Critical Teaching for Social Change
What kind of educational system do we have? What kind do we need? How do we get to one from the other?
What do teachers say about subject matter? Do students feel free to disagree with the teacher? Do students respond to each other's remarks? Do they act like involved participants or like alienated observers? Do students work cooperatively, or is the class a competitive exchange favoring the most assertive people?
Shor explains how education is an Empowering Education. It is a democratic way of teaching that is a student-centered progrom for multicultural democracy in school and society. Education should be promoting individual growth as an active, cooperative, and social process.
Shor quotes Meier, "You must arouse children's curiosity and make them think about school. For example, it's very important to begin the school year with a discussion of why we go to school. Why does the government force us to go to school? This would set a questioning tone and show the children that you trust them and that they are intelligent enough at their own level to investigate and come up with answers."
This is an example that Shor uses to defend his reasoning behind democratic pedagogy and how it is important for students to feel connected to their learning. Children need to participate and express themselves in an "opened" classroom focusing on the needs of the students. He argues student-centered learning comapred to teacher-centered learning. Teacher-centered leanring focuses on rote learning and memorization, which is often viewed as bad practice, although some would argue that rote memorization is a necessary first step in learning some subjects. He thinks that this teaching style lacks understanding and it's impossible to grasp meaning and apply the knowledge to other areas. Student-centered learning is focused on the student's needs, abilities, interests, and learning styles with the teacher as a facilitator. This classroom teaching method acknowledges student voice as central to the learning experience for every learner. They teach each other, respect each other, and learn from each other. Their learning requires students to be active, responsible participants in their own learning.
Shor quotes Banks (1991): "A curriculum designed to empower students must be transformative in nature and help students to develop the knowledge, skills, and values needed to become social critics who can make reflective decisions and implement their decisions in effective personal, social, politcal, and economic action."
Shor uses this quote in his article because it explains how collaboratively we could bring young people together in implementing children's self-interest, experience, and culture in the curriculum. It would address significant issues and enlighten students' knowledge. It would involve students in activities in understanding themselves, one another, and the world around them. He explains how people are born learners who should be able to ask why. A curriculum should not avoid students' questioning and students' critcial thinking of the world. In a curriculum that encourages, student questioning helps students to examine their learning, their everyday experience, and the conditions in society. Empowered students make meaning and imply their knowledge. A democratic curriculum involves issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and so on, and encouraging students to tackle such questions. It results in far more authentic learning than providing students with a few multicultural resources to fill curriculum gaps. Students are real people with real concerns. As students work together to solve problems, create projects, make decisions, and organize their thoughts, they learn to respect one another, contribute ideas, and build a community in the classroom.
The National Institute of Education (1984) cited student involvement as the most important reform needed in undergraduate education: "There is now a good deal of research evidence to suggest that more time and effort students invest in the learning process and the more intensely they engage in their own education, the greater will be their growth and achlevement their satisfaction with their educational experiences, and their persistence in college, and the more likely they are to continue their learning."
Shor cites this quote because he thinks that if teachers hold high expectations for their students in a democratic pedagogy way of teaching then students will further their education expereinces. They are more than likely to continue their way of learning and succeed. What would students get out of education if they don't understand and if they don't make since of it by questioning, by hearing others, by teaching others? Education for empowerment is not something done by teachers to students for their own good, but is something students develop for themselves led by a critical and democratic teacher.