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In both conservative and progressive discourses pedagogy is often treated simply as a set of strategies and skills to use in order to teach prespecified subject matter. In this context, pedagogy becomes synonymous with teaching as a technique or the practice of a craft-like skill. Any viable notion of critical pedagogy must reject this definition and its endless slavish imitations even when they are claimed as part of a radical discourse or project. Pedagogy in the more critical sense illuminates the relationship among knowledge, authority, and power. It draws attention to questions concerning who has control over the conditions for the production of knowledge.
Moreover, it delineates the ways in which the circuit of power works through the various processes through which knowledge, identities, and authority are constructed within particular sets of social relations.
What critical pedagogy as a form of cultural politics refers to in this case is a deliberate attempt on the part of cultural workers to influence how and what knowledge and subjectivities are produced within particular sets of social relations. It draws attention to the ways in which knowledge, power, desire, and experience are produced under specific basic conditions of learning. This approach to critical pedagogy does not reduce educational practice to the mastery of methodologies, it stresses, instead, the importance of understanding what actually happens in classrooms and other educational settings by raising questions regarding what knowledge is of most worth, in what direction should one desire, and what it means to know. Of course, the language of critical pedagogy does something more. Pedagogy is simultaneously about the knowledge and practices that teachers, cultural workers, and students might engage in together and the cultural politics and visions such practices legitimate. It is in this sense that cultural workers need to be attentive to pedagogy as a political practice and the cultural practices of pedagogy.
- Freire, P. (1998) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, new rev. 20th-anniversay edn. Continuum Publishing, New York.
- Giroux, H. (2004) The Giroux Reader. Paradigm Publishers, Denver, CO.