Teaching against the Grain: Texts for a Pedagogy of Possibility

By Roger I. Simon | Go to book overview

3
Teachers as Cultural Workers

The work of formulating a pedagogy of possibility is not easily done alone. When teachers gather to turn their energies and attention to the specific task of constructing educational practices that might help students challenge and assess existing social conventions, modes of thought, and relations of power, there are a number of conversational incursions that are at times used to deflect and deflate such crucial work. Two such subversions concern me here. The first, usually spoken in a tone of doubt and frustration, sounds something like this: "Perhaps we're just wasting our time; maybe progressive change isn't possible; after all, don't schools simply reflect the society they're part of?" In contrast, the second interjection is usually spoken with more assertive assurance: "Look, despite our intentions, I think we're just tinkering with the system. To be practical and critical at the same time requires too much compromise. Besides, do you really think our isolated efforts will have any impact on the way most teaching is done? Focusing our energies so locally, on the details of pedagogical practice, is simply a form of co-optation, a way of marginalizing dissent and allowing us to simply be marginal."

These positions are constituted within particular assumptions concerning the ways in which one is to represent both schools and schooling and the work of teaching within them. They are worth considering in that they pose a basic challenge to the viability of one of the key subtexts of this book, the importance of a turn toward pedagogy as a vital mode of engaging in the task of social transformation. The first position, the

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