Liberation Theology

November 2, 2004

Institution: DePaul University
Discipline: Religious Studies / Political Science / Philosophy
Title: Liberation Theology
Instructor: Charles R. Strain

LIBERATION THEOLOGY

PROLOGUE

Violence

You gringos, ” a Salvadoran peasant told an American visitor, “are always worried about violence done with machine guns and machetes. But there is another kind of violence that you should be aware of, too. I used to work on a hacienda. Myjob was to take care of the dueho’s dogs. I gave them meat and bowls of milk, food that I couldn’t give my own family. When the dogs were sick I took them to the veterinarian. When my children were sick, the dueho gave me his sympathy but no medicine as they died. “

Cited in N. Scheper‑Hughes, Death Without Weeping

Oppression

Imagine a wondrous new machine, strong and supple, a machine that reaps as it destroys. It is huge and mobile. Think of this machine running over open terrain and ignoring familiar boundaries. Itplows acrossfields andjencerows with afierce momentum. As it goes, the machine throws off enormous mows of wealth and bounty while it leaves behind great furrows of wreckage.

Now imagine that there are skillful hands on board, but no one is at the wheel. In fact, this machine has no wheel nor any internal governor to control the speed and direction. It is sustained by its ownforward motion, guided mainly by its own appetites. And it is accelerating.

William Grieder, One World, Ready or Not

Conscientization

At a base community meeting one evening Ipresented a slide show of portraits taken of my Alto friends. Midway into the presentation the slide of a mother with her toddler presenting a bloated belly came onto the screen. Jodo Mariano, the political orientador of UPAC, led the discussion. “What does this baby have?” he asked.

“Worms!” the adults and children yelled back. 

“And who here has not suffered with worms? ” (Silence) “How did this child get sick?” 

“Crawling barefoot on the ground. “ “Putting mud and dirt into its mouth.” “The house has no pit latrine.” 

“And how might this problem be solved?” 

“Medical exams.” “Worm pills.” 

“No!” Terezinha suddenly jumped to her feet. “No, for the child will still be without shoes, and the house still won’t have a latrine and the children will still be drinking ‘amoeba juice’ from the public water spigot. “

“So what is the answer then? asked Jodo Mariano.

“Building latrines.” “Unido! ‑ working together!”

N. Scheper‑Hughes, Death Without Weeping


Liberation

“Today I spoke up at the women’s circle in the creche,” an elderly Alto woman commented. “Later in talking I realized that this was thefirst time I had ever spoken out in public. I was always somebody who kept quiet and accepted whatever was said. But I learned today that I did have an opinion although I was raised para ndo ser pessoa [not to be a person].

N. Scheper Hughes, Death Without Weeping

Liberation Theology

“For [Pedro Trigo, Venezuela’s leading liberation theologian] liberation theology was just beginning–what had gone before was pre‑history. True liberation theology must arise out othe ‘everyday’. . . “

P. Berryman, Religion in the Megacity

COURSE DESCRIPTION

Liberation Theology focuses upon a radical movement for the transformation of Christianity that originated in the “Christian Base Communities” of Latin America and spread from there to North America and the Third World. Tested in the fires of civil wars in Central American and political repression in Brazil and other parts of Latin America in the 1970s and 80s, Liberation Theology today seeks to respond to the forces of globalization. Liberation theology and Christian base communities will be studied in comparison to other religious movements in Latin America such as Pentecostalism. This course is offered in conjunction with the Latin American Studies program and the Catholic Studies Program. We will give special attention to the impact of the new global economic order on the poorest segments of Latin American societies.

This course fulfills the Experiential Learning requirement of the Liberal Studies program. As such it integrates theory and practice in studying forms of religious engagement. All students registered in this course will perform 25 hours of service to a community or within a community organization or agency.

COURSE OBJECTIVES

I . Students will gain knowledge of the variety of contemporary religious movements in Latin America and their various responses at the local level to the forces of globalization and to political and economic oppression.

