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Interrogating r/Radical [a manuscript]


Introduction and Texts

The goal of this study was to investigate the following research questions:

  1. What do educators describe as their motive(s) for adopting r/Radical methods in andragogy?
  2. What are the most commonly cited r/Radical methods in andragogy?
  3. What are the most frequently reported learning outcomes (for students and teachers) of adopting r/Radical methods in andragogy?

After months of interrogating the scholarly literature available on r/Radical methods of andragogy and pedagogy, I selected six recently published texts which represented some of the divergent perspectives in the field. An analysis of those texts make up the meat of the annotated bibliography and critique which follows.

r/Radical Methods of Andragogy: An Annotated Bibliography and Critical Review of the Literature

Among other more contemporary usages, the Online Etymology Dictionary (2008) traced the entomology of radical as: Radical: 1398 (adj.), in a medieval philosophical sense, from L.L.radicalis “of or having roots,” from L. radix (gen. radicis) “root” (see radish). The meaning “going to the origin, essential” is from 1651. The same source described the first usage of radical in a political sense as being reformist (circa 1802) and unconventional (circa 1921).

Presently, when searching the academic literature for r/Radical in the context of education we find an approximation to the later usage of the term. In other words, according to the contemporary literature (that published within roughly the last 10 years) the use of r/Radical in relation to methods in andragogy and/or pedagogy, and when used in the broader context of Education, Schooling, and the Academy, implies the unconventional and most certainly political.

Scholars employing the term r/Radical have adopted and enlivened through their discourse, theory, and/or reported actions a specific political position in reference to the work of teaching and learning—ranging between their own classroom practices to global socio-political movements of educational reform. They convey this political position either implicitly via their use of what I have labeled as r/Radical Discourse or explicitly by thoroughly unveiling and enumerating a favored political ideology.(1)

Analytical Framework

Owning to the unconventional and political meanings associated with the usage of the term r/Radical within the context of education, reviewing hooks’ (1994) interrogation of the act of naming illuminated the need to be mindful of the power of privilege leveraged by scholars who each represent individual or collectivist interests in their application of the term r/Radical. The author wrote, “the privileged act of naming often affords those in power access to modes of communication and enables them to project an interpretation, a definition, a description of their work and actions, that may not be accurate, that may obscure what is really taking place” (p. 62).

bell hooks’ analysis of naming provided an important lens which I took up while exploring the use of r/Radical in the literature of andragogical (and pedagogical) methodologies. She believed that even when using the most seemingly innocuous terms, “good teacher” for example, the would-be “namer” takes up a position of power and from it expounds upon their own implicit understanding(s) of the phenomenon being named.

Another framework I employed in my review of the literature was that of critical discourse analysis. Critical discourse analysis (CDA) is a field rich with its own politics and Discourse to be sure; however some of its basic theoretical principles as outlined by Gee (1996) helped me approach this intensely politicized literature with an increased level of criticality. Briefly, Gee proposed

  • Discourses are inherently ideological and they serve to determine who should be considered an “insider” and who is not;
  • Discourses do not generate criticism from within, and they decide what is valid critique;
  • Discourses define themselves in relation to other opposing Discourses;
  • By clearly expressing its viewpoints and values “at the expense of others,” Discourses marginalize other Discourses and individuals who support those Discourses; and
  • Discourses are ultimately related to social power and adopting certain “dominant Discourses” can lead to acquiring goods and status (Gee, 1996 as cited in Rogers, 2004, p. 5).

As a test, the first area I examined using the analytical frameworks offered by hooks (1994) and Gee (1996) was the terminology which appeared in the literature as synonymous to r/Radical(or used complimentarily within the Discourse ofradicality), these included: critical, as in critical pedagogy; progressive, liberatory, transformative, l/Leftist, and Revolutionary. All of the terms listed above, along with those antithetical terms most often cited in the literature e.g., conventional, retrograde, authoritarian, standardized, and conservative, assumed readers were “knowing with a wink” (Zavarzadeh, 2003) exactly how r/Radical was defined and implied throughout the literature.

Although Zavarzadeh’s critique went outside issues of language and power (i.e., naming and CDA) it illuminated the potential relevance of intrapersonal needs and desires when reading a text. He proposed “knowing with a wink” trades the conceptual (and theoretical) in favor of the pleasurable. To better understand his critique, I imagined a scenario where a person possessed certain knowledge and affiliated herself with that knowledge (e.g., a teacher teaching “radically” and labeling herself a “Radical Teacher”). Over time being a Radical Teacher became part of her social cachet. The Radical Teacher grew to not only depend upon her radical-ness for professional identity and worth, but also found pleasure in the hype of being The Radical Teacher at her school.(2) In the case of the literature reviewed here, many authors have seemingly abolished or severely limited their presentation of explicit, well-articulated theories of r/Radical andragogy (or pedagogy). Zavarzadeh would hold they did so in favor of the pleasure (their intrapersonal needs and desires being met) to be found in affiliating themselves with a Discourse, ideology, and fellow believers who were “in the know” about r/Radical (wink, wink) andragogy.

Format of Annotations

My work began by attempting to capture the boundaries of r/Radical methods in andragogy and what lived within them. The diversity of naming, theorizing, and operationalizing (practicing) r/Radical andragogy (and pedagogy), like that of most socio-cultural, historical phenomenon, was too broad to concretize in any way. As a result, this study took on the investigative qualities of a phenomenological study of the usage of r/Radical teaching and learning methods (including the Discourse of radicality as it related to education). You will find evidence of this approach throughout the entire manuscript.

This review is neither comprehensive nor definitive; instead it attempts to equitably represent the key ways r/Radical methodologies are applied in educational settings as described in contemporary academic literature. The six texts selected for inclusion in this review fell into two broad categories; those which dealt with r/Radicality in education from the perspective of individual educators through personal narratives and reflections on practice, and those which addressed r/Radicality from theoretical and/or philosophical perspectives.

Beyond a general review of the text each annotation also includes a critique. Although a feature not typically included in an annotated bibliography, I believed asking each work the same three questions provided consistency through which I could interrogate the data presented. The responses to these questions are presented in the section labeled Critical Questions following each annotation. The three questions were

  1. What are the author(s)’ stated (and implied) motives for adopting r/Radical andragogy?(3)
  2. What are the cited r/Radical methods in andragogy?
  3. What are the reported learning outcomes (for students and teachers) of adopting r/Radical methods in andragogy?

