A Re-Thinking of Critical Pedagogy: A Review of Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy Today: Toward a New Critical Language in Education

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A Re-Thinking of Critical Pedagogy: A Review of Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy Today: Toward a New Critical Language in Education

Edited by Ilan Gur-Ze'ev Haifa, Israel: University of Haifa Press, 2005

As the wheels of change are moving in so many aspects of life it seems that Critical Pedagogy needs to review, or even transform, itself towards the future. The book Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy Today: Toward a New Critical Language in Education tries to respond to the challenges of the changing times in three ways: (1) It presents some of the central views of Critical Pedagogy today; (2) It presents a critical view on Critical Pedagogy's current situation; and (3) It presents different attempts to re-think the future possibilities of Critical Pedagogy. As the book includes 19 articles, this review will not be able to encompass all of them, but will give a snapshot of some of the ideas presented therein.

Although, as mentioned, the editor tried to give an arena to the different voices in Critical Pedagogy, I see the main importance of the book not in the good collection of a variety of thinkers, but in the attempt to look at Critical Pedagogy via critical eyes and in the effort that is done by some of these thinkers to re-think Critical Pedagogy. As Gur-Ze'ev indicates in his introduction: "Regardless to the degree of identification with Critical Pedagogy, it seems to me that many Critical Pedagogues are today ready for or actually searching for a new critical language in education that will go beyond the achievements and limitations of Critical Pedagogy." (1)

Why does Critical Pedagogy need a new critical language? Because, as Gur-Ze'ev claims, "so much of Critical pedagogy has become dogmatic, and sometimes anti-intellectual, while on the other hand losing its relevance for the people it conceived as victims to be emancipated." (3) Other writers in the book also criticize Critical Pedagogy's current state, each from their different way of approach. McLaren, who represents a neoMarxistic Critical Pedagogy, claims that "the educational left is finding itself without a revolutionary agenda for challenging in the classrooms of the nation the effects and consequences of the new capitalism." (3) Anat Rimon-Or, on the other hand, criticizes Critical Pedagogy's revolutionary agenda. She brings forward the Platonic understanding that critical thinking involves the commitment for the search for Truth and the Good. Therefore, Critical Pedagogy's over materialistic view on social needs contradicts its critical agenda:

   This educational act (critical education) is revolutionary in
   itself; although it doesn't cultivate revolutionists in the Marxist
   sense, but vice versa: it betrays the antagonistic relation between
   critical thinking and essential social needs. Critical education
   stems from critical thinking; hence, it must postpone social needs,
   including those of the revolution. (4)

Nigel Tubbs argues that the source of the crisis is the failure of Critical Pedagogy to pursue a philosophical critique of itself and its misinterpretation of the Critical Theory. (5) This critical view highlights that by the estrangement of Critical Pedagogy from Critical Theory and it's over emphasizing of political struggle, Critical Pedagogy became violent and departed from the love of life, which is so essential in Critical Theory. (6)

Another angle from which to look at Critical Pedagogy with critical eyes is offered by Gert Biestra. He points to the utopian nature that Critical Pedagogy embraced. A utopian view that causes it to become oppressive rather than liberating:

   Critical Pedagogy as a positive educational programme, as something
   that only needs to be implemented, is problematic. This is first of
   all because such a programme can only be successful if it would be
   able to control the use of what it aims to achieve. …