Teaching Free Speech and Political Literacy in an Authoritarian Age
Conclusion: Leaving it all at the Schoolhouse Gates?Realizing A Critical Legal Literacy
As Gibson and McKay (2005) remind us, “educating for citizenship is becom- ing increasingly more important worldwide in light of mounting consumerism, global interest in the possibilities for democracy, and unprecedented political apathy” (p. 167). Although from a positivist perspective (Hart, 1961), free expression might be simply seen as that form of speech existing outside of the realm of state interference, the opportunities, forums and occasions for the ex- ercise of speech are all influenced by culture as well as law. Teacher educators are increasingly confronted by an educational bureaucracy that systematically silences teachers and undermines their ability to inform the public of the ed- ucational systems most fundamental failings. As part of this oppressive appa- ratus, accountability rhetoric leads to the intensification of educator’s work and a lessening of the professional discretion that enables them to be effective advocates for educational change (Helfenbein & Shudak, 2009). Censorship, like “violence,” as Simone Weil noted, “turns anyone sub- jected to it into a thing” (Weil in Sontag, 2003, p. 12). Indeed, the inroads made by neoliberal reforms to remodel the administrative structures of school districts to resemble their corporate counterparts has left little room for crit- ical voices. The effect of this incipient authoritarianism is compounded by the chilling effect created by teachers’ general lack of legal knowledge and uncertainty regarding the nature of their rights. Teachers frequently articulate conclusion leaving it all at the schoolhouse gates? realizing a critical legal literacy 196 learning what you cannot say a general reluctance to...
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