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[Xmca-l] Re: What is a Pedagogy of the Oppressors?

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: xmca-l-bounces+vygotsky=unm.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+vygotsky=unm.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Greg Thompson
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 Someone:
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 <fsulliva@temple.edu>

> 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 <annalisa@unm.edu> wrote:
> > Hi,
> >
> >
> > 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, surely?
> >
> >
> > For new arrivers to this thread, it commenced from this thread here:
> >
> > http://xmca.ucsd.edu/yarns/15848
> >
> >
> > With its genesis here, thanks to Greg!
> >
> > http://xmca.ucsd.edu/yarns/15848?keywords=#52332?
> >
> >
> > Kind regards,
> >
> >
> > Annalisa
> >
> >

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
880 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602