Five Key Principles from Critical

ENGL 2900
• The Critical Pedagogy engages students in the analyses of
unequal power relations. It suggests that this “inequity” is
produced by cultural practices and institutions. It aims to help
students develop the tools that will enable them to challenge this
The Focus of the Critical Pedagogy
• Begins in the classrooms where teachers and students learn
• Allows students to speak with greater authority because they are
drawing on knowledge they already possess.
The Focus of the Critical Pedagogy
• Encourages students to respond to texts not just as literary
critics, but as politically aware members of a community.
• This pedagogy can overlap with feminist and cultural pedagogies,
but focuses on explicit commitment to education for citizenship.
Key Players in the Critical Pedagogy
 JOHN DEWEY (1859-1952)
 Founder of “progressive“ education in the United States.
 Rejected teaching practices that positioned students as passive
receptacles, such as the rote learning of isolated facts.
 Advocated for a pedagogical approach that involved students'
active engagement with each other and with the world.
Key Players in the Critical Pedagogy
 PAULO FREIRE (1921-1997)
 Exiled in 1964 for educating peasants to read both the word and
the world of oppressive economic and political domination in
which they lived.
 Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), which contains his famous
critique of the “banking concept of education." His book defines
today's Critical Pedagogy.
 Students are seen as “receptacles” waiting to be filled with the
teacher’s official knowledge; education thus becomes little
more than information transfer, “an act of depositing.”
Five Key Principles of Pedagogy Education
• A conversation where students and teachers pose and solve
problems together.
A broadening of the students’ views of reality.
In Practice
• Assignments may consist of papers or presentations that combine
literary analysis with historical research or proposals for change.
• Teachers may also ask students to design their own assignments,
plan projects and future classes responding in a way they see fit
to the issues raised in class.
In Practice
• Studying canonized texts is an important strategy for
understanding the values and ideologies of dominant groups at
various points in history.
In Practice
• Texts with strong political content, such as memoirs that
describe the experiences of people of color, for example, or
novels that explore the social and cultural practices of a given
• These texts can help students to locate similar practices in their
own communities, so that they can become active participants in
their worlds.
 Concerned about radical teachers who put “dogma before
diversity, politics before craft.”
 Writing instructors need to stay with their area of
professional expertise.
 Radical teachers often refuse to acknowledge that they
function primarily as a means to students’ ends. Teachers are
ethically bound by students’ own aims even if those aims
seem uncomfortably close to elite values.
 It’s important to distinguish between authority which teachers
must have and authoritarianism, which is the abuse of power.
 Teachers do have more knowledge than their students, but they
re-learn when studying with students.
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