To Make A Difference: Re-viewing the Practice of Critical Pedagogy through the Lens of Cultural Myths about Teaching
Wilson, John, Tyler
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The purpose of this thesis is to generate new ways of understanding and imagining what it means to educate for and from a critical consciousness (Freire, 1974). My research is focused on my experience of trying to put critical pedagogy theory into practice in the context of teaching a grade 11/12 high school class. In contrast to oppressive pedagogies that functioned to “prepare students for dominant or subordinate positions in the existing society” (McLaren, 1994, p. 191), as a critical pedagogue, I was guided by the goal of liberating the students in my class by raising their consciousness. However, when I attempted to put critical pedagogy into practice, I soon found myself reproducing an oppressive, transmission-style pedagogy. If the goal of critical pedagogy was to emancipate students by providing them with a transformative educational experience, why did I continue to view myself and my students in ways that were oppressive and paternalistic? Critiques of critical pedagogy (Ellsworth, 1989; Gore, 1993) offer important insight into this question. Yet, a limited amount of research had been performed into how dominant cultural myths about teaching (Britzman, 1986, 2003) inform teachers’ desires and efforts to put critical pedagogy theory into practice. My thesis aims to shed light on the relationship between critical pedagogy and cultural myths about teaching by examining the discursive roots and mythologies reflected in my desire to “make a difference” in the lives of my students with critical pedagogy. In exposing how pedagogy, desire, and identity intersect in complex, creative, and contradictory ways, my research makes visible one of the most difficult lessons that teachers who wish to educate for and from a critical consciousness have to learn: “That the sincerity of their intentions does not guarantee the purity of their practice” (Brookfield, p. 1).