The Task for Agencies of Change: Reflections On Giroux’s Critical Pedagogy

Giroux’s piece is especially appealing because I can see myself as an agency who always advocate a wind of change in the classroom, I am not necessarily always aware when I make some of my politically neoliberal assertions. However, that’s what every instructor will do, right? No matter what kind of ideology we have, we inevitably advocate what we want in the classroom. Not because of what we really what the students end up, but because of who we are. The subjectivity in ourselves makes it politically so.

Then, what should we do as agencies of change in the classroom? How do instructors balance their role as a subjective agency? Because we are in the postmodern and transnational world, our students’ cultural background is diverse, which means diverse identities, diverse ideologies, and intricate power relationships among us. Social and individual forms of cultural and agency produce discourses, which renders culture our critical object (59-60). United States, as the frontier of multi cultural and multi ideological communications, provides us fertile soil to rhetorical and therefore, cultural and political practices.

I agree with Giroux’s idea that culture is changing and being interpreted differently as time goes by (60). And I think the view of culture as an educational site is important because we don’t often relate our pedagogies to culture. Often times we ourselves are subjected to certain identity formation and state apparatus. According to Giroux, cultural studies theory provides possibilities for “new democratic transformations” such as “democratic politics,” “dynamic of resistance,” and “capabilities for social agency” (60).

Giroux’s view point that formerly pedagogy rarely focused on public politics to a broader extent (60), saying that cultural studies benefits educators in helping students’ school learning, rather than social practice (61). Referring to different theorists, Giroux seems to emphasize the importance of recognizing the relationship, or dynamic among learning in school, the social environment, and institutions. Similarly, Giroux advocates that pedagogy should become more political for cultural studies, and politics should become more pedagogical for educators (61).

Students’ identity construction and the social politics that empowered the identification is central to Giroux’s cultural study view because pedagogy involves politics outside school (62-63). Having this in mind, it is not hard for us to appreciate Giroux’s point that there is a need in our pedagogical practice to deepen and expand theoretical and political horizons of critical pedagogy (63). I cannot agree more with Giroux’s idea that we as instructors can help students to understand and maintain “their relationship to others and the world”, and “energizing students and others to engage” in their “struggles that further possibilities for living in a more just society.” I think this is quite revolutionary in essence because when students make changes, that is not merely one region, one society, but the whole world provided that our students are from different parts of the nation, or the globe.

Just as Giroux mentions, compassion and social responsibility is of vital importance to instructors if we are to better “racial justice, economic democracy, and the just distribution of political power(64).” To say that pedagogy is “contextual” (65) is quite important because we have to understand each individual, each community, and each nation’s historical context when we embark on a road of change. Logically, it requires us to deal with different issues from smaller identity and access issue to a broader environment. Transdisciplinary collaboration is conducive to creativity and deepening of knowledge (66-67), which is notably important to instructors, so does the prosperous visual and digital rhetoric. Moreover, we have to note the importance of public memory (67-68), which does not limit to our own memory, but the narratives of different people from different social class, community, and so on.

I see Giroux’s piece as excellent in his effort of bridging the gap between academia and the society. This piece is kind of a guide to what instuctors do to make knowledge our power to change, to use the classroom as the frontier of open debate on various issues that is related to the fate of the entire human race, and more importantly, to walk out of the classroom and take actions. In service learning, this is already happening. I believe more and more instructors are taking their responsibility of agencies.

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