Shor – Critical Pedagogy is Too Big To Fail

Shor, Ira. “Critical Pedagogy is Too Big to Fail.” Journal of Basic Writing. 28.2 (2009): 6-27. Print.

In this article, Shor’s goal is twofold: First,  he addresses similarities and differences between his grading contracts and his colleagues Peter Elbow and Jane Danielewicz.  While Shor grades the quality of student work on a wider A-F basis, Elbow and Danielewicz only grade quality if a student work is deemed a “B” or better. Another difference is that Shor negotiates the grading contract with his students to construct the classroom as a public sphere, where Elbow and Danielewicz’s contracts are nonnegotiable. Shor asserts that these practices are particularly important in a neo-liberal climate where students need to develop democratic agency. Secondly, Shor addresses a misperception of his pedagogy in Danielewicz and Elbow’s essay regarding polemics in critical pedagogy. Shor says that polemics and proselytizing is not necessary or appropriate in the classroom. He cites himself in Empowering Education to reiterate the point:

Teachers who treat the classroom as a political meeting can expect stiffened resistance from students as well as more vigilant policing from administrators. . . . Dialogic, democratic teaching rejects sectarian posturing. Students cannot be commanded to take action and cannot be graded on their consciousness. (196-97)

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Morrell – Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Pop Culture: Literacy Development Among Urban Youth

Morrell, Ernest. “Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Pop Culture: Literacy Development among Urban Youth.” Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. 46.1 (2002): 72-77. Print.

In this article, Morrell suggests that critical teaching of pop culture can help students acquire and develop necessary literacies needed to navigate “new century” schools. He draws on New Literacy theorists and claims that the failure of urban students to develop “academic” literacy comes not from a lack of student intelligence but from a lack of accessibility of the school curriculum to students who are not a part of the “mainstream” culture.

Morrell’s goal is to show how popular culture can be successfully used in critical teaching and draws on data from his 8 years teaching urban teens in the San Francisco Bay area. Morrell’s unit adhered to critical pedagogy because it was based in the students experiences, “called for critical dialogue and a critical engaged of the text, and related the texts to larger social and political issues” (75). Morrell says that students honed the critical and analytical skills. They were also able to make connections between literature, popular culture, and their everyday lives.

While Morrell recognizes the pressures surrounding using critical literacy and popular culture, especially concerning standardized testing, he asserts that teachers should not avoid standards debates or apologize for innovative approaches. Instead he suggests that critical teachers get involved with conversations on assessment that is more compatible with findings on students nonschool literacies.

Mohanty – On Race and Voice: Challenges for liberal Education in the 1990s

Mohanty, Chandra. “On Race and Voice: Challenges for Liberal Education in the 1990s.” Cultural Critique. 14 (1989-1990): 208. Print.

In this article, Mohanty studies two classroom sites – a Women’s Studies class and workshops of “diversity” for upper level mostly white administrators. She looks at discourses of difference and argues that educational practices are shaped and reshaped in these sites and cannot be seen as static and “transmitting already codified ideas of difference” (184).

Mohanty mainly questions what is necessary to enact an effective  liberatory pedagogy within the restrictions of the liberal academy with pressures such as,  “professionalization, normalization, and standardization, the very
pressures or expectations that implicitly aim to manage and discipline pedagogies so that teachers behaviors are predictable (and perhaps controllable) across the board” (193). She concludes that such a pedagogy requires that people of color and progressive  white people use their individual and collective voices to challenge the commodification and domestication of Third World people.

Cultures  of dissent are also about  seeing the academy  as part of a larger  sociopolitical  arena which  itself domesticates  and manages Third World  people in the name of liberal  capitalist  democracy.  The  struggle to transform  our institutional  practices  fundamentally  also  involves  the grounding of the analysis  of exploitation and oppression in accurate  history  and theory,  seeing ourselves  as activists  in  the academy-drawing  links between movements for social  justice and our  pedagogical and  scholarly endeavors and expecting and demanding action  from ourselves, our colleagues, and our students at numerous levels (207).

McGee – Climbing Walls: Attempting Critical Pedagogy as a 21st Century Preservice Teaching

McGee, A. Robin. “Climbing Walls: Attempting Critical Pedagogy as a 21st Century Preservice Teacher.” Language Arts. 88.4 (2011): 270-277. Print.

A. Robin McGee documents her preservice teaching experience with a sixth grade class where she enacted critical pedagogy. Led by student inquiry, McGee uses Freirian theory of critical pedagogy to help her students learn about issues they were concerned about, immigrants and immigration, through problem-posing. She also reflects on lessons she has learned:

Does it make sense to state that as a 21st-century preservice teacher, I was teaching for social justice? I was able to do some work in the spirit of a just and democratic society. However, if I had opened up my cycle of critical praxis more fully, rather than being so caught up in the mechanics of figuring out “teaching,” my class could have accomplished so much more. If I had been willing to turn over more of the direction and autonomy to the students and the stories they had found, I am sure that the results would have been different—more dramatic and more meaningful.

