Monday, January 4, 2010

Pedagogy of the not-so-oppressed

I just ran across, more or less by accident, this piece by Henry Giroux on Paulo Freire, best known as the author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. While reading quickly through some of the piece, I was struck by this passage:
"Too many classrooms at all levels of schooling now resemble a 'dead zone,' where any vestige of critical thinking, self-reflection and imagination quickly migrate [sic; this should read migrates -- LFC] to sites outside of the school only to be mediated and corrupted by a corporate-driven media culture. The major issue now driving public schooling is how to teach for the test, while disciplining those students who because of their class and race undermine a school district's ranking in the ethically sterile and bloodless world of high stakes testing and empirical score cards. Higher education mimics this logic by reducing its public vision to the interests of capital and redefining itself largely as a credentializing factory for students and a Petri dish for downsizing academic labor. Under such circumstances, rarely do educators ask questions about how schools can prepare students to be informed citizens, nurture a civic imagination or teach them to be self-reflective about public issues and the world in which they live."
The last sentence of this passage (the italics are mine) led me to wonder what Giroux would think of Michael Sandel's "Justice" course (which I've had occasion to refer to before, albeit briefly). After watching an hour or two of "Justice" online a while ago, it seems to me difficult to deny that Sandel's aim -- and probably, to some extent, his effect -- is precisely to help students become more informed, reflective citizens. But Sandel's politics are not radical, while Giroux's are, and I somehow doubt that Sandel is practicing the pedagogy of the oppressed as Giroux might construe it -- although Giroux does point out that Freire refused to identify his outlook with a particular method. I don't follow debates about education much, so I don't know what if anything Giroux has written about Sandel's course (yes, I could have done a search but I didn't). It does strike me as an interesting question, however.

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