Book Review: A Critical Pedagogy of Resistance: 34 Pedagogues We Need to Know


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Those passionate about social justice issues will enjoy reading an edited collection that illuminates the lives and works of the brilliant people who have dedicated their lives to fighting social injustices, and aims to inspire the reader to think about and act upon ways to engage in social transformation. The book, edited by James D Kirylo, highlights how social inequalities in the last decade (class, race/ethnic) have been steadily increasing globally. Poverty amongst children is ever increasing; in the USA, there are more black males in the criminal justice system than students in college; among the youth of Spain the percentage unemployed is more than 54%. According to Kirylo, neoliberalism has given rise to a validation of individualism, privatisation, competition and profit, resulting in decline of the public. Education is seen in terms of economics, students are commodities and teachers are mere machines. Henry Giroux et al in their new book, Neoliberalism, Education and Terrorism, have also discussed the threat of neoliberalism on contemporary progressive education: “Neoliberal approaches to educational practice shun innovation because these teaching practices attempt to foster autonomous, critically engaged citizens, rather than non-autonomous, fundamentally structured state subjects”. Therefore, it is clear that we urgently need critical pedagogues and their philosophies of education: the argument for the relatively new concept of critical pedagogy, influenced by Paulo Freire, is that it is “ethically responsible to scrutinize, challenge, and oppose people, structures, and systems that oppress and dehumanize”, and to resist/challenge mechanisms of oppression in order to demand equal opportunities to participate in the world.

The introduction of the book neatly defines the core characteristics of transformative social justice. We learn that critical pedagogy is an ongoing project simultaneously located in pain/struggle and hope/joy. Critical pedagogy is evolving and empowering as the social world changes, new problems and new