"I am an instrument in the shape
of a WOMAN trying to translate pulsations
into images
for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind."

written by Adrienne Cecile Rich

Saturday, August 25, 2007

education whatevers: my 101st post

it's my 101st post! yay! looking back, i didn't think i'd be able to fill up this blog, but i have. oh yeah. haha.

hmm. i feel the need to be academic today. i'm posting a report i did on mclaren. i've been inspired by what he said, so i'd like to put it here. i'm not sure if it will make sense to everyone else, but what the heck anyway. hehehe.


Peter McLaren, voice of critical pedagogy and the multicultural struggle for social transformation

Pedagogy – the process by which teachers and students negotiate and produce meaning, and how we represent ourselves, others, and the communities in which we choose to live. (1995: 34)

Critical pedagogy – underscores the partisan nature of learning and struggle; it provides a starting point for linking knowledge to power and a commitment to developing forms of community life that take seriously the struggle for democracy and social justice. (1995:34)

The ultimate goal of critical pedagogy is self empowerment and social transformation, such that it is voiced by the Hebrew symbol tikkun, meaning “to heal, repair, and transform the world, and all the rest is commentary.” (McLaren, 2003: 186).

But the culture we live in today is a predatory culture: a culture that esteems violence and the proliferation of violent acts (McLaren, 1995). According to McLaren, predatory culture “is a field of invisibility—of stalkers and victims—precisely because it is so obvious. Its obviousness immunizes its victims against a full disclosure of its menacing capabilities” (p. 2). Our identities are formed through capitalism and commodification, and often these identities are multiplied through mass media and new technologies. Life is fun in a predatory culture, and everything is based on image-value. Just look at our star-struck nation as an example.

Violence is commodified in a predatory culture (Leistyna, 1995). Violent acts are pitched and sold for the spectacle of entertainment (as illustrated by examples in sensationalism in television news, box-office films, and entertainment shows). But the most dangerous attribute of a predatory culture is when we are unaware of its dominance.

It “keeps youth stupid” (McLaren, 1995) and schooling takes part in this process, such that by not arming and empowering children with weapons they need in the struggle against hegemony of the supremacist culture, it legitimizes the culture.

The good news is that there is resistance, no matter how small, to this culture. What keeps these factions of resistance from succeeding, however, is that it is divided into identities, into what was then known as multi-ethnicity. Social transformation needs these different identities to unite in a struggle through multi-culturalism (McLaren, 1997).

Multiculturalism is not simply a class struggle: that it is a struggle of women, of the poor, of the marginalized ethnic groups. Nor is multiculturalism simply an appreciation of ethnic art, culture, language and history. It is a global struggle against white supremacy.

Appreciation of the attributes and products of a cultural group is not multiculturalism, but in fact, it is another form of hegemony, such that when the dominant “appreciates” subordinate cultures, it emphasizes that the subordinate is marginal.

For different cultures, McLaren points this out: "Can we use new ways of organizing subjectivity to create a self-reflexive social agent capable of dismantling capitalist exploitation and domination?" (1997:95). Negotiations must be made in the differences in class, race, age, gender. While different cultures have different subjectivities, this must not be a hindrance to the struggle; rather, it must be the thread that weaves the various cultures together.

Unless there is still a predatory culture that “keeps youth stupid”, critical pedagogy has still not fulfilled its purpose of emancipation.

A problem is faced in the goal of emancipation, that the current curriculum is selective in its empowerment of the people: it is biased towards the privileged. This must be changed by educators, but many are unwilling to do so, not so much in fear of opposing the dominant, but because they simply want to be neutral (Pruyn, 1999).

By schools and educators taking a neutral ground, they maintain the silence of the struggle. McLaren emphasizes the need to speak out, because there is no truly “neutral” stand. What neutrality does is only to maintain the predatory culture. Educators must take a stand in the struggle in providing an education that can transform the student’s self and the society.

The raison d’etre of critical pedagogy and schooling is best summarized thus: “liberation lived within solidarity where victims can overcome their oppression and where schooling is immersed in an emancipatory praxis where ‘the individual and personal is always situated in relation to the collective and communal’” (McLaren, 1995: 23; Soto, 1999).