2.  Students will be able to discern the resources within the Christian tradition for developing prophetic social criticism, utopian models of society and theories of social justice.

3. Students will be able to situate “Christian base communities” in their Latin American historical and social contexts and to assess their strengths and weaknesses in promoting social change.

4.  Students will understand the potential role of theological ideas in shaping change oriented ideologies through their connection with critical social theories.

5.  Students will be able to reflect critically on the strengths and weaknesses of liberation movements and of liberation as a theological concept.

6.  Students will be able to articulate at a basic level their own vision of a just society.

7.  Students will be able by reflecting on their own experiences in a service context to raise questions about the relationship of service to the creation of a just society.

8.  Students will be able to articulate their own understandings of the relationship between learning and liberation.

9.   Students will be able to trace the connections among experiences in the service context, their own reflections on those experiences, theories of justice and liberation, and their own efforts to act well in serving others.

10.  Students will become more articulate in written and oral communication.

REQUIRED TEXTS

M. Argueta, One Day of Life

P. Berryman, Liberation Theolog

G. Gutierrez, Theology of Liberation

A. Peterson et al, Christianity, Social Change and Globalization in the Americas

Nancy Scheper‑Hughes, Death Without Weeping

 

COURSE OUTLINE AND READING LIST

1.                INTRODUCTION: WHAT IS LIBERATION THEOLOGY?

Sept. 16                A. Learning and Liberation

Sept. 16                B. Service Learning and Praxis

Sept. 16                C. The Changing Face of Religion in Latin America

                                Video: “Americas: Miracles Are Not Enough.”

 

II. THE CONVERSION OF THE LATIN AMERICAN CHURCH

Sept. 23                  A. Conscientization

                                Readings: M. Argueta, One Day of Life; Selection from Paulo Friere, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (handout)

Sept. 30                  B.  The Emergence of Liberation Theology

                                    Reading: P. Berryman, Liberation Theolo , Introduction, Chapter I

Sept. 30                  C. Solidarity with the Poor

                                    Reading: Berryman, Chap. 2

Sept. 30                  D. A Prophet of Non‑violence

                                    Film: Romero (reserve)

III.    VISIONS OF HOPE: THE EMERGENCE OF CHRISTIAN BASE COMMUNITIES

 

Sept. 30                  A.  Jesus’ Kingdom of Nobodies

                                   Readings: Selections from John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary

Oct. 7                  B.     The Bible and Everyday Life

                                    Readings: Berryman, Chap. 3

Oct. 7                  C.   The Struggle to Create Community

                                   Reading: Berryman, Chap. 4

IV.   RECOGNIZING THE NEW FACE OF HUMAN SUFFERING: THE EVERYDAY VIOLENCE OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC ORDER

Oct. 7                  A.    Bom Jesus and the Nordeste: 600,000 Square Miles of Suffering

                                   Readings: Nancy Scheper‑Hughes, Death Without Weeping, Chaps. I and 2

Oct. 7                  C.    Moral Triage: The Ethics of Survival

                                   Reading: Scheper‑Hughes, Chap. 3

Oct. 14                D.    Delirio de Fome: False Consciousness and the Structures of Everyday Violence

                                    Readings: Scheper‑Hughes, Chaps. 4 and 5

Oct. 14                  E.   Everyday Death and Body Praxis

                                    Readings: Scheper‑Hughes, Chap. 6


Oct. 21                  F.   The Everydayness of Children’s Death

                                    Group Presentation of Scheper‑Hughes, Chap. 7

Oct. 21                  G.   The Pragmatics of Motherhood: The Social Production of Love

                                    Group Presentation of Scheper‑Hughes, Chap. 8

Oct. 21                  H.   Internalized Alienation: A Political Economy of the Emotions

