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The limits of critical pedagogy: teaching about structural obstacles to students who overcame them

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This article focuses on efforts to critically analyze the social reproductive functions of schooling with a group of pre-service teachers in the US–Mexico border region, and on students’ reactions to these efforts. The students – all female, predominantly Mexican-American – had experienced both educational discrimination and academic success, and heavily invested in the dominant view of schooling as a meritocracy where individual talent and motivation regularly overcome structural obstacles. We argue that the students’ ideologies and experiences of class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, and language predisposed them to resist analysis of systemic inequalities in schools; we also examine the implications of this resistance for their future success as teachers. We conclude with recommendations for balancing structural pessimism and strategic optimism in the classroom, and for bringing students’ personal and social histories to bear on the contradictions between schooling’s promise of social mobility and its tendency to reproduce social inequality.
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Keywords: Latino education; critical pedagogy; teacher education

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology & Anthropology,University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso,TX, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2013

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