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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Nineteen: Peter McLaren, Life in Schools: An Introduction to Critical Pedagogy in the Foundations of Education (1988)

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NINETEEN

Peter McLaren, Life in Schools: An Introduction to Critical Pedagogy in the Foundations of Education (1988)

E. Wayne Ross

Prologue to Life in Schools

In 1980 Peter McLaren’s Cries from the Corridor was a bestseller in Canada, making the year-end notable books lists from Maclean’s and the Toronto Sun. The book, McLaren’s journal of his teaching experiences in an elementary school in the Jane-Finch Corridor of North York, an “inner-city suburb” of Toronto, sparked heated public debate on urban education. McLaren describes the initial purpose of the book as simply to draw attention to the terribly oppressive conditions of his students, who lived in nearby public housing projects, and to address the concerns of urban schoolteachers who felt helpless in their overcrowded and underfunded classrooms. He hoped the powers that be might provide more resources to urban schools to decrease class size, develop programs relevant to students’ needs, and implement culturally responsive curriculum and pedagogy.

The Canadian Journal of Education described Cries from the Corridor as a

day-to-day, diary-style narrative, [in which] short classroom episodes are recounted in chronological fashion…interspersed [with] occasional references to pedagogical concerns, such as McLaren’s realization that standardized methods or curricula had little impact, and instead “free,” “open,” or “progressive” styles were required with more “relevant” topics…. But almost the entire book consists of raw reports of an even more raw reality as almost every conceivable...

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