MMCP: Radical Pedagogies; Pedagogies of Care

MOOC MOOC: Critical Pedagogy (MMCP) is a six-week exploration of critical pedagogy. For this second week, focused on feminist perspectives, we’ll be discussing Chapter 1 of bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress and two short videos from Anita Sarkeesian. 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.

A summary of activities for the week:

  • #moocmooc Twitter chat January 28 at 12pm EST
  • Create your own feminist video/blogpost (e.g. critiquing sexist/patriarchy in pop culture such as children’s cartoons, fairy tales, political behavior). Post your video or blogpost to #moocmooc and others can respond to it. We consider your posts primary texts alongside the “official” assigned readings — in fact, many of the ideas in this post have been inspired by Twitter conversations and blogs from week 1.
  • If you have culturally-specific examples of patriarchy or feminism, Tweet or blog them. (We love that participants have already made connections between CP and Maori pedagogy.)

In the Introduction to Teaching to Transgress, bell hooks writes, “any radical pedagogy must insist that everyone’s presence is acknowledged” (8). She describes the process through which we become self-actualized in the classroom. “Teachers must be actively committed to a process of self-actualization that promotes their own well-being if they are to teach in a manner that empowers students” (15). And it isn’t just that students should be empowered to show up as full selves, but that teachers must as well, in order to model, but also to show the kind of care for the work that only comes when we make ourselves at least somewhat vulnerable.

We struggled with how to approach our voice for this discussion prompt. Would we have both our voices living separately and idiosyncratically upon this page? Or would we offer our voice as a collective “we.” Ultimately, it seems right for us to do a bit of both — to bring ourselves to this page, but also to struggle for a collective we, finding common ground through a flurry of text as we write ourselves together. hooks says, “I do not expect students to take any risks that I would not take, to share in any way that I would not share” (21). Writing together requires trust, requires revealing something of ourselves to our co-author that we might not otherwise reveal. This is true even in just the curious shape of our grammar, the unique intricacies of our thinking, writing, teaching, and learning processes. Two feminist voices in genuine dialogue, one a queer white American male, the other an Egyptian Muslim female, sharing sentences, cursors pressing at the edges of our words, prose as process.

bell hooks is writing about something more than just feminist or antiracist pedagogy. She offers a feminist perspective on Critical Pedagogy, and also a critical pedagogical perspective on feminist pedagogy. She also incorporates Buddhist philosophy, specifically a view that the whole person of the teacher and of the student should be part of the pedagogical process. This approach goes against much of traditional practice but resonates strongly with us, in our willingness to show vulnerability to our students and embrace caring relationships with them.

Danielle Paradis wrote specifically about this in “The Pleasures, the Perils, and the Pursuit of Pedagogical Intimacy,” “I’m speaking at the very edge of what I’m trying to say. Learning is uncomfortable, and the trouble with letting someone teach you is that it leaves a mark — an impression.” There are risks in being intimate, vulnerable, in bringing our full selves to the Educative endeavor, but teaching and learning are inevitably intimate. Perhaps, to not show up as our full selves to the act of learning is not to show up at all. This means placing our authentic non-neutral selves fully in the classroom — with all the risks and challenges that brings.

There are different implications, though, for women than men in showing up fully as teachers and students. Our hope with the discussion this week is to investigate these implications, not defensively, but honestly, acknowledging the risks even of entering conversations like this one. And acknowledging that this conversation might mean something considerably different for each of us, given our specific contexts.

Feminist perspectives challenge the systematic oppression against half the human population, solely because they were born with XX rather than XY chromosomes. Patriarchy and sexism seem to be a global phenomenon, and yet they manifest themselves differently in the US than Egypt, than Nigeria and within each culture, the complexities of race, class, sexuality, etc. In The Will To Change, bell hooks talks about how patriarchy also negatively affects men’s emotional well-being, and how some women are themselves propagators of patriarchy, it is a “system that women and men support equally, even if men receive more rewards” (23), a system reinforced by families and institutions of religion and schooling alike.

According to hooks, there are different ways in which women propagate patriarchy; by allying themselves to patriarchal power (e.g. by simply staying silent against fathers’ rage or violence), or by propagating the ideals of patriarchy (such as deference to authority, resorting to force or violence, repressing dissent and emotion) in their treatment of their children. So discussing patriarchy is not an attack against men (one of us writing this article is a man), nor a free ticket to women. Its existence outside our classrooms manifests itself inside our classrooms, and we cannot avoid it. And studying gender can open our eyes to other oppressions. A male student of bell hooks is quoted in Teaching to Transgress (19):

…what I learned from her was mostly about sameness, about what I had in common as a black man to people of color; to women and gays and lesbians and the poor and anyone else who wanted in.

bell hooks sees her own pedagogy as having “emerged from the mutually illuminating interplay of anticolonial, critical, and feminist pedagogies…blending of multiple perspectives has been an engaging and powerful standpoint from which to work” (9).

On the other hand, Ellsworth (who has been mentioned a few times in the first week of #moocmooc already) problematizes this, suggesting that “accounts of one group’s suffering and struggle [are not] immune from reproducing narratives oppressive to another’s”, and speaking of her own experience, she claims that her own “understanding and experience of racism will always be constrained by [her] white skin and middle class privilege” (308).

Critical Pedagogy asks us to rethink our approach to the classroom in fundamental ways, but it can also start in smaller gestures, the choices we make when assembling a reading list, the language we use in our syllabi when we present that list. As pedagogues who don’t privilege content, it’s quite complex to choose content, especially if we don’t necessarily think the content itself has inherent value; rather, we choose it because it supports the values we hope to share with learners, and because it is a place (one possible place only) from which to begin a conversation. From there, the actual content of the course becomes the dialogue between teachers and learners.

Join us on January 28 at Noon EST for a Twitter Chat using #moocmooc. Check out to see when to join us in your time zone. And begin thinking about the following questions:

  1. How do we embody feminism rather than just embrace its rhetoric?
    • As parents: In how we raise our children and how they play and perceive gender; and how we judge and treat other parents?
    • In how we address gender in our classrooms and institutions, including how we treat our colleagues of both sexes?
    • What kinds of subtle sexist microaggressions occur in the academy that we need to challenge and take action against?
    • In how we respond to sexism in pop culture?
  2. bell hooks talks about feeling “estranged from education” (17). What kinds of educational environments must we build in order for teachers and learners to feel able to show up as their full selves?
  3. bell hooks writes about “the notion of pleasure in the classroom” — that “the classroom should be an exciting place, never boring” (7). How do we create these educational spaces of “pleasure” and even “fun”? What barriers to “pleasure” and “fun” do institutions erect?
  4. when choosing a second piece to highlight for this week, we circled around several options and, ultimately, decided on the twopart Lego series from Anita Sarkeesian. Her work creates an interesting friction with the other work we’re discussing this week. One other topic for #moocmooc is for us to consider how public work outside a traditional institution can function as feminist and/or Critical Pedagogy — how work like Sarkeesian’s can problematize (directly or indirectly) the utopian discourse about gaming and tinkering in education.

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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