Thursday, February 4, 2010

Critical approaches

Over the final quarter of the twentieth century, several important critiques of the precepts of humanism and behaviourism emerged. Sociologists had already perceived society as a system of interrelated parts, with order and stability maintained by commonly held values.18 Since the role of education is to transmit these values, quality in this approach would be measured by the effectiveness of the processes of value transmission. In the latter part of the twentieth century, critics began to acknowledge these processes as highly political. Some neo- Marxist approaches characterized education in capitalist societies as the main mechanism for legitimizing and reproducing social inequality. Others, in the ‘new sociology of education’ movement of the 1970s and 1980s, focused their critiques on the role of the curriculum as a social and political means of transmitting power and knowledge. A separate group of critical writers, known as the ‘de-schoolers’, called for the abandonment of schooling in favour of more community-organized forms of formal education. Other critiques of orthodox approaches included various postmodern and feminist views.22 While the critical approaches encompass a vast array of philosophies, they share a concern that education tends to reproduce the structures and inequalities of the wider society. Though many retain the founding humanist principle that human development is the ultimate end of thought and action, they question the belief that universal schooling will result automatically in equal development of learners’ potential. As a reaction against this, advocates of an ‘emancipatory pedagogy’ suggested that ‘critical intellectuals’ should work to empower
marginalized students by helping them analyse their experience – and thus redress social inequality and injustice. Critical pedagogy, in this view, is emancipatory in the sense that it lets students find their own voices (Freire, 1985), frees them from externally defined needs (Giroux, 1993) and helps them to explore alternative ways
of thinking that may have been buried under dominant norms (McLaren, 1994). Box 1.8
outlines the key features of the critical approaches as regards education quality.

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