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[Xmca-l] Re: What is a Pedagogy of the Oppressors?
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- Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: What is a Pedagogy of the Oppressors?
- From: Helena Worthen <email@example.com>
- Date: Mon, 5 Jan 2015 21:55:01 -0800
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This discussion of an opposition between individualism and collectivism sounds like something out of the 1950s, when "individuals" were viewed as heroic if they stood up to "conformity."
The demonstrations in Ferguson could just as well be seen as evidence of a collective resistance to oppression, not individualism.
Labor law provides for collective action because the power relationships of the workplace are so unequal that unless people work together to protect themselves, they are helpless. The language in which this right is named is as follows: "Concerted activity for mutual aid and protection." This language goes back to the earliest labor legislation in the US, the Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932. It simply means that if you are doing something alone, by yourself, as an individual, to better yourself, you are unprotected and your employer can retaliate against you. If you are doing something with other people -- which means that you have done the work of talking with them and you agree about what you're doing -- then your employer cannot retaliate against you for doing it.
This is the most basic, bottom-level piece of labor law in the US. Every time someone at work speaks out against something dangerous or cruel or insulting, and does it with other people -- not as a lone individual, but as part of a group, which would include their union but doesn't have to -- they are invoking this right.
That's a completely different view of "collectivism" than what people have been bringing up on this list. When I look at YouTube videos (or on Vice) to see the young people moving around on the streets in Ferguson, I see concerted activity. Same here in Berkeley, where there have been numerous demonstrations including blocking I-80. I am glad they're doing it and I respect them for it.
Various labor commentators, by the way, have excoriated the police union for their behavior toward Mayor DeBlasio and other old NY unions for their failure to speak out against police killings of unarmed black men.
On Jan 5, 2015, at 8:16 PM, Glassman, Michael wrote:
> Just to show how complicated the issue is there is also a countervailing ideology of collectivism. The thin blue line remains very much a phenomenon that is having a big impact on New York City today. This is years after Frank Serpico who points to this ideology among the police 40 years after he was pretty much destroyed because he spoke out against this idea of a single police force.
> A recent article he wrote
> Most individuals go along to get along, even when it is against their own interests. Police for instance are safer when they have relationships in the communities. The police in New York would be far better off if they admitted that Eric Garner was killed by the unwarranted actions of the policeperson. But that isn't part of their culture - they learn instead to protect their "way of life." They believe protecting their culture is in some ways protecting themselves. So you look at Ferguson and you see the ideology of individualism. You look at New York and you see the ideology of collectivism. Perhaps it is not that we can't find answers. Perhaps it is that we are asking the wrong questions.
> From: email@example.com [firstname.lastname@example.org] on behalf of Greg Thompson [email@example.com]
> Sent: Monday, January 05, 2015 10:32 PM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: What is a Pedagogy of the Oppressors?
> Yes, I fear that people on both sides of the political aisle have been
> influenced by an ideology of individualism in their interpretations of the
> recent police violence against African-American men. On the political
> right, this is interpreted as a case of a few bad cops and hence not a
> serious problem. On the political left, this is interpreted as a case of
> white racist cops (really just another version of the "a few bad cops"
> I think both perspectives miss the point of structural/institutional (and
> hence hidden) racism and the context of policing that preceded these
> There is a wonderful book out that explores some of the background context
> that was subsequent to (and consequent to) these instances and which is
> crucially important for what happened in those cases. The book is Matt
> Taibbi's Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.
> The one sentence explanation: new policing policies target certain
> communities (poor and typically black) and subject persons in those
> communities to arrests for things such as "obstructing pedestrian traffic"
> - even for standing in front of their own home (anyone on the list serve
> ever been arrested for standing in front of your home?).
> I would highly recommend this radio interview with Taibbi about this book:
> And I am happy to hear that Alice Goffman's book is being read. I recall
> meeting her earlier on in her career and she was a bit anxious about her
> work (and frustrated by others' fascination with her pedigree which she
> felt distracted from her work, which, imho, is absolutely remarkable
> ethnographic work). Anyway, I'd second her book as an excellent source for
> anyone wanting to learn more about what life is like for African-American
> men living in poverty in the inner-city.
