The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

The Master’s Tools: Critical Pedagogy in Independent Schools as a Means of Battling Educational Determinism

Susannah E. Livingston


The majority of student bodies in U.S. independent schools come from the elite, wealthier members of society, and the goals of institutions called ‘independent schools’ are largely combinations of elite college admissions success and fostering social connections with other cultural elites. Primitively, the goals of critical pedagogy in the classroom-- using critical pedagogical practices to encourage the transforming of oppressive relations of power in a variety of domains—seem inimical to the objectives of most independent schools. Yet, critical educators working at independent schools are as equally mandated as their public school counterparts to embrace and adapt critical pedagogical methodology in our classrooms, requiring the students belonging to the power group to debate and engage with all students in the classroom. This process limits the power of schools to see students as cultural capital, but rather creates a non-stratified community, so that “social mobility” becomes unnecessary, thus resisting the idea of the role of private school education as a means of becoming more social and economically mobile. Critical pedagogy in independent schools allows for a unique type of praxis that removes all students from the cycle of having to exist as cultural capital.


independent schools, critical pedagogy, educational determinism, critical education, liberatory education

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