Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ira Shor's Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change...Connections

Ira Shor says that "empowered students make meaning and act from reflection, instead of memorizing facts and values handed to them (pg. 12)."  He believes that the deficit in our education system lies in the curriculum in the schools, which he believes to transmit the rules and knowledge from teachers to students instead of cultivating their curiosity.  By not questioning knowledge, society, and experience, Shor says that we are supporting the status quo. He also believes that despite attempts to maintain neutral status, all forms of education are political, and curriculum contents are political choices.  This relates to what August said when she called teachers "political agents".

Shor believes that empowering education has to be co developed by students and led by a democratic teacher.  He talks about how with empowering education, teachers make plans for their lessons and bring their materials to class, but then chooses to negotiate the curriculum with the students and starts with their language, themes, and understandings.  "The goals of this pedagogy are to relate personal growth to public life, by developing strong skills, academic knowledge, habits of inquiry, and critical curiosity about society, power, inequality, and change." (pg. 14). 

I think that Ira Shor's beliefs and practices align with those of Gerri August in her article on Making Room for One Another.  Both authors mention democratic pedagogy, August doing so by performing a study on a democratic classroom and supporting the practices used.  The teacher in August's study facilitated the learning within his classroom by student's interests, questions, and statements along the topic that he provided.  This method, in  turn, helped the students to learn about and learn to respect the diversity of families and their peers.  The practices that this teacher imposed in his classroom followed along with Shor's ideas of co developing curriculum with the students and allowing the students to be active, thoughtful, and participating in each lesson.

I also felt as though this article related to Delpit.  Shor discusses the idea that we are born learners with the desire to question things around us, but education can either cultivate or stifle this urge.  The majority of curriculum used today in schools with their monological practice are keeping those in the culture of power in the same position of power while transmitting rules and knowledge to their students, and allowing little to know room for their curiosity.  If we want our students to believe that they can change their lives and achieve their goals if they work hard enough, then we need to encourage them to push to get the answers to all of their questions.  I think that Delpit would agree that students should not be taught to adapt to society.

After reading this article, it caused me to do a lot of reflecting upon my own teaching practices.  I would like to think that I gear a lot of my teaching based upon what the students are curious about, but the fact of the matter is that I have to follow a curriculum at the same time.  I think that our students would be so much more engaged and therefore much more receptive to the information they were learning about if it was based upon their own personal inquiries.  It makes me wonder how different society would be if our students were allowed this creativity and curiosity, especially because in this type of classroom students should be expected to develop skills and knowledge as well as high expectations for themselves, their education, and their futures.  Shore said, empowering education "approaches individual growth as an active, cooperative, and social process, because the self and society create each other (pg. 15)."

1 comment:

  1. I definitely agree with your last paragraph...it's so hard to balance between teaching the curriculum, and teaching what they're actually interested in!