Pedagogy Of The Distressed

02/01/2011 00:00:00
Penulis/Peneliti : Setiono Sugiharto


Bidang Penelitian : Linguistik


Jurnal : The Jakarta Post


Volume : Thursday, January 29, 2011


Tahun : 2011


A widely self-acclaimed accomplishment — especially in the economic sector — by the Yudhoyono administration has recently been belied by nine country’s prominent figures of interfaith affiliations. All these figures share the conviction that what the government has done for the people thus far has gone no further than words.
The revelation of 18 lies in all aspects of life such as the economy, laws, education, politics, counterterrorism, human rights protection and press freedom made headlines and continues to spark speculation that there was political maneuvering intended to tarnish the image of the government. 
Delving into the political motives behind the issuance of the statement of lies seems otiose, and can generate endlessly hair-splitting debates. Instead, exploring the possibility of educational values of the statement can positively encourage a healthy discussion about the freedom of voicing one’s opinions.  
Amid the frustration of life conspicuously indicated by the continuously increasing suicide rates, the call to “fight against government lies” (the title of the discussion attended by the nine figures) is relevant to ruminate over by the society at large, politicians, and not to mention the government.  
At the outset, it is fair to say that the incessant hardship of life has made the people distressed. They are distraught by poverty, unjust practices and uncertainty about the future. And worst is that the state seems to abdicate its responsibility as the people’s benefactor as well as the protector of their basic rights. 
It is in this respect that the statement about the lies becomes not a mere accusation, but as a voice of concern from the “pedagogues” whose aim is to educate people, albeit in an informal manner, so as they can, hopefully, take part in helping the government solve the myriad of quandaries the nation is facing. It cannot, therefore, be summarily dismissed as not having any educational value. 
As morally responsible pedagogues, the nine religious leaders felt obliged to proclaim their concerns over the litany of complaints, grief and sorrow people have long endured. They have, as such, initiated pedagogy of the distressed, a term borrowed from Jane Tompkins, the author of Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860. Pedagogy of the distressed is viewed here as one form of community-based education. 
The idea of pedagogy of the distressed is strongly reminiscent of a noted Brazilian educator Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, a groundbreaking work, which has inspired the world’s educators to view education as activity that liberates students from fear, oppression, marginalization, poverty and imperialism. 
Initially used by Tompkins as a conceptual framework of empowering students from fear of coping with academic demands in a narrow setting such as a classroom (i.e. the microcosm of the world), pedagogy of the distressed can equally be applied to empower powerless people in a larger setting in the society (i.e. the macrocosm of the world). 
The nine religious leaders have obviously played their part as not only scholars (most notably, Dr. Shalahuddin Wahid, Prof. Syafii Maarif, Prof. Din Syamsuddin, and Prof. Frans Magnis-Suseno), but more significantly as outspoken pedagogues for the people, especially for those suffering from extreme poverty and unfair treatment by the state.   
It behooves us then to interpret their relatively free politically loaded messages not as efforts of smudging the legally elected government, but instead as attempts to educate people so that they view politics and life in more egalitarian ways; that is, as a vehicle for social change. We can also interpret their statements as containing moral messages for the grassroot communities.   
In the paucity of visionary leaders in the country, these nine pedagogues have set a valuable example. They distanced themselves from conformists who hid in the safety house of opportunism. 
This is a valuable moral lesson the politicians and people would be remiss not to learn.         
Whether we are aware of it or not, the infusion of the critical voices into the political landscape by the figures also has implications for positive educational politics of the people. These voices educate rather than indoctrinate people to remain critical of the government’s propaganda, the empty and often erroneous rhetoric of politicians, and the imposition of certain ideological stances which can incite stereotypes of religions, genders, races, as well as ethnicities, and which can spread enmity. 
Above all, only through pedagogy of the distressed can the inculcation of the struggling spirit against poverty, discrimination, injustice and other forms of oppression be viable.