Critical Pedagogy

Critical pedagogy is a philosophy of education that is guided by passion and principle, with the aim of assisting students in developing consciousness of freedom, recognizing authoritarian tendencies, connecting knowledge to power and taking constructive action. It is based and strongly associated with Marxist theory and draws on radical democracy, anarchism, feminism and other movements that strive for what they call social justice.

Part of critical pedagogy is the study of relationships between teaching and learning. The proponents claim that it is a continual development of what is called "unlearning," "learning" and "re-learning" as well as "reflection" and "evaluation." It includes the effect that these actions have on students, especially those students whom they believe have been disenfranchised in the past by what is considered traditional schooling.

The basic tenet of critical pedagogy is that there is an unequal social layering in our society based upon class, race and gender. One of the leading architects of critical pedagogy, Peter McLaren, once said that critical pedagogy resonates with the sensibility of the Jewish concept of tikkun, which means to heal, repair and transform the world. It provides historical, cultural, political and ethical direction for those in education "who still dare to hope."

The term "critical pedagogy" has undergone many transformations as educators have deployed new strategies to confront the changing social landscape. The term has traditionally referred to educational theory, teaching and learning practices that are designed to raise the student's critical consciousness with regard to socially oppressive conditions.

Critical pedagogy was greatly influenced by Paulo Freire, the most notable and famous critical educator . He heavily endorsed students' capability of thinking critically about their educational situation. This way of thinking allowed them to realize connections between their own problems, experiences and the social context in which they happen. The student could then attain a degree of consciousness. This realization of consciousness is a necessary first step of praxis; this is the ability and cognizance that enables the taking of action against oppression while at the same time stressing the importance of the liberation of education. Praxis is the engagement in a cycle that includes theorizing, applying, evaluating, reflecting and then returning to the theory. This leads, at the collective level, to social transformation.

To attain their goals, critical educators attempt to disrupt the effects of oppressive regimes of power in both the classroom and in the larger society. They are particularly concerned with reconfiguring the traditional student/teacher relationship, where the teacher is the active agent and the student is the passive recipient. Instead, the classroom is envisioned as a place where new knowledge is grounded in the experiences of the student and teacher alike and is produced through meaningful dialogue.

Modern theories such as feminist, anti-racist, postmodern and post-colonial have all played a part in expanding and transforming the original Freirean critical pedagogy theory that predominantly focuses on class. This includes categories such as race, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, nationality and age. Several contemporary critical pedagogues have replaced Marxist meta-narrative and theories as well as Freire's vision of liberating education with more modern outlooks. They have adopted more postmodern, anti-essential conceptions of identity, language and power while simultaneously retaining the Freirean emphasis on critique, overturning oppressive regimes of power/knowledge and social change.

Critical pedagogy studies the role schools play in maintaining the social layering of society, and the possibilities for social change through the schools. It is both a way of thinking about and negotiating through praxis, the relationship between classroom teaching and social and material relations in the wider community. It is an approach adopted by progressive teachers attempting to eliminate inequalities on the basis of social class. It has led to an array of anti-sexist and anti-racist policy initiatives.

Critical pedagogy holds that to remain a teacher who relies on traditional schooling is a trap. The way schools are structured in terms of bureaucracy, hierarchy and curriculum, proponents say, has a way of "de-skilling" the teachers and robbing them of their enthusiasm to proceed with their job creatively. Students can be better educated if teachers choose to resist mainstream schooling structures. The critical pedagogue will realize that teaching is more than transmitting the basics of schooling, but is really about educating for citizenship, democracy and hope for the future.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Critical Pedagogy: An Introduction
Barry Kanpol.
Bergin & Garvey, 1999 (2nd edition)
Popular Culture and Critical Pedagogy: Reading, Constructing, Connecting
Toby Daspit; John A.Weaver.
Garland, 2000
Alternatives in Education: Critical Pedagogy for Disaffected Youth
Greg S. Goodman.
Peter Lang, 1999
Critical Pedagogy and Predatory Culture: Oppositional Politics in a Postmodern Era
Peter McLaren.
Routledge, 1995
Anti-Racism, Feminism, and Critical Approaches to Education
Roxana Ng; Pat Staton; Joyce Scane.
Bergin & Garvey, 1995
Pedagogy and the Politics of Hope: Theory, Culture, and Schooling: A Critical Reader
Henry A. Giroux.
Westview Press, 1997
Dismantling White Privilege: Pedagogy, Politics, and Whiteness
Nelson M. Rodriguez; Leila E. Villaverde.
Peter Lang, 2000
Revolutionary Pedagogies: Cultural Politics, Instituting Education, and the Discourse of Theory
Peter Pericles Trifonas.
Routledge, 2000
Freirean Pedagogy, Praxis, and Possibilities: Projects for the New Millennium
Stanley F.Steiner; H.Mark Krank; Peter McLaren; Robert E.Bahruth.
Falmer Press, 2000
Performance Theories in Education: Power, Pedagogy, and the Politics of Identity
Bryant K. Alexander; Gary L. Anderson; Bernardo P. Gallegos.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
The Foreign Language Educator in Society: Toward a Critical Pedagogy
Timothy G. Reagan; Terry A. Osborn.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002
Raising Curtains on Education: Drama as a Site for Critical Pedagogy
Clar Doyle.
Bergin & Garvey, 1993
Learning Work: A Critical Pedagogy of Work Education
Roger I. Simon; Don Dippo; Arleen Schenke.
Bergin & Garvey, 1991
Negotiating Critical Literacies with Young Children
Vivian Maria Vasquez.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Becoming a Critical Educator: Defining a Classroom Indentity, Designing a Critical Pedagogy
Patricia H. Hinchey.
Peter Lang, 2004
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