[S]chooling is a political process, not only because it contains a political message or deals with political topics on occasion, but also because it is produced and situated in a complex of social and political relations from which it cannot be abstracted (53).

I’m entering my third year as an English 9 teacher, and I’m throwing out my curriculum again.

Cue Teachers as Intellectuals: Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Learning by Henry A. Giroux. In this text, Giroux explores a myriad of questions teachers must face – what is the relationship between language and power? What knowledge is legitimatized and further perpetuated? How are school sites culturally constructed and constructing culture? Who do schools serve and not serve? What do we message about the individual, group solidarity, and building democracy? Do we teach students how to assimilate into society, or to deconstruct, reimagine, and rebuild it?

Potential critiques of the text include too broad of suggestions for classroom practice and a narrowed focus on social studies. Concerning the broad suggestions, procedural pedagogical moves are not the purpose of this text. Instead, Giroux pushes his readers to think through potential moves in response to the theories he presents. Secondly, all teachers are gatekeepers of literacy, and would all benefit from considering how we are and are not equipping our students with the skills they are entitled to.

Key Excerpts

Who controls the different modes of communication, and in whose interests do they operate? More succinctly put, do the modes of communication operate in the interest of oppression or liberation? (75)

[T]he visual culture has eliminated the need for any specific public to use the kind of critical and discriminating skills that are necessary to approach a mode of communication . . . The disease in this case is powerlessness, and the cure is a form of manufactured escapism (80).

Instead of formulating literacy in terms of the mastery of techniques, we must broaden its meaning to include the ability to read critically, both within and outside one’s experiences, and with conceptual power. This means that literacy would enable people to decode critically their personal and social worlds and thereby further their ability to challenge the myths and beliefs that structure their perceptions and experiences (84).

Transformative intellectuals must legitimate the notion of writing reviews and books for the general public, and they must create a language of critique balanced by a language of possibility that will enable social change (154).

To understand student voice is to grapple with the human need to give life to the realm of symbols, language, and gesture. Student voice is a desire, born of personal biography and sedimented history; it is the need to construct and affirm oneself within a language that is able to rebuild the privatized life and invest it with meaning and to validate and confirm one’s lived presence in the world (165).

Overall, an invigorating and timely read as I gear up for the rapidly approaching school year. Here’s really hoping this year’s curriculum sticks.

Buy Teachers as Intellectuals: Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Learning here.

Posted by:Shannon Jin-a Yi-Lamborn

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