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Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, Summer 2006 In his critical reflection on Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), Paulo Freire proclaims in Pedagogy of Hope (1992), "I cannot understand human existence, and the struggle needed to improve it, apart from hope and dream" (p. 8). We, as teachers and as global community members, identify with this struggle. We also seek the improvement of the human condition and the amelioration of human suffering through the work we do in and out of the classroom. Finally, we, too, cannot envision engaging and surviving this struggle apart from hope and dream and the fervent belief in possibility.
In an even more contemporary treatise on and roadmap for hope, Rebecca Solnit (2004), in Hope in the Dark, claims, "The question, then, is not so much how to save the world as how to keep alive that moment of creation" (p.108): a world whose hopefulness lies in its unfinishedness, its unrealized possibilities, and its openness to improvisation and participation. Toward participation in these moments of creation, Solnit suggests progressive activists/teachers/workers take up a "politics of prefiguration." That is, "if you embody what you aspire to, you have already succeeded. If your activism is already democratic, peaceful, and creative, then, in one small corner of the world, these things have triumphed" (p. 87). As such, Gandhi-like "be the change you hope to see in the world" activism is not only a toolbox to change things, but a place and a process in which to take up residence--a place in which process becomes product.
This paper endeavors to make sense of the process we have undertaken to introduce a more hopeful curriculum, rooted in a politics of prefiguration and participation in moments of creation. This more hopeful curriculum has emerged as a three dimensional model of Community, Praxis, and Courage, foundationalized in the pedagogical trajectories of cultural studies and post-colonial theory, as well as within the reality of globalization. We envision this hopeful curriculum as a counter-pedagogical discourse/response/antidote to the more de-humanizing/standardizing/anesthetizing curriculum and instruction to which students are uniformly exposed in traditional P-16 schooling.
To more fully reveal this model of Community, Praxis, and Courage, we first treat some of the literature on cultural studies, post-colonial theory, and globalization in order to provide a backdrop against which this model and our daily classroom life and co/extra-curricular work emerge. Next, we explore each of the dimensions of the model, individually. We examine Community, Praxis, and Courage, particularly, in relation to our work together: (1) as co-instructors of a graduate education course: Social Difference and Social Justice, and a junior-level, undergraduate, interdisciplinary course: The Social Construction of Difference; (2) through co-curricular endeavors such as our universities' Multicultural(ism) Task Force, the School of Education's culture/reading circle, and our leadership of two resident student organizations: UKNIGHT and Students for Social Justice; and (3) as extra-curricular allies in diversity training at a local, upper-class, private school and in work with the Progressives Engaged in Struggle Support (PrESS) Network (http:// pressnetwork.blogspot.com): a collection of pre- and in-service teachers who desire to meet on an ongoing basis to both support progressive work taken up in classrooms and also to remain current on progressive pedagogical practice and theory. Finally, we provide concluding remarks on this more hopeful curriculum and invite critical feedback and interrogation of our work in this struggle.
Solnit (2004) metaphorically claims that hope is both a "door": a belief in a way forward that is not open to all people at all times, and a "force" that propels us out that door. "Hope," Solnit believes, "should shove you out the door.... To hope is to give yourself to the future, [which] makes the present inhabitable" (p. 5). A West African philosophic tradition enjoins the past with the present as a living spiritual experience in which an ancestor's loving guidance unlocks that "door" to the future. Hope, then, resides in a process of becoming and a reality of being that connects the future to an imagined possibility in the present. We use this reflective opportunity of writing to once again knock on this door and to seek further propulsion into the pedagogical and communal unknown toward more hopeful considerations and ameliorative possibilities.
Cultural Studies, Post-Colonial Theory, and Globalization
While Cultural Studies is traditionally hard to define and nail down (and for good reason if it is to remain anti-doctrinal, open, and non-canonical), we nonetheless suggest that it is concerned with and/or characterized by, but not limited to: (1) contextual, historical, and qualitative studies of people's lived experience (Willis, 1980; Giroux, 1995; Hytten, 1997; Wright, 2000); (2) the political and the pedagogical; (Hall, 1992; Hytten, 1997; Giroux, 1995, 1999); (3) counter-hegemony and agency (Gramsci, 1971; Giroux, 1995; Wright, 1995; Dolby, 2003); (4) popular culture (Williams, 1971; Wright, 1995; Dolby, 2003); (5) deconstruction (Landry & MacLean, 1996; Giroux, 1995); (6) praxis (Freire, 1970; Hall, 1992; Wright, 2000); (7) interdisciplinarity (Hall, 1992; Wright, 1995; Hytten, 1997); and a caring solidarity (Benhabib, 1992; Thayer-Bacon, 2000; Renner, 2004).
