This week I read chapter 6 in bell hooks’ “Teaching to Trangress” and chapter 11 in Brookfield’s “Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher”.
hooks takes some great pains to discuss the “authority of experience” – something that many teachers use to justify bad teaching even when faced with evidence that their practice is harmful. She struggled with it in a way that I won’t be able to fully understand, but I can appreciate; she struggled with the authority of experience to make her voice heard. I’ve been thinking about the neoliberal policies of education, how education is no longer really about critical thinking but about learning a trade, getting a better job, improving your wealth, and those changes fall on the system of government that we live in – one that values neoliberal economics over people. Neoliberalism values the sort of anecdotal stories that reaffirm it’s position – things like the wealthy are job creators (when in fact most people are self employed or work for small businesses), things are too big to fail, unions are corrupt and so on and so on ad nauseum. I recognize these talking point for what they are, but I respect that they are coming from a place of inequality. Why are unions bad? Well, not everyone is part of one, so there’s a privilege that is extended to those who are in the union, and excludes those who are not. This sort of class privilege is something that isn’t really covered explicitly. It was interesting to see hooks’ self identified growth from an academic who relied on authority of experience, to one who took the experience and internalized it, and found ways to explain it in other’s theories, research and work.
In Brookfield’s chapter he discusses the four risks of critical reflection – the imposter syndrome, cultural suicide, loss of innocence and finally recovering from a failed experiment. I don’t have much to add – except that these are all things that when developing a workshop or course that one has to consider. You will feel all these things, go through each of these risks and will be affected by your process for coping with these ideas. I suspect that in the process of developing a workshop around the idea of class in the classroom one would have to be aware of these potential feelings, adn try some strategies that Brookfield suggests would be useful to diminish the effect of these risks.