Whose Side Are We On?: A Call for Critical Solidarity With Participants in Education Research

Whose Side Are We On?: A Call for Critical Solidarity With Participants in Education Research

Michael L. Boucher Jr.
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7730-0.ch005
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This chapter seeks to build a new theory in education research, critical solidarity with participants in education research. The theory uses critical pedagogy as a beginning point as expressed in the work of Paulo Freire and subsequent theorists. In Freirean fashion, the researcher asks the question, but the participant is the questioner of their own experience. In this way, the research, in which the authors attempt to empower participants, is a pedagogical tool.
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In their often cited and reprinted essay, Kinchloe and McLaren (1994/2011) redefined the relationship between critical theory and qualitative research. With help from Carspecken (1996) and Lather (1986), Kinchloe and McLaren explored the hermeneutical and ideological placement of critical theory in postmodern ethnographic research. This chapter seeks to extend that work and excavate some of the terms that are buried beneath this beautifully constructed bridge between theory and practice. As with all bridges, there is an expanse underneath that, if one is not willfully observant, will literally be overlooked because it is not part of the bridging or, in the case of this monumental essay, it is not expected to be under scrutiny. Who would have suspected that in the 21st century, we would have an overtly White supremacist President whose very political bearing is the clearly stated animus against the Other? Who would have thought that there would be torch-wielding Nazis marching on our campuses and towns chanting “Jews will not replace us” in the 21st century? In the days of 1994 when this essay was originally published, these threats would have been the fantasies of a dystopian novel. However, here we are, confronting child concentration camps and immigrant family detention centers, Muslim travel bans, the attempt to rescind DACA, young, unarmed Black men being shot in our streets, and a myriad of other daily horrors from our federal, state, and local governments. Thus, when Kinchloe and McLaren discussed solidarity with their participants and qualitative research as part of the overall challenge to the “macro-dynamics of structures such as white supremacy, patriarchy, and class elitism” (p. 296), they are describing these as the expanse under the bridge. When they consider solidarity, it has an assumed meaning of cooperation with groups who have goals that match with liberation pedagogy (p. 288).

This is not a criticism of their engineering; however, it is indicative of the ways that critical researchers approached these topics before the turn of the 21st century. It was not seen as necessary to explain that White supremacy was the force destroying the semblance of democracy in America. It was a time to move on and call out structures since the overt rhetoric of the Nazi and the Southern Klansman had been relegated to the ash heap of history. Critical theorists were concerned with rooting out the hidden, larger overarching climate of oppression, not the weather of today’s tweet storms that snap us from one outrage to the next. With the daily in-your-face tweeting and speechifying, and then the gaslighting and lying about those explicit messages, critical researchers are faced with a facile, yet all too real, dilemma in the age of Trump and beyond. We must decide whose side we are on. It seems almost ridiculous to question it because, as critical researchers, we have already chosen. We have taken a stance. Yet in our work, some continue to avoid directly describing the situation. Fear of tenure committees, rightwing trolls, our White colleagues, White students, White community members, or an unnamed feeling of fear that our work will not be well-received keeps us from stirring up good trouble. While we share every horror on Facebook, we are timid in our writing, and in our research. We are narrow in our vision. We are light in our walk through the schools and we are afraid to look behind the curtains for fear of seeing something that will make us choose.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Patriarchy: It is also the political, ideological, religious, and societal structure that places maleness above femaleness. Even the words we have for women are derived from maleness and essentially mean not-male .

Critical Theory: Largely a post WWII theoretical project in the social sciences that grew out of German Idealism, based in neo-Marxism. It’s a lot to digest, but well worth it. Its basic tenet is that all relationships are based on power and all critical investigations seek to discern the power behind the phenomena of interest.

Pedagogy: When educators use this word, we mean the actions and relational ways that teachers interact with students. This is not the same as curriculum, which is the what in teaching. This is the how in teaching. The day-to-day ways we interact with children with the effect of facilitating learning. Pedagogy is sometimes used for adults, even though a more correct word would be andragogy.

Rightwing Trolls: Usually men who write comments or emails, mostly to women, calling them names and doing all that is possible to get oppressed peoples to stop calling out the reasons for their oppression. These are usually self-appointed police of White, male supremacy.

Modernism: The movement around the turn of the 20 th century that produced art, architecture, science and philosophy. It rejected the constrains of the past and put its faith in science and experience. Politically, Modernisms emphasis on the new led to Fascism and totalitarianism. The Holocaust is sometimes referred to as the ultimate expression of modernist ideals. The Nazis mechanized human value and tried to use a form of science and pseudo-science to decide who lived and died in an attempt to perfect humanity in their own ideological image.

Freirian: Theories or work related to the ideas and writings of Paulo Freire, Brazilian educator and theorist (1921-1997).

Post-Positivist: The realization that people are too complicated to explain through positivism.

Critical Pedagogy: Based in Freirian thought, critical pedagogues see all education (or the withholding of it) as a political act. They are committed to social justice, and to a co-learning pedagogy with students that will, with work lead to a critical consciousness or conscientization.

White Supremacy: The ideology that whiteness is tantamount to normalcy, correctness, and goodness. White supremacists are all races, but share their love of whiteness and their belief that whiteness is the outward sign of the best of humanity. White supremacy is a conservative value and is the original sin of the United States. It is the cause of colonialism, slavery, segregation, Apartheid, the Holocaust, and the murders of Black people in the streets by police, even if the shooter is not White.

Ideological: Ideology is the way that we see the world and make sense of it. It is formed through a combination of experience and study to create a set of ideas that determine how to interpret new information. When a new situation occurs, we use the ideological tools we have available to interpret it. That ideology may serve us so that we understand the new situation, or it may not and there may be an ideological shift to interpret the new situation. The problem comes when a new situation requires a shift in ideology and the individual refuses to make that shift. That is when people refuse to face reality of rely on prejudice to interpret the world.

Hermeneutical: Hermeneutics derives from the ancient Greek word for interpret, or translate. Thus, as we interpret our assumed meanings of words like solidarity and critical and texts like The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) AU43: The in-text citation "Oppressed (1970)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. . Our hermeneutic stances determine the way we approach the texts. we interpret and reinterpret, it is our hermeneutical stances that we are arguing. We argue principles and theories, meanings and sub-meanings. This theory and philosophical work is what gives meaning to so much of our qualitative and critical work.

Praxis: Simply action/reflection and yet so complicated to interpret and comprehend that Freire took thirteen books to explain it.

Race: A socially designed construct that shifts depending on the political situation. It is usually based on outward physical traits like skin color, but not always. The purpose of race has always been to determine who was considered White, and therefore worthy of citizenship, freedom, human rights, and other benefits of society. Some groups have whiteness bestowed upon them, but it can be revoked if the group transgresses and challenges White supremacy.

Conscientization/Critical Consciousness: This is the process of becoming aware of the power dynamics that are keeping a person, or a people oppressed. This cone through questioning and is a goal of critical pedagogy. However, in the Freirian context, this realization must lead to action to be real critical consciousness or conscientization.

Positivist: The idea that everything can be solved through scientific observation. While this works for many things, people are too complicated to explain through positivism.

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