The role of the teacher within a critical literacy classroom

Over a century ago, Dewey (1909) proposed that the role of the school in the teaching of morals was to prepare students for full participation in society. In some respects perhaps it is not wrong – perhaps it is a very good thing – that certain moral positions are assumed by the book talks. Questions of social justice cannot be discussed in a moral vacuum, and if the book talks are meant to encourage beneficial social activism, then they must contain an idea of what is beneficial such as saving or squandering environmental resources, showing courage or cowardice. Henry Giroux (1988) reminds us that schools are not neutral spaces.

In short, schools are not neutral sites, and teachers cannot assume the posture of being neutral either. In the broadest sense, teachers as intellectuals have to be seen in terms of the ideological and political interests that structure the nature of the discourse, classroom social relations, and values that they legitimate in their teaching. (p. 127)

As teachers of literacy, we are called to help our students understand that texts are not neutral and that there are interests and purposes behind texts. As Stevens and Bean (2007) remind us, ―Texts, in a critical literacy classroom, become sites for explicit conversations that take into account our shifting identities and make students aware of potential imbalances in agency and voice‖ (p. 25).

Taken from:
Teachers as Moral Compasses:
Exploring Critical Literacy through Digital Social Justice Book Talks
JANETTE M. HUGHES
University of Ontario Institute of Technology
LORAYNE ROBERTSON
University of Ontario Institute of Technology

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