                                    Group Presentation of Scheper‑Hughes, Chap. 9

Oct. 21                  I.    Jeito: The Tactics of Survival

                                    Group Presentation of Scheper‑Hughes, Chaps. 10 and I I

Oct. 21                  J.    Everyday Struggles Against Everyday Violence

                                    Readings: Scheper‑Hughes, Chap. 12

V.   RESPONDING TO THE NEW FACE OF HUMAN SUFFERING: BUILDING AND RE‑BUILDING A THEOLOGY OF LIBERATION

Oct. 28                  A.  Theology and Critical Reflection on Praxis

                                    Readings: Berryman, Chaps. 5‑6; G. Gutierrez, A Theology of Liberation,

                                    Chaps. I and 2

Oct. 28                  B.    Liberation and Salvation

                                    Readings: Gutierrez, Chap. 9

Nov. 4                  C.    History and Eschatology

                                    Readings: Gutierrez, Chaps. 10 and I I

Nov. 4                  D.    Sacrament and Solidarity

                                    Readings: Gutierrez, Chap. 12

Nov. 4                  E.    Hearing Other Voices: Latin American Women Challenging and Revising Liberation Theology

                                    Readings: Selection from Daniel Levine, Popular Voices in Latin American

                                    Catholicism; selections from Mev Puleo, The Struggle is One; M.C.Bingemer,

                                    “Women in the Future of the Theology of Liberation.” (handouts)

VI.    FUSING MULTIPLE RESPONSES TO HUMAN SUFFERING: RELIGION, GLOBALIZATION AND THE PRACTICE OF EVERYDAY LIFE 

Nov. 11                  A. Liberation Theology, Religious Pluralism and Globalization

                              Readings: A. Peterson et al (eds.), Christianijy, Social Change and Globalization in the Americas, Introduction and Chap. 10

Nov. 11               B.  Exploring the Challenge of Evangelical Communities and Afro‑Brazilian Religions to Christian Base Communities

                                Readings: J. Burdick, “Rethinking the Study of Social Movements: The Case of Christian Base Communities in Urban Brazil.” (handout)

Nov. 11                  C.  Do Christian Base Communities Liberate Women?

                                    Reading: Peterson, Chap. I

                                    Group Presentation of M. Nussbaum, Women and Human Development

Nov. 18                D.    El Norte and Beyond

                                Reading: Peterson, Chap. 7

                                Group Presentation of El Norte and Peterson, Chap. 8

Nov. 18                E.  Creating Democratic Societies in the Wake of War: The Role of Religion

                                  Reading: Peterson, Chap. 6

Nov. 18                F.   Exploring the Non‑violent Alternative to Social Change

                                Group Presentation of Men With Guns and Selections from Romero Archives

Nov. 18                G. Taming the Runaway Machine: New Approaches to Development in a Liberationist Perspective

                                 Group Presentation of Gutierrez and Amartya Sen’s Freedom as Development

Nov. 25                H. The Practice of Liberation

                                Individual Presentations of Service Learning Projects

COURSE REQUIREMENTS 

A.   Class Participation

1. Reading the assigned texts and participating in class discussions

Participation in the classroom process is vital to the success of our discussion and to the individual’s growth. It is imperative that each student come to class prepared by prior reading and reflection to share insights and judgments, questions and problems with the rest of the class. Participation in the classroom process will constitute 15% of the grade for the course.

2. Evaluation of Class Participation

I will evaluate each student’s participation on the basis of the following criteria:

 

a. Attentive listening. (Are you alert and actively engaged in thinking about the material under discussion? Are you respectful of the ideas of your fellow students and as prepared to learn forin them as from the instructor?)

b.   Frequency and clarity of your oral contributions. (Are you adequately prepared for each class discussion? Do you make a consistent effort to contribute to the class discussion?)

c.  Knowledge of the reading matter under discussion and the ability to grasp its central themes. (Have you read the material carefully and critically?)

d. The ability to take an independent stance towards the ideas under discussion and to develop the position reflectively. ( Have you thought through the issues and come to your own conclusions?)

e.   The overall development of your power of oral expression during the course of the quarter. (Has your ability to contribute to the class grown during the quarter?)

