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Ideas for cultivating a critical pedagogy

Tony seemed to struggle with specifics about how we are to bring about a "critical pedagogy" as it relates to critical localism. I thought the passage Jessica mentions, about inviting private conversations into our public classrooms was definitely one concrete example for bringing about a critical pedagogy. Another important passage is:

“The texts teachers and students encounter through dialogue are not merely sites for examining dominant and recovering subjugated voices of history but opportunities to evoke realistic knowledge bases about power relations and culture—to mine the rich varieties of implicature encountered in the analysis of multiple discursive and nondiscursive performances and engagements. A focus on critical localism as pedagogical practice would incorporate, compare and evaluate local and national voices. In the process, those voices identified as potentially inimical to our common democratic goals could also be interrogated. Her both student and teacher test and refine their own voices in an exciting cooperative venture. In probing similiarities and differences that make a difference, dialogue is transformed into discovery? (282).

To carry on with the conversation that seemed to be gaining some energy, I would say that I wouldn't feel comfortable going into a classroom without a syllabus on the first day. Something I've done since my second semester of teaching that might help me begin to achieve democracy in the classroom is having students deliver "ghost speeches." These are speeches that have been written and delivered by someone else. Sometimes students go to Americanrhetoric.com, per my suggestion, and sometimes they branch out. One of my Muslim students chose to give a speech by the founder of Pakistan. There were other instances where minority students chose to give speeches by people we don't typically promote in part of the canon: Atticus Finch's closing argument in "To Kill a Mockingbird," Nelson Mandela's speech upon his release from prison. I don't do much besides let the students choose their speech and hope that those in the audience listen intently. Perhaps I could do more work to help students engage in discussions that help bring about greater insight to the "multicultural" character of rhetoric.
I mention this to suggest a way to invite a more flexible way into teaching without completely eliminating the syllabus. "Winging it" would certainly not be my style.

I must say that teaching is important to me. It also seems important to the UM. When choosing my classes this term, I noticed that outstanding teachers have been recognized with a "star" and information about the kind of award the outstanding teacher received. Perhaps this recognition does not help one secure tenure, and perhaps it is only after one has achieved tenure that they can begin to think about translating the quality research into quality teaching. It is discouraging that teaching does not receive more care and concern. But, it is a fact. One thing that I continue to draw upon when things begin to get overwhelming is a quote from the chair of our department. That is, "Remember, you're a student first."


To continue our conversation in class...

I will concede that yes, there probably is some need to remind some folks about critical pedagogy in the classroom. On the other hand, (and maybe because I have spent too much time in smaller institutions) I think that we all do a pretty decent job about exposing our students to diverse views and being pretty reflexive about our teaching--even without taking a critical pedagogy course. Of course, I should also preface that I have worked in and have done extensive research in service learning models so maybe this seems like old hat to me (and emphasizing how outdated Goldzwig is).

But in the spirit of salvaging Goldzwig and providing some "technologies" for others to take home, I will say that the invitational approach or "attitude" as I like to use is, has been beneficial in my teaching. I similarly always go in with a syllabus but always have the option for students to help me change and shape it as the term progresses. In practice, this might be in the form of watching some other speech along the way or taking a time out for some current event discussion, but also at least gives the students a sense of power even if they don't use it. Similarly, I try not to present material as absolute and always push my students to question what I am presenting (so, what is wrong with Habermas' model based on rich white guys?). Mostly, in the end I emphasize that we are building knowledge together, and even though I am helping to guide this knowledge (and there are objectives we are achieving together), it is a collaborative process.

I guess this post is more in the spirit of "let's not have binaries" in our teaching. It's not a binary of teach the "canon" or "teach marginal voices" or even in "syllabus first day" or create syllabus as you go. All of this is that little things we can do to be reflexive in all levels of teaching is how we get to critical pedagogy. We have to be flexible in what we teach and how we teach it--and we have to be clear on WHY we are doing that (which is not encompassed in multiculturalism).