I had stopped trying to keep up with Giroux’s work some time ago. I read him diligently as a new scholar, but for me, he was always one of those authors that made me question whether I’d make it in academia. Early in my career, I couldn’t as readily distinguish between complex ideas and convoluted writing.
I don’t assign him in my classes any more because I’ve witnessed students wondering if they’re “smart” enough to read texts like these (even while he’s addressing them — at least in the 3rd person [more about that later] — as educators)*. Writing past those you intend to change goes against my work with students to nudge them to “go beyond the world they already know to expand their range of human possibilities”.
I believe strongly that academic work should invite students — especially those new to the culture of universities — to enter new intellectual worlds, not dare them to prove that they belong there.
I stopped assigning Giroux long ago, even as I teach ideas that he shares, particularly that
Educational work at its best represents a response to questions and issues posed by the tensions and contradictions of the broader society; it is an attempt to understand and intervene in specific problems that emanate from those sites that people concretely inhabit and in which they actually live out their lives and everyday existence.
Maha Bali shares my concern about the abstractness of Giroux’s writing, and on this read, I shared her impatience with him revealing so little about his own work to enact these ideas. With hooks, I believe so strongly that critical pedagogy is not only about book learning always about about who we are in the world.
On this read, I found myself underlining the many times he uses the language of:
Critical pedagogy must
Educators need to
Educators will have to
I confess to skimming some of the paragraph-long sentences, but looking over my “notebook” on my Kindle app, I see Giroux employing this “educators must” sort of language at least a dozen times in this chapter. It started to feel as if I am being scolded, and by someone whose moral authority to do so is not at all clear.
Noticing this language today as I’m reading him again within these weeks of rich #moocmooc dialogue around critical pedagogy, I have new ways to think about writing that is intended to further the work of critical pedagogy, but that addresses in the 3rd person the educators that the author wants to change.
It can feel as if students (and even I, as a life-long student of education) are relegated to eavesdropping on a relatively small, closed circle of intellectual peers. In “banking” education, teachers at least speak directly to students.
I notice also that the only actual people in this chapter are the other cited scholars. I sat up a bit when I saw him begin to talk about critical pedagogy being “relational” , since so many feminist scholars use this very term to write about how in the end, our teaching is first and foremost about the relationships that we develop that provide the the community within which students can grow.
But no, I instead read:
By relational, I mean that the current crisis of schooling must be understood in relation to the broader assault that is being waged against all aspects of democratic public life.
There is almost nothing I disagree with in this chapter.
But I have a hard time reconciling being told what I must do while I’m working to develop course experiences that “emanate from those sites that people concretely inhabit and in which they actually live out their lives and everyday existence”.
I mean nothing about this to be ad hominem critique. I do mean for it to be about doing the hard work of trying to figure out critical pedagogies that don’t bypass the actual lives of students on the way to the revolution.
And I welcome conversation about where my grumpy reading missed the mark.