3. Class Attendance Policy

Clearly it is impossible to meet the objectives and requirements of the course if students do not attend class regularly. Consequently one unexcused absences will lower your final grade by one letter. Two unexcused absences will be considered excessive and lead to failure of the course. Excused absences will be granted only for serious reasons.

B. Seminar Leadership

All students are expected to play a role in leading the seminar. This will take three forms: 1) a group presentation, 2) contributions to the Blackboard discussion forum and 3) an individual presentation at the end of the quarter. The group presentation and the individual presentations together will count for 15% of your grade for the course. Blackboard entries will count for 15% of your grade for the course.

1. Group Presentation

Students in groups of three will take the responsibility for leading the seminar for 25‑30 minutes. Topics for the presentation focus on specific chapters in Scheper‑Hughes and Peterson that the class as a whole will skip. See the Course Outline for the schedule of these presentations. Each group should plan to meet with me before the scheduled presentation to discuss ways in which the material can be presented that build upon the class discussions. Please save at least 10 minutes for structured group discussion.

2. Blackboard Discussion Forum

I have set up a Blackboard discussion forum for this class. The purpose of the forum is to extend the discussions that occur in class. Student contributions to Blackboard can raise questions about the material about to be discussed, pick up a loose thread left dangling from a previous class, add ideas that did not arise in the class discussions but that you would like feedback on, share your experiences with research and service learning. Don’t worry that your ideas might not be completely worked out or that your articulation of them may not be perfect. The Blackboard discussion forum is a place to try out thoughts and to seek the response of others.

Further suggestions: 1) you could share some of your reflections on service learning with the class through Blackboard; these comments can be downloaded and included with your journal; 2) post comments on the readings or follow up on points of discussion in class that you wish to take further. Seek clarification of confusing ideas. Engage your fellow students; 3) apply theories developed in class to your own social context; 4) post questions, quotes or comments that will prepare the class for your group presentation; 5) seek help from other students as well as from me regarding any confusions about the course material or any problems regarding your service placement. You must make at least four substantive contributions to the Blackboard discussions forum, two of which will be before midterm, in order to receive a passing grade of “C” for this part of the course. A higher grade requires entering into a real dialogue on the themes and issues of the course.

3. Individual Presentations

All students will present a I0‑minute summary of their service learning projects on November 25. Please think about the ways in which you can make your project interesting and intelligible to other members of the class. Each student should bring a short excerpt (I or 2 xeroxed pages) from a service learning j oumal or from the research paper to share with the class. Explain how your work doing this project contributed to your understanding of the themes of the course.

C.   Service‑Learning Requirement

Liberation Theology focuses upon the notion of praxis. Praxis is action grounded in emancipatory symbols and critical social theory. But praxis also generates thought. A purely theoretical approach to the study of liberation theology that involves the simple accumulation of knowledge would betray the message at its core, the way, say, a silent movie on the life of Mozart might also violate the heart of the matter. If we wish to learn about liberation, so liberation theologians argue, we cannot do so apart from reflective social engagement. In other words, the service that you perform is intrinsic to the learning process of this course.

All students will complete 25‑30 hours of service in a community agency. If you are not currently involved in service within a community organization, the Steans Center for Community‑based Service learning will find an appropriate placement for you. If you are already engaged in some sort of service on behalf of others, you may continue this service as a way of meeting this course requirement under the following conditions: a) your service must involve at least 25‑30 hours of direct engagement over the course of the quarter, b) the supervisor of your service work must indicate his or her willingness to evaluate your service work, c) you must describe your role in the organization and explain how you believe this service can be related to the themes of the course, and d) you must have the opportunity to interview a leader or group of leaders in your organization regarding the worldview and value system that inform his, or her, or their commitments.

D.   Reflective Journal

All students will keep a journal of written reflections. For each week of the course students will write at least two entries. In encourage you to write at length. Each entry should be at least one and one‑half typewritten pages in length (double‑spaced). This means that your journal for the course will ultimately be a minimum of 30 pages.

