Lesley University’s Creative Arts in Learning division in the Graduate School of Education offers a course “Critical Pedagogy through the Arts,” which is taught by Professor Aziza Braithwaite Bey. Dr. Aziza chaired the Critical Pedagogy and the Arts Committee 2007 – 2011 and is the creator of the www.critpedagogy.wordpress.com blog at Lesley University.
During Fall 2012, students in her Critical Pedagogy class summarized the current research that is offered in the Critical Pedagogy field. Dr. Bey compiled excerpts from recent articles, books, and chapters that depict the current work and beliefs in the field, and organized these excerpts into chapters summarizing various perspectives within the field, such as on race, class, gender, education, etc. Students were asked to summarize and present multiple chapters from this collaboration created by Dr. Bey. Their summaries, thoughts, and reflections were as follows:
Chapter 1: Critical Pedagogy – What is it?
Students presented the theory of “power for social change” that critical pedagogy holds. After sharing a personal experience of witnessed oppression the group outlined a helpful vocabulary sheet. The vocabulary discussed was defined according to Dr. Jason J. Campbell’s writings on the “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.” For more information about Campell’s writings please refer to the following link: http://www.jasonjcampbell.org/blog.php
Pedagogy of the Oppressed
The class as a whole unanimously voted that the terms shared by the group were extremely helpful in their understanding of what critical pedagogy of the oppressed means. Definitions provided within the vocabulary list are as follows:
False Charity: Seek to increase the viability of charity by reinforcing the dehumanization of those seeking charity.
Oppressor: A person of authority who subjects others to undue pressures.
Dehumanization: Characterized in terms of injustice, exploitation, oppression, violence, those robbed of their humanity, those who have robbed others of their humanity. For example: a person who creates/perpetuates hegemony (to maintain the status quo and power over others).
Privilege: Oppressors fail to recognize their privilege in having and fail to recognize that privilege as dehumanizing the oppressed. One’s having is at the expense of another person’s having. (Eventually) having/owning/ possessing is an inalienable right, i.e., the right to have more.
OTR (Objective Transformation of Reality): The process of changing the oppressor-oppressed contradiction. For example, bringing both the oppressed and the oppressor to an understanding of what is going on in the situations of oppression and how to “fix” it, versus perpetuate it.
Convert: One who attempts to “join” and fight with us “for” the oppressed. Despite good intentions, they typically retain their biases and attempt to think for the oppressed. They want to bring about the OTR, but they cannot because this is the responsibility of the oppressed.
In summary, the group concluded that Chapter 1 supports the theory that “one of the first steps to overcoming oppression is the oppressed acknowledging and naming their oppression.”
Chapter 2: Race, Class, and Gender
This group presented their summary on the first part of Chapter 2 and discussed some of the theories that critical pedagogues embrace as it pertains to race, class, and gender. The group shared two excerpts from Chapter 2, which are as follows:
- “To identify ‘female’ as an oppressed status under patriarchy doesn’t mean that every woman suffers its consequences to an equal degree just as living in a racist society doesn’t mean that every person of color suffers equally or that every white person shares equally in the benefits of race privilege. Living under a patriarchal society does mean, however, that every woman must come to grips with an inferior gender position and that whatever she achieves will be in spite of that position. With the exception of child care and other domestic work and a few paid occupations related to it, women in almost every field of adult endeavors must labor under the presumption that they are inferior to men, that they are interlopers from the margins of society who must justify their participation” (Johonson, 2005, p. 23).
- “Oppression is a social phenomenon that happens between different groups in a society; it is a system of social inequality through which one group is positioned to dominate and benefit from exploitation and subordination of another. This means not only that a group cannot oppress itself, but also that it cannot be oppressed by society. Oppression is a relation that exists between groups, not between groups and society as a whole” (Rothenberg, 2007, p. 165).
The following excerpts are referenced from:
Johnson, A. (2005). The gender knot: Unraveling out patriarchal legacy. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Rothenberg, P. (2007). Race, class, and gender in the united states (7th ed.). New York, NY: Worth Publishers.
After presenting these excerpts from Chapter 2, the group proposed multiple questions to the class regarding race, class, and gender. In addition to the values discussed, students were asked to share their identities, struggles, and their relationship to those identities.
The group examined the discomfort that may be associated with identity. They labeled identity as your heritage/ ethnicity, and asked what other groups you may identity yourself with. If there is a discomfort in these identities, why do you think this is? Additionally, what struggles have you experienced due to your identities, outside or within the United States? Was this recent or long ago? If you share multiple identities, are there multiple struggles? Lastly, the group noted the experience of schooling in relationship to one’s identity. How was their identity represented?
