Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)

1988

Henry Giroux Publishes Teachers as Intellectuals: Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Learning

Building upon a notably influential body of writings addressing the relationship between schooling and society, knowledge and power, and the possibility for a radical democratic approach to education, Henry Giroux's Teachers As Intellectuals considers teachers as central agents in the process of enacting educational reform to such ends. Drawing upon the more practical insights within the work of critical pedagogy, Teachers As Intellectuals marks Giroux's interest in applying social theory to the day-to-day challenges of schooling. By envisioning teachers as transformative intellectuals who are actively educate students in the language of critique, possibility, democracy, and social justice, Giroux argues that schools can indeed become democratic public spheres. This is not to say that Teachers As Intellectuals offers a blueprint for incorporating a critical pedagogy in the classroom. Rather, the work establishes Giroux's sound belief that teachers must take on the role of transformative intellectuals who are committed to understanding and engaging the struggles for equality and justice specific to their classrooms, schools, and the communities they serve. It is within such contextually specific realms that such broader considerations of critical pedagogy as race, class, gender, democracy, justice, and oppression can begin to be taken up by students in a meaningful and politically active light.

To attempt to sum up Henry Giroux's work in the space of a few short pages is both a daunting and impossible task. For Giroux's contributions to educational and cultural studies in the late 20th century are among the most important and relevant given the growing inequities present in our contemporary society. While Henry Giroux notably commands a broad understanding and application of social theory--from Marxist and neo-Marxist writings, to post-structural, post-colonial, or feminist theory--at the heart of his prolific body of work produced in a relatively short career is an unwavering passion for radical democracy. It is through the development of a language of possibility, through the enactment of a critical pedagogy, Giroux argues, that a radical democracy will come to fruition via the struggle for freedom and social justice. And while Giroux is committed to the belief that a radical democracy can be substantially influenced by the process of education, his work saliently challenges the traditional assumption that schooling in the United States currently insures the enactment of democracy and egalitarianism. It is through such constant challenging of certainties that Giroux's work continually pushes for new visions of a democratic social order, for larger questions around which to struggle in the process of learning. Ultimately, Giroux's work offers teachers and cultural workers a vision of history that is committed to possibility--to an unwavering belief the future must always be considered as a site for hope.

Henry Giroux's career, in many cases, emerged as what he has called a historical accident. As a child growing up in the working-class neighborhood of Smith Hill, Rhode Island, Giroux witnessed first hand the social and educational inequities that his later writings would vehemently challenge. By chance, Giroux's adolescent talent on the basketball court provided him with a scholarship to attend college. It would be years later, however, after working as a community organizer, and dedicating seven years to high school teaching, that Giroux would pursue a stronger understanding and engagement of social theory within the sphere of the academy. Truly, the depth and breath of Giroux's work is influenced profoundly by the streetcorners upon which he walked as a child, with the disillusionment he experienced in his early years in college, with the frustrations he struggled to make sense of as a public school teacher. These very struggles provide the foundation and passion upon which Henry Giroux's work as a social theorist and cultural critic are based.

Sources:

Giroux, Henry A. (1988). Teachers as Intellectuals: Toward a Critical Pedagogy of Learning. Granby, Massachusetts: Bergin and Garvey.

Giroux, Henry A. (1997). Pedagogy and the Politics of Hope: Theory, Culture, and Schooling. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.

Prepared by Alison Kreider (UCLA)

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