Academic journal article Italica

Critical Pedagogy, Social Justice, and Prosocial Identities in the Italian Classroom (Part I)

Academic journal article Italica

Critical Pedagogy, Social Justice, and Prosocial Identities in the Italian Classroom (Part I)

Article excerpt

Abstract: Responding to the conflicting public perspectives about language teaching and learning, and considering that public opinion affects policy making, this article argues that foreign language education is at the core of a multicultural citizenship and a springboard towards social justice education. By providing detailed descriptions of practices and strategies aimed at fostering literacy, intercultural awareness and pro-social identities within the fabric of a cohesive and well-articulated curriculum, the authors encourage FL teachers to reflect on the ontology of the profession and devise new and creative ways to make the teaching of FL at the core of collegiate education. (This article is the first part of an essay that will be published in two separate installments. The second part of the study will appear in the next issue of Italica).

Keywords: Social Justice in Foreign Language Pedagogy, Critical Pedagogy in Foreign Language Education, Prosocial Identities, Italian Curriculum Development.

What could all this matter to me, true life, my God? What importance could it have for me that my recitation was acclaimed beyond many other readers of my age group? Was not the whole exercise mere smoke and wind? Was there no other subject on which my talent and tongue might be exercised? St. Augustine, Confessions

Introduction

With the role of universities and public education under intense scrutiny, the relevance of a foreign language education and the role(s) of Foreign Language Departments in academic institutions in the United States have become the subject of intense debates. Responding to the conflicting public perspectives about pedagogical approaches to, and purposes for, language teaching and learning, this article argues that foreign language education is at the core of a multicultural citizenship, and suggests ways to reconceptualize FL teaching and learning as a springboard towards social justice education. The authors offer suggestions on how to tweak FL and culture instruction through a social justice perspective by applying new teaching strategies designed to foster students' critical appreciation of the complexity of the target culture, to reflect on the ideological and concrete realities of their own world, and to empower them to become agents of social change in their own communities. In the appendixes the authors offer concrete examples of best practices and strategies that foster literacy, intercultural awareness and pro-social identities within the framework of a cohesive and well-articulated curriculum. The ultimate goal of this paper is to encourage FL teachers to reflect on the ontology of the profession and devise new and creative ways to make the teaching of FL relevant to collegiate education and at the core of the university mission.

Foreign Language Education and National Identity: An Overview of Conflicting Narratives

In a recent article, Glenn Levine traces the history of the multiple and often conflicting narratives surrounding foreign language education in the US. As public support for foreign language education overall has been shifting over time, the perceived value of teaching and learning certain languages (such as Italian) has eroded over time (Levine 56). As Levine argues, the study of foreign languages has been historically associated with an elitist education. He points out that, despite today's pervasive public discourse on globalization and the emphasis on the need and value of a multicultural education that prepares citizens for an increasingly complex and interconnected world, too often language education is at best deemed irrelevant and unnecessary if not a downright threat to national identity. Levine (65) cites several telling examples. Lawrence H. Summers, former Harvard President, in a 2012 interview for the New York Times on the future of undergraduate education in the digital age, clearly posits English as a dominant language, while devaluing the importance of learning foreign languages and doing away with non-anglophone cultural identities:

   English's emergence as the global language, along with the rapid
   progress in machine translation and the fragmentation of languages
   spoken around the world, make it less clear that the substantial
   investment necessary to speak a foreign tongue is universally
   worthwhile. … 
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.