Photo by Jon Bowen, Flickr CC

Photo by Jon Bowen, Flickr CC

“Learning is the discovery that something is possible.” – Fritz Perls

Economics isn’t just for the experts. Critical thinking about the economy helps us to examine the relationship between our own lives and the wider world unfolding around us.

This session supports learners to explore the role that critical thinking has played in social change. The resources challenge us to freely ask the question ‘Why?’. Why is the world so unequal? Why are some voices more dominant than others about the economy? Why are certain economic policies promoted more than others? Why?

Note for Facilitators/ Educators: Pick three resources from the list, and ask your group to review them ahead of your session. In the session, you can go through the discussion questions either in pairs or as a group. The learning journal activities are designed to be done after the session, as a way for people to link their own experience to the ideas explored in the module.

Learning Outcome


1: Critical Literacy by Heather Coffey

This article (PDF) explains why critical literacy is useful in understanding power dyanamics in our lives. For a great introduction, read pages 1 to the top of page 5. Pages 5 to 8 give very helpful tips for utilising critical literacy in learning circles, using any material.
Read more

2: ‘The banking concept of education’.

This is a audio reading of Chapter Two of Paulo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’. This chapter discusses education’s distance from lived experience, and introduces the ‘banking concept of education’.
Read more

3: ‘Is the Media Just Another Word For Control?’ John Pilger, January 2nd, 2014

Critical literacy is about our capacity to think independently and to question the world around us, and especially to question the actions of those with power. In this fascinating article by John Pilger he argues “we [..] have been misled by those whose job is to keep the record straight.” So are we all “on message”?
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4: John Pilger: Listen to the Audio on the BBC

This is an audio reading of the same John Pilger article which appears above.
Read more

5: Video: “We Teach Life, Sir” – Rafeef Ziadah

Rafeef Ziadeh is a Canadian-Palestinian spoken word artist. In this video, she presents a powerful poem she wrote inspired by her experiences growing up as a Palestinian refugee, and reporting on the crisis in Gaza.
Read more

6: Blog: Thinking About How We Think About Things – Mark Malone

We live in a society and world were injustice and inequality is neither a natural nor accidental occurrence. The implications of this reality for all of us concerned with social justice demands an interrogation of our own assumptions about how power works in our communities, societies and across borders. Without a critical understanding of why and how injustice and inequality is perpetuated, we at best only treat symptoms rather than underlying causes. It is from this starting point that critical pedagogy asks us to both think and act…
Read more

Discussion Questions

  1. What is critical literacy?
  2. What do you think about Paulo Freire’s analysis of education as a ‘banking system’?
  3. Are there links between what John Pilger and Rafeef Ziadah say? Did you find one easier to listen to than the other? Why?
  4. How does our education effect our relationship toward the media, in your opinion?
  5. “There is no such thing as a ‘single truth’”. Do you agree with this?

Learning Journal

  • Has this session challenged my understanding of education or the media in any way?
  • What are my thoughts on the critical literacy being discussed in this session?

Extra Resources

a ‘What is education?’ In depth discussion of the term “education” on
b Deschooling society Full book and audio of Ivan Illich’s classic text on schooling and society.
c Critical Literacy, Foundational Notes Luke, Allan (2012) – in Theory into Practice Journal, Routledge.
    • Angela Rickard says:

      Thanks for that Nessa – I do think it’s vital for everyone – teachers and students – to engage critically and I’ve become increasingly interested in how Development Education can be a vehicle for that in schools. And indeed I’ve have seen some great examples of students asking why and being proactive about learning.

      Looking at the “Why Critical Pedagogy” video above I was reminded of a viral video posted about a year ago to YouTube where a US high school student (Jeff Bliss) lashes out at his teacher for not engaging with the class and not getting them excited about learning. It highlights the responsibility teachers have even if it might be a little scary from a teacher’s perspective! But what is it they say – if it doesn’t frighten you it isn’t worth doing!?
      Here’s that rant:


  1. I will start with questions. Is this project aimed at developing an understanding of economics for adult learners? Is your pedagogical approach Freirean? If it is, then you must start ‘where the learner is at’ You must pose questions to the learner about their understanding of their own lives/issues/understandings and allow the learner to define the issues from their world view. This resource appears to be presenting a predefined problem to the learner from the outset. Telling the learner what the issues are before establishing a relationship with the learner and giving the learner the power to define the issue and the context in which it impacts their lives.

    Freire, like other successful adult educators Horton and Vella did not employ teachers when working with adult learners. The approach you present here may be successful with adult learners in third level institutions who are compliant and look to the teacher/lecturer to define their ‘world’, a pedagogical approach which is familiar within the formal education sector. In an adult community setting however, this approach is unlikely to develop the critical literacy required and so well advocated by Freire et al. Adult education invloves learners in a process of reflection analysis and action. It appears in this instance that the analysis was completed without the learner and that the learner will be presented with your analysis from your world view.

    • Thanks for this Ann, we really appreciate you taking the time to critique the resource.

      We certainly hope that econowha? doesn’t close down debate or narrow down analysis, rather we have prioritised justice centred perspectives which we felt are often left out of mainstream analysis in the hope that they may be a starting point for discussion.

      As we highlight in our ‘wha?’ section on the site, Econowha? seeks to bring different material together to aid the learning process. We are just facilitating access to these resources and invite users of the site to challenge and question the material in a way that is useful for you.

      It would be brilliant if you and others would add new and different questions or resources.

      In addition, the ‘learning circle’ approach is intended to support learners comment, critique and redefine the questions being posed. We don’t claim that online discussion tools can ever replace learners direct exchange with each other.

      • Mel Bracken says:

        Interesting point around ‘starting where the learner is at’ and whether this is at odds with presenting a ‘justice-oriented’ (or indeed, any ‘oriented’) perspective. I think lots of (good) educators worry about imposing biased or pre-defined world views to learners, but Freire himself said that education is never neutral, it is always either liberating or domesticating. I think the resources here offer a useful counterbalance to the domesticating perspectives we are constantly exposed to in mainstream media. I work in adult and community education settings (i.e., definitely not a teacher!) and think these resources are very appropriate for offering alternative worldviews (alongside more dominant ones) which learners can critique and question.

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