From Where Do We Teach? Potential Positions in Public Education

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Stevens, Craig
teaching positions , critical pedagogy , maginalized students , destandardizing education
This thesis is a conceptual examination of the positions from which we teach in public education. As it is philosophical in nature, it takes no qualitative or quantitative data. It offers a review of selected relevant literature and an analysis of personal and professional experience, with the intent to pose critical questions about teaching and learning. The framework of this thesis represents the following contentions: First, from its inception, public schooling served capital by preparing skilled labour for emerging industrial markets. This history is the hegemonic shadow that hangs over public education today. Second, movements toward the standardization of funding, curriculum, and evaluation support the further commodification of public schooling. The “accountability” that standardization offers, the “back to basics” that it aims for, is counter to the potential that public education might critically inform citizens and seek social justice. Third, movements toward the privatization of public schooling under the guise of “choice” and “mobility”, brought on by manufactured crisis, serve only to widen socio-economic inequities as capitalist neoliberal interests seek profit in both the product of public schools and in schooling itself. If we recognize and understand the power of public education to inform vast numbers of citizens who will, in turn, either maintain or reform society, we must ask: What do we want public education to be? What are the effects of continuing down historically conventional and increasingly standardized paths? What do progressive pedagogies offer? How might teachers destandardize their pedagogy and pursue equitable opportunities for marginalized students? How might students name themselves and their world, that they might play a part in its reimagining? For whom do we teach, and under what conditions? From where do we teach, and why? For educators to ask these questions, and to employ what they discover, will necessitate taking substantial risks. It will necessitate taking a stand and cannot be done alone. Teachers must seek out the collaboration of their students. They must offer students the time and the space to find their own voices, to create their own selves, and to envision previously uncharted paths on which we might walk together.
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