The first entry will focus on the course readings for the following week. The second entry will focus on your experience in your service context. Initially there may not be a lot of connection between the two entries. As the course progresses, you will be expected to look for connections between at least some of the readings and their themes and what you are experiencing as you do your service work. You will be expected to integrate some aspects of your learning in class with some aspects of your learning through service.

1. An Intellectual Journal

The first entry each week focuses on the ideas, themes, and issues raised in the reading and the class discussions. This entry should be a personal and thoughtful wrestling with the themes, issues, questions, and problems of the course as they arise in the texts under discussion. Maintain a balance between analysis, reflection and creative expression in your journals. Avoid general summaries of the text. Also avoid using the texts as mere launching pads from which you take off on your own. Engage the texts.

Write clearly and coherently. Feel free to write as much as you wish. A major purpose of this requirement is to train ourselves in the craft of writing. Analyze the key metaphors or ideas, the author’s line of argumentation, and the structure of the work. Evaluate these ideas and positions; compare and contrast them with other course readings and with your own ideas. Draw upon your own experiences as you attempt to understand the readings. Criticize constructively. The journal material may be used as your basis for raising questions, focusing upon key issues, and participating in the class discussions. What does this reading add to your understanding of liberation, social justice, and the roles of religions in achieving both?

2. A Service Learning Journal

The second entry for each week of the course will reflect on your service placement. In developing this section of your journal you should keep these directions and questions in mind:

1. Attentive. Pay special attention to the people that you are working with; their history and backgrounds to the extent that they willingly reveal them (respect the privacy of others!), the community organization or agency and its mission, and the ways in which it seeks to carry out its mission. Some part of each entry should be given over to description and structured observation. Keep your eyes open. Think about the following questions:

       What can I learn from the people around me and the place where I work?

       Who are the people I work with: what history, traditions, experiences do they bring with them as we work together?

       What are their strengths?

       What are their core values?

       How do they express them?

       How do they articulate their needs and aspirations, hopes and struggles?

2. Reflective. Pay special attention to your own thoughts, feelings, emotional reactions, and values. Working in an unfamiliar context will frequently bring to the surface aspects of yourself (which you will value as positive or negative) that you were not aware of. Some part of each entry should reflect on what these experiences are teaching you about yourself as well as about others. Think about the following questions:

       What do I learn about myself through this engagement with others?

       What are my fears and hopes, strengths and weaknesses, values and assumptions?

        How do I experience alienation and liberation?

        How does my engagement with others alter these feelings, values, hopes?

        What false understandings have I internalized?

        How can I use the service experience to liberate myself from such forms of false understanding?

3. Theoretical. Ideas are tools. “Truth,” as William James says, “is a leading function.” Some part of each entry should attempt to relate the themes and ideas developed in the readings and class discussions to your experiences with social engagement. (I expect that this section might be relatively brief in early entries but grow larger as the course develops). Think about the following questions:

     How do the ideas, themes and explorations of this class (or other classes too!) relate to my experiences of social engagement?

     Do they elucidate my experience or, on the contrary, do I find some other set of ideas more illuminating in my attempts to learn through action?

     What are the strengths and weaknesses of liberation Christianity as providing a framework for service and action? What other frameworks work better for me?

4. Practical. The purpose of a service learning journal, we might say paraphrasing Marx, is not so much to understand the world but to change it. Thought has consequences. Some part of each entry ought to reflect on how you hope to put into practice what you’ve been learning. Think about the following questions:

       How might I better serve the people around me?

       How might I empower both them and myself through this service?

        What stereotypes, twisted feelings, and misshapen values do I need to work on in myself?

       How do I accomplish my own liberation in conjunction with working for the liberation of others?

       What are my strengths and skills which I can use on behalf of others?

       What are their strengths and skills which I can draw upon to transform myself?

We will do in‑class exercises with the j ourrial frequently so always bring your journal to class. I will formally review your service learning journals three times during the quarter. I will informally review your journal on September 23 . Journals are due for the first formal review on October 7 . Journals are due for a second review on November 4. 