Kalamaras – Confessions of a Socio-Epistemic Rhetorician: Negotiating the Seemingly Nonnegotiable inthe Development of Part-Time Faculty

Kalamaras, George. “Confessions of a Socio-Epistemic Rhetorician: Negotiaating the Seemingly Nonnegotiable in the Development of Part-Time Faculty.” English Education. 24.4 (1992): 229-236. Print.

In this article, George Kalamaras describes his experience as a newly hired assistant professor and associate director of a writing program. Kalamaras highlights the dissonance in his department between his view as a Socio-epistemic rhetorician and more Classical Rhetoricians in the department. The differences, however, extend into other areas of the department such as, coherence of the department. These differences are more of an issue for Kalamaras who has to work with overworked, underpaid part-time faculty.

In the end, Kalamaras finds that the differences is not all bad, and can in fact through dialogue produce a similar liberatory effect as that desired for students:

The socio-epistemic  rhetorician,  then, in her attempt  to reshape  a writing  program,  must be open to having her own ideology  reshaped  as well. Thus, rather  than abandoning  her ideological  commitments,  she deepens  them, redefining  the parameters of her  own position  in ways  which  are more  inclusive,  that  is, dialogical rather  than dichotomous. She must, paradoxically,  be willing  to  “let go”  of  her  commitments  in  order to  come  to  know  them  more complexly (235-236).

Greer – “No Smiling Madonna”: Marian Wharton and the Struggle to Construct a Critical Pedagogy for the Working Class, 1914-1917

Greer, Jane. “‘No Smiling Madonna’: Marian Wharton and the Struggle to Construct a Critical Pedagogy for the Working Class, 1914-1917.” College Composition and Communication. 51.2 (1999): 248-271. Print.

In this essay, Greer does historiographic work and discusses the life and work of Marian Wharton. Wharton helped shape the English curriculum at People’s College from 1914-1917 with a specific focus on empowering the working-class.

Greer hopes that by exploring Wharton’s struggles she can highlight and learn more about the contradictions that women and other marginalized people face when trying to enact liberatory pedagogy within existing traditional institutions i.e. “free choice and restricted options.” She cites Elizabith Ellsworth and Ira Shor as contemporary teachers that also struggle with these issues in their scholarship on critical pedagogy.

Greer finds that the main tension in Wharton’s work are the unacknowledged existing hierarchies among competing linguistic systems that ultimately disrupt her project (265). For example, in Wharton’s English textbook Plain English designed to teach “revolutionary English” she equates error-free writing with “clear thinking” implying that her students’ different language use made them cognitively deficient (265).

Greer draws parallese between Wharton and contemporary writing instruction:

Just  as Wharton’s  voice  in Plain English moves  among a range of radical and conservative  registers that reflect her personal commitments as well as institutional and cultural  influences,  so  too  our  own  pedagogical  discourse  is  never  fully  our own: it is freighted with competing languages, some of which may reverberate at frequencies  so  low  and  subtle we  may have  difficulty hearing them  ourselves.

Greer suggests that by acknowledging our own tensions and making them transparent to our students we may become role models of the critical students we want them to be.

Gorzelsky – Working Boundaries: From Student Resistance to Student Agency

Gorzelsky, Gwen. “Working Boundaries: From Student Resistance to Student Agency.” College Composition and Communication. 61.1 (2009): 64-84. Print.

In this article Gwen Gorzelsky shares her ethnographic study of an intermediate composition class successfully engaging in critical pedagogy. Situating her study in the research of Durst, Trainor, and Wallace and Ewald, Gorzelsky explores the line between privileging Composition Studies’ goals of critical pedagogy and students’ pragmatic needs.

Gorzelsky studies the pedagogy of Justin Vidovic and his respect of students’ boundaries along with the use of traditional classroom techniques such as Initial Response Evaluation. She suggests that the combination of these traditional and critical teaching strategies creates a “classroom ethos that strongly supports their agency – their ownership of their developing ideas and texts” (66). Gorzelshy concludes that those in Composition Studies should not “sharply prioritize” either critical pedagogy and it’s goals or students’ pragmatic goals:

I suggest that our professional responsibility is to enhance the greater good of those systems and their potential readiness for change, rather than to pursue isolated goals, whether our own or students’. In taking this approach, we forego critical pedagogy’s emphasis on revolution, which is inevitably linear and focused on a single goal, in favor of the kind of change that ripples throughout systems while keeping them in the balance needed to support life and growth (82).