Lastly, I submitted the entire body of literature to a test of ecological validity. Kagan (1990) employed a similar test of ecological validity to the works she reviewed in her meta-analysis of teacher cognition. She questioned whether the data reported in each study was relevant to “classroom life, classroom behaviors, or valued student outcomes” (p. 422). The test of ecological validity, asking whether the literature was relevant to learners and learning in discernible ways, became increasingly necessary to address as the schism between the authors and their texts, and the implications for classroom-based practices exposed itself.


Breunig, M. C. (2006). Radical pedagogy as praxis [Electronic version]. Radical Pedagogy, 8(1).

While teaching an experiential education course one of the Breunig’s students questioned, “If the potential for learning in a student-directed classroom is so great, why are we learning the theoretical concept and not actually experiencing a student-directed classroom firsthand?” (Introduction section, ¶1). Written in the form of a dialog between herself as a “radical pedagogue (RP)” and herself as a “traditional educator (TE),” Breunig’s essay intimately and purposefully disclosed a lack of congruence between the theory she espoused and taught—radical pedagogy—and her daily practice as an instructor. Her use of the dialogical form enabled a vigorous debate between the author’s TE-self and RP-self. However, by using TE as a character bound within a known ideology i.e., traditional educational practices, Breunig’s RP vetted herself against a ­known critic whose questions and critiques ended up as more suggestive than provocative.

One sticking point expressed by Breunig’s TE-self centered on specific ways radical pedagogy lead to student learning. TE-self initially inquired, “but what about teaching the core content of a topic? How can student dialogue and no tests achieve these goals?” (The Conversation section, ¶2). RP did not respond directly. Instead offered a narrative of her personal experience as a student in a course where she was first turned on to what she labeled as “liberatory” methods of education. RP went on to illustrate her own radical pedagogy in action by providing an example of how she recently taught students about Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences by creating “little activity centers around the room. . . .” When TE returned to her question about student learning by asking, “I mean really, RP, do you actually think that they learning the information because they engaged in an activity? It sounds a bit naïve to me. Do you have actual research to support this?” RP’s response included two citations (both from the late 1990s) and the following statement, “Well, in part, I know that it works because experientially and intuitively, I have witnessed it” (The Conversation section, ¶4).

The conversation between TE and RP moved over a wide range of theoretical and practical issues empowered by the author’s self-proclaimed conviction to Freirian praxis. Topics covered bounced between reflections of the author’s experience as a student herself in the company of an instructor who modeled methods of radical pedagogy and several examples of Breunig’s own “liberatory pedagogical methods”. The author also, via her RP-self, identified a long list of ongoing challenges in adopting a radical pedagogy including finding balance between structure and liberation within her curriculum, rigorous emotional demands of employing a radical pedagogy, students unprepared for truly critical reading, writing, and ways of being in the classroom, various institutional constraints, and finally those students who “want to be liberated and still know what they need to do to get an A” (Conversation section, ¶8).

Critical Questions

Breunig stated her primary purpose as the examination of incongruity between her teaching practices and what she believes about radical pedagogy. She further held, “My hope is that this paper will compel other educators to continue the process of examining their own practices, encouraging them to continue to work toward aligning their methodological desires with their methodological processes” (Introduction section, ¶1). Although not stated explicitly, the author was further motivated by her belief that, “through redefining the purpose of schools as agents of social change and doing this through a radical methodology that questions commonly held assumptions, society can be reshaped” (Conversation section, ¶5).

Recommended methods of radical pedagogy were offered throughout the piece and included: allowing multiple rewrites; not testing; not grading but offering critical feedback instead; being flexible about due dates and assignment choices; regularly sitting in a circle; teaching using a variety of methodologies that not only address but appeal to students’ different learning styles; and drawing on students’ experiences and student voice.

Finally, according to the author, the primary learning outcome of using radical pedagogical methods was students’ feeling empowered to think critically about previously held assumptions regarding Truth and Knowledge, and about student-teacher hierarchy within the classroom. Breunig stated that for educators, the primary outcome of engaging in radical pedagogy is understanding “your own praxis as a ‘work in progress’ rather than a fixed entity” (Conversation section, ¶9).

Cotter, J., DeFazio, K., Ganter, B., Kelsh, D., Amrohini, S., Sahay, A., et al. for the Red Collective. (2001). The ‘radical’ in ‘radical teaching’: pedagogy now. Textual Practice, 15(3), 419-429.

The Red Collective, a self-defined international cadre of revolutionary Marxists, was formed in 2001 on the 150th year of the publication of The Manifesto of the Communist Party.(4) In this piece, the authors fiercely critiqued, one by one, the theories and discourse of five panel members of a conference session entitled “Seeds of liberation: Sowing radical ideas in conservative times”. Making up the meat of the essay was the outing of what the authors considered the exploitation, fetishization, and gross misuse of radical teaching theory as it was illustrated and defined by the various panel participants.(5)

The authors began their critique with their own definition of radical teaching. They stated, ” In order for teaching to be radical—that is, to enable ‘root thinking’ as a means for the fundamental transformation of existing social relations—it must produce explanatory knowledge of the totality of social relations and the densely interrelated practices derived from them. Radical teaching, in other words, works to lay bare the constitutive inequality in the existing (capitalist) social arrangements which are based on the priority of profit over needs” (p. 419). They further defined radical teaching as an “interventionist teaching”. To illustrate the extreme difference between what they claim to be the Orthodox Marxist theory of radical teaching, the authors dichotomize their own definition against the “retrograde pedagogies” of the panel participants describing them as perpetuating “ruling class pedagogy that uses a ‘radical rhetoric’ to replace the historical struggle for emancipation from exploitation and class society. . . .” (p. 420).

In their essay, The Red Collective took on some of the most popular ways r/Radical pedagogy was enacted by panel members including students and teachers participating in grassroots activism, reading post-modern texts, and taking up local causes through service-learning activities. For example, their critique of Manson’s pedagogy, whom as reported by the authors takes students into local homeless shelters to teach them about injustice and empathy. The authors contend Mason’s “radical pedagogy” in reality presents students with a small fragment of a much larger issue (i.e., that homelessness is not a local, isolated issue but one deeply nested within the greater class struggle). Cotter et al. further held that for students to interact with the “other” (homeless folks in this case) inherently includes an imposition of “self” (the student) onto the already oppressed “other”. The Red Collective considered this type of acting appalling and a “fetishization of local ‘experience’ as separate from the class struggle” (p. 425). The remaining panelists’ presentations were similarly deconstructed and critiqued by the authors.