> On Sun, Jan 4, 2015 at 11:27 PM, Vera John-Steiner <email@example.com> wrote:
>> I agree with Greg that the problem we face when confronting oppression is
>> the ideology of individualism. In discussions about Ferguson and related
>> events we are frequently told that police brutality is due to a few bad
>> cops. But what we are faced with is a system of oppression that has been
>> hidden from public view but is deeply and painfully experienced by members
>> of many poor African-American communities. A recent book by Alice Goffman (
>> a sociologist as was her famous father) entitled On the Run describes her
>> experiences in a Philadelphia Black community where she lived for six years
>> while both an undergraduate and graduate student. I only read extensive
>> interviews with her (waiting for the book) in which she detailed
>> the incessant harassment and persecution of young Black men as well as the
>> oppression of their mothers, partners etc. How are future members of the
>> police taught and socialized to carry out these acts? I am not sure, but
>> there is a pedagogy involved in turning these future cops into oppressors.
>> And there are many structural reasons why in our current society we want
>> to jail rather than create employment for young men who may have done
>> nothing or misbehaved in ways for which young white men would experience a
>> slap on the wrist. I do agree that a start was made by members of the
>> Frankfurt school in trying to explore some psychological features of
>> oppression under Nazi rule. But not much else has been done since then
>> about the socialization that turns naïve youth into occupying soldiers,
>> cops or prison guards. It is a grim topic and though I thought I wanted to
>> pursue it, I did not have Alice Goffman's courage and determination. And
>> thus choosing avoidance I,too, am an accessory to oppression.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:
>> email@example.com] On Behalf Of Greg
>> Sent: Sunday, January 04, 2015 9:12 PM
>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: What is a Pedagogy of the Oppressors?
>> I too try for an approach of (viral?) immanent critique. I think that
>> there are situations where people will "get it" (or maybe "get infected by
>> it"), but I particularly sympathize with your day-by-day worries that I'm
>> not doing enough and that I should be taking more radical action. But I
>> also recall the words of a mentor of mine, feminist scholar and philosopher
>> of education Audrey Thompson, who used to point out the importance of
>> carrying out a work on multiple levels - some more radical than others but
>> all are necessary for change to happen (e.g., Malcolm X and MLK). Still not
>> sure I'm convinced of that (if not now, when? if not you, who? and all
>> that...), but it's where I'm at.
>> The overwhelmingly white and mostly middle-class students I confront have
>> very good hearts and are often quite interested in this project of
>> "liberating the oppressed" (a phrasing that still makes me nervous -
>> Perhaps because it seems overly ambitious, or perhaps because it smacks of
>> paternalism, but for both reasons I think it is a propos for describing
>> what my students are up to). The problem is that my students seem to think
>> in ways that are ideologically individualistic. These students can't see
>> beyond psychological thinking in which individuals are entirely responsible
>> for all that they think and do. They can't see how anything beyond the
>> individual could have much relevance to the individual, much less how it
>> could play a constitutive role. They are entirely taken by the myth of
>> individual will and see the task of liberation of the oppressed to be a
>> simple task of educating the oppressed to be more willful in their efforts
>> to succeed in an (assumedly) meritocratic system. As a result, they throw
>> all their energies behind projects that are doomed to fail in terms of
>> accomplishing what they want to accomplish, i.e., "helping" other people.
>> So, for me, a pedagogy of the oppressors (which, is, in part to say, the
>> focus of my own re-search and education) is a pedagogy that can help
>> liberate these students from an individualistic ideology (and following
>> Michael G, this is not to say that there is anything wrong with people
>> thinking as individuals - the problem lies with the ideology of
>> individualism). And yes, here is where I see the approach of CHAT to be
>> really remarkably useful precisely AS a pedagogy of the oppressor. CHAT
>> offers a way of appreciating the role of context in the ongoing
>> constitution of individuals. That seems useful. Perhaps even liberating...