As an appropriate summation of these characteristics, Kathy Hytten (1997) argues,
Cultural Studies is about investigating the connections among culture, power, knowledge, authority and meaning. It is both a critical project and a political project. Critically, cultural studies aims to interrogate the power dynamics which structure how particular cultural symbols, artifacts, forms, and practices get valued and deemed important and worthy, and conversely, who and what gets marginalized in the process. (p. 41)
As such, cultural studies is constructivistic in that it assumes a social structure in which the interconnected and interdependent social relationships of cultural categories of difference (e.g., race, class, gender, local and global) are dichotomized by interlocking systems of privilege and power. "Politically," Hytten continues, "cultural studies begins with a commitment to disempowered populations, by encasing them in dialectical struggle with hidden systems of privilege and structured systems of power, and to the idea that academic work should make a difference in the world" (p. 41). Connecting these characteristics even closer to education, Henry Giroux (1992) suggests, "Cultural studies provides the opportunity for educators and other cultural workers to rethink and transform how schools, teachers, and students define themselves as political subjects capable of exhibiting critical sensibilities, civic courage, and forms of solidarity rooted in a strong commitment to freedom and democracy" (p. 201, our emphasis added). In a major progressive critique of globalization that compellingly links it to particularized work in the field of cultural studies, John Cavanagh and Jerry Mander (2004) introduce a new concept, subsidiarity, which basically conjoins Giroux's ideas of "commitment to freedom and democracy" and Freire's idea of the "hope and dream" of the empowerment of marginalized and disenfranchised populations by suggesting that whenever a choice exists we should favor the local decision-makers, those whose realities are defined by their discrete to generalized experiences in the localities of production.
In later work, Giroux (1999) posits six "elements" to be considered and enhanced in cultural studies projects. These projects should be (1) focused on renewing civic life and addressing pressing social problems, (2) contextually handled and focused on "doing," (3) interdisciplinary and ask new questions across disciplines, (4) centered on popular culture, particularly on how to critique it and become cultural producers, (5) a critical analysis of history, and (6) focused on enhancing pedagogy, "not reduced to the mastering of skills or techniques, [but rather] as a cultural practice that must be accountable ethically and politically for the stories it produces, the claims it makes on social memories, and the images of the future it deems legitimate" (p. 4). Here, Walter Mignolo (2000) speaks of border thinking, the revolutionary and progressive means of conceiving of social and political reality "beyond" both colonial and neo-colonial/neo-liberal thought constructions. Border thinking not only bridges antagonistic social realities and thought processes into coherent social/ political analyses, but transcends them by creating newer and more progressive ways of envisioning the world and one's place in it. It suggests a new agency, in a Solnit "moment of creation," emanating from a consciousness of freedom that is no longer a goal but a resilient source of one's intellectual, social/political, and spiritual being.
Giroux summarizes his insightful elements for cultural studies projects by claiming,
If cultural studies is to address its role as a public pedagogy, it will have to provide a new language for educating teachers, students, administrators, and others around the issue of civic leadership and public service. In this perspective, making the pedagogical more political as a central dynamic of cultural studies is fashioned not around particular dogma, but through pedagogical practices which promote the conditions for teachers, students, and others to be critically attentive to the historical and socially constructed nature of the locations they occupy within a shifting world of representations and values. (p. 6)
Similarly, in Silencing the Past, Michel-Rolph Truillot (1997) argues that new culturally-based socio-historical narratives must be written that give voice to those silenced in the past who can provide a counter-hegemonic reality in which to locate themselves in the present. We conclude that the real threat to truth is not the lies that are told, but the myths that serve to shape and define our reality.
Parallel to Giroux's attention to historical and social constructions, multiplicity, and situatedness, Antonio Gramsci's contribution to cultural studies is also historically noteworthy in bolstering these considerations. If nothing else, most theorists agree that cultural studies is centrally focused on agency. …