The use of Discourse stood out in this piece more than in the other. In reference to the text, Sandy Bell (2008) commented, “For some reason, the saying ‘people in glass houses should not throw stones’ came to me as I tried to digest this article.” All of Gee’s (1996) assertions about Discourses, especially that “Discourses define themselves in relation to other opposing Discourses,” were evidenced in the essay. Although The Red Collective’s Discourse of r/Radical pedagogy adopted similar postures of exclusivity and “knowing with a wink” as those whom they leveled their criticisms upon, the authors did use the only Discourse divergent from what seems to be the Dominant Discourse of r/Radical pedagogy. Additionally, the essay provided the only example of explicitly Marxist critique of the theory, practice, and Discourse of r/Radical teaching.

Critical Questions

The Red Collective stated its primary motive was to help readers, “To understand the conservatism that is masquerading as ‘radical teaching’ in these [the panelists’] notions of teaching. . . .” The piece did not offer explicit methods or learning outcomes either for teachers or students with one exception. Cotter et al. wrote, “The first task of Marxist radical pedagogy is to produce in the student a level of class consciousness that makes her aware of the systematic working of private property (labor relations) and enables her to act on it. Radical is not the name of an ‘approach’. It is the level of class consciousness that the pedagogy produces” (p. 426).

Foley, G. (2001, January). Radical adult education and learning. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 20(1/2), 71-88.

Griff Foley, one of the best-known Australian writers on adult learning, was asked by the editors of the International Journal of Lifelong Education, to write an essay on radical adult education for the journal’s 20th anniversary issue.

The essay began with a brief biography and then moved into defining terms. These two moves, along with Foley’s pragmatic position regarding r/Radical education, made his essay unique among the others examined in the review. By defining “adult educator” and radical, “radical adult educator,” and learning, the author provided readers a set of givens to begin engaging the text. Most saliently he defined radical adult educators as “those who work for emancipatory social change and whose work engages with the learning dimensions of social life” (p. 72). And he described learning as “deliberate and formal, but most likely informal and incidental,” in other words he held learning to be what humans do all the time, especially in their social lives.

According to Foley the current history of the r/Radical education movement was owned to a confluence of many ideas, people, and movements including the publication of Freire’s (1970) seminal work Pedagogy of the Oppressed), Carl Roger’s humanist psychology and his introduction of the concept “facilitation of adult learning,” and the appearance of the Highlander Folk School, among others. Foley drew a distinction between Roger’s humanist version of radical andragogy and that of his contemporaries who practiced Radical and Critical pedagogy. The latter included “social analysis and political commitment” and a perspective where learners are oppressed thus a commitment of educators “to helping learners to act collectively on their oppression” (p. 76).

After providing several historical examples of r/Radical andragogy in action Foley moved into a status report of the current state, that of 2001, of radical education. The author contended the incursion of capitalism in the form of the corporate university (i.e., profit-driven), mandates a different approach to adult education. He wrote, “This new situation requires a different method of radical adult educators, still critical and emancipatory, but more strategic” (p. 81). More explicitly stated, A ‘strategic learning’ approach rejects the attempt to recast adult education and learning simply as an instrument for improving performance and productivity. It sees learning as complex (formal and informal, constructive and destructive), contested and contextual. (p. 84).

Foley went on to describe the need to investigate what people are really teaching and learning in their social lives e.g., work, home, movements, media, etc. He proposed facilitators of adult learning take new stock in understanding the enormous amount of variation inherent embedded in learning throughout adult life. His essay ends with recommendations for taking up ethnographic-type research to build theory (and learning-site specific action research projects to build pedagogy)—a distinctly Lavean approach to exploring learning.(6)

Critical Questions

“I write this paper as a contribution to a tradition which is in danger of being forgotten, at a time where it is sorely needed, “ stated Foley. Motivated to enliven the work and theoretical conversation about r/Radical andragogy, the author crafted a text that provided historical and contemporary examples of r/Radical andragogy. One implicit motive, perhaps even subversive, was to present a values-neutral position. One could assume Foley to be a Radical or Critical andragogue, however he does employ the Discourse of radicality used by so many of the other authors throughout this review.

Foley cites Freire’s ‘problem-posing’ pedagogy as a primary method used by radical adult educators. He also mentioned role playing, action research, and community-based organizing. Most passionately the author advocated for educators to use methods which were site-specific and took into strong consideration the experiences and learning legacies of adults. He claimed using person-centered, contextually based approaches to adult learning would lead to transformative outcomes. He stated, “This is learning that enables people to make sense of and act on their environment, and to come to understand themselves as knowledge-creating, acting human beings” (p. 78).

Foley depended upon Freire’s concept of “conscientization” and Mezirow’s “perspective transforming” to describe the ideal outcomes for adult learners. The author proposed this type of outcome must come from within a community of learners nested within the learners’ greater social life. To that regard he wrote, “The broader political, economic and cultural contexts sets the scene for local social action, but for this action to occur, something must happen to the consciousness of the people involved—they must see that action is necessary and possible” (p. 84).

Introduction: Forum on radical teaching now. (2008, December). Radical Teacher, 83, 14-28. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

In December 2008, the current editors of Radical eacher magazine issued a call to their editorial board, frequent contributors, and readers to “reopen the old subject of radical teaching” (p. 14). What they called a Forum began with 24 published responses from community members including current K-12 teachers, college professors, and retired self-labeled Radicals—all with vested interests in the current state and future of the educational enterprise.

The contributors wrote in response to a series of questions like “What are the conditions for teaching radically in 2008?” and “What did those of us who were around back then [in 1975 at the founding of Radical Teacher magazine] accomplish and fail to accomplish?” The responses to these questions came in the form of short essays representing a wide-range of reflections, snap-shots, and visions pertaining to the past, present, and future state of radical teaching. The variation of perspective and content between the essays was too great to summarize here; instead, I synthesized three prominent themes found across the entire collection.

The themes, each evidenced in several of the essays, were: radical teaching is situated; the Discourse of radical teaching places it on the positive extreme of a continuum of “good teaching”; and radical teachers model and promote ways of being radical to their students which most closely resemble those undertaken during the 1960s.(7)

Radical Teaching is Situated

In her essay, Shana Agid wrote, “’Radical’ has shifted meaning, moment to moment, and place to place” (p. 20). Agid’s comment speaks to one of the central themes found in the essays of the Forum: r/Radical teaching is situated. By situated I mean r/Radical teaching and radicality in general, in the way these authors described it was nested within rich situations ranging from specific classroom-based practices like “Read and teach radical texts on issues you’re not so radical on” (King, p. 25), to socio-historic instantiations of “The Movement” in the 1960s.(8) A little more than one-third of Forum authors (e.g., Shor, I., Kampf, L., and Ayers, W.) addressed issues of context in their essays.

