Saturday, 30 August 2014

Seminar by Michael Apple on the task of the critical scholar activist in education

Michael Apple (left), with Dirk Postma (right), who organized the seminar
Michael Apple gave a seminar at the University of Johannesburg Education Faculty on the 29 August 2015. Drawing from his latest book, Can Education Change Society, he spoke on the tasks of the critical scholar activist in education.  

What he said was relevant for the SOTL @ UJ - Towards a Socially Just Pedagogy project. He began by drawing distinctions between the neoliberal tendency, neoconservative and authoritarian, and asserting that there are not simply two social classes: middle and working classes. Of particular relevance to those of us working in higher education, is the fraction of the middle class that advocates evidence, accountability and measurability, and mobilizes resources accordingly. Interestingly, there were quite a few questions from the participants about this, and the fact that as academics, many of us are complicit in this quest for measurable outputs. Andre Kraak drew my attention to an interesting article on performativity and academics' contestation and compliance:  Carole Leathwood & Barbara Read (2013) Research policy and academic performativity: compliance, contestation and complicity, Studies in Higher Education, 38:8, 1162-1174, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2013.833025

According to Michael, it is our job to document what the right is doing (incidentally, what is the 'right' in South Africa, or are we responding to the international 'right' in the US and other countries?) and to disrupt this, with relational analyses, feminist epistemologies and work on intersectionality. Our tasks are:
  1. to tell the truth
  2. to show spaces for action
  3. to act as a 'critical secretary'
  4. to keep critical traditions alive, critically (i.e. to be critical about these traditions too)
  5. to give of our expertise (our knowledge is 'paid for', we must give it back)
  6. to build progressive communities (one can't do it on one's own)
  7. to practise critical teaching, to demonstrate this in one's own work)
  8. to open spaces for those who are not there. 
Whilst all of these tasks may be important for our work, the task of practising and demonstrating critical teaching, and of opening spaces, are the most immediately pressing. 

No comments:

Post a Comment