The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

Covert critique: Critical pedagogy “under the radar†in a suburban middle school

Kevin Smith


Through personal narrative, I describe my experiences as a technology teacher attempting to enact a critical pedagogy “under the radar” at a suburban middleschool. As part of my story, I offer vignettes that serve as windows into my classroom, detailing the successes and challenges my students and I faced in engaging in critical pedagogy at a school where critical education and investigation were not embraced. Drawing upon the work of Freire (1985; 2006), Giroux (1983; 1997), Apple (2004; 2005), McLaren (1993; 1998), McLaren and Kincheloe (2005), Kincheloe (2004, n.d.) and others, I attempted to develop a critical pedagogy with my students that purposefully set into disequilibrium our commonsensical assumptions of the world and each other, and to hopefully reveal certain political, social, and cultural contradictions in our lives (Freire, 1985). In this approach to teaching and learning, I sought to disrupt and challenge (McLaren & Kincheloe, 2005) the “official” school curriculum. Our pedagogy rejected the objectification of students as simple receivers of information and situated them and the teacher as consumers/producers of knowledge (Freire, 2006). This was made possible by introducing students to basic concepts of critical theory and co-developing with them a distinctive approach to learning that featured critical investigations of personal interests and dimensions of their lives both in and out of school. While reactions to our critical pedagogy were varied, during the course of these pedagogical and curricular implementations, many of my students developed a critical reading of the world evidenced in a greater understanding of social injustice and its susceptibility to change brought about by their critically informed action.

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