Quotes from Gottesman’s Critical Turn in Education

The Critical Turn in Education traces the historical emergence and development of critical theories in the field of education, from the introduction of Marxist and other radical social theories in the 1960s to the contemporary critical landscape” (p. i)

“speaking broadly, critical education seeks to expose how relations of power and inequality (social, cultural, economic) in their myriad forms, combinations, and complexities, are manifest and are challenged in the formal and informal education of children and adults… This more robust understanding involves fundamental transformations of the underlying epistemological and ideological assumptions that are made about what counts as ‘official’ or legitimate knowledge and who holds it” (p. xii)

“Although the critical Marxist tradition remains a foundation for much of the word that followed, critical educational scholars now engage a range of intellectual and political traditions that help us better understand culture and identity, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, constructions of ability, ecological crisis, and their myriad intersections” (p. 1-2)

“If we are going to truly push for a feminist, anti-racist democratic-socialist society (my advocacy)–one that can forcefully push against the structures and ideologies that support and entrench patriarchy, white supremacy, and capitalism– I believe we have to address these questions honestly, rigorously, and as a critical educational community” (p. 3)

“[For Friere,] although only the oppressed can most fully understand their oppression and, therefore, must be the historical force of their own liberation, dehumanization is so internalized among the oppressed through oppression that it is difficult for the oppressed to recognize that dehumanization is not a historical and unchangeable fact” (p. 13)

“The Turn to Cultural Marxism and the Limits of Schooling… Education scholars thus increasingly preferred a cultural Marxist lens that looked at the ideological structure and content of schooling as opposed to the political economical Marxist lens that theorized capital and assessed quantifiable inputs and outcomes of schooling’s reproductive tendencies” (p. 47)

“[Michael] Apple advocated ‘critical awareness’ and a move towards ‘critical scholarship’:… Critical scholarship thus examines dominating and alienating practices in schooling with the explicit intent of changing such practices” (p. 60)

“‘[For Freire] The conditions of domination are not only different in the advanced industrial countries of the West, but they are also much less obvious, and in some cases, one could say more pervasive and powerful… Not only the content and nature of domination need to be documented in this case, but the very fact of domination has to be proven to most Americans‘ [Henry Giroux commenting on Freire]” (p. 79)

“And second, [Giroux interprets Gramsci as saying that] ‘hegemony refers to the successful attempt of a dominant class to utilize its control over the resources of state and civil society, particularly through the use of the mass media and the educational system, to establish its view of the world as all inclusive and universal‘ (Giroux, 1981a, p. 23)” (p. 81)

“By the mid 1980s, feminist scholars had produced a broad literature of ideas that was radically reshaping scholarship throughout the humanities and social sciences. Notably, at this time, regardless of the field or discipline of inquiry, or the intellectual and political traditions engaged, because of a similar focus within most traditions of feminist theory of knowledge as situated –e.g. that knowledge emerges from the particular lives and experiences of women— it is not surprising that many feminist scholars found an intellectual ally, if not an epistemic home, in the postmodernist and poststructuralist through developed by French thinkers… The critique of the ‘God’s eye view’ was central to most post-1960s feminist thought” (p. 95)

“in the United States the labels ‘postmodernism’ and ‘poststructuralism’ stuck as a way to name these theorists’ general call to rupture grand narratives, focus on the local and particular, illuminate contingency, deconstruct discourse, and inquire into identity. In particular, many feminist scholars identified in postmodernism and poststructuralism concepts and language to challenge the idea of a universal rational knowing subject that exists outside of social and political context, discursive regimes of power, and without gendered, raced, and classed identity. Objectivity, and a critique of the human sciences and traditional research methods, was thus a focal point” (p. 97-98)

“In addition to varying epistemic stances, the move towards situated knowledge, and ultimately to a feminist standpoint epistemology that conferred epistemic privilege on those from nondominant positions, was made by scholars who identified with a range of political traditions. In fact, feminist standpoint theory itself emerged in the work of scholars such as [Smith, Harstock, Harding, and Collins] as a move within the critical Marxist tradition and not from within postmodern thought–instead of the proletariat being uniquely positioned to lead the revolution because of the insight derived from their oppressed status vis-a-vis capitalist control of the means of production, feminist standpoint shifted the line of reasoning to the idea that women have a social location that offers unique insight into the dominant structures and ideologies that govern patriarchy” (p. 98)

