a long time, I had been defining myself only in comparison. To others, yes, but more so to ideas. Specifically, the idea of who I should be. I idolized that so heavily, I came to hate the person I was currently. This exhaustive inner conflict became the basis for my comic strip, “RAD!”, in which meek comic artist “Raf” meets the fantastical cartoon version of himself, dubbed “RAD!”. The two diametrically opposed personalities must learn to coexist, and more importantly, accept each other. While the comic is very much in its infancy stage (2/3 through the coloring process of the first page as of the time of writing), it’s been one of the ways I’ve been learning to define myself, so to speak. A tremendous step on the road to self-acceptance and discovery I’m happy to say I’m still trekking.

Thanks for stickin’ all the way through to the end! Worry not, dear reader, your loyalty shall soon be rewarded. Here’s a sneak peak of “RAD!” #1 !

See you in the next one!