CRITICISMS OF CRITICAL PEDAGOGY
1. Ignores Virtues of Dominant Culture - Critical Pedagogy disregards the values implicit within social structures. For example, in its criticism of American Imperialism, critical pedagogy ignores the virtues of America. They miss the fact that our foreign intervention has liberated people and stopped genocide, even if it has also killed civilians and created totalitarian governments.
2. Critical Pedagogy Indoctrinates – Because they do not believe that education can be neutral, there is a subtle temptation to indoctrinate students. Critical theorists point out that the current system already indoctrinates and that critical theory at least allows students to develop their own convictions. However, critics of Critical Pedagogy feel that this undermines the work of parents, churches, family and other social institutions in instilling values among their children.
3. Limited in Scope – Critical theory makes sense in language arts and in social sciences. However, it is difficult to see how it can apply to math or science. Though there is some validity there, critical pedagogy could be applied in certain circumstances to math and science. For example, critical pedagogy encourages students to challenge assumptions, create hypothesis and test it with action. After all, Albert Einstein grew up in an oppressive learning environment and faced harsh rebukes because of his lack of conformity to rules. Yet this is precisely why he was able to discover the theory of relativity.
4. Hypocritical - Most adherants to Critical Pedagogy will be quick to attack Benjamin Franklin or Abraham Lincoln, but will be slow to criticize Malcom X or Che Guevara.
Responding to Criticisms
Perhaps the hardest barrier to overcome is critical theory’s association with Marxist dogma. With the fall of Communism, it would seem that there is not much of a place for critical pedagogy. However, many more “conservative” educators have redefined critical pedagogy. Neil Postman, for example, pioneered a new method of media studies, blending together Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the non-neutrality of technology with social sciences and literature.
I find it sad that critical pedagogy has been interpreted so narrowly by educators. In reality, it harmonizes well with other theories. For example, the use of dialogue and small group interaction fits well with cooperative learning. The notion of collective wisdom and a democratic approach meshes well with the Social Learning Theory. The idea of students thinking critically about society, about presuppositions and even about authority fit well with Bloom’s Taxonomy – especially in terms of analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Moreover, the call to action, which is part of Freire’s learning cycle, involves Bloom’s idea of application.