“[Elizabeth Ellsworth wrote:] ‘I cannot unproblematically bring subjugated knowledges to light when I am not free of my own learned racism, fat oppression, classism, ableism, or sexism. No teacher is free of these learned and internalized oppressions'” (p. 101)

“The mid-20th century witnessed what may be described as a gradual shift from thinking of empirical scientific/social scientific knowledge as resting on a firm foundation (foundationalism), to thinking of all knowledge as tentative and fallible (nonfoundationalism). In the first instance (positivism), knowledge is viewed as created without a theoretical lens (it is strictly what can be observed and measured), created under conditions that purge all influence of value and social context, and aims to discover what might be characterized as a capital T “Truth” that enables us to predict/know the (observable) natural/social world. In the second instance (postpositivism), knowledge creation is viewed as a social practice (one that takes place within a community of scientists/social scientists), is consciously theory-laden, engages questions about the degree to which value and social contexts do and perhaps should influence inquiry, and aims to warrant lower-case ‘t’ truth-claims” (p. 109).

“The space Trader narrative has become one of the classic essays in Critical Race Theory, commonly referred to by the acronym CRT, a movement within legal studies that gradually emerged in the 1980s following the wake of failed civil rights gains in order to illuminate the endemic nature of racism in the United States’ legal system and American society more broadly. In the mid-1990s, scholars in the field of education began drawing upon CRT as a framework to make sense of racism and inequality within educational systems. This was a landmark moment in the field. As was the case with the emergence of Marxist thought and postmodernist and poststructuralist feminist theory, the emergence of CRT radically transformed educational inquiry and discourse. For the first time, race became a central focus of scholarship, particularly among scholars on the political left” (p. 116-117).

“Following CRT [Critical Race Theory], [Ladson-Billings and Tate] argued that ‘racism is endemic and deeply ingrained in American life,” which illuminates why unequal school experiences persist; they argued that civil rights law is ineffective, which is why Brown v. Board did not solve schooling inequities; and, they argued that it is crucial to ‘challenge claims of neutrality, objectivity, color-blindness, and meritocracy’ by ‘naming one’s own reality,’ a process that happens through telling one’s stories, which ‘serve as interpretive structures by which we impose order on experience and it on us'” (p. 126)

“In his first article using CRT, in 1997, Solorozano framed his work with five themes that he viewed as central to CRT. The first theme was ‘the centrality and intersectionality of race and racism.” This theme had multiple components, most importantly the idea that ‘race and racism are endemic.’ For Solorzano, this meant that race must be a central focus of analysis, and it also meant highlighting the idea that race and racism intersect with other forms of ‘subordination’ such as gender and class, an idea about intersectionality that was formulated by Crenshaw (p. 6). The second theme was ‘the challenge to dominant ideology,’ which meant that CRT ‘challenges the traditional claims of the legal system to objectivity, meritocracy, color-blindness, race neutrality, and equal opportunity’ (p. 6). The third theme was ‘the commitment to social justice,’ which included the elimination of racism. The fourth theme was ‘the centrality of experiential knowledge,’ which ‘recognizes that the experiential knowledge of Women and Men of Color are legitimate, appropriate, and critical to understanding, analyzing, practicing, and teaching the law and its relation to racial subordination’ (p. 7). The fifth and final theme was ‘the interdisciplinary perpsective,’ which meant race must be understood in historical context and by ‘using interdisciplinary method’ (p. 7)” (p. 127-128).

“Solorzano made a case for a more diverse ‘family tree’ for CRT. Alongside Critical Legal Studies, which, as Crenshaw (2011) detailed, is the legal community CRT scholars initially emerged out of and broke off from, Solorzano and Yosso argued that ethnic studies and women’s studies, cultural nationalism, Marist/neo-Marxist, and internal colonial schools of thought influenced and continue to influence CRT, especially in education (pp. 473-474). For Solorzano and Yosso, identifying a family tree that extends beyond legal scholarship enabled them to draw from these diverse intellectual traditions while retaining the CRT identity” (p. 129).

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