In keystone, Paulo Freire talks about what he calls the banking system of education. In the banking system the student is seen as an object in which the teacher must place information. The student has no responsibility for cognition of any sort; the student must simply memorize or internalize what the teacher tells him or her. Paulo Freire was very much opposed to the banking system. He argued that the banking system is a system of control and not a system meant to successfully educate. In the banking system the teacher is meant to mold and change the behavior of the students, sometimes in a way that almost resembles a fight. The teacher tries to force information down the student’s throat that the student may not believe or care about.
Freire presents two major problems with the banking concept. The first one is that in the banking concept a student is not required to be cognitively active. The student is meant to simply memorize and repeat information, not to understand it. This inhibits the students’ creativity, destroys their interest in the subject, and transforms them into passive learners who don’t understand or believe what they are being taught but accept and repeat it because they have no other option. The second and more dramatic consequence of the banking concept is that it gives an enormous power to those who choose what is being taught to oppress those who are obliged to learn it and accept it.
In the Montessori system, even if a student finds a way to solve a problem that is slower or less effective than a standard mechanical way of solving the problem, the teacher will not intervene with the student’s process because this way the student learns to find solutions by himself or herself and to think of creative ways to work on different problems.
The educational system in the United States, especially from grade school to the end of high school, is almost identical to the banking approach to education that Freire described. During high school most of what students do is sit in a class and take notes. They are then graded on how well they complete homework and projects and finally they are tested to show that they can reproduce or use the knowledge which was taught. Most of the time the students are only receptors of information and they take no part in the creation of knowledge. Another way in which the keystone academic education system is practically identical to the banking system of education is the grading system. The grades of students mostly reflect how much they comply with the teacher’s ideas and how much they are willing to follow directions. Grades reflect submission to authority and the willingness to do what is told more than they reflect one’s intelligence, interest in the class, or understanding of the material that is being taught. For instance, in a government class in the United States a student who does not agree that a representative democracy is superior to any other form of government will do worse than a student who simply accepts that a representative democracy is better than a direct democracy, socialism, communism, or another form of social system. The U.S. education system rewards those who agree with what is being taught and punishes those who do not.
Furthermore, it discourages students from questioning and doing any thinking of their own. Because of the repetitive and insipid nature of our education system, most students dislike high school, and if they do well on their work, it is merely for the purpose of obtaining a grade as opposed to learning or exploring a new idea.
The Montessori Method focuses on the relations between the child, the adult, and the environment. The child is seen as an individual in development. The Montessori system has an implied notion of letting the child be what the child would naturally be. Because of this perceived loss of the child, the Montessori system works to enable a child to naturally develop self-confidence as well as the ability and willingness to actively seek knowledge and find unique solutions to problems by thinking creatively. Another important difference in how children learn in the Montessori system is that in the Montessori system a child has no defined time slot in which to perform a task. Instead the child is allowed to perform a task for as long as he wants. This leads children to have a better capacity to concentrate and focus on a single task for an extended period of time than children have in the standard education system.