Eisner, Freire, & I

Eisner, Freire, & I

As a new scholar, I have been dramatically influenced by a few senior scholars that have come before me—namely, Elliot Eisner and Paulo Freire. In this post, I describe my work and philosophical convictions in relation to those of Eisner and Freire, thus attempting to define my place in the spectrum of academia.

      Though it may not be outwardly apparent, in my view Eisner and Freire exhibit similarities and complement one another on two main issues in education: voice, and an inquiry approach to pedagogy. Although I know I am by no means on par with these two luminaries at this early stage of my academic career, I would like to humbly suggest that my work provides a bridge between them, as I will explain.
.       In his seminal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire (1970) articulates the criticality of dialogue between social groups so as to break down hegemonic barriers and challenge sociological conformity. He writes, “dialogue imposes itself as the way by which men [sic] achieve significance as men [sic]. Dialogue is thus an existential necessity,” (p. 77). For Freire, voice is a vehicle of emancipation and self-actualization. Similarly, Eisner (2004) advocates for voice in the multimodal sense; that is, expression through the arts which fosters (among other things) the development of one’s individuality. He writes, “the arts make vivid the fact that . . . the limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition,” (p. 80). In Raising Creativity, I attempt to marry these two similar yet subtly different conceptions of voice more closely. I establish the importance of creativity from the outset and argue from personal experience as an artist/researcher/teacher and from the literature (referencing Freire and Eisner) that the mainstream schooling system is not equipped to foster creativity as-is. I argue in the same vein as Freire that the education system is deeply oppressive—given that the curriculum is always dictated from above and that pedagogical practice is often circumscribed—and that creativity is unlikely to thrive under conditions which do not promote autonomy, provide support, and relinquish evaluative practices. My angle therefore (academically speaking) can be summed up this way: Where creativity is suppressed, voice is consequently oppressed.
.       Furthermore, Freire (1970) admonishes that, “dialogue cannot be reduced to the act of one person’s “depositing” ideas in another, nor can it become a simple exchange of ideas to be “consumed” by the discussants . . . [instead] it is an act of creation,” (p. 77). Thus, Freire strongly advises “problem-posing education,” (p. 68) whereby learners are invited into the crux of an issue and implored to work through it to establish meaningful, personalized solutions. On a grand scale, this method can work to subvert status quo, as it “strives for the emergence of consciousness and critical intervention in reality,” (p. 68) whereas on a smaller scale, it simply and effectively leads to rigourous learning by means of its engaging, inquiry-based approach. Rather than learners being spoon fed information and assigned formulaic activities as the basics of their educational methodology, Eisner (as cited in VanderbiltUniversity, 2009) encourages creative approaches, where the outcome isn’t known or anticipated. He states, “the arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer. There’s so much that we teach in schools that is essentially convergent in nature. Life is not that way.” (n. p.). In part 2 of Raising Creativity, I explain Freire and Eisner’s unique perspectives on an inquiry-based model (as I have here), pulling the two together to create an argument for creativity as an effective response to problem-posing pedagogy.
.       Though the individual work of Freire, Eisner, and I exhibit similarities and nuanced differences, ultimately it is all about agency and transformation. Freire’s scope is broad in that he discusses emancipation for oppressed persons within society, whereas Eisner’s focus is narrower in his advocation of the arts for  school-age learners. I have come to see my work as a bridge between these two through one key overarching argument: That the creative process is the means by which we capitalize on our individual and collective talents, thoughts, and beliefs for the purpose of asserting our agency and effecting transformation in the world. Indeed, nothing changes without action that is informed by new ideas (Freire, 1970).


Eisner, E. (2004). The arts and the creation of mind. New Haven, CT: Yale University


Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.

VanderbiltUniversity. (2009, November 4). Prof. Elliot W. Eisner: “What do the arts

             teach?” Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://youtu.be/h12MGuhQH9E

Posted by Rebecca Zak

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>