MMCP: Politics, Pedagogy, and Agency

MOOC MOOC: Critical Pedagogy (MMCP) is a six-week exploration of critical pedagogy. For this third week, we’ll be discussing Chapter 4 of Henry Giroux’s On Critical Pedagogy and work and thoughts posted to the #FergusonSyllabus hashtag. However, feel free to read/watch as much or as little as you are able (or find useful). We promise there will be no reading quizzes.

Summary of activities:

  • Read Henry Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy, Chapter 4, “The Promise of Critical Pedagogy in the Age of Globalization: Towards a Pedagogy of Democratization.”
  • Explore some of the #FergusonSyllabus posts on Twitter.
  • Create an online resource (blog post, video, syllabus, lesson plan) that encourages the empowerment of students to be transformative agents in the world and share it on Twitter with the #moocmooc hashtag
  • Participate in the Twitter #moocmooc chat, 2/4, 5pm EST
  • Participate in the Google Hangout On Air, 2/6, 12pm EST

“Pedagogy is a moral and political practice.”Henry Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy, p. 71

What do we as educators owe our students? Accurate, up-to-date content? Efficient delivery of information? Effective building of skills? A clear road map to predicted outcomes?

The power to transform the world?

In On Critical Pedagogy, Henry Giroux writes:

[I]t seems imperative that educators revitalize the struggles to create conditions in which learning would be linked to social change in a wide variety of social sites, and pedagogy would take on the task of regenerating both a renewed sense of social and political agency and a critical subversion of dominant power itself (71).

Giroux advocates a pedagogy that is heavily political — and a politics that is heavily pedagogical. The goal, as for bell hooks and Paulo Freire, is empowering students for the practice of freedom. And not simply free actions as an individual, but the liberation of others as well.

What does this look like in practice? I teach music theory. My discipline traditionally focuses on elements of musical structure — notes, chords, rhythms, melodies, keys, scales, etc. How does the study of augmented-sixth chords lead students to “a critical subversion of dominant power itself”? As I wrote last summer, “Many agree with the ideology and the goals of critical pedagogy…but we cannot simply drop those changes into our current institutional structures.” Set curricula, institutional policies, the need for departmental consensus, the readiness of students for non-standard pedagogical approaches… all of these things can make it difficult to fully adopt a transformative, critical pedagogy.

So where do we start?

Consider the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. After the shooting of Michael Brown and the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, many educators decided to make changes to their courses in order to raise important issues of racial and social justice with their students. The results of this phenomenon can be seen on Twitter under the #FergusonSyllabus hashtag. While I was struck by many of the amazing ways that educators were able to incorporate Ferguson and social justice into their courses, something also rang hollow. While content was becoming more political, pedagogy was not. Students were being given new information and room to explore it, but they were not necessarily being given more agency.

Giving students control can be scary. As Chris Friend wrote, “When a class involves discussion, we owe it to our students to not know what’s going to happen, lest we start dictating what we want them to think.” Dictating that students think progressive thoughts is not progressive pedagogy. So does that put us back at square one?

Not necessarily. A young person’s formal education is a long haul, and informal education lasts a lifetime. No teacher need feel the burden of completely transforming the critical consciousness of every student every semester. But there are little things that we can do in every discipline that can awaken that consciousness a little more. That can give students a little more agency, and a little more mindfulness in putting it to use. Those little things will be the topic of discussion for this week.

What can you do to give your students more agency than they had before?

This week, let’s think about changes — even small changes — that we can make to our courses, our assignments, our meeting spaces, our offices, what we ask students to call us… that will help students take ownership of their own intellectual and social development, that will give students more control in our classes, that will help nurture in them the power to make a transformative impact on the world.

So read Giroux, check out #FergusonSyllabus, then come up with an idea, post it to your blog, YouTube, Vimeo, GitHub, and share it on Twitter with the #moocmooc hashtag.

Then join us on Wednesday at 5pm EST for a Twitter chat and Friday at 12pm EST for a Google Hangout On Air as we explore together ways in which we can increase student agency to prepare them for significant critical involvement in the world.

If you cannot join us for our synchronous chat, post your thoughts throughout the week on the #moocmooc hashtag or in the comments below. We’re curating highlights from the community’s blog responses on the MOOC MOOC: Critical Pedagogy homepage, where you can also find the schedule for the rest of the MOOC.

Registration is not required for MOOC MOOC: Critical Pedagogy. No personal data will be collected and everyone is welcome. However, if you’d like updates about the course, there are a few things you can do. First, follow @hybridped, @moocmooc, and #moocmooc on Twitter. And sign up for Hybrid Pedagogy’s e-mail list where we send updates about events (like MOOC MOOC) and digests of recently published articles.

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