Examples of Critical Pedagogy


During South African apartheid, legal racialization implemented by the regime drove members of the radical leftist Teachers' League of South Africa to employ critical pedagogy with a focus on non racialism in Cape Town schools and prisons. Teachers collaborated loosely to subvert the racist curriculum and encourage critical examination of political and social circumstances in terms of humanist and democratic ideologies. The efforts of such teachers are credited with having bolstered student resistance and activism.



Famous authors of critical pedagogy texts include Paulo Freire, Rich Gibson, Michael Apple, Henry Giroux, Peter McLaren, and Howard Zinn. Famous educationalists including Jonathan Kozol and Parker Palmer are sometimes included in this category. Other critical pedagogues more famous for their anti-schooling or un schooling perspectives include Ivan Illich, John Holt, Ira Shor, John Taylor Gatto, and Matt Hern. Much of the work draws on feminism, marxism, Lukacs, Wilhelm Reich, post-colonialism, and the discourse theories of Edward Said, Antonio Gramsci and Michel Foucault. Radical Teacher is a magazine dedicated to critical pedagogy and issues of interest to critical educators. The Rouge Forum is an online organization led by people involved with critical pedagogy.


Famous Quotes

Do not follow a life of evil; do not live heedlessly; do not have false views; do not value worldly things. In this way one can get rid of suffering.
Buddha, Dhammapada, Loka Vagga, verse 167

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Jesus, Bible, Gospel of Matthew chapter 16, verse 26

I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on a door. It opens. I've been knocking from inside!
Jelaluddin Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks



In the movie The Matrix, the setting is an artificial construction of oppression that instills complacency in its captives through a form of virtual reality, much like the World Wide Web you are currently immersed in. The movie's initial conflict sees the protagonist Neo coming to grips with this truth by suspending belief of the reality he has accepted as unquestionable.

In John Carpenter's "They Live" special sunglasses help the protagonist see the hidden messages that lull the population to sleep and seduce them to obedience. These special sunglasses are a visual metaphor for critical consciousness. But this sort of consciousness is disturbing, and the protagonist has to fight to get someone else to put the glasses on.

In the biographical film Stand and Deliver Jaime Escalante challenges urban students to excel at math.

Dead Poets Society, a Peter Weir film, is set in a 1950's American prep school. Teacher John Keating encourages students to think freely, challenge social norms and seize the day.

In the movie "Accepted", when faced with cultural and parental pressures to attend college, a group of non-admitted recent high school graduates creates a fictitious college. Obstensibly a teen comedy, Accepted actually exemplifies Freire's notion of critical pedagogy by showcasing the learning that takes place when students are confronted with the question "What do you want to learn?" while they are exhorted by an iconoclast academic to question various societal assumptions.



When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all.
Paul Simon, Kodachrome

We don't need no education, We don't need no thought-control. No dark sarcasm in the classroom - Teacher, leave those kids alone! All in all, you're just another brick in the wall.
Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall part 2

Interestingly though, all the surviving pupils who took part in the Pink Floyd recording collectively agree they would not now support as radical a position as the sentiments expressed by the composers in this song.

The teacher stands in front of the class, but the lesson plan he can't recall. The student's eyes don't perceive the lies bouncing off every f**king wall. His composure is well kept, I guess he fears playing the fool. The complacent students sit and listen to some of that bullshit that he learned in school.
Zack de la Rocha, Rage Against the Machine, Take the Power Back

These are a few examples of musical artists who have explored the world of critical pedagogy. Artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Public Enemy, System of A Down, Propagandhi, The Beatles, and Eminem have been viewed as raising critical consciousness and challenging authority through some of their works.


Other Media

Critical pedagogy is used throughout Grant Morrison's comic book The Invisibles. It is a major theme and plot device through out the series, particularly in the first few issues and the final series. Also, the book intended for adolescents, "The Giver" by Lois Lowry, depicts a utopian society that gradually begins to appear dystopic. Jonas, the story's protagonist, becomes the "Receiver of Memory" and undergoes a process that is comparable to the development of critical consciousness. Despite the criticisms of various conservative groups who cite that the ideas in the book are inappropriate for children, the book is still included on the middle school reading lists of many school districts.