For example, Paul Lauter wrote, “I continue to think student-centered pedagogies are useful in certain situations. But those last three words mark a significant distance from where I was in the 1960s” (p. 15). Paula Austin offers another example of the way authors treated this theme—by defining radical teaching through interpersonal contexts. She reflected upon the way her own understanding of radical has changed over her career, especially in relation to colleagues as a gauge of radicality. Regarding teaching she stated, “And it may only be radical to me now in comparison to what poses as radical amongst some of my colleagues” (p.17). Getting involved in union politics and addressing injustices related to staffing and tuition were examples of how Joseph Entin nested his version of radical teaching within his home institution and immediate community. The author wrote, “Being a radical teacher is always institution-specific to some extent. . . .” (p. 22).

Finally, Rosamond S. King wrote, “we struggle within ourselves with the notion of being radical beyond our most pressing or most personally relevant issues” (p. 25). In her comment the author brought to light the most intimate context, the intrapersonal one. Throughout the Forum King’s notion of radicality as determined by personally relevant issues came out in several essays that focused on specific “pet issues” of the authors. H. Bruce Franklin, for example, claimed every so-called radical teacher must teach about the American prison, whereas Shana Agid focused heavily on interrogating the legacies of “isms,” and Henry Abelove on “queer politics”. For these contributors, and many others in the Forum, situation was of primary importance as it determined which affectivities the educator-authors employed as they attended to their individual goals ways of being r/Radical.

Radical Teaching is “Good”

According to several of the Forum’s authors radical teaching resides on the positive extreme of a continuum which measures the politics, practices, and values related to the enterprise of education. They described radical teaching methods to be best for students. Conversely authors spoke strongly against other politics, practices, and values they believed to be unjust, oppressive, and potentially harmful. For example, Stan Karp heralded “developing a curriculum that includes the real lives of our students” as a way to oppose and “subvert the scripted plans of the powers that be” (p. 16). In Andrew Ross’s essay he countered the “acceleration of the high stakes testing regime” in K-12 schooling against the “critical impulse that we [radical teachers] push in the classroom” (p. 18). One author, Barbara Foley took this type of dichotomizing in a different direction through her description of the types of students she encounters her work as a college professor. She contrasted, “students [who] just want to get a decent grade and view the course as one more item in their shopping carts,” (in other words, students-as-consumers) with another type of student whom she described as “hungry for radical knowledge;” one who participates in- and outside the classroom along side Foley in demonstrations. She wrote of these students, “They become comrades” (p. 21).

Among all of the essays William Ayers provided the starkest contrasts of extremes between radical and conventional teaching. He wrote that many of “us” (assumingly readers) seek out teaching that is “transcendent and powerful” versus a reductionist teaching which he characterized as “glorified clerking, passing along a curriculum of received wisdom and predigested bits of information” (p. 27). Ayers summed his either-or view of teaching:

A fundamental choice and challenge for teachers, then, is this: to acquiesce to the machinery of control, or to take a stand with our students in search for meaning and a journey of transformation. To teach obedience and conformity, or to teach its polar opposite: initiative and imagination, curiosity and questioning, the capacity to name the world, to identify the obstacles to your full humanity, and the courage to act upon whatever the known demands. (p. 27).

The examples cited, particularly Ayers’ piece, highlighted the theme that radical teaching is good teaching and conventional et al. teaching is inherently bad. According to Gee (1996), by taking up a clear “us versus them” Discourse these authors subsequently keep “them” out by marginalizing their position. This type of maneuvering makes the r/Radical Discourse, at least that employed in the pieces cited, a Dominant Discourse. [How ironic.]

Radical Teachers Herald the 1960s

The third theme common among the essays in the Forum appeared in the types of r/Radical work and acts cited as examples and suggestions for action. Specifically, the inclusion and discussion of specific r/Radical work exposed the authors’ bias towards modes of student and teacher activism, organizing, and becoming politicized which modeled and promoted ways of being r/Radical similar to those practiced during the 1960s.

To being with, refer back to Foley’s favorable description of student-as-comrade. The author advocated for certain types of behaviors, which she believed to be radical, attending demonstrations for example. Along the same lines, Katharine Johnson cites her on-going work on a curriculum review committee as an example of how, “The work of radical teaching is not about one moment, one struggle, one act of resistance” (p. 22).

The language of activism was also taken up by other authors, Linda Dittmar wrote, “Students, too, need communities, but also role models who can demonstrate and explain the need for change and ways it can happen. The best moments on my campus where when teachers and students shared activism—blocking the privatization of the University’s bookstore. . . .” (p. 23). Donald Lazere adopted a similar position as he heralded a familiar type of activism. He stated, “A gratifying number of students are ultimately receptive to such studies [critical pedagogy], and some do join campus organizations like Progressive Student Alliance and United Campus Workers. . . .” (p. 19). Common within the essays cited thus far was the authors’ recognition of, and explicit admiration for, the familiar ways of The Movement in the 1960s.

The bias towards these specific ways of being r/Radical was countered in a stand-alone essay by Gerald Graff. The author critiques the ways teachers endeavor to radicalize students. A portion of his critique, because of its unique perspective among the rest of the essays in the Forum, is cited here at length. Graff wrote:

I think it’s immoral for teachers to try to get students in their classes ‘to work for egalitarian change,’ as you put it. What right do we have to be the self-appointed political conscience of our students? Given the inequality in power and experience between students and teachers (even teachers from disempowered groups), students are often justifiably afraid to challenge our political views even if we beg them to do so. Pick on somebody your own size!

The author went on to state:

Making it the main object of teaching to open ‘students’ minds to left, feminist, anti-racist, and queer ideas’ and ‘stimulate’ them (nice euphemism that) ‘to work for egalitarian change’ has been the fatal mistake of the liberatory pedagogy movement from Freire in the 1960s to today. It puts the cart before the horse when teaching American students, many of whom are alienated from political discourse, unfamiliar with its vocabulary, and inevitably likely to feel coerced into agreeing with the radical teacher. (p. 18).

Graff’s essay served as an embedded counter position to the majority of the essays in the Forum. He stands clearly against turning education into a “branch of political organizing” like The Movement of the 1960s. Overall, his critique was most poignant in its treatment of the Discourse used by his colleagues. Graff provided intentionally even handed suggestions for radical teaching practice. He never sold-out what may be his own radical ideology; he merely proposed providing students with multiple ideologically diverse positions so that they may make up their own minds. He wrote, “If you believe in your ideas, you should have faith that they’ll win out in a fairly structured classroom debate” (p. 19).

