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The Art of Critical Pedagogy

Possibilities for Moving from Theory to Practice in Urban Schools


Jeffrey M.R. Duncan-Andrade and Ernest Morrell

This book furthers the discussion concerning critical pedagogy and its practical applications for urban contexts. It addresses two looming, yet under-explored questions that have emerged with the ascendancy of critical pedagogy in the educational discourse: (1) What does critical pedagogy look like in work with urban youth? and (2) How can a systematic investigation of critical work enacted in urban contexts simultaneously draw upon and push the core tenets of critical pedagogy? Addressing the tensions inherent in enacting critical pedagogy – between working to disrupt and to successfully navigate oppressive institutionalized structures, and between the practice of critical pedagogy and the current standards-driven climate – The Art of Critical Pedagogy seeks to generate authentic internal and external dialogues among educators in search of texts that offer guidance for teaching for a more socially just world.
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3 Critical Pedagogy in an Urban High School English Classroom



Critical Pedagogy in an Urban High School English Classroom

Critical pedagogy is hotly discussed and highly debated in the academy. Its proponents draw upon important scholars (Freire, 1970; McLaren, 1994, 2003b; Giroux, 2001; hooks, 1994; Darder, 1991; Kincheloe, 2004; Shor, 1992) to argue for an approach to education that is rooted in the existential experiences of marginalized peoples; that is centered in a critique of structural, economic, and racial oppression; that is focused on dialogue instead of a one-way transmission of knowledge; and that is structured to empower individuals and collectives as agents of social change. Increasingly, critical pedagogy is being discussed as a potential component of urban school reform. Again, educators and researchers look to critical pedagogy as they consider ways to motivate students, to develop literacies and numeracies of power, and to engage students and their communities in the struggle for educational justice. We certainly applaud these goals, but we also feel as though the field at present insufficiently explores the applications of critical pedagogy to urban education.

For the past dozen years we have been dedicated to the enterprise of designing and investigating classroom interventions that are built upon the core principles of critical pedagogy. In our joint efforts we have worked across multiple settings, from English classrooms to basketball teams to summer research programs. Our goal in this research is to develop a grounded theory of practice (Strauss & Corbin, 1997), that is, a theory that begins with the...

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