Campus Life, Critical Pedagogy ... and the Study of Elvis Presley

By Billingsley, K. L. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 8, 1996 | Go to article overview

Campus Life, Critical Pedagogy ... and the Study of Elvis Presley


Billingsley, K. L., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


When students return to university campuses in a few weeks, they will encounter a group of professors who openly admit that they exploit their taxpayer-paid positions to denounce and undermine American society and to propagandize their students to do likewise. In education-speak, this growing trend goes by the name of "critical pedagogy."

The godfather of critical pedagogy is Brazilian Marxist Paulo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. For Mr. Freire the traditional system of education - the passing on of knowledge from teacher to student, or "banking" - is based on capitalism and therefore "serves the interests of the oppressors."

Mr. Freire pioneered the exploitation of education to raise revolutionary consciousness, convincing students of the need to "participate in the revolutionary process."

Through Mr. Freire and his current disciples Peter McLaren of UCLA, bell hooks (she prefers no capital letters in her name) of City College of New York and Henry Giroux of Penn State University, critical pedagogy now thrives in schools of education nationwide, and especially on California's public campuses.

Critical pedagogy, said Gordon Nakagawa of Cal State Northridge's (CSN) speech department at a recent faculty roundtable published by Northridge magazine, "attempts to subvert the economic exchange model that's rooted in capitalism . . . a system of oppression I'm there to undermine."

Critical pedagogy "means to overturn the `banking' school of education, to expose the ways in which various people have been made silent by oppression within the university and within the culture," said Andrea White of CSN's English department during the same forum.

This all might come as a surprise to the students and parents who support the massive Cal State University system, and who may be forgiven for thinking that Mr. Nakagawa and Ms. White were there not to undermine the economic system that pays their generous salaries but to impart knowledge so the students could enrich their intellectual lives and possible go on to earn a living.

But in critical pedagogy, what the students want doesn't matter, particularly if they eschew propaganda and seek hard knowledge that will help them in their careers. This classroom gnosticism also sets faculty against their very disciplines.

"If the faculty see themselves as committed to their field and not to the university and the larger community," explains Bill DeLaTorre, CSN education professor, "they perpetuate the very things the students want. …

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