Critical Questions

The 24 authors of the Forum offered an enormous quantity of motives, methods, and learning outcomes for teachers and students. They included:


  • Challenging the status quo (Rand, E., Shor, I.)
  • Promoting social justice (Karp, S., Kampf, L., Peterson, B., O’Malley, S. G)
  • Believing “another world is possible”; hope (Foley, B., Entin, J)


  • Cadre development[T](9) (Shor, I., Dittmar, L.)
  • Relevant curriculum; listening to students; support networks[T] (Karp, S., Kampf, L., Peterson, B., O’Malley, S. G.)
  • Introduce a spectrum of political positions; model critical debate; fairly represent viewpoints other than your own[T] (Graff, G.)
  • Promote understanding that critique is not enough (Entin, J.)
  • Direct activism (Dittmar, L.)
  • Use technology to encourage political engagement[S] (Vogt, L., Dittmar, L., Austin, P.)


  • Finding a personal route to reflection (Shor, I.)
  • “A more democratic, liberatory, truly student-centered university—and society—might be brought into being” (Entin, p. 22)
  • Able to manipulate multiple literacies[S] (Vogt, L., Dittmar, L., Austin, P.

Ochoa, E. C., Lassalle, Y. M. (Eds.). (2008, Fall). History and critical pedagogies: Transforming consciousness, classrooms, and communities [Special issue]. Radical History Review, 102.

In the introduction to this special issue of Radical History Review, the editors began by situating r/Radical methodologies of teaching history within broad socio-historical movements like the “fight for women’s studies and ethic studies courses” and the publication of Paulo Freire’s (1970) seminal work Pedagogy of the Oppressed. They approached the subject chronologically all the while providing an overview of how “historically minded scholars and activists have used critical pedagogies to challenge unequal power relations in classrooms and communities” (p. 1).

The special issue includes 24 contributions that ranged between three and 21 pages in length. Contributors, which were mostly educators but included a few community activists, were asked to reflect on the term “radical or revolutionary pedagogy “. The variety of responses included anecdotes, good practice testimonies, interviews with wise-folk, and philosophical and theoretical position papers.

Overall the primary concern of authors in the issue appeared to be the role of democracy in education in a Deweyian sense. Several authors (e.g., Margret Power, Gilda L. Ochoa and Daniela Pineda, & William L. Niemi and David J. Plante) addressed issues pertaining to the democratization of knowledge by providing examples from their own practice that they believe to counter against what they perceive to be the ongoing “hegemonic nature of the educational system” (p. 3). Authors saw their vision of democratizing knowledge production accomplished primarily by working along side students, their families, and community members to dismantle the institutions and structures (ideological, and brick and mortar) within education and the classroom that “’still reinforce hierarchy and inequality” (p. 3).

The pieces in this special issue of Radical History Review, including the editor’s introduction, painted a rather abysmal portrait of education for K-12 teachers and students, and university students and faculty. By virtue of what authors decided to champion or critique, the combined works revealed an ideological partisanship that came to life in the form of a shared Discourse of radicality, which according to Gee’s (1996) propositions about how Discourse works, necessarily vilified assumed ideological opponents. The inadequate funding, high-stakes testing, and top-down control in K-12 schooling appeared throughout as did the research-as-business and ivory tower mentalities of higher education—all the usual suspects dealt with uneven handedly by the majority of the contributors.

In lieu of providing an analysis that pretended the text was a cohesive work with central themes beyond a shared ideology, I selected three essays found within a section of the issue called, “Critical Classrooms: Current Approaches and Strategies.” Each essay focused on a specific set of methodologies the authors employed to teach their respective content areas. The essays were analyzed using the same three critical questions as the other works reviewed herein.

“Engaging with Public Engagement: Public History and Graduate Pedagogy,” written by Lisa Blee, Caley Horan, Jeffrey T. Manuel, Brian Tochterman, Andrew Urban, and Julie M. Weiskopf, pp. 73-89.

In the fall of 2005, a group of history and American Studies PhD students at the University of Minnesota developed a student-created and student-driven seminar titled ‘Public History and Urban Space.’ This article explores the results of this innovative seminar [condensed from the author’s abstract]. (p. 73).

Critical Questions

In the face of institutional and departmental norms regarding what their experience as graduate students was supposed to look like, Blee et al. took matters into their own hands. Along side of their faculty mentor, the authors were motivated to “de-center traditional power arrangements and the strict disciplinary logic of graduate training” (p. 74). The authors were further motivated to work within their local community to make intellectual contributions to the lives of citizens by engaging in “public history projects” that put the results of their scholarly endeavors into a shared space. They wanted to explore alternative pathways to professional life of a historian (opposed to working within academia).

As a collective Blee et al. expressed their interest in public history by proposing a course to their department. The group met to discuss its research interests, selected readings germane to those interests, and formed the goals of the course. They created a syllabus together. About the process of collaboration they wrote, “Our collaborative approach to syllabus creation provided an opportunity to clarify seminar goals, consider the state of the field based on our collective knowledge, and test out a different syllabus structure that mixed collective and individual readings” (p. 78).

According to the authors outcomes included a greater understanding of the potential a course like theirs has to transform pedagogy within graduate studies, particularly within the domain of history. They wrote, “Our seminar experience suggests that public history can offer a space for history students and faculty to develop a new, critical PhD pedagogy that responds to and confronts existing models for history graduate education” (p. 74). Other outcomes cited included an increased understanding of the challenges present in navigating public spaces such as their university and community-based organizations. However, those challenges did not prohibit Blee et al. from “forming unlikely collaborations inside and outside the university, developing new practical skills, confronting directly the challenge of meaningful collaboration, and navigating the politics of representing the history of living subjects” (p. 80). More focused beyond student learning and pedagogical approaches, the authors learned that public history research has deep and meaningful consequences (good and bad) for the researcher and the subjects. And that “and that historians should carefully consider how even the most sympathetic intervention can lead to unintended results” (p. 82). Finally, the authors indeed gained field-based experience in working as historians, which they believed to be valuable as folks who wanted to prepare themselves for a variety of jobs outside the university.

“Open Veins, Public Transcripts: The National Security Archive as a Tool for Critical Pedagogy in the College Classroom,” written by Jesse Hingson, pp. 90-98.

Since 2004, Hingson has used various document sets from the National Security Archive (NSA) to teach students about modern Latin American history at Georgia College and State University. His essay critically examined the NSA as a way of teaching the histories of US imperialism and intervention, state suppression of popular dissent, militarism, human rights abuses, and counterinsurgency tactics and training in Latin America from the beginning of the Cold War until today [condensed from the author’s abstract ]. (p. 90).

Critical Questions

Hingson specified various motives, methods, and learning outcomes for students. The author’s motives for adopting a r/Radical methodology for teaching Latin American history were both practical and ideological. On the practical side, Hingson wanted students to have experience doing the work of a history scholar in the field while collecting data for potential capstone or senior thesis projects. Increasing students’ personal experience interrogating neocolonialism and other “isms,” and motivating their desire to translate their findings into community-based activism work were motives closely aligned with the author’s politics.

