Do you ever have those days at work where you just feel like, "WOW, this is really where I want to be. I am doing the right thing with my life, and I am making a difference." Well, Ilhamdullilah, I am having one of those days.I read Paolo Freire's book Pedagogy of the Oppressed when I was in college, and it changed my life. Today, I saw someone teach it on the streets.
I went to a faculty conference about the Community-Based Learning Program at the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at AUC today. A group of faculty sat around and thought of ways through which we could improve interaction between students and the community in Cairo and in Egypt through our classes.
One faculty member really impressed me. His name is Yahia Shawkat. He is an architect. He is teaching a class in the Performing and Visual arts department entitled Architecture: Art or Engineering? As part of this class, he asks the students to go find a "client," who the students can assist with their design skills. The students picked clients who were street vendors, security guards, tea salesman, and others at the bottom of Egypt's elaborate, and punishing social hierarchy.
So, Dr. Yahia's students then offered their design skills to these vendors. They helped them redesign their guard booths, their tea stands, their food trucks. The students worked on everything from raising the tea tables off the ground with cleverly made triangular shaped rests, to getting pillows for lumbar support, to enhancing the shade around the stand.
Dr. Yahia instructed them that the cost must be proportionate to the business cost, i.e. less than 100 pounds, or 20 dollars. He also instructed the students not to give the money themselves, they are not in the charity business, they are in the empowerment through design business. The students got feedback from the vendors themselves about what they needed, and often the vendors knew exactly what they needed, but not exactly how to do it. Finally, the students' were instructed to make the designs such that it optimized the work conditions, and helped the vendors to maximize their economic productivity of their business.
I could not believe it. Dr. Yahia perfectly integrated community action, teaching design, sustainability, and empowering the poor all at the same time! His work is radical, it is righteous, and it is revolutionary. Sign me up!
Now that is teaching with a purpose! Kudos! Bravo! Somebody give this guy tenure!