>> p.s. One recent TED talk I came across that I find useful (particularly
>> for those students of mine who are interested in international development,
>> of which I have a fair number) is Sirolli's talk titled "Want to Help
>> Shut Up and Listen":
>> The talk and Sirolli's approach leave a lot to be desired, but I sincerely
>> appreciate the sentiment "if you want to help someone, shut up and listen",
>> and I have found this to be useful to get students to actually begin to
>> realize that the world may be bigger (and perhaps badder) than they had
>> previously imagined.
>> On Sun, Jan 4, 2015 at 6:16 PM, FRANCIS J. SULLIVAN <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>> Wow, this is a great thread, one I think about all the time, as one of
>>> the oppressors. Not by choice, as I see this as a structural, or
>>> rather a "positional" category, akin to the workings of power in terms
>>> of one's relationship to the means of production. I can still recall
>>> Horkheimer and Adorno's anecdote in *Dialectic of Enlightenment*, one
>>> the ways that the songs of the Sirens went unheard by Odysseus'
>>> crew--as he had stoppered their ears--yet remained useless to Odysseus
>> as he was lashed to the mast.
>>> So, I certainly agree that we need a pedagogy of the oppressors as a
>>> complement to that of the oppressed. I always thought that was the
>>> major effort of the Frankfurt School.
>>> As someone who teaches secondary school pre-service teachers, I am
>>> quite aware of my structural position as an "officer of the State." I
>>> was in the middle of revising my syllabi for the upcoming semester
>>> when I saw this thread emerge. The advent of the corporate reform of
>>> schooling called Common Core poses a fundamental threat to the
>>> democratic roots of education in the US, yet I can neither ignore it
>>> nor simply trash it. The students I prepare must be able to address
>>> the Core if they are to have a career at all. So, for better or worse,
>>> I find the best resistance to be the tightest embrace of the
>>> "principles" embedded in the Core, an embrace that, I hope, lets me
>>> transform them into a useful and useable critique of the Core itself.
>>> So, this semester, we examine "speaking" and "writing" standards in
>>> terms of dialect, code, and register differences. We develop lessons
>>> and units in which high school students grapple with the reality of
>>> "code-switching," and the choices one can make to successfully
>>> navigate speech and writing situations defined by conflicting purposes
>> and relational hierarchies.
>>> Of course, all this is news to my students, almost all of whom are
>>> white and middle-class, and most of whom are male. So, I approach
>>> these topics by emphasizing that learners develop best when teaching
>>> meets them where they are and builds on what they know. I choose texts
>>> that de-emphasize the kinds of oppression that plays out in the lives
>>> of urban students. So, where does someone like me fit in this mosaic?
>>> Are we "leading the resistance from behind; or allowing ourselves to
>>> be co-opted?" My answer to that changes at least weekly, sometimes
>>> daily. I can only say that I'm doing what I can.
>>> Francis J. Sullivan, Ph.D.
>>> Associate Professor
>>> Department of Teaching and Learning
>>> College of Education
>>> Temple University
>>> Philadelphia, PA 19122
>>> Find out what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact
>>> measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.
>>> Frederick Douglass
>>> On Sun, Jan 4, 2015 at 3:46 PM, Annalisa Aguilar <email@example.com>
>>>> I am peeling off from the old thread to begin a new thread!
>>>> Our inquiry hear appears to be: What is a Pedagogy of the Oppressors?
>>>> I suggest "a" and not "the" because there could be more than one,
>>>> For new arrivers to this thread, it commenced from this thread here:
>>>> With its genesis here, thanks to Greg!
>>>> Kind regards,
>> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
>> Assistant Professor
>> Department of Anthropology
>> 880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
>> Brigham Young University
>> Provo, UT 84602
> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Anthropology
> 880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
> Brigham Young University
> Provo, UT 84602