Methods cited ranged between conventional like showing documentary films and the examination of primary source documents to more unconventional approaches; for example, students were encouraged to contact living historical characters directly and engage them in dialogue regarding their role in specific incidents. Another method used by Hingson took the conventional form of a student-led conference presenting their research findings. However, according to the author, at times the end-of-term projects resulted in r/Radical outcomes like community forums, teach-ins, and “students becoming activists for social and political change” (p. 91). Additional learning outcomes were students’ increased ability to apply analytical skills to current affairs, and students’ increased understanding of their own rights and responsibilities surrounding government documents and information in general.

“Theater of the Assessed: Drama-Based Pedagogies in the History Classroom,” written by Rachel Mattson, pp. 99-110.

Mattson’s essay argues that the current crisis in history education at the K-12 levels requires creative interventions and interdisciplinary collaborations. It also offered a series of strategies for teaching critical historical thinking skills to young people. Drawing on the author’s recent collaboration with a theater educator, the essay examined the radical potential of one pedagogical method in particular—a theater-based strategy called ‘process drama’ [condensed from the author’s abstract]. (p. 99).

Critical Questions

As a teacher-educator, Mattson trains future history teachers and works conducting professional development workshops with in-service history teachers. She and a colleague tested the utility of process drama for history teachers during a year-long professional development program.(10) She was primarily motivated to do this work because if historians preach a gospel that “historical thinking empowers students by providing an essential lens for understanding social, cultural, and political questions and for deepening students’ abilities to think critically about their lives and the world,” then they should get to work with kids as an “obligation’ (p. 100). Another of Mattson’s motives, although not mentioned directly in the essay but certainly implied, was her desire for the in-service teachers to take the process drama methods and put them to practice in their own classrooms with their K-12 students.

According to Mattson’s telling of the professional development program, process drama as an instructional method incorporated many radical ways of interacting with historical content. For example, she cited collaboration across disciplines starting with herself and her research partner; tableaux, a stop-motion type of charades where participants interpret a historical scene; primary source document analysis, especially of artistic texts like photos; and other more quotidian methods such as problem-based learning, role playing, debates, and teacher-led whole-class discussions. Regarding methods the author wrote, “A philosophical and experiential approach to teaching and learning, process drama and its strategies draw on theatrical ideas to trouble the traditional dynamics of the classroom and to provoke students into critical investigation” (p. 102). Mattson considered process drama a r/Radical method of education adults and children, and one that undoubtedly addresses her and her coauthors’ concerns about the democratization of knowledge (the main theme of this special issue of Radical History Review).

Specific to the in-service teachers in Mattson’s professional development course, they took translated their learning with process drama into a pedagogy they could apply in their own classroom–arguably the most important outcome of Mattson’s work–where their pupils were also able to experience the multiple and complex levels of engagement with texts and each other. According to the author, even students with low literacy or teacher-defined motivation issues felt enthusiastic and efficacious when engaged in the process drama work. An additional outcome for both Mattson’s adult learners and their own pupils was the transition from what the author labeled the tolerance education to a social-justice oriented history education. She stated that these methodologies, “stand in opposition to the liberal project of so-called tolerance education, [because social-justice oriented history education i.e., process drama] asks students not to be simply “tolerant” of difference but rather to understand the mechanisms that create power differentials, inequality, and injustice — a profoundly historical enterprise” (p. 108).

Shafer, G. (2002). Speaking my mind: Best practice: Teaching for the radical fringe. English Journal, 91(3), 18-20.

The Radical Fringe according to Shafer grew out of an English-education seminar in the late eighties. Although the author did not offer many specifics about the Radical Fringe, I imagined it to be a group of graduate students (and assuming their professor) who subscribed to, and voluntarily affiliated themselves with, an ideology which Shafer characterized as “a collective desire to infuse our classrooms with a rowdy, iconoclastic pedagogy. . . .” (p. 18).

Shafer’s essay focused on describing ways teachers can and should be a part of the Radical Fringe. The author accomplished this primarily by presenting a typical teacher who would not be part of the Radical Fringe, e.g., being “a mechanical educator,” domesticated, and settling into a “comfortable, fossilized approach to teaching” (p. 20). Throughout the text, Shafer strongly implied using no uncertain terms that embracing r/Radical methodologies and ideologies was the most righteous way of being a teacher. He further fortified his assertions by debasing, via stark dichotomies, alternative ways of teaching referring to them standardized, passive, uniform, apathetic, and asleep.

The author offered as evidence of the Radical Fringe’s philosophy a narrative of a friend-teacher who exercised her “actively rebellious voice” to confront the status quo and inspire a review of out-dated curriculum in her department. Shafer also promoted the Radical Fringe by espousing generic humanist and progressive philosophies of education. Specifically by citing Ernest Boyer, Paulo Freire, and Maxine Greene among others, Shafer harnessed the notoriety and weight of some well-known progressive thinkers to fortify his argument for becoming a part of the Radical Fringe.

Shafer’s essay parsimoniously entreated readers to join a movement, the Radical Fringe, which he claimed to be ready for action. He wrote, “We are not afraid to play the role of dissident if the need arises” (p. 18). Yet the Radical Fringe remained a nebulous entity throughout the essay. Shafer never provided a specific description of actual or theoretical forms (modes), which the Radical Fringe took, in the past or present. Furthermore, the text employed the Dominant Discourse of r/Radical pedagogy by specifying specific right ways of being a teacher; those ways embodied by folks who affiliate themselves with the Radical Fringe.

Critical Questions

Shafer stated his motive in the first sentence of the text. “In a world of conservative politics, phonics legislation, and schools of choice, it is the duty of all teachers to embrace the Radical Fringe and make its tenets a part of their daily pedagogy” (p. 18). The methods, stated in general terms, focused primarily on teachers’ ways of being including leading by example; getting excited; basing teaching on inquiry, debate, and humanism; fostering a love of reading and writing; and “telling their colleagues what they think” (p. 20). The author named one outcome for student learning, “teach students to be independent thinkers.” Outcomes for teachers cited were feeling empowered and responsible for students. The outcome for teachers, according to Shafer would be “maintaining the transgressive, forever-probing mentality that is spawned during graduate school” (p. 20).


To conclude this massive endeavor I conducted a test of ecological validity upon the body of literature reviewed. Second, I borrowed from Breunig (2006) and performed a dialogue between two selves. The dialogue, which gestated over the last five months, was birthed here and took the form of myself as a self-labeled Radical Andragogue (GNA-R) and myself as a self-in-transformation scholar (GNA-S).

