One odd aspect of the book’s legacy—at least in its English translation—is its popularity in contexts in which students are not oppressed. In an article provocatively titled “Pedagogy of the Privileged,” the philosopher Tracey Nicholls, writing in the CLR James Journal (which is named for a Trinidadian Marxist), for a special issue on bell hooks, grappled with the paradox that, because higher education is still so class-segregated in the United States, radical American educators have found themselves teaching Pedagogy of the Oppressed—and its methods—in colleges and universities for the elite, contexts where students may be more likely to be oppressors. While Freire viewed the purpose of education as the liberation of the oppressed, in elite classrooms, Nicholls observes, the challenge for a liberatory pedagogy is to teach empathy and solidarity with the oppressed—who, in many cases, are not in the room.
What happens when learning goes online? This is not a question technology can answer. It’s one we need to answer. Teachers, librarians, learning designers, students. Actually good online education comes not from the purchase of another platform, but out of dialogue, out of the will to empower everyone involved in teaching and learning to create together a digital learning that isn’t just instrumental, that isn’t just performative, but that’s authentic, meaningful, and just.
I worry, however, that we are failing to understand the significance of this moment. I worry that we will wait to begin to address both the intellectual and emotional aspects of climate change until some curriculum writer or policy wonk decides it’s appropriate. And I worry that when we do begin to embrace this challenge in schools that we will do so with a disregard to the larger context of how power relationships in our society really hold the key to whether or not we’re going to solve it.
I don’t grade student work, and I haven’t for 20 years. This practice continues to feel like an act of personal, professional, and political resistance.
While the Paris climate agreement, signed in 2015, urges signatory countries to implement climate education, many countries who made the pledge have not fulfilled it, including New Zealand’s nearest neighbour Australia, according to the science publication The Conversation.
The curriculum will put New Zealand at the forefront of climate change education worldwide; governments in neighbouring Australia and the United Kingdom have both faced criticism for lack of cohesive teaching on the climate crisis. The New Zealand scheme, which will be offered to all schools that teach 11 to 15 year-old students, will not be compulsory, the government said.
This is in contrast to the Australian government, which does not believe students should be involved in such debates. There have been various resources developed for schools, such as CSIRO’s Sustainable Futures, Cool Australia, Future Earth, the Climate Reality Project, Climate Watch and Scootle. However, on a whole schools are left to themselves.
But both UDL and CSP have more to offer than removing barriers. At heart, they are as Susan Baglieri argues, asset pedagogies: “it’s not only about access. It is not only about barriers.” We also need to recognize “the assets that disability experiences bring”. This recognition is part of a larger political project that goes beyond what Django Paris identifies as “simple notions of resilience” that leave out “the political underpinnings of work for social and cultural change.” We need to “understand young people as whole, not broken.”
More concretely, I don’t think about rubrics, for example, as they relate to teaching, I think about them as they do or do not make a difference in the world, or do or do not support students in making a difference in their world. If I’m asked why I don’t like rubrics, I might answer that rubrics not only provide a false promise of equity and fairness, but they also pinion the relationship between a student and their teacher, and a student and their learning.
But the real trouble with rubrics is that rubrics are a red herring, a symptom but not the underlying problem. Aspirin for our headache. As a way to navigate the system and process of education we’ve adopted culturally, rubrics can be useful. But they placate us into thinking that the model of learning and teaching we enact is: first, successful, and second, the only model.
So to be clear: the Instructure DIG initiative would be impossible if students and teachers didn’t show up to class and use the LMS. Likewise, Turnitin’s very expensive database, would eventually become worthless if teachers and institutions stopped asking students to turn-it-in. We—teachers, administrators, instructional designers–make these platforms not only worth their purchase price, but we make these platforms run.