McLaren gives so much weight on the role of the educator: such that the educator must be a channel of emancipation not just within the student, but of the larger culture and political society. So much is the demand from the educator that the educator is called to transform the schools into democratic spheres.

McLaren has this to say for educators:

“We need to teach dangerously, but to live with optimism. We need to be outrageous, but to temper our outrage with love and compassion. We need to be warriors for social justice, yes, but warriors whose ethical bearings and praxis are informed by the best that critical thought has to offer. Although the term “critical pedagogy” has admittedly become too vague, there are still crucial issues to be engaged in its vicinity. We need to remember that our students are not bodiless wraiths to be blown about the corridors by pedagogical rhetoric and sophistry; rather, students are complex historical agents and they need to be able to read the multiple texts of their own lives. That is, they need to read the languages and discourses in which they find themselves in order to reinvent themselves. Consequently, critical pedagogy must not become a “privileged space” for academics but must be forged amidst the daily struggle of the oppressed themselves.” (McLaren, 2003: 296).


Fischman, G. (1999). Peter McLaren: A call for multicultural revolution. Retrieved August 14, 2007 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3935/is_199907/ai_n8876168/pg_1

Leistyna, P. (1995). Abstract: Critical Pedagogy and Predatory Culture: Oppositional Politics in a Postmodern Era. Harvard Educational Review. Retrieved on August 14, 2007 from http://www.hepg.org/her/abstract/317

McLaren, P. (2003). Life in Schools: An introduction to Critical Pedagogy in the Foundations of Education. USA: Pearson Education Inc.

McLaren, P. (1997). Revolutionary multiculturalism. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

McLaren, P. (1995). Critical Pedagogy and Predatory Culture: Oppositional Politics in a Postmodern Era. London: Routledge.

Pruyn, M. (1999). Revolutionarily Speaking: A Multiculturalism for Social Justice. Retrieved on August 14, 2007 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3935/is_199907/ai_n8876168/pg_13

Soto, L. D. (1999). Dissent, Identity, and Critical Pedagogy. Retrieved on August 14, 2007 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3935/is_199907/ai_n8876168/pg_8

i'm so relieved i'm finally finished with this report. it's one hurdle away from the end of the semester. but on one note, i found a piece about education in this postmodern era that i really liked when i read mclaren, so much i'm quoting it word-for-word:

"Yet many schools of education today offer little more than lukewarm courses on popular culture, watered-down versions of critical theory, or "lite" versions of modern theory as the calculable basis for pedagogical transgression. In my mind, the more conservative version of postmodern theory provide the gastric juices necessaryto make the world of capitalism exploitation easier to digest and to reduce dissent mainly to matters of style and taste. By wrapping transgression in the hot salsa of avant-gardism, postmodern theory challenges capitalist cultural formations through the dizzying experience of decentering representations that are presented to be ontologically secure, or by finding refuge in weird intersections of meaning or unexpected detours of syntax, or in the radical dislocation of sign systems. There is certainly nothing wrong with these challenges in themselves; but they offer little from which to mount the kind of struggle necessary to an end the rule of capital." [i forgot which page i got this, but it's from Life in Schools, 4th edition]

what we need is not watered-down education, but we should be offered true critical theory, one that brings about social transformation complemented by a revolutionary change in social structures. the attributes of postmodernity adds wood to the fire of capitalism and hoses down the struggle, because identities are finely situated in the postmodern thought.

i cannot be certain about many things in postmodern thought (as i am not postmodernist), but marxists surely will have difficulty continuing the struggle and the education of the people while we are in a postmodern era.

localizing this, it would be quite difficult for philippine educators to apply a critical pedagogy in schools, and especially create emancipation, because as it is, we revel in postmodern thought and a predatory culture, and identity politics divide us like we are divided into thousands of islands during high tide. i don't know if negotiations of otherness is possible in this country, because ours is not really a struggle of us against the "imperialists" or the "capitalists", rather, it's a struggle of us against you, of "we" being divided into more "we's".

[one day i'd like to take on the TOFI issue, but for fear i'd be ostracized for my opinions, i'm going to do heavy research first, if only to create a sound argument that could persuade even non-believers. haha.]



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