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Critical Pedagogy in the Community College Classroom

One student teacher's observations of critical pedagogy in the community college classroom.
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Nicole Ouimette

on 3 April 2013

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Transcript of Critical Pedagogy in the Community College Classroom

Nicole Ouimette Critical Pedagogy in the
Community College Classroom The Importance of a Safe Space in a Pedagogical Classroom A safe space examines the difference between hate speech and freedom of speech. This requires moving the discussion away from oppressive dialogue to a dialogue that explains how and why such statements are oppressive (Cornwell, 1998). I observed examples of students creating an unsafe space in the classroom. I will explain how and why it makes the class unsafe and what can be done to make it more safe for students of oppressed master statuses. You Can't Stay Neutral In A Changing Classroom What Is Neutrality? Banking System Vs.
Problem-Posing In Reflection Can Pedagogy Be Integrated Into Every Classroom? Dialogue is an important part of the pedagogical process in the classroom. Freire believed in transcending the culture of silence in our society through dialogue and discussion between teachers and students (Braa and Callero, 2006; Freire, 1974). What is Critical Pedagogy? Dialogue "Critical Pedagogy is a radical approach to education that seeks to transform oppressive structures in society using democratic and activist approaches to teaching and learning" (Braa and Callero, 2006). Critique Analysis of self and society. This analysis focuses on "inequality, exploitation, oppression and domination" (Braa and Callero, 2006). Counter Hegemony Opposes ruling class hegemony (dominant ideologies). The process of counter hegemony helps students understand that dominant ideologies hurt instead of help them. For example, racism, sexism, heterosexism (Braa and Callero, 2006). Praxis When a student puts what s/he is learning in the classroom into action in their community or on campus (Braa and Callero, 2006). An example of praxis is a Social Action Project where students are expected to transform society through activism. Scenario 1 In response to a piece about white privilege by Ruth Frankenberg one student said, "There are all these days for different ethnicities and races. Why isn't there a white pride day? Why can't we celebrate who we are?"

My initial response is disgust. I realized that, like me the student comes from a place of white privilege. I needed to take a step back and realize that ruling class hegemonies spread misinformation about the history and present experience of people of color

Comments that are covertly racist should be confronted by the professor. The classroom was no longer a safe space for people of color in the class after the statement was made. In fact, it has been observed by other professors at four-year institutions that when a class is mostly white and/or the professor(s) are white, people of color will not participate as much as if the class has mostly people of color and/or a professor of color (Bohmer and Briggs, 1991).

The "white pride day" comment was addressed by explaining why it is racist and how "white pride day" is every day, in every class and every institution in our society. Scenario 2 A student, when talking about naming, pointed to the people of colour in the classroom and asked what "they" wanted to be called. This ignited a strong verbal response from the people of colour in the classroom. Scenario 3 Students exhibited disruptive behavior such as texting, passing notes and talking over each other during class discussions.

It is assumed that these things won't happen in a pedagogical classroom, but when a professor is either a woman, a person of color or both, the teacher is not seen as an authority figure (Hoodfar, 1992). In this instance, neither teacher or students were respected in the classroom. The environment was unsafe for all involved. The banking system of education assumes students are simply empty vessels in which information is poured into. For example, a student may memorize 25 terms for a quiz, but ask that student after the quiz to explain 25 terms in real life application and that student may not be able to give an answer. This form of teaching/learning paralyzes creativity and critical thinking skills. This is a traditional form of teaching that academia values (Freire, 1974; Reed, 1981; Crabtree and Sapp, 2003). Problem-posing techniques of teaching emphasizes the learning of students and teachers together. As a teacher proposes a question, s/he listens to the expressions of students and reflects. Through reflection, comes consciousness-raising. Consciousness-raising is important for the oppressed to mobilize in the classroom, both intellectually and physically. It is an important part of the critical thinking process when students come to terms with the oppression they face and helps them to become greater critical thinkers (Freire, 1974; hooks, 1994; Reed, 1981). Why Be A Critical Thinker, Anyway? Critical thinking engages students in their learning. Students will continue to operate as automatons without the critical thinking process. For example, integrating activism into the classroom helps students see how inequality and oppression operate, instead of just reading about it (Peet and Reed, 1999). Why Activism? It is connected learning. Connecting students to the material they are learning is more important than graded quizzes, papers and/or exams (Peet and Reed, 1999). Freire emphasizes that learning through exams is part of the banking system of education that is detrimental to the cognitive progression of students, young and old (Freire, 1974). It is the attempt to look at both sides. Neutrality assumes that both sides are equal in argument (Kelly and Brandes Minnes, 2001).

Here's why both sides are not equal: The "Neutral Observer": How Inequality and Oppression Operates in the Classroom Many professors experience times when privileged students perpetuate oppression in the classroom. Critical Pedagogy can be used in the classroom to address this challenge. (Weiler, 1988; Rakow, 1991). It is the job of the teacher to make sure oppression is not perpetuated in the classroom. It is the job of the teacher to understand neutrality leaves room for dominant ideologies (ie, racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism) to function as the dominant discourse (Kelly and Minnes Brandes, 2001). We Do Not Leave Our Identities at the Door Both students and teachers are not "neutral observers. Students have a sense of a teacher's bias (textbooks, assignments, language used) and teachers can sense a student's bias as well (comments in class, essay work). Starting at this point, professors should be aware that letting a racist or sexist comment unaddressed in the name of "neutrality" can be harmful to student's learning. (Rakow, 1991; Messner, 2011; Ropers Huilman, 1999). There is not a yes or no answer to this question. In my experience this semester, some classrooms are ready for pedagogical learning, others are not. As students and teachers, we must realize that k-12 education relies on the banking system of education, therefore when high school students come to college they are not ready for student led discussions. Students, sometimes are not ready to talk about inequality and oppression due to the assumption that neither exist in what has been termed a "post-racial, post-feminist society" (James, 1991). Although both classes dropped significantly, from around 30 students to 12-14, I have seen improvement from many students who at the beginning of the semester struggled with material. In my experience pedagogical teaching methods confuse students who have been told they must sit and listen to lectures. Pedagogical teaching must be integrated into every classroom in order to be successful institutionally, but dominant ideologies will not let that happen without social movements pushing for better learning conditions in our public schools. Freire and Zinn argue that acting neutral in a classroom where the students carry lived realities and experiences that are not takes the side of the oppressor. The solution is not to make the students think the way you do, but to inform them of cultural bias, instead of reaffirming that same bias by staying silent when a student says something sexist, racist, heterosexist, etc. Society does not operate on a neutral level. Freire and Zinn advocate for an education that takes the side of the oppressed -- in order to be agents of change in their lives and the lives of others.
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