The Convergence of Critical Pedagogy with Arts-Based Service-Learning

The Convergence of Critical Pedagogy with Arts-Based Service-Learning

Amanda Alexander (University of Texas at Arlington, USA) and Ross H. Schlemmer (Southern Connecticut State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1665-1.ch001
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Neoliberal globalization and politics are reshaping the landscape in the United States and other countries; consequently, broader and more critical perspectives about education, community, and the arts are becoming increasingly more important. In the field of education, critical pedagogy has become a philosophy to expose, critique, and challenge neoliberal free market capitalism. Critical pedagogy becomes the link between local and global perspectives that reveals conditions of social and cultural injustices. Through socially engaged art education and service-learning initiatives, the authors have been engaging their students to become actively engaged citizens. This chapter offers a qualitative critique of the authors' own pedagogical practices through the convergence of critical pedagogy and arts-based service-learning by applying, adapting, and revising existing models of critical pedagogy such as Cipolle's (2010) “four elements of critical consciousness development” (p. 40) and Shor's (1992) methods for implementing critical pedagogy.
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Since the 1980s, the United States, along with the rest of the world, has witnessed a rapid surge in neoliberal globalization and politics (Giroux, 2011; Kincheloe, 2008). More than ever, corporate influence and power are squelching public interest and concern. This is felt through loss of jobs and income inequality, environmental degradation, unfair trade agreements, and racial tensions. It is also driving a citizenry to become more individualistic and to view the world increasingly in terms of profit. Within educational settings, this corporate influence has increased standardized testing, replaced public schools with charter schools, caused havoc among administrators, teachers, and students, and will soon cause a national shortage of teachers (Westervelt, 2015). Significantly, its infusion has led to forms of pedagogy that have deprived students of a necessary critical perspective.

The modern day usage of the term neoliberalism in the academic discussions of intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky and Milton Friedman refers to radical free market capitalism. Scholarship on the phenomenon of neoliberalism has been growing since the 1980s due to the various influences it has had on globalization and issues such as the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. The growing body of work that critiques neoliberalism also seeks alternative developmental models examining people-centered societies and community-based organizations (Pradella & Marois, 2014). Purportedly, the rise of neoliberalism creates a susceptibility to distraction by consumerism and consumption instead of democracy and civics. Thus, the need for solidarity, civic engagement, and public awareness is more important than ever.

In terms of globalization and politics, neoliberalism is a worldwide force that grows ever more dominant. Scholars argue that various geopolitically northern nations are subverting self-determination, accountability to stakeholders (not shareholders), public goods and interests, sustaining the environment, democracy, and social justice all in the name of neoliberal free market capitalism and profit (Giroux, 2011; Kincheloe, 2008). The “American model” as some people claim is promoting high inequality.

Instead of citizens, it promotes consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless. In sum, neoliberalism is the immediate and foremost enemy of genuine participatory democracy, not just in the United States but across the planet and will be for the foreseeable future. (McChesney, 1999, p. 11)

The neoliberal market economy is leading not only U.S. citizens into extreme consumption and consumerism, but it is increasingly encouraging other countries toward the same ends. Privatization, corruption in governments, deregulation, and the large growth of free market values are felt globally, and the public has largely ignored issues of equity, social justice, democracy, civic values, and collective responsibility.

In the field of education, critical pedagogy has become a philosophy and social movement to expose, critique, and challenge neoliberal free market capitalism. According to Hooks (2010), McLaren (2005), and McLaren, Macrine, and Hill (2010), critical pedagogy helps students to develop consciousness of freedom, recognize authority, and connect knowledge to power. For many critical pedagogues, critical pedagogy is a response to neoliberal globalization and its social, cultural, political, ecological, and economic effects. In classrooms, critical pedagogy materializes through a continuous process of unlearning, learning, relearning, reflection, evaluation of and effect on students (Kincheloe, 2008). Moreover, it seeks to counter the influence of neoliberalism in education and traditional schooling’s historical hegemony.

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