Thelin – Thelin’s Response to Russell Durst

Thelin, William. “William H Thelin’s Response to Russell Durst.” College Composition and Communication. 58.1 (2006): 114-118. Print.

In this response to Russell Durst’s critique of Thelin’s article “Understanding problems of Critical Pedagogy,” he acknowledges that he made himself vulnerable to sweeping generalizations by admitting that he had a disastrous section of composition. He asserts, however,  that the goal of the article was to scrutinize a problematic classroom in order to complicate the “this doesn’t work” response.

Thelin says Durst isn’t critiquing his findings, but is critiquing Thelin’s interpretation of critical pedagogy. He claims that Durst wants him to say that critical pedagogy is ineffective, but his data, he asserts does not support that. Thelin details the oversights, errors, and misunderstandings that he says Durst made in his critique.

Thelin also addresses Dursts depiction of critical pedagogy as confrontational: “Critical  pedagogy  is not confrontational. It is dialogic. Confrontation springs  from  authoritarianism  on  the part  of  the  teacher” (115).

Thelin says that while he did not appreciate the tenor of Durst’s critique, he can appreciate the concern and believes that the actual tenets and practices of critical pedagogy need to be discussed and that it needs to be discussed in more precise language. For example:

Critical  theory  is certainly  deployed  by critical  pedagogues,  but  in and  of  itself,  critical  theory  does  not  constitute  the enactment  of  critical pedagogy,  which  Russel  admits.  In  the  same  sense, students  can work  collaboratively,  as  they  often  do  in critical  classrooms,  but  collaboration  by  itself is not  critical  pedagogy.  Critical pedagogy  blends  these elements  together.  Some critical pedagogues do not  experiment  with  power sharing,  per  se, but  they still  adhere  to  Freire’s  belief  in  listening  to  the  students  and  asking  key  questions  about  whom the  classroom  serves  and whom it  acts  against.  The  students’  cultures  and  beliefs  are  accounted for  in  such courses,  as  critical  pedagogy  responds  to  local  conditions (118).

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