Becoming Fully Human: Education as Transformation in the Writings of C. S. Lewis and Paulo Freire

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For Freire, the Dialogical I–Thou relationship is embedded in an unquestioned ethic that mirrors the Tao codified by Lewis. Freire states, “Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people. The naming of the world, which is an act of creation and recreation, is not possible if not infused with love.” He continues, “If I do not love the world—if I do not love life—if I do not love people—I cannot enter into dialogue” (89). This Freirian absolute correlates directly with Lewis’ first law of the Tao, The Law of General Beneficence.

Freire’s philosophy of education includes a second antidote for the abolition of man—dialogue between student and teacher that is infused with faith. Freire says, “Dialogue further requires an intense faith in humankind, faith in their power to make and remake, to create and re-create, faith in their vocation to be more fully human. Faith in people is an a Priori requirement for dialogue. The ‘dialogical man’ believes in others even before he meets them face to face” (91). It is vibrantly clear that Freire’s call to faith in the other person correlates to Lewis’ sixth law of the Tao, The Law of Good Faith and Veracity.

Finally, Freire defines dialogue as the only way to bring about social justice. This is because dialogue is powered by hope. Freire says, “Nor yet can dialogue exist without hope…. The dehumanization resulting from an unjust order is not a cause for despair but for hope, leading to the incessant pursuit of the humanity denied by injustice” (92). Freire’s vision for the betterment of humanity correlates directly with Lewis’ codification of the Tao for the Fifth Law of Justice, the Seventh Law of Mercy, and the Eighth Law of Magnanimity. In complete alignment with Lewis, Freire says:

….true solidarity with the oppressed means fighting at their side to transform the objective reality which has made them these “beings for another.” The teacher is in solidarity with the oppressed only when he stops regarding the oppressed as an abstract category and sees them a persons who have been unjustly dealt with, deprived of their voice, cheated in the sale of their labor—when he….risks an act of love. True solidarity is found only in the plenitude of this act of love, in is existentiality, it its praxis. (49-50)

In conclusion, it is clear that both C.S. Lewis and Paulo Freire understood how critical it is to have an education based on a clear code of morality, for only education founded on this code can transform an individual. Indeed, the consequence of abandoning this code is the dehumanization of humankind. Lewis offers to Freire, to Friedman and Garreau, to all of us, a clear statement of the essence of the Natural Law, the Tao, along with warnings of what will happen if our culture and if our education abandons the Tao. Freire offers to us a methodology of education that is a true extension of the Tao, authentic dialogue, which humanizes the learner. This dialogue is in contrast to a very common methodology, which Freire terms the banking concept of education, where students are containers, and where knowledge is deposited by the teacher into ignorant students who know nothing; this is, essentially, a dehumanizing methodology that turns students into “automatons.” He says, “Verbalistic lessons, reading requirements, the methods for evaluating ‘knowledge,’ the distance between the teacher and the taught, the criteria for promotion: everything in this ready-to-wear approach serves to obviate thinking” (76).

The challenge for us in the academy who are passionate about education, is to live out the values of the Tao ourselves, and to live out Micah 6:8: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV).

The second challenge is to model I–Thou dialogue with our students. We must value their input and become teacher students of our student teachers. Too often we adopt a banking view of education ourselves, forgetting that telling is not learning.

The third challenge is to resist, with wisdom, the tremendous pressures of accountability in education that values banking knowledge, tests, scores, and ranks over guiding our students to be thinking, reasoning, and valuing beings. We need to wisely resist the educational pressure to make science and technology preeminent over instilling character and core values. We need Lewis’ Tao and regenerate science. Then we will begin to have the necessary prerequisites, with the grace of God, to resist the potentially downward spiral of dehumanization that continues to challenge our walk and work today.

This paper was presented at the C. S. Lewis Foundation’s triennial Summer Institute, Oxbridge, in the summer of 2005.