Ecological Validity

A test of ecological validity examines whether a body of research, including its methods, materials, and settings approximate real-life situations under investigation (Brewer, 2000). Specific to education, Kagan (1990) questioned if the research she reviewed on teacher cognition was relevant to “classroom life,” “classroom behaviors,” or “valued student outcomes” (p. 422). Although the texts reviewed were typically heavy on theory and philosophy, most did offer motives, methods, and outcomes for teachers and students. Therefore, performing a test of ecological validity by asking if and how the entire body of research addressed the “real-life” situations of educators and learners, particularly adult learners, remained an important aspect of analyzing the literature.

In determining if the r/Radical educational literature addressed “real-life” situations of educators and learners we must step outside a paradigm which takes its own value by labeling students “successful” based primarily on academic and behavioral Performances that typically take place within formal learning environments. Further, we must remember that the baseline ideology possessed by many if not all of the authors was one of liberation—from hegemonic ways of thinking, from hierarchical relationships, from conventional forms of education, etc. Therefore the ways teaching and learning themselves were defined by the authors called to question the issue of “valued student outcomes.” As a matter of fact as I write this, I can hear the authors demand in cacophonous unison, “Whose valued student outcomes?!” That the Institutions’ “valued student outcomes” were not the best for teachers or students might well be the only point of agreement among every author represented in the review.

Another point of similarity between the authors was the way they described the work of r/Radical education. The primary methods used to evidence the relevance and success of r/Radical methods in the classroom were telling stories and providing testimony. In reviewing the literature it was easy for me to imagine all of the authors and their students (kids and adults), regardless of the learning context, enjoying the benefits of working together in pursuit of small and grand, valuable learning outcomes. Hingson (2008) for example, wanted students to have contact with primary source documents while studying history. This may be an ordinary desire for many teachers, however according to Hingson, this type of interaction lead to grand results like students critically reflecting on the role of government in their private lives. Foley (2001) also told of ordinary learning experiences such as women living together in “neighborhood houses” navigating a communal life. The authors in the Forum (Radical Teacher, 2008) also provided several learning outcomes which could be considered ordinary including increased reflexivity and literacy.

Foley (2001) however contended that depending upon the context of learning what we may cast as ordinary may in fact be extraordinary or radical. Does this mean she or he doing the interpreting of the learning in question possesses the power to story the outcome as ordinary or r/Radical, and “valued”? Therefore, if we do not assume to know what “valued student outcomes” look like across any given learning situation, is it not enough to regard the testimony of the authors as evidence enough? When it comes to adults (not to exclude some conscientious young people) we should rightly assume they possess agency enough to determine what a “valued student outcome” looks and feels like for them; understanding it may change over time and with distance from the learning event. We should furthermore assume that given the opportunity to story and testify to their learning outcomes, adult learners would tell different tales than those of the authors/scholars/educators/activists in the literature.

Therefore could we assume the entire body of literature was storied by folks who sought to identify specific, politically-powered student and teacher learning outcomes as valuable? I believe so; my believing this to be true does not undermine the worth of teaching and learning described by the authors. Neither does it testify to whether the motives, methods, and outcomes cited produced “valued learning outcomes.” I believe we would have to ask the learners who experienced the r/Radical methods of andragogy (and pedagogy) to know the answer to that question.

 GNA-R and GNA-S Dialogue on r/Radical Methods of Andragogy

GNA-R: So, GNA-S, I noticed you have forsaken the self-imposed title of “Radical Andragogue.” What gives?

GNA-S: After spending five months with this literature I decided I did not want to be ideologically affiliated with those who label themselves Radical.

GNA-R: Why not? Didn’t you take up this project after being inspired by texts, individuals, and experiences that you thought were “radical”?

GNA-S: Yes, I was, and still am, inspired by texts and folks that are certainly unconventional. However, my research helped me understand an important distinction between radicality and criticality. I realized it was more important to me to be a critically-minded scholar than a radical one. I also realized the naming and name-calling within the literature, us versus them Discourse, and the belittling judgments made by many of the authors I reviewed did not vibe with my values of intellectual freedom and respect for alternative ways of viewing the enterprise of teaching and learning.

GNA-R: Ouch. That’s some harsh criticism. Did you find no one whose perspective resonated with your own?

GNA-S: As a matter of fact I found a couple. Foley (2001) for example, presented his position on Radical adult education with an even hand and a strong situated perspective (which you know resonated with my situated cognition perspective of learning). I also agreed with Jim O’Brien (2008), one of the contributors to the Forum, when he wrote about the differences between radical and just plain “good teaching.” He stated, “It may mean that the differences between good teaching that is radical and just plain good teaching are not as striking as we once thought. Curiosity, coherence, creativity, independent thinking—none of these pedagogical goals comes with a political label” (p. 20).

GNA-R: So, are you contending r/Radical methods of andragogy may not really be “radical,” but “just good teaching”? If this is true, then what is the worth of a so-called radical approach to education?

GNA-S: The problem with assuming r/Radical methods are “just good teaching” is that it strips those teachers and students who voluntarily enroll in educational experiences which address broader social issues of justice, democracy, and equal rights, for example, from the power of affiliation they desire and may need to assemble a critical mass necessary to do the work they wish to accomplish.

GNA-R: What if the students don’t desire to be “radicalized” in their educational experiences?

GNA-S: That’s one of my beefs with the paradigm. Although it preaches liberation and equality, especially regarding the relationship between teacher and students, it employs a Dominant Discourse which necessarily creates a power differential between those who “know with a wink” radical pedagogy and those who do not. Gerald Graff (2008), one of the contributors to the Forum, called his colleagues out on this issue by stating that some students may “inevitably feel coerced into agreeing with the radical teacher” (p. 18). He basically asserted that because of the hierarchal nature of teacher-student interactions many students will only feign to go along with a teacher who pursues a radical agenda. I think this is self-serving on the part of the teacher.

GNA-R: It sounds like you had major issues with the way authors talked about r/Radical methods. Is it just a matter of language, or Discourse as you called it?

GNA-S: Discourse is definitely a major element of my overall critique of the literature. But a part of me knows that every domain has various Dominant Discourses which are bolstered and defended by their believers. I don’t suspect education is any different from philosophy or history in that regard.

GNA-R: Then is your issue with the people; the scholars whose work you reviewed?

GNA-S: Intrapersonal issues like apparent close-mindedness and egocentrism certainly reared their ugly heads throughout the literature, but once again I’m sure other fields suffer those characters as well.

GNA-R: Then what?!

