Going North Thinking West: The Intersections of Social Class, Critical Thinking, and Politicized Writing Instruction

Going North Thinking West: The Intersections of Social Class, Critical Thinking, and Politicized Writing Instruction

Going North Thinking West: The Intersections of Social Class, Critical Thinking, and Politicized Writing Instruction

Going North Thinking West: The Intersections of Social Class, Critical Thinking, and Politicized Writing Instruction

Synopsis

A long-time writing program administrator and well-respected iconoclast, Irvin Peckham is strongly identified with progressive ideologies in education. However, in Going North Thinking West, Peckham mounts a serious critique of what is called critical pedagogy--primarily a project of the academic left--in spite of his own sympathies there. College composition is fundamentally a middle-class enterprise, and is conducted by middle-class professionals, while student demographics show increasing presence of the working class. In spite of best intentions to ameliorate inequitable social class relationships, says Peckham, critical pedagogies can actually contribute to reproducing those relationships in traditional forms--not only perpetuating social inequities, but pushing working class students toward self-alienation, as well. Peckham argues for more clarity on the history of critical thinking, social class structures and teacher identity (especially as these are theorized by Pierre Bourdieu), while he undertakes a critical inquiry of the teaching practices with which even he identifies. Going North Thinking West focuses especially on writing teachers who claim a necessary linkage between critical thinking and writing skills; these would include both teachers who promote the fairly a-political position that argumentation is the obvious and necessary form of academic discourse, and more controversial teachers who advocate turning a classroom into a productive site of social transformation. Ultimately, Peckham argues for a rereading of Freire (an icon of transformational pedagogy), and for a collaborative investigation of students' worlds as the first step in a successful writing pedagogy. It is an argument for a pedagogy based on service to students rather than on transforming them.

Excerpt

This book is about teaching, which is far more than a simple act of transmitting knowledge from those who know into those who are learning— or even of initiating the young into our matrix of discourse communities. The classroom is where community happens, the site of cultural reproduction and revolution, of parroting and creating, of being and not-being. It is the site of power struggles between social classes through the agency of language, where we sort students and distribute privileges, where we train students to accept the kind of life they will most likely have as adults. It is also the place where we were trained to be teachers and where we are constantly being retrained through our praxis. Looked at this way, the classroom is a very interesting place.

This book is also about writing. Writing is a fundamental act of literacy, of naming the world and writing one’s way into it. But writing, like teaching, is far from simple. Words, which form the fabric of writing, remove us from primary experience. They shape our understanding and identities. In a literate society, words are a primary agency of exchange. Words, even more than weapons, are consequently the tools of power. Words form webs of aggression and deceit. Through words, we sort people, create and maintain hierarchies, and distribute privilege. They are the way we do things—and they are the agency through which things are done to us. They are the vortex of culture, which is why words and literacies are also very interesting.

My interest in the intersections between writing, teaching, and social class is personal because I have changed my identities, allegiances, and ways of thinking as a consequence of my career. I was born into a rural, working-class family. I am now urban and excessively middleclass, although ineluctably carrying my working-class origins with me. I began working as a high school teacher; I now teach, research, and write in a doctoral intensive university. I used to think that educational institutions functioned to encourage students to learn. I now see them . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.