Radical Honesty in the Classroom

During the discussion of Anthropology and #BlackLivesMatter on Wednesday November 1, I was taken by the concept brought up by Professor Bianca Williams of radical honesty. She spoke of the inherent biases of all professors and their undoubtable inclusion of them in their curriculum and classroom. She teaches a class on radical honesty and “Truth-Telling as Pedagogy for Working Through Shame in Academic Spaces”. She introduces her class with a complex description of ways she embodies her identity such as race, gender, and mental health. These act as a explanations of positionality and how and why she teaches and exists the ways that she does.

This notion of radical honesty comes into direct communication with Freire’s ideas of the banking and problem-posing education. Freire describes that banking education requires teachers to be knowledgable and students to be ignorant, for the teacher to teach and the students to be taught, and for the teacher to confuse the authority of knowledge with his or her own professional authority, which she and he set sin opposition to the freedom of the students (73). What Bianca Williams encourages with her monologue is quite the opposite. She disrupts the narrative character prescribed to teacher-student relationships that Freire speaks describes as fundamental to the dehumanization of banking education (71). Williams gives power to the students and advocates for a dialectic approach to learning. Freire writes “Banking education resists dialogue; problem-posing education regards dialogue as indespensable to the act of cognition which unveils reality” (83). This is exactly what Williams seems to be doing with her approach to radical honesty. It serves as an important if not integral part of problem-posing education.




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