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This essay documents a few key examples of the critical pedagogy and curriculum that we employ to challenge pre-service and in-service teachers to consider the concrete and theoretical contexts of taking on a social-activist-teacher persona. Our vision of social justice is rooted firmly in the critical tradition, as it is anchored in excavating unjust social and economic formations that imperil the vast majority of the world's population, while concomitantly empowering the economic elite. Not only do we believe that teacher educators must take the lead in helping their students recognize the social, political, and economic forces creating injustice in schools and in the wider society, but they must help current and future teachers develop emancipatory visions of how to develop instructional designs, collaborate with educators, and engage in activist initiatives which have the potential to eliminate social inequalities and build institutional structures based on democracy, equity, and fairness (McLaren, 2005). Like many teacher educators, we have worked in institutions where almost 95% of the teacher education students have self-identified as "White." Because of the difficulties of working with this nearly ubiquitous at-risk group (at risk for acting as oppressors), we focus our attention in this essay on the challenges White in-service and preservice teachers pose to practicing critical pedagogy.
Although some of our former students have come to take a critical stance toward North America's social and economic systems that operate to privilege the few at the expense of many, and promote equity and social justice across the various elementary and secondary content areas, we, like many critical teacher educators, find the task of educating White pre-service and in-service teachers--echoing Freire (2005)--to "read the word and the world" and create socially-just educational projects that play an active role in building an equalitarian society rewarding even as it is often daunting (Cross, 2005; Porfilio & Yu, 2006; Sleeter, 2002). Schools of education are still very traditional in their approach to preparing K-12 teachers, (Cochran-Smith, 2004) as they (mis)inform students that "schooling is unequivocally a good thing serving the best interests of individual students, marginalized students, and the culture in general" (Kincheloe, 2004, p. 4). They often remain silent on how the larger structures of power are bent on generating asymmetrical social and economic relationships.
Moreover, as neoliberal policies, logics, and practices have infiltrated the way in which we prepare schoolteachers, over the past decade, more of them, echoing Macedo (1994), have become "stupefied" (Macedo as cited in Kincheloe, 2004). For example, corporatist teaching preparation has churned out and continues to prepare a sizable amount of pre-service teachers. The preparation is characterized by fast-track alternative programs, some of which do not require teacher candidates to take one course in the field of education. Several corporately-sponsored programs have also been designed by clinical "educational" conglomerates, such as Sylvan Education and Kaplan Inc, which attract mid-career changers and post-baccalaureate students who yearn to gain their teaching credentials as quickly as possible. (1) There are also several alternate route programs, (2) such as Troops for Teachers, Transition to Teaching, Passport to Teaching, and Teach for America, that allow future teachers to bypass some of the "burdensome requirements" associated with traditional forms of teacher certification (Kumashiro, 2008). The chief aims of commercialized and alternative teacher education are to maximize profits and/or to inculcate pre-service teachers to embrace beliefs, ideals, and teaching methods in line with perpetuating the status quo in schools and society, rather than helping them understand the "complexities of educational practice and an understanding of and commitment to a socially just, democratic notion of schooling" (Kincheloe, 2004, p. 50).
When critical scholars are provided the outlet to nudge White pre-service and in-service teachers to critically examine the power they accrue due to their racial class status, to guide them to examine the social institutions, unjust practices, and policies that are responsible for breeding social inequalities in schools and in society, and to provide them pedagogical blueprints in which schoolteachers pass their critical understanding of the world to K-12 students (Fasbinder 2007, p. 6), they often face resistance or downright hostility from their students (Gay & Kirkland, 2003; Sleeter, 2002). For some White students, critical scholarship that focuses on what fuels social and educational inequalities and on how they are afforded unearned entitlements and privileges due to their racial status may never stir them to go beyond seeing events unfolding in their lives, in schools, and across the globe on an individual level (Marx, 2004; McIntyre, 1997; Sleeter, 1992, 2002). They hold firmly to salutary discourses, generated in schools, the media, and other social contexts, which collectively reify the notion that North America's social systems are open, fair, and democratic. Consequently, they tend to "blame the victim" for performing poorly in school or for debilitating conditions permeating racialized apartheid schools and their surrounding communities (Kozol, 2005).
On the other hand, some students abandon becoming critical pedagogues because they fear facing reprisals from parents, administrators, and colleagues for going against the "official knowledge" taught in most elementary and secondary classrooms or for employing "controversial" teaching methods that are designed to liberate students rather than control them (Apple, 2004). In any event, many anti-oppressive scholars document that some White pre-service teachers "consistently resist, reject, and obscure notions of their own privileged positions" and adhere to their entrenched notions of the purposes of schooling, functions of society, and role of educators, despite enrolling in courses that promote social justice and equity in schools and in the globalized world (Butin 2005, p. 110).
Two Critical Pedagogues in a Commercialized Environment: Our Motivation for This Pedagogical Approach
Exposing White pre-service teachers to the lyrics and cultural work generated by hip-hop and punk pedagogues became a central focus in our current issues and trends in education course only after we became cognizant three years ago that the theoretical scholarship, along with fieldwork opportunities provided to students within K-12 schools, did not help them develop the skills, knowledge, and courage to teach for personal and social transformation. The fast-track and clinical nature of our program means that pre-service teachers enroll in 36 graduate hours of coursework, complete 150 hours of field observations in K-12 classrooms, and simultaneously work part-time or full-time jobs and become certified teachers in just two academic semesters. Consequently, our students have little time to critically reflect upon the theoretical scholarship proffered by several transformative scholars, such as Giroux (2004), Kincheloe (2004), Kozol (2005), McLaren (2005), and Sleeter (2002), that we incorporate to help them understand the sorting function of schooling, recognize the unearned privileges they accrue from their racial status, and detect the constitutive forces and social actors responsible for breeding poverty and oppression within the urban context in which they mentor and tutor K-12 children. With the little amount of time students had to reflect upon the coursework, we found they would prioritize focusing on "practical" knowledge. They believed this would best prepare them to "survive" in K-12 classrooms (Porfilio & Yu, 2006).
Unlike social theorists who often use language that is inaccessible to some pre-service teachers when pinpointing the policies, practices, and social actors responsible for oppression in schools and in society, hip-hop and punk artists generally convey similar critical insights in a style that is accessible for these future educators. The pedagogues' cultural texts often reflect the lived realities of youth who have dealt with systemic oppression, marginalization, and discrimination on an everyday basis within schools and in the wider society. Their alternative narratives appeal to students who have not been exposed to social justice literature or who have not experienced oppression, since the authors call for the audience to "see injustices and their consequences through the eyes of real people" (Hytten & Bettez, this volume). Since our students are more apt to incorporate knowledge in classrooms that has been "proven" to foster the intellectual and social growth of K-12 students, we also decided to document …