Why teacher identities need the political
Freire’s (1972/2018) work in Critical Pedagogy' speaks to the pedagogy of the oppressed and to an understanding that education is under-written by politics. To ignore politics in education is to run the risk that what will become accepted as the new field of learning will lie on a procrustean bed of pre-determined competence, codes, and standards for fidelity with a predetermined practice, using processes of constant comparison (e.g., ideal teacher learner).
This procrustean bed of named skills and dispositions advances a universal pedagogy of learning and teacher identity where one size fits all. In the mythical story of Procrusteus in Ancient Greece, he invited guests for an overnight stay in his hostelry. Later each night he fit each guest to his designer bed for a good night’s sleep. Those who were too long for the bed had their heads cut off and those who were too short had their body pulled until they were the right fit. The metaphor offers a critique of any universalist pedagogy that claims it knows everything about teaching and learning. A universalist pedagogy acts as a well-planned “Riverdance” of techniques— learning outcomes, peer learning, assessment for learning, reciprocal learning, feedback, self-directed learning, peer observation, systematic planning, self-evaluation—allowing teachers arrive at mass reproduction of an ideal desired student, for outcomes with a calculable market-led dividend for a future of economic prosperity.
Claiming to be educated needs to say something about what kind of society one wants to live in, to build, and to develop. It needs to say something about how people not only vote and become civic minded but just how active people are in defining with others the democratic society they want now and into the future (Edling & Mooney Simmie, 2020; Mooney Simmie & Lang, 2018, 2020). Freedom is a treasured concept but it is not the same as a free for all. Free speech is a democratic right but not when used in an irresponsible way to stir up hatred of minorities. Democracy contains paradoxes and dilemmas and calls on people to be engaged in negotiation and willing to give up privileges for the public good.
Democratic spirit is upstream of any reductionist understanding that it is sufficient to teach about and for democracy in schools and higher education. It is not enough for civic participation to be understood as pre-determined attitudes, skills, and knowledge. Democratic spirit calls for teacher activism and proactive discursive struggles for seeking out the soul of the self and for the public interest values of a democratic society. It separates an “us” and “them” as two political camps: the “us” are those who agree to share power and distribute resources for a vibrant and decent democratic society and a just global world and “them” arc those who do not agree. Political camps arc not rigid, it is possible for people to be persuaded to change allegiance. A pedagogy of
Remaining a student of teaching forever 27 hope in teacher identities suggests that activist work in education is worthwhile, a heightened widc-awakeness of what we can achieve with we work in solidarity for the common good. It is a pedagogy' of hope, joy, and agonistics that I have experienced at first hand in the field of practice as a teacher and teacher educator. It is to this field of practice that I now turn.