Like any good paper, Harkins and Wells’ (2009) analysis of critical pedagogy has provoked critical reflection and controversy. In this article, I respond to Jones’ (2012) defense of critical pedagogy, formulated as a response to DeCesare’s (2009) critique of Harkins and Wells’ article. As elaborated by Jones, critical pedagogy is aimed at reducing the power differential between teachers and students in order to empower the diversity of student voices on any given issue. Critical pedagogy invites dialogue among diverse and even clashing perspectives, with a mind toward resolving conflicts between perspectives without privileging anyone viewpoint (including the professor or teacher’s presumably more informed expertise on relevant issues). In his reply, Jones argues persuasively that critical pedagogy can be an effective means for learning experiences that are organized around self-reflective encounters with Otherness (e.g., courses related to diversity; self-reflection; conflict management; comparative analyses of culture, etc.). However, in his piece, Jones extends his defense of critical pedagogy more generally. In the following reply, I argue against the minimization of teacher authority in undergraduate classrooms. Drawing upon sociocultural approaches to human development, genuine empowerment occurs when students gain the capacity to use cultural tools to position themselves with reference to the cultures in which they will live and work. Such tools are acquired in language-based interactions between students and more accomplished cultural agents (e.g., teachers, parents, more accomplished peers, etc.). The authority of professors in the classroom is legitimized both by their greater expertise and by their responsibility to educate students. Minimization of the legitimate authority of the teacher runs the risk of disenfranchising the very students that advocates of critical pedagogy seek to empower.
Mascolo, M. (2012). Reclaiming Legitimate Authority in the Academy: A Critical Analysis of Jones' Critical Pedagogy. Pedagogy and the Human Sciences, 2 (1), 64-71. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.merrimack.edu/phs/vol2/iss1/9