Educational reality and critical pedagogy

I was quite shocked when I learned of Critical Pedagogy through this lesson. I have been worried for a long time (just this week) why I did not receive such education. In my country, people who learn a lot of knowledge, and the think based on that knowledge called “smart”. Under such an educational reality, it was impossible to imagine a suspicious act of knowledge from teachers and books. If I have been suspicious and critical in my knowledge, it would not have been natural for knowledge to be forgotten.

Through Paulo Freire’s belief in education, I deeply wondered how to teach my students if I become a teacher.

“Critical pedagogy is teaching approach which attempts to help students question and challenge domination, and the beliefs and practices that dominate them. It tries to help students become critically conscious.”

So how can we make students critically conscious?

Ira Shor defines “critically conscious” in Empowering Education (1992):

“A student can be critically conscious by thinking, reading, writing, and speaking while going beneath the surface meaning. A student must go beyond myths, clichés, received wisdom, and mere opinions. Most importantly, students must understand the deep meaning, root causes, social contexts, and personal consequences of any action, events objects, process, organization, experience, text, subject matter, policy mass media and discourse.”

It is not a simple thing to go beyond the generally recognized dominant opinion. Creating a student who thinks, “Maybe not,” feels curious and rethinking without accepting things and knowledge, but it feels like a very difficult task. Educating students to accept my opinions critically can sound like a contradiction. My conclusion is that the ultimate goal is critical pedagogy, but it is rather radical when considering the reality of education. In the middle of it, I believe that mindful learning/teaching and inclusive pedagogy give students experiences to find happiness and find something they like and value, rather than conveying knowledge. I think that critical pedagogy is probably the next step after these are accepted.


8 thoughts on “Educational reality and critical pedagogy

  1. Hi Seungbee,
    I think you are not the only one who had these feelings when they first discovered Critical Pedagogy. I had a similar experience as you. For me, it was like I had a flashback to every classroom experience in my academic history and I knew in an instant which teachers were and weren’t “with it” on critical pedagogy or contemporary practices.

    Yes, though Freire teaches us that it is our job to cultivate “critical consciousness” in our students, which is that “maybe not” thinking/feeling that you describe in your conclusions, I have to agree that at first it sounds like a very daunting job. Yes, it may be difficult to think about how you will teach critical pedagogy to your students, but the first step is learning for yourself (so you’re already well on your way!) The next is to create an classroom environment that encourages and rewards students for their questions, contributions, and discussions–it won’t happen over night, but you certainly can do it over weeks and months working with your students and developing relationships with them. It’s great that you are taking time now to reflect on how critical pedagogy will impact how you teach in the future. You will make it!


  2. I really like your perspective about how critical pedagogy may be the “next step” after cultivating “mindful learning” and “inclusive pedagogies.” As a new teacher myself, I also find it intimidating to think immediately about being a critical pedagogue, particularly in consideration of the real-life constraints placed on graduate students and non-tenured faculty members like the need to complete coursework and publish, large course loads, lack of departmental support, etc. I think that although critical pedagogy may seem intimidating / overwhelming at first, to discuss it is a great initial step! Nice post!


    1. Thank you. We always consider real situation like budget constraints, time, possibility and so on… Critical pedagogy may be the ultimate goal but in real world? More considerations are necessary.


  3. Your post was interesting- it’s always nice to get different perspectives on this topic. I wonder if the differences are more distinct with individual- vs community-focused societies. In most of the United States, our culture is self-focused (the individual is more important than the community). With that attitude (I think), comes some feelings of entitlement to question to world around us- even if we don’t fully engage with critical pedagogy.


    1. I think it varies depends on situation and it is very hard to define what is individual-focused society and what is community-focused society. For example, China is communist country but I feel Chinese people are not community-favored.


  4. Yes, I agree with you that we’re far away from the “critical pedagogy” due to many restrictions in the educational system, our culture, and other things. However, we should at least move gradually towards it. Personally, I will plan to implement the minimum of it with my students with a goal of expanding more in the future.


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