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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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8 Critical Pedagogy in an Age of Standards



Critical Pedagogy in an Age of Standards

In our penultimate chapter we revisit the conclusions from the case studies to consider the interrelation between critical pedagogy in urban education and the debates over standards that currently plague the nation. We begin by acknowledging the current moment in education as important, albeit misguided. Although standards and standardized tests have been used largely to label and to constrain curricula and pedagogies, members of the public have a right to expect that educators and the educational establishment will adequately educate their children. When we fail to do so, and when we lose the public trust, politicians are able to push through legislation such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The public has recently reconsidered its endorsement of this legislation, and it behooves us as critical educators to separate the legitimate reasons for their critique from our legitimate critiques of the nature of standards discourse and the harmful outcomes for teaching and learning associated with the culture (or, better yet, regime) of testing that has followed in the wake of NCLB.

We want to state explicitly that this is not a chapter about standardized tests, which we generally find indefensible in the ways that they have taken over the public discourse about educational attainment and the ways in which they have invaded school curricula and actually changed how many teachers approach the profession (McNeil, 2000). Students are being tested with increased frequency, and the tests are being...

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