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Critical Pedagogy: Where Are We Now?


reviewed by Joan Wink & Dawn Wink - January 30, 2008

coverTitle: Critical Pedagogy: Where Are We Now?
Author(s): Peter McLaren and Joe L. Kincheloe
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 0820481475, Pages: 411, Year: 2007
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Critical pedagogy: Where are we today? edited by Peter McLaren and Joe L. Kincheloe,  illumines the theoretical, pedagogical, and political dimensions of critical pedagogy today. While these complex relationships have been explored in depth previously, McLaren and Kincheloe bring a sense of ~now~ to the foundational knowledge of our understandings of critical pedagogy.  The text is dedicated to Nita Freire and to the birth of the Paulo and Nita Freire International Project. Ana Maria Araújo Freire is featured in the opening, as she paints a realistic picture of the roadblocks, such as neoliberal thinking and globalization of the economy, which try to block the movement of the pedagogy of hope. Kincheloe begins the first section with a detailed theoretical grounding (pp. 36-39) to confront the twenty-first century with action. McLaren opens the final section with a Marxist call to free education and democracy from the control of the market, which pits “us-against-them” theories (p. 290).


Henry A. Giroux challenges readers in the Introduction to use critical pedagogy to reach a fundamental goal: the connection of education with the possibility of a better world through active involvement with democracy.


What sets Critical pedagogy: Where do we stand now? apart from many other books on critical pedagogy is its focus on the contemplation of the movement in this next phase of its evolution, which the editors and selected authors expand to include the theoretical, pedagogical, and political dimensions of critical pedagogy and democracy.


First—the theoretical dimensions of critical pedagogy. This book challenges readers to face theoretical complexities and discourse head on and to listen to marginalized groups from diverse corners of the planet. Kinchloe warns against the continued prevalence of North American and European voices within the critical pedagogy community that have come to be heard more often than South American discourse. He maintains that critical pedagogues understand the fragility of democracy and the essential roles of educational policy and practice necessary for its survival within the complexities and nuances of “….a globalized, technological, electronic communications-based era marked by grand human migrations is central to the complex critical pedagogy proposed here” (p. 17).


Philip Wexler integrates his critical understanding of the linkages between sociology and education as he delves into the legacy of Weber to connect the charismatic nature of religion with education transformation. Eric J. Weiner illuminates the current crisis of imagination within critical pedagogy based upon a variety of aspects, including the use of language, which is unapproachable to the general population, and the insular nature of critical discourse taking place within academia. He suggests the epistemological paradigm be focused on those it hopes to help. Kathleen S. Berry brings humanity to the abstractness of theory with les petites narratives, which tell individual stories within the context of les grandes narratives of political, social, and cultural hegemony. Pepi Leistyna reveals how the influence of neoliberalism on the educational polices and practices of the past decade has moved away from the transformative power of critical pedagogy. She makes visible all of the components of the daily grind of “neoliberalism non-sense” which is so evident in public education today.


Each contributor in this section addresses areas of critical pedagogy which have not been addressed adequately in the past. The authors seek to expand our understandings of critical pedagogy to meet the needs of the twenty-first century. Their contributions infuse this field in essential ways, which is important if we indeed hope for critical pedagogy to remain relevant and dynamic in the future.


Second—the pedagogical dimensions of critical pedagogy. In this section of the book, contributors continue to expand our understanding by bringing a critical lens to a diverse area of not only pedagogy, but historical and contemporary realities that have changed dramatically over the past decade.


Norman K. Denzin considers a performance pedagogy of radical democratic hope and asks us to put the “critical sociological imagination to work, politically and ethically” (p. 139) to rethink freedom and democracy in a post-9/11 world. Juhu Suoranta and Tere Vadén write of the paradigm shift in education, as the result of the power of freedom to explode with Wikipedia. Kiwan Sung addresses the effects of the globalization of English language teaching and calls on English as Foreign Language (EFL) programs to engage in locally-based critical thinking practices that link the learning of English with issues of language, culture, power, and social justice. Based in part on Dewey’s work that argues the student should be at the center of the curriculum and their feeling that the field of critical pedagogy currently needs more of an emphasis on urban education, Jeff Duncan-Andrade and Ernest Morrell create and teach a curriculum combining a critical study comparing canonical texts with contemporary hip hop as a way to develop students’ literacies of power.


