The Power of Critical Theory: Librating Adult Learning and Teaching

By Rowland, Michael L. | Adult Learning, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview

The Power of Critical Theory: Librating Adult Learning and Teaching


Rowland, Michael L., Adult Learning


The Power of Critical Theory: Librating Adult Learning and Teaching, by Stephen D. Brookfield. San Francisco: Jossey Bass, 2005. ISBN 0-7879-5601-5. Hardback, 414 pages.

In The Power of Critical Theory: Liberating Adult Learning and Teaching, Stephen Brookfield responds to one of his student's questions regarding the connection between critical theory and the student's eventual practice as an adult educator. Brookfield has provided in 12 chapters a comprehensive and detailed look at thinking critically from the critical theory perspective. He explains, "critical theory views thinking critically as being able to identify, and then to challenge and change, the process by which a grossly iniquitous society uses dominant ideology to convince people this is a normal state of affairs" (p. viii). This idea is further elaborated on in Chapter Two "The Learning Tasks of Critical Theory" which sets the stage for the chapters that follow in understanding adult learning within the context of challenging ideology, power, hegemony, alienation, liberation, reclaiming reason, and learning democracy.

In Chapter One, Brookfield explains critical thinking as based in five intellectual traditions, which includes analytic philosophy, pragmatism, constructivism, psychoanalysis, and critical theory. Chapter Three through Chapter Nine are each devoted to one of the issues of hegemony, liberation, alienation, reason, and democracy, and as Brookfield clearly points out, the first nine chapters are presented from a Eurocentric viewpoint. Yet, Chapter Ten and Chapter Eleven present other viewpoints that focus on racial and gender issues of "criticality" Brookfield includes the writings of such renowned African American scholars as Cornell West, bell hooks, Angela Davis, and Scipio A. J. Colin, III--voices rarely heard in the literature of adult education. …

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