 Journals are due for final review on November 25 . Students are graded on the learning that they achieve through service. The journal is the primary expression of your learning in the service context as well as in the classroom. It will count for 45% of your grade for the course.

E.   Quizzes

There will be four quizzes during the course of the quarter. These quizzes will not be announced beforehand. They will test basic knowledge and comprehension of the assigned readings. Students who use the study guides while doing the readings will adequately prepare themselves for the quizzes. Each quiz will be worth up to five points. Together the quizzes will count for 10% of your grade for the course.

F.   Plagiarism

Plagiarism, like other forms of academic dishonesty, is always a serious matter. This course adheres to the University’s policies on plagiarism as stated in the current Bulletin/ Student Handbook. Consult any of the writing manuals for sale in the bookstore for instructions about proper citation or acknowledgment of the work of others in class assignments or you may consult the links on Blackboard.

Liberation Theology

Service Learning Exercise

Third Class

As we go around the class, please respond by addressing both questions below.

a)        Continue to describe your early experiences in your service context. What, if anything, have you found surprising? 

b)        Reflect on yourself as you exercise your service. Describe something that you did that you were happy with. Focus on some interaction that expressed a strength of yours (whether or not you knew that you had that particular quality or strength.

Liberation Theology

Service Learning Exercise

Fourth Class

Please respond to the following questions. You may use them to focus your journal entry and I encourage you to share these ideas on Blackboard.

1.    What false understandings of the people you are working with or the community that they are part of that you brought to your service have your uncovered?

2.    What is one particularly noteworthy strength of the people you are working with or the community organization within which you are working and how can you build on it?


Liberation Theology

Service Reflection

Week Five

Berryman discusses what he calls the hermeneutic circle or the circle of interpretation followed by CEBs as they try to make sense of their world and find an appropriate course of action. As we discussed it in class, the circle goes from Experience to Text to Experience. You have been having a series of experiences in your service placement. Now find a text (passage from a book, scene from a movie, lyrics from a song) that both illuminates your experiences (helps you to understand them, puts them in context) and orients you to praxis (guides you about how to act both effectively and transformatively).

The text that you choose should be one that shapes you. It need not be a “text” from this class. Again, I encourage you to put these “texts” on Blackboard so that others can think about them as well.

LIBERATION THEOLOGY

TAKING STOCK

At just past the mid point of the course we should pause and examine our progress in terms of our learning goals and our own desired outcomes for the course.

A.              SERVICE PLACEMENT

1.      What have you learned in your work in your service placement that you never expected to learn? What is important about this learning?

2.      What brick wall have you found yourself running up against? (The brick wall can be something internal or external; something unique to your placement site or something systemic.) How are you dealing with it?

B.               COURSE THEMES

1.      What idea or theme developed in the class discussions and readings seems most clear and relevant to you? Explain.

2.      Above all, what theme or idea do you most want to get a stronger grasp of by the end of the course? Explain.

 

Liberation Theology

Service Learning Exercises

October 28, 2002 and November 4, 2002

A.     Making Connections (Oct. 28)

Pick one idea/theme that we have discussed in any of our readings so far that does connect with some experience(s) at your service site. Be prepared to discuss the connection. Explain why the idea helps you to understand your service context more deeply and/or to act more purposeftilly.

B.     Interview (Nov. 4)

This exercise will be presented in class on November 4 1h . Between now and then you are to have a conversation with one person in a leadership capacity at your service site. You should focus on three questions:

I . How did you come to work here? What motivated you or led you to work here?

2.   Why do you do what you do? What are your values and beliefs as they relate to your work service?

3.   Why are you hopeful; that is, why do you believe that this work will bear fruit? What are the grounds of your hope?

Inquire gently but try to push beyond platitudes (“I wanted to make a difference.” “I wanted to give something back.” “I believe in the Golden Rule” etc.) You might ask, for example, of someone who affirms belief in the Golden Rule why they hold that belief when the way the world runs seems to suggest that that is a very na1ve way to live‑Well, that doesn’t sound too gentle, but figure out a way to converse that is a genuine exploration that gets beneath the surface. Then ask yourself what you have learned from this conversation.

