A Call for a new Pedagogy

On a spectrum of educational approaches, ranging from complete disregard for cultural differences to integrating them, Giroux discusses the different discourses and how the education system evolves from the discourse of maintenance and control to the discourses of productivity and integration.  Giroux also proposes some prerequisites if a critical pedagogy is to be formed. 

The least effective of all the pedagogies is the discourse of maintenance and control.  Instead of being concerned with the cultural differences and interests of students, the school board imposes a curriculum that embodies a predetermined structure of “positive knowledge.” 

The underlying reason is that all children are the same because they are human beings, despite their underlying “manifold individual differences.”  The curriculum contains material that relates little to what actually goes on in the everyday experiences of students.  As a result, students get bored and disrupt the class.  The teacher shifts attention from education to “keeping the lid” on the kids in order to maintain control in the classroom.  In fact, the performance of teachers is measured according to how much control they can maintain. 

 Closely tied to the aforementioned discourse is the discourse of relevance and integration.  The discourse of relevance is merely a response to the discourse of maintenance and control in that students are kept “happy” so long as their personal interests are indulged.  The purpose is still to keep the lid on, but by appeasing students through cordial relations and modes of “low status” knowledge, control is facilitated.  Within this discourse, teachers derive their lessons from cultural forms with class-, race-, and gender-specific interests, thereby preserving the status quo of the social hierarchy.  Working-class boys are encouraged to take industrial arts classes, while their more wealthy counterparts are enrolled in advanced chemistry classes.

The more sophisticated version of discourse of relevance is the discourse of integration.  With a more empathetic approach, this discourse focuses on the student as the object of “unconditional love.”  Self-directed learning, relating personal experiences, and encouragement of positive student interaction make up the structure of this pedagogy.  To the effect that student experiences are developed depends on how well the experiences are understood and constructed.  Otherwise known as the pedagogy of normative pluralism, the discourse of integration identifies the student as part of a specific cultural group.  The concept of “otherness” is exchanged for a “polite civic humanism,” meaning that difference no longer poses as a threat of disruption but serves as an invitation for diverse cultural groups to unite.  Conflicts are viewed as issues to be discussed and overcome for the sake of creating a “happy and cooperative class” thereby contributing to a “happy and cooperative world.” 

Rising above these discourses, Giroux makes a final statement in favor of a critical pedagogy, which requires that students and teachers be treated as transformative intellectuals.  The discourse of production recognizes the influences of state, the workplace, publishing companies and other political interests that affect school policy.  Coupled with the discourse of text analysis, the discourse of production evokes a deeper investigation into why certain books are circulated through schools and what the hidden agenda is.  Teachers and students are provided the tools necessary to analyze the socially constructed representations and interests that canonize particular literature.  The teacher is positioned as merely a tool to implement knowledge, at which his position as a transformative intellectual is jeopardized.  The conditions under which the students and teachers work are examined, such as the ratio of teacher to students and the time allotted for teacher-student interaction in a creative fashion.  In analyzing such conditions, the discourse of production sheds light upon the political importance of what educators are free or limited to do. 

Giroux concludes by pointing out the need for a critical pedagogy to be developed around the inner connections that all the discourses share within the context of cultural politics.  The ultimate goal is to produce schools as democratic public spheres, but that would only be achieved if educators can arrive at new questions and possibilities and a new language through these interconnections.