The third group presented part 2 of Chapter 2 and highlighted the main points of the readings within the chapter. Below are some of the important quotes noted by this group:
- Race vs. Ethnicity: The Question, the Answer with Chart
- “Race refers to a person’s physical appearance, such as skin color, eye color, hair color, bone/jaw structure, etc. Ethnicity, on the other hand, relates to cultural factors such as nationality, culture, ancestry, language and beliefs.”
This quote was referenced from the following link: www.diffen.com/difference/ethnicity_vs_race
- Racism: National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
–“In U.S. society, racism functions to maintain structural inequalities that are to the disadvantage of people of color.” (www.naswdc.org/pressroom/events/911/racism.asp)
- Killing Rage: Ending Racism
–“Rage can be consuming. It must be tempered by an engagement with a full range of emotional responses to black struggle for self-determination.”
–“Their rages surface (upper class black people) because they make these changes believing that doing so will mean they will be accepted as equals. When they are not treated as equals by whites they have admired and subordinated their integrity to, they are shocked.”
The quotes were referenced from the following text:
Hooks, Bell. (1995). Killing rage. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company.
- Impact of Racism at School: Rights, Responsibilities, and Racism, the New 3Rs
–“As far as schools are concerned, one impact of racism will be on children’s self-esteem which will also likely have an effect on their success at school. There is likely to be more conflict and bullying, in turn affecting school attendance and the participation of students from certain ethnic groups. School/community relations are likely to be more antagonistic with a lower participation rate by parents.”
–“There needs to be a democratic classroom and school ethos, where children learn the skills of participation through actively taking part in decision making.”
These quotes were referenced from
Chapter 3: Effects of Racism on Children And Adults
This group presented a worksheet titled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh. McIntosh is associate director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women. This worksheet proposes the idea of the daily effects of white privilege. McIntosh decided to work on identifying the daily effect of white privilege in her life. She chose the conditions that she thought attach more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location. There is obviously a possibility that these factors are intricately intertwined. McIntosh noted within these factors (some listed below) that her African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances are precluded from most of these conditions.
- I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
- I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
- If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area I can afford and in which I would want to live.
- I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me,
- I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
- I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
- When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
- I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
- If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
- I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
The 10 conditions listed above are just the beginning of McIntosh’s examination of the daily effects of white privilege. The worksheet continues to list 50 conditions that comprised what she identified as white privilege in daily life. Peggy McIntosh’s White Privilege worksheet can be found at
The group presenting this chapter followed up this exercise with important bullet points from the chapter, some of which were:
- Awareness That Racism Affects How Children Do Socially and Academically
–“Most children actively notice and think about race. A new study has found that children develop awareness about racial stereotypes early, and that those biases are damaging.” Further information can be found at www.medicalnewstoday.com/printerfriendlynews.php?newsid=170909
- The Impact of Homophobia, Poverty, and Racism on the Mental Health of Gay and Bisexual Latino Men: Findings from 3 US Cities
–“As predicted, social discrimination has a negative impact on levels of social support and self-esteem and, not surprisingly, psychological symptoms of distress are more prevalent among those who both are socially isolated and have a low sense of self-worth.”
This quote was referenced from the following article: Diaz, D., Ayala, E. Bein, J. Henne, and B. Marin(2001). The impact of homophobia, poverty, and racism on the mental health of gay and bisexual Latino men: Findings from 3 US cities. American journal of public health 91 (6): 927-932.
Chapter 4: Gender, Feminist, Class and Cultural Pedagogy
During this presentation on gender, feminist, class, and cultural pedagogy multiple key terms were presented. Here are a few that provide brief synopses of the main points focused on in this chapter:
- Classism: A biased or discriminatory attitude based distinctions made between social or economic classes. A systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups.
- Feminist Pedagogy: A theory about the teaching/learning process that uses evaluation criteria for specific educational strategies and techniques to guide a classroom practice. The main criterion is the extent to which those in an educational community are empowered to act responsibly toward one another, and toward the curriculum, and to apply new learning to social action.
- Postfeminism: Most often defined as a reaction against perceived deficits and contradictions in second-wave feminism and/or a belief that feminism has succeeded in its goal of eliminating sexism and is thus no longer relevant.
- Postmodernism: Any of a number trends or movements in the arts and literature developing in the 1970s in reaction to or rejection of the practices, principles, or dogma of established modernism.
- Problem-posing: Based on the philosophies of Paulo Freire, problem-posing attempts to be the opposite of traditional, banking-based education by promoting critical thinking, dialogue, and action in a community of learners (both teachers and students together). One important goal of this teaching approach is to use knowledge as a tool to promote liberation and social change.