“Telling our stories is intricately related to survival” (p. 201), and only when young people are encouraged to reflect critically on their own stories can they mediate the real world context of the twenty-first-century, writes Elizabeth Quintero. Through Escola Cidadã (Citizen School) Gustavo E. Fishman and Luis A. Gandin illustrate another type of teaching and learning, based on democratizing access and knowledge, which is possible with a critical discourse of educational hope. Frank Abrahams delves into music education through the lens of critical pedagogy, which strives to teach a music curriculum that is liberating and relevant to students. Valerie J. Janesick reflects on the violence of high-stakes testing and the tides of hope and action taking stands against it. Luis Huerta-Charles addresses the vital importance of an inclusion of critical pedagogy in teacher education programs with a congruence of testimony and pedagogy. Lilia I. Bartolomé discusses “the importance of infusing teacher education curricula with critical pedagogical principles in order to prepare educators to aggressively name and interrogate potentially harmful ideologies and practices in the schools and classrooms where they work” (p. 264).


The contributors of this section bring a keen analysis of ways of infusing critical pedagogy into the reality of today’s teaching and learning environment, bringing theory into practice with practical and realistic curriculum and courses of action.


Third—the political dimensions of critical pedagogy. This section opens with McLaren’s impassioned call to revolution. He critiques the lack of dialectical inquiry, which can now often be found in multicultural education (p. 292). As he deconstructs and reconstructs the notion of classism, McLaren uses the dialogical nature of Freiran love to call his readers to revolution (p. 304). Sandy Grande sees critical pedagogy as the avenue of destruction of the death dance of dependency of native indigenous groups in the U.S. (pp. 316-317). Gregory Martin sounds the alarm to the present crisis of legitimacy. He calls on Marxist academics to develop a “….more reflexive orientation to community, which requires a new relation between theory and practice” (p. 338). Noah De Lossovoy equates U.S. schools’ racist disparities of resources as a kind of apartheid, and he provides an analysis of how Franz Fanon’s ideas are suitable to engage liberatory praxis in the U.S.  William B. Stanley articulates the ways that educational policies mask and rationalize the dominant social order, and he warns of the expansion of federal executive power, which further erodes democratic principles.


Donaldo Macedo concludes the book by writing “Critical pedagogy is a state of becoming, a way of being in the world and with the world—a never ending process that involves struggle and pain, but also hope and joy shaped and maintained by a humanizing pedagogy….” (p. 394). Macedo places the call for a courageous critical pedagogy smack in the middle of the “strangulation of democratic ideals” (p. 391) which has been created by the George W. Bush administration.


We conclude this review with simultaneous and contradictory perspectives on this text: never before have teachers needed this book more, while at the same time, never before have teachers been so demoralized by the very oppressive forces which make this book a must-read for teachers and policy makers. Steinberg (p. x) describes this book as something which can be easily negotiated by scholars and students, while at the same time dismissing teachers as “rayon-clad teachers” on the first page. Teachers are living the anger to the same degree as the authors, but their lives are so controlled by clocks and mandates that they often do no have access to critical ideas in the same way that academics do.


Eric Weiner effectively calls our attention to how the ideas of critical pedagogy, ostensibly designed for all people regardless of their education, remain confined within the walls of academic writers with their deep experiences in the use of the terminology of dialectical discourse. Weiner calls for the use of language, which invites and engages people of all classes, many of whom will be intimidated by exclusionary language, perceived to be only a part of the academy.


The editors of this text challenge readers to contemplate the next phase in the evolution of critical pedagogy. But without presenting these ideas in approachable and inclusionary language, they are destined to remain read and discussed only by academics and inaccessible for those marginalized by society for whom the ideas are intended—a sad irony.


Critical pedagogy: Where are we today? broadens our understandings of the relevance and dynamics of critical pedagogy in the twenty-first century. All of the contributors provide a lens of depth and wisdom through which we perceive new possibilities and hope. By bringing these lenses to areas of contemporary education that have been neglected, editors Peter McLaren and Joe Kincheloe reveal new realms of engagement at a time when it is desperately needed in the world. We encourage people passionate about critical pedagogy to read this book for themselves and discover these possibilities for change, social justice, and hope.




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: January 30, 2008
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 14946, Date Accessed: 5/22/2022 11:26:18 PM

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About the Author
  • Joan Wink
    California State University, Stanislaus
    E-mail Author
    JOAN WINK is a professor in the College of Education at California State University, Stanislaus. She is the author of Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World; and Joan co-authored A Vision of Vygotsky with LeAnn Putney of UNLV. Dawn and Joan wrote Teaching Passionately: What's Love Got To Do With It? All three of these books are published by Allyn & Bacon. In addition, Joan and Dawn have written and published numerous articles and chapters in the area of teaching and learning.
  • Dawn Wink
    Santa Fe Community College
    DAWN WINK is an assistant professor at Santa Fe Community College, New Mexico. Dawn and Joan wrote Teaching Passionately: What's Love Got To Do With It? In addition, Joan and Dawn have written and published numerous articles and chapters in the area of teaching and learning.
 
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