The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy

Social Justice Pedagogy, Deconstruction, & Teaching What Makes a Baby

Carrie Hart


A primary lesson within social justice education for pre-service teachers is learning to be attentive to the production of social norms and the ways in which the maintenance of said norms sustains practices of oppression and marginalization. In this paper, I critique additive frameworks of diversity that often emerge when discussing social norms with students newly exposed to ideas of power and privilege. In light of additive approaches to addressing systemic marginalization, in which the “solution” is to simply add various kinds of diversity onto an uninterrogated central norm, I propose deconstruction and critical literacy (Janks, 2010; Luke, 2012) as strategies that can both broaden students’ understanding of oppression and also through which they can explore ways to address it. Drawing on queer (Britzman, 1995; Butler, 2004) and poststructural (Derrida, 1976; Kumashiro, 2000) approaches, I offer possibilities for helping education students to explore their own relationships to cultural texts. In leveraging the idea of deconstruction as a way to consider qualities of openness as well as moments where openness fails, I investigate frameworks through which students can learn to trouble calls for diversity education as an exercise in “inclusivity”, to call dominant norms themselves into question, and to pursue justice as an openness toward the unknown. As a specific example of exploring critical literacy and deconstructive strategies in teacher education, I do a close reading of Silverberg’s (2012) What Makes a Baby and its accompanying reader’s guide. In addition to framing analysis of this book as a springboard for engaging critical literacy practices, I propose that closely considering deconstructive strategizing in relation to this text can provide a valuable analysis of ideological and political elements of schooling for future educators.


critical pedagogy; critical literacy; deconstruction; teacher education; children’s literature; What Makes a Baby

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