Dr. Stephen Brookfield is the John Ireland Endowed Chair at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has been evolving as a teacher and teaching others how to evolve through critical, reflective practices for almost fifty years. He is the author of 18 books on adult learning and education, critical race theory and adult education, teaching through discussion, democratic spaces, power dynamics in the classroom, social justice teaching, and activist education. He incorporates critical theory (e.g. Gramsci, Marcuse, Habermas) and pedagogical theories (e.g. Paulo Freire, Myles Horton, Ira Shor, John Dewey, Eduard Lindeman) in his writing.
In Part 1 Stephen talks about his background and what drew him into teaching. He models what it means to be a critically reflective teacher—in Freire’s words, authoritative, not authoritarian. He continually searches for what’s new, what is yet to be realized—and that awareness involves a critique of power in the classroom. “There is no such thing as a power-free classroom,” he writes. Everything, including naming, reifies power dynamics. “Efforts to introduce more student-centered, empowering activities sometimes, in a teasing contradiction, underscore teachers’ power,” he has written, and faculty have to know and reflect on their own social locations and privileges as they challenge white supremacy, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and capitalism.
Ira Shor is Professor of English at the College of Staten Island and Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at The Graduate Center, CUNY. He is a leading theorist and practitioner in critical literacy and pedagogy and democratic classroom spaces. Shor is the author of numerous books, including: Critical Teaching and Everyday Life (1980), Empowering Education: Critical Teaching for Social Change (1992), When Students Have Power: Negotiating Authority in a Critical Pedagogy (1996), and a 1987 “talking book” with Paulo Freire at The Highlander Research Center, A Pedagogy of Liberation: Dialogues on Transforming Education. In our conversation on March 13, 2017 Shor offered his definition of critical pedagogy and his critique of mainstream practices in higher education, along with insights into risk-taking and creating just and democratic spaces in the classroom.
“We have been allowed to know only one definition of rigor, the authoritarian, traditional one, which mechanically structures education, and discourages us from the responsibility of recreating ourselves in society.” (A Pedagogy for Liberation, p. 77)
“Fear comes from the dream you have about the society you want to make and to unmake through teaching and other politics.” (A Pedagogy for Liberation, p. 56)