Education as Liberation?
The powerfully liberating effects of education have been well-documented by progressive educationalists over the years. Education, "As the practice of freedom," has encouraged participatory, progressive thinking, modeled around a foundation of collective critical analysis. However, we must be prepared, as progressive educationalists, to accept altering views of liberation, as our concepts, just as with our pedagogy, itself, are not necessarily grounded in the realities of our students' lives.
In a recent working paper by Kremer, Friedman, Miguel, and Thornton (2011), the authors discovered that in Kenya, increased educational opportunities, and their related improvements in human capital (Schultz, 1961), does not necessarily translate into "developmentally positive" outcomes, such as increased democratic participation and female empowerment, as expected, theorized, and modeled for decades. The trials held in Kenya were shown to increase political awareness of the young women, and decrease their propensity for early marriage and acceptance of domestic violence. As the authors concede, "…in our Kenyan context, this rejection of the status quo did not translate into greater political efficacy, community participation or voting intentions. Instead, the program increased the perceived legitimacy of political violence (1)." This unexpected outcome shatters the idealized image of education as necessarily leading to the "freedom" that we would expect; instead, the definition of "freedom" itself is subject to the same participatory reflection and pressures in ethnically divided societies with weak governing institutions.
Thus, how to reconcile the popular drive towards critically reflective educational systems, which act to empower both educators and students in critically resource-deficient regions of the world, and the unintended consequences of critical reflection. Is it the role of a third party/outsider/expert group to make judgments on the outcomes of critical education in specific contexts that are not our own? Education empowers at the individual level; this is the great promise, but also the critical factor that undermines national, uniform standardization.