GNA-S: If I narrow it down to one key issue I have with the literature, and why I have decided to disaffiliate myself with the camp of Radical educators, it is the way many of the authors referred to students. In general, this body of literature was diseased with cynical and disregarding language and attitudes, and common sense theories of student development and learning. At times, the way these folks explicitly and implicitly dealt with students’ ways of being profoundly disturbed me. I was also confused by the neglect of some of the authors to even mention students or student learning in their treatment of r/Radical methods of education.

GNA-R: Will you please tell me more about this because it sounds like an important revelation for you.

GNA-S: It was an unfortunate discovery for sure. It first hit me when I began to feel a complete disconnect between theories presented by various authors and student learning. It is antithetical to discuss pedagogical theory, radical or not, without addressing its implications for students. This type of theorizing holds little credibility with me because without the mention of students and their contexts of engagement, you leave out the most important variable in the enterprise of education. To what end then are you theorizing? [Rhetorical question GNA-R.]

GNA-R: Can you give me some specific examples of how this came across in the literature?

GNA-S: Sure one comes to mind right away. The Red Collective (2001) for example wrote only of teachers and radical teaching, they do not discuss students or suggest how their version of radical teaching impacts student learning. An absence of the Student in their essay left me wondering if they had ever even practiced Orthodox Marxian educational methods.

GNA-R: That’s not a lot of evidence to support your claims.

GNA-S: I know its not. Yet, something perhaps more subterranean than I originally figured caused me to develop this critique. I’ll be honest. Right now I do not have the fortitude to cull through the literature to cite other specific examples. Although I did illustrate a portion of this critique in the “Radical Teaching is Good” section of the manuscript. There I cited some dichotomies of good versus bad teaching (and types of students) the authors laid out in their texts.

GNA-R: I’m not convinced this was your main issue with this literature.

GNA-S: It may not be, however let’s it simmer for the sake of brevity.

GNA-R: One last question then. At this moment, what do you think you got out of this grand endeavor? What are your “valued learning outcomes”?

GNA-S: I like how you prefaced that question with “at this moment” because we both know more learning will come. First, my understanding of r/Radical Methods of Andragogy did not grow in breath. If you look back to the notes I posted to my wiki throughout the process you will find a table I made early on which articulated various methodologies I had surmised from my personal experience as a teacher and student. These methods are the same methods found throughout the literature I reviewed. Secondly, my understanding of the politics of power associated with “naming” and Discourse in scholarship grew in depth; as did my knowledge of the history of Radical education in our country. Finally, I deepened my appreciation for the inseparability of ideology and education along with my commitment to perform teaching by meeting students where they are.

GNA-R: It sounds like you made this work valuable to you and your future students.

GNA-S: Thank you. I believe so because when it comes down, “The classroom remains the most radical space of possibility in the academy” (hooks, 1994, p. 12). So I’ve definitely got to keep pressing on as a self-in-transformation scholar to ready myself for all the students who find their way to my classroom—our classroom.

GNA-R: Power to the people!

GNA-S: ¡Que Viva!


Bell, S. (2008, November 28). Re: Radical Methods in Andragogy. Message posted to

Breunig, M. C. (2006). Radical pedagogy as praxis. Radical Pedagogy, 8(1). Retrieved from http://radical

Cotter, J., DeFazio, K., Ganter, B., Kelsh, D., Amrohini, S., Sahay, A., et al., for the Red Collective. (2001). The ‘radical’ in ‘radical teaching’: pedagogy now. Textual Practice, 15(3), 419-429.

Foley, G. (2001, January). Radical adult education and learning. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 20(1/2), 71-88.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.

Introduction: Forum on radical teaching now. (2008, December). Radical Teacher, 83, 14-28. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Kagan, D. M. (1990). Ways of evaluating teacher cognition: Inferences concerning the Goldilocks Principle. Review of Educational Research, 60(3), 419-469. Retrieved from

Ochoa, E. C., Lassalle, Y. M. (Eds.). (2008, Fall). History and critical pedagogies: Transforming consciousness, classrooms, and communities [Special issue]. Radical History Review, 102.

Radical. (n.d.). In Online etymology dictionary. Retrieved October 1, 2008, from

Rogers, R. (2004). An introduction to critical discourse analysis in education. In Rogers, R. (Ed.), An introduction to critical discourse analysis in education (pp. 1-18). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Shafer, G. (2002). Speaking my mind: Best practice: Teaching for the radical fringe. English Journal, 91(3), 18-20.

Zavarzadeh, M. (2003, Fall/Winter). The pedagogy of totality. The Red Critique, 9. Retrieved from

End Notes

(1)Throughout the manuscript I have retained authors’ use lowercase or primary capital letters. I have elected to use the form “r/Radical” when discussing the topic myself.

(2)Andragogy, the study of adult learning, was the intended primary focus of this review however literature specifically addressing r/Radical andragogy was very limited. Therefore I included r/Radical pedagogy in my research and reporting. Throughout the manuscript I retained the distinctions of andragogy and pedagogy as they were discussed in each work. In cases where neither was specified, I elected to use andragogy.

(3)For an interesting example of the type of Radical Teacher dramatized here visit Peter McLaren’s website. McLaren is what many in the field of critical pedagogy consider a “rock star.”

(4)The Red Collective describes itself as an “international cadre of revolutionary Marxists committed to class struggle and producing class consciousness across national boundaries by means of a ‘ruthless critique of everything existing’ under the regime of capital and wage labor” (see The Red Collective website for more information about this group).

(5)The session was part of the State University of New York at Stony Brook Memorial Conference for Michael Sprinker (October 5–7, 2000). The panelists were Tom Cohen, Lennard Davis, Nicholas Mason, Shailja Sharma, and Jeffrey Williams.

(6)For information about the Lavean paradigm and situated learning in general, see my co-authored wikipedia entry on Situated Cognition.

(7)Based upon the ways authors described their experience e.g., “after 30 years in the classroom,” I surmised many of the Forum authors to be Baby Boomers; a fact that undoubtedly figured into the favoritism they showed towards The Movement (see End Note 7).

(8)“The Movement” referred to by several contributors was assumed to be an umbrella term which lumps together many political movements such as civil rights, peace, and environmentalism. The Movement was popular vernacular in the 1960s.

(9)[T] stands for a motive, method, or learning outcome that was attributed specifically to the teacher; and [S] to the student.

(10)”Process drama” is an approach that promotes discovering ideas. It does not focus on public performance for entertainment purposes. According to Mattson, “Process drama uses a series of embodied and narrative intellectual activities to pose critical intellectual problems” (p. 102).


Author’s note: The manuscript, “Radical Methods of Andragogy,” was prepared as the major artifact for an Independent Study I conducted with Sandy Bell at the University of Connecticut during fall 2008.

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