Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Guiding White Pre-Service and In-Service Teachers toward Critical Pedagogy: Utilizing Counter-Cultures in Teacher Education

Academic journal article Educational Foundations

Guiding White Pre-Service and In-Service Teachers toward Critical Pedagogy: Utilizing Counter-Cultures in Teacher Education

Article excerpt

This essay documents a few key examples of the critical pedagogy and curriculum that we employ to challenge pre-service and in-service teachers to consider the concrete and theoretical contexts of taking on a social-activist-teacher persona. Our vision of social justice is rooted firmly in the critical tradition, as it is anchored in excavating unjust social and economic formations that imperil the vast majority of the world's population, while concomitantly empowering the economic elite. Not only do we believe that teacher educators must take the lead in helping their students recognize the social, political, and economic forces creating injustice in schools and in the wider society, but they must help current and future teachers develop emancipatory visions of how to develop instructional designs, collaborate with educators, and engage in activist initiatives which have the potential to eliminate social inequalities and build institutional structures based on democracy, equity, and fairness (McLaren, 2005). Like many teacher educators, we have worked in institutions where almost 95% of the teacher education students have self-identified as "White." Because of the difficulties of working with this nearly ubiquitous at-risk group (at risk for acting as oppressors), we focus our attention in this essay on the challenges White in-service and preservice teachers pose to practicing critical pedagogy.

Although some of our former students have come to take a critical stance toward North America's social and economic systems that operate to privilege the few at the expense of many, and promote equity and social justice across the various elementary and secondary content areas, we, like many critical teacher educators, find the task of educating White pre-service and in-service teachers--echoing Freire (2005)--to "read the word and the world" and create socially-just educational projects that play an active role in building an equalitarian society rewarding even as it is often daunting (Cross, 2005; Porfilio & Yu, 2006; Sleeter, 2002). Schools of education are still very traditional in their approach to preparing K-12 teachers, (Cochran-Smith, 2004) as they (mis)inform students that "schooling is unequivocally a good thing serving the best interests of individual students, marginalized students, and the culture in general" (Kincheloe, 2004, p. 4). They often remain silent on how the larger structures of power are bent on generating asymmetrical social and economic relationships.

Moreover, as neoliberal policies, logics, and practices have infiltrated the way in which we prepare schoolteachers, over the past decade, more of them, echoing Macedo (1994), have become "stupefied" (Macedo as cited in Kincheloe, 2004). For example, corporatist teaching preparation has churned out and continues to prepare a sizable amount of pre-service teachers. The preparation is characterized by fast-track alternative programs, some of which do not require teacher candidates to take one course in the field of education. Several corporately-sponsored programs have also been designed by clinical "educational" conglomerates, such as Sylvan Education and Kaplan Inc, which attract mid-career changers and post-baccalaureate students who yearn to gain their teaching credentials as quickly as possible. (1) There are also several alternate route programs, (2) such as Troops for Teachers, Transition to Teaching, Passport to Teaching, and Teach for America, that allow future teachers to bypass some of the "burdensome requirements" associated with traditional forms of teacher certification (Kumashiro, 2008). The chief aims of commercialized and alternative teacher education are to maximize profits and/or to inculcate pre-service teachers to embrace beliefs, ideals, and teaching methods in line with perpetuating the status quo in schools and society, rather than helping them understand the "complexities of educational practice and an understanding of and commitment to a socially just, democratic notion of schooling" (Kincheloe, 2004, p. …

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