Math and Science Education and Inspiration

So Paulo Freire, champion of liberating education was brought back into my consciousness on this New Years Day.

He was brought to my attention via the mega Anthro Listserv.

Freire is the man who wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Pedagogy of the Oppressed was something I'd never read in its entirety and read within the contexts of Education classes. I thought its ideas essential models to inspiring a thirst for learning and freedom in students.

The Listserv posting wasn't about Freire himself, but about how a tenured professor of physics named Denis Rancourt took Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and applied it to his own class. One of the manifestations of the Freire's ideas is to place minimal importance on grades. One way Rancourt dealt with that? He gave all his students A+s. Why? He explains on his website:
With grades students learn to guess the professor's mind and to obey. It is a very sophisticated machinery, whereby the natural desire to learn, the intrinsic motivation to want to learn something because you are interested in the thing itself, is destroyed. Grades are the carrot and stick that shape obedient employees and that prepare students for the higher level indoctrinations of graduate and professional schools. The only way to develop independent thinking in the classroom is to give freedom, to break the power relationship by removing the instrument of power.
The fact that he gave everyone A+s pissed people off and led to his firing.

Why do I bring this up?

Well, the fact that a Physics professor in the "hardest" of sciences hit home with me. I'd experienced the sciences and math in a very negative way throughout my educational experience, and it all had to due with grades, or my sudden inability after high school to get good ones in those subjects.

Throughout undergrad, I more or less avoided sciences and math outside my requirements. I instead took Science as Culture and ended up taking a plethora of History of Science classes, eventually getting a Minor in it.

I've become interested in all kinds of ideas from philosophy to math, all of which I believe dovetails beautifully into the broadness of Anthropology, however, I find myself a bit behind and struggling mightily to pick up where my high school math and science abilities left off, now almost 9 years ago.

Needless to say I wish there were more Denis Rancourts so I could just focus on understanding permutations, probabilities, and/or calculus... as their very own language and symbol systems.

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