So, this morning…I’m exploring pedagogy. Why? My friend and upcoming radio guest, Four Arrows, just shared a video of his recent presentation at UBC’s Department of Curriculum & Pedagogy. And…I was amazed at the name of the department. I don’t know about most of you, but the term “pedagogy” doesn’t often come across as a positive, in my mind. So, I thought, “I must not be understanding that word properly.”
10:45am and I’m off on a dizzying exploration of the term, pedagogy.
10:57am and I am reviewing basic definitions. One of which is this: Pedagogy refers more broadly to the theory and practice of education, and how this influences the growth of learners. The science or profession of teaching.
11:03am and I am frowning at my computer screen. That didn’t help much. There’s nothing terribly wrong about that, so why do I have a negative connotation attached to this word?
11:12 am and, lo and behold, I come across an article titled, Pedagogy of the Oppressor which mentions a well-known book by the name of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, written by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire.
11:28am and I open up this blog post. Complimentary of Paulo Freire’s book, this article’s author is not, and, as my latte with hazelnut syrup grows cold, I climb into the disturbing world of neo-conservative propaganda. Won’t you join me?
It was in paragraph four that the bias of this article became impossible to avoid, and I scrolled back to the top of the page to stare at the pretty letters CJ in the top left corner. The source of this article. They looked familiar. Click.
Surprise, (not surprised)….I find myself staring at the home page of: City Journal.
If you’ve heard of City Journal before, raise your hands!
This online journal is a prime example of the growing Neo-conservative movement in America. In 2016, while tracing the roots of slanderous commentary about Bernie Sanders, I happened upon CJ, but not directly. I initially found them while researching Neo-conservative Think Tanks in America. CJ serves as a propaganda machine for one particularly prolific “Think Tank” that goes by the name, Manhattan Institute. (Think bigotry is limited to backwater, poor whites in small towns? Think again…the ideologies of bigotry are amazingly loud, proud & wealthy…in these “united states.” And they are frighteningly good at what they do: swaying public opinion, ensuring the continuation of bigotry in America, and wielding increasing political power.)
So, given the source…was I surprised to find bigotry in the article? No. But I was surprised to see it displayed by the writer in such a blatant way. This raises the following question:
(1) not realize he was blatantly displaying his Eurocentrism,
(2) intend to, because bigotry & cultural superiority are the bread & butter of his worldview,
(3) or does he actually not see his bias?
The Eurocentric bias is presented with exquisite clarity in paragraph four:
“Freire isn’t interested in the Western tradition’s leading education thinkers—not Rousseau, not Piaget, not John Dewey, not Horace Mann, not Maria Montessori. He cites a rather different set of figures: Marx, Lenin, Mao, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro, as well as the radical intellectuals Frantz Fanon, Régis Debray, Herbert Marcuse, Jean-Paul Sartre, Louis Althusser, and Georg Lukács.”
Sol Stern, actually wrote that. Take a look at one of his “examples” of a leading education thinker heralding from Western Tradition:
Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (June 28, 1712 – July 2, 1778) was a Franco-Swiss philosopher of Enlightenment whose political ideas influenced the French Revolution, the development of socialist theory, and the growth of nationalism.
HOW Sol Stern could consider Rousseau to be “less of a radical thinker,” I have no idea. Rousseau was vastly radical, in his time, and his support of nationalism (over fealty to royalty) may be attractive to the nationalistic neo-conservative movement in America today….but seriously…to offer Rousseau up as a “comparison” to Lenin, Geuvara and Marcuse?
Rousseau influenced the French Revolution (one of the bloodiest events of class warfare ever). Yet, Sol Stern then criticizes Freire because he, “neglects to mention that Che was one of the most brutal enforcers of the Cuban Revolution, responsible for the execution of hundreds of political opponents.” Let’s see…hundreds of political opponents (Che) versus (Rousseau) the streets of Paris running red with blood for weeks (or was it months) during The Terror?
To me, this article illustrates the dangerous capacity of the neo-conservative movement (white supremacy, racial intolerance, embedded classism, patriarchy, fundamentalist religious views, nationalism) to hearken back to mythologized historical heroes and heroines while FORGETTING or conveniently ignoring the fact that these men and women are remembered today BECAUSE they were Rebels. Radicals. Agitators. In other words, neo-conservatives worship and idolize men & women who were consistent challengers of the institutionalized powers of their day, and they don’t seem to know they are doing this.
I will end with one more quote by Sol Stern (Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow & contributing editor of City Journal):
“Once in the academy, the leftists couldn’t resist incorporating their radical politics (whether Marxist, feminist, or racialist) into their teaching. Celebrating Freire as a major thinker gave them a powerful way to do so. His declaration in Pedagogy of the Oppressed that there was “no such thing as a neutral education” became a mantra for leftist professors, who could use it to justify proselytizing for America-hating causes in the college classroom.”
I am not a fan of the Neo-Liberal ideologues, either. Please don’t assume my dismay at one group means I am obligated to appreciate its polar opposite. Or, as the case may be, the “other hand” of the oligarchical puppet. I also couldn’t come up with an image related to Neo-Conservatism that wasn’t grossly disrespectful. So, I gave up and settled for a photo of myself in a thoughtful mood…because the world will be a better place as more of us indulge in critical thinking and careful self-reflection.