Critical Pedagogy: An Overview


The concept of critical pedagogy delves into the arena of living an examined life relative to the art and science of teaching, implying that growing as an educator is one that must be cultivated with respect to being clear about the lens in which one wears to ground her/his philosophy, point of view, or belief system. The notion of being clear about one’s lens is no small point because when entering into a discussion about critical pedagogy, one finds very quickly there is not one single “best” way to define it. 

Yet, within the varied explanations and numerous critical pedagogy descriptions that abound in the literature, there are, however, central characteristics that are woven throughout all explanations of critical pedagogy. 

That is, critical pedagogy is theoretically grounded; realizes that there is no such thing as a neutral education; is aware of the political nature of education; does not view education and life itself from a reductionistic or a deterministic point of view; seeks to comprehend the link between knowledge and power; is contextually attentive; promotes human rights, justice, and democracy; is a process of transformation; is a way of thinking; pays attention to gender, class, race, and ethnicity and its relationship with oppression/liberation; moves both teacher and student in a horizontal relationship as subjects; challenges the status quo; and is continuously evolving. 

In the final analysis, the thinking of critical pedagogy is a point of view, a way of thinking that provides perceptive insight to not only understand disparities and injustices in education, but also offers the educator an incisive language to explain marginalization, alienation, and oppression, ultimately guiding the opening of the proverbial door to transformative solutions in fostering an authentic education that is democratic, just, and inclusive.