Additionally, the group shared quotes regarding the main focus of the chapter: gender, feminist, class, and cultural pedagogy.
- Class: Power, Privilege, and Influence in the United States
“Class affects people not only on an economic level, but also on an emotional level. ‘Classist’ attitudes have caused great pain by dividing subordinated group members from one another and suppressing individual means for personal fulfillment or survival.”
This quote was provided from the following link:
Chapter 5: Critical Pedagogy in the Classroom
The first group to present this chapter examined the work of Paulo Freire. They offered many of his theories and referenced many of his sources. To begin their discussion the group focused on Freire’s list of virtues for a teacher:
- Teaching requires respect for the student’s knowledge.
- Teaching requires aesthetics and ethics.
- Teaching requires setting an example.
- Teaching requires respect for the autonomy of the student.
- Teaching requires good judgment.
- Teaching requires curiosity.
- Teaching requires self-confidence, professional competence, and generosity.
- Teaching requires freedom and authority.
- Teaching requires knowing how to listen.
- Teaching requires loving the students.
The theories above were referenced from the following text:
Torres, C. A. (1998). Democracy, education, and multiculturalism: Dilemmas of citizenship in a global world. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
As previously mentioned, the group additionally provided quotes that encouraged the use of critical pedagogy within the classroom, based on Paulo Freire’s theories. A few of the quotes examined by the group are as follows:
- Democracy, Education, and Multiculturalism: Dilemmas of Citizenship in a Global World
- “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.
- “Freire postulates that there is no educational revolution without political revolution.”
- “Knowledge itself needs to be democratized, in a broader reconstruction of what knowledge is valuable, who knowledge counts, and how knowledge, skills, dexterities, and learning relate to power, wealth, and prestige.”
- “The central question of education today is what role, if any, educational institutions and practices should play in the constitution of the social pact that articulates democracy.”
Please refer to C.A. Torres, Democracy, Education, and Multiculturalism: Dilemmas of Citizenship in a Global World, referenced above.
- The Challenge of Classroom Discipline
The next group presented on the second part of this chapter and focused on three topics within the theories of Critical Pedagogy in the classroom: 1) the challenge of classroom discipline, 2) youth facing terror and threat, and 3) language diversity and learning.
“One of the most challenging tasks in any classroom is to build a community where students respect one another and value learning.”
To build this community the group examined multiple approaches:
- Involve students in decision making – students choose what they write, read, study – nature of their collaborative projects, help establish classroom rules and curriculum.
- Inform students that it’s okay to make mistakes.
- Model working independently and in groups.
- Create heterogeneous work groups that rotate and change throughout the year.
- Teach social justice.
- Teach questions about bias in ideas and materials – children’s books, school textbooks, news reports, song lyrics, etc.
- Help children see that they have their own values and perspectives that are independent from what they may hear, see or read.
- Give them the tools necessary to practice making informed decisions – discuss current problems and possible solutions, role play, have social activists visit classroom.
This summary was referenced from the following text:
Peterson, B. (1994). Rethinking our classroom. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, Ltd.
- Youth Facing Terror and Threat: Community Based Acute Posttraumatic Stress Management
“Much of today’s psychological trauma that affects communities can be identified as resulting from sudden and seemingly random events…events that involve the violent loss of human life.”
This group outlined programs that have been developed to assist today’s youth when facing terror and threat.
- Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) – structured group intervention, provided within 72 hours of exposure to critical incident, lasts 1.5-2 hours, prompting question for each of its 7 phases.
- Community members get together to help support those affected by a recent traumatic experience. The natural “gatekeepers of their neighborhoods.”
- Community Service Program (CSP) – focuses on short term immediate interventions to help stabilize people in need and to prevent them from developing longer-term psychological problems.
- Key features of the CSP: responsiveness, the visibility of the staff/network people, and their responsiveness to ethnic differences.
For further information please refer to the following article:
Marcy, R., & L. Behar, R. Paulson, J. Delman, L. Schmid, S. Smith (2004). Community-based, acute posttraumatic stress management: A description and evaluation of psychosocial-intervention continuum. Harvard Review of Psychiatry 12 (4), 217-228. doi: 10.1080|10673220490509589
- Language Diversity and Learning
“All we can do is provide students with the exposure to an alternative form, and allow them the opportunity to practice that form in contexts that are nonthreatening, have a real purpose, and are intrinsically enjoyable.”
“Diversity of thought, language, and worldview in our classrooms cannot only provide an exciting education setting, but also prepare our children for the richness of living in an increasingly diverse national community.”
For additional information please refer to the text: Delpit, L. 2006. Other people’s children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: New Press. 48-53.