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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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).