Tag Archives: Adjunct

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Pedagogy of the Adjuncts

I really enjoyed both Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Teaching as a Subversive Activity and found, unexpectedly, lots of similarities. For instance, Freire advocates “problem-posing pedagogy” and ? advocates the “inquiry method.” Both seem to mean posing problems that students then discuss, and that then lead to more problems, rather than easy answers. Both also emphasize that students themselves should engage in critical inquiry, asking questions and gathering information in order to confront the reality of their own situations, rather than being “submerged” as Freire puts it in the oppressors’ (or adults’) reality. Both also share the idea that public education (ostensibly including university education) is basically intended to keep people submerged, to distract people from reality, rather than exposing them to it.

There is also an important difference between Freire and Postman, however—that Postman’s system is geared to “help young people master concepts of survival in a rapidly changing world,” while Freire’s goal is Marxist revolution. Though I am continually encouraged to think creatively and critically in many of my undergraduate and graduate classes, I think many of us connected to the university system often ignore the oppressive nature of the university itself, which Freire would likely point out, as far as it is possible to do so.

I am going to school for my doctorate (as we all are) to (hopefully) become a tenure-track professor. While I am committed to my career path for many reasons—because I want to teach others how to think critically and to enjoy literature, and because I have an incurable passion for literature myself, I am also honest about the economic dimensions of my dream. I like to travel and listen to Beethoven!

On the other hand, that middle-class reality is not happening for many teachers of English who are struggling to make a living as adjuncts. I see clearly that many teachers are themselves oppressed, and yet I, and I think many others, still cling to the hope of a tenure-track job, rather than addressing ourselves to the question of how the whole university teaching system might be reformed, even when we know it is likely to become our problem in earnest if we become adjuncts. I know this post is a bit rambly, but it (hopefully) sets forth my big question: How can we not only implement Freire in our classrooms, but also address the reality that the university itself is an oppressive system (hopefully while remaining a part of it)?