Liberation Theology

Service Learning Exercise

November 11, 2002

Liberation theologians paint their theological picture on a huge canvas. They see human history in its totality as the drama of humans’ encounter with God and of God’s realization of the Kingdom of God. Occasionally our lives are clearly swept up into the chaos of history (9/11/01). Mostly, however, we are caught up in the micro‑events of our daily lives. We are deeply connected to the micro‑stories of our own lives and we are little aware of the larger historical successes that shape our lives.

1. Tell a story of human transforination that has happened at your service site (a new story, please!). (The transformation can be a small one and the story can be about your own transformation or about the transformation of someone you have taught or someone you have met at your service site.)

2. Think through how this micro‑story is linked up with larger historical processes as you understand them and with the drama of human history as you envision it. What do you learn from your micro‑story that sheds light on the macro‑drama of human history?

Liberation Theology

Service Learning Exercise

Week Nine ‑ November 18, 2002

TOPIC:   “We hold these truths to be self‑evident,” argued Thomas Jefferson. But in the world of the 181h century the truth of human rights was anything but self‑evident and Jefferson himself self‑consciously confronted his own inability to act in light of the ideals that he set forth. We face similar dilemmas of finding and following transformative truths: a) What are the truths that should guide human action in a global context? b) What do they imply for action in solidarity?

TASK:     In small groups discuss these two questions with specific reference to what you have learned in class and in your service context. Your discussion of action guided by true insights into our global context should focus on what is within the power of ordinary human beings like yourself to accomplish. Think about your actions during this past quarter. What truths did they reveal? Where do both actions and truths lead you? What can your group agree upon in terms of these two questions? It would help if the group could work from individual responses to the questions posted on Blackboard before the Nov. 18th class.

LIBERATION THEOLOGY

Individual Presentations

November 25, 2002

TOPIC:  Learning and Liberation

We are all involved in forms of service that involve teaching, tutoring or coaching. In some way we are all engaged in the practice of education. The task in this final presentation is to think through specifically what we have learned from this form of practice. (In other words you are asked to do a critical reflection on praxis.) Think about the following questions as you develop your thoughts, but think of them in terms of your concrete experiences with service.

1.    Is there a connection between learning and liberation? Someone might suggest to you that education is simply the formal means through which young people are socialized to perform certain functions necessary to the maintenance of society with some being tracked into high‑skill, high‑pay functions and others to low‑skill, low‑pay functions. In other words, education is not liberation but a sophisticated machinery to produce different classes of workers, a human assembly line.

Is the educating you are doing in your service context liberating? How so or how not so? Liberating for whom? If it is liberating, what makes it so? From your experience as an educator when and under what circumstances does education liberate? What do you mean by liberation in this case?

2.    We have all told deeply affecting stories of transformation but we struggle to place our experiences in a larger context of social change. So, reflect on this question as well. Is “liberation” the concept that best describes your vision of a transforination that would lead to a just society? Is there a better way of thinking about such a transformation; i.e., just as Gutierrez argues for “liberation” versus “development” as a necessary guiding principle to achieve a just society, you could argue for an alternative to liberation.

Whether or not you see “liberation” as a guiding concept for action, how does service fit into the process of achieving a just society, if at all? What sort of service?

LOGISTICS: Each of you will have a maximum of 10 minutes for your presentation. Handouts are helpful! You might, for example, share a section from your journal. Please limit your own comments to 67 minutes maximum. Leave the remainder of the time for discussion and questions. Try not to repeat your comments from earlier in the course. Time yourself carefully. If you do not leave time for discussion, you will be downgraded. On the other hand, you are each assigned ten minutes to share your ideas. Use them well.

Please share the responsibility of raising questions or points for discussion when others are presenting. Your active participation for the whole session is part of your presentation. Good luck!

School: DePaul University
Professor: Charles R. Strain
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