A long-time writing program administrator and well-respected
iconoclast, Irvin Peckham is strongly identified with progressive
ideologies in education. However, in Going North Thinking
West, Peckham mounts a serious critique of what is called
critical pedagogy-primarily a project of the academic left-in spite
of his own sympathies there.
College composition is fundamentally a middle-class
enterprise, and is conducted by middle-class professionals, while
student demographics show increasing presence of the working class.
In spite of best intentions to ameliorate inequitable social class
relationships, says Peckham, critical pedagogies can actually
contribute to reproducing those relationships in traditional
forms-not only perpetuating social inequities, but pushing working
class students toward self-alienation, as well.
Peckham argues for more clarity on the history of critical
thinking, social class structures and teacher identity (especially
as these are theorized by Pierre Bourdieu), while he undertakes a
critical inquiry of the teaching practices with which even he
Going North Thinking West focuses especially on
writing teachers who claim a necessary linkage between critical
thinking and writing skills; these would include both teachers who
promote the fairly a-political position that argumentation is the
obvious and necessary form of academic discourse, and more
controversial teachers who advocate turning a classroom into a
productive site of social transformation.
Ultimately, Peckham argues for a rereading of Freire (an icon
of transformational pedagogy), and for a collaborative
investigation of students' worlds as the first step in a successful
writing pedagogy. It is an argument for a pedagogy based on service
to students rather than on transforming them.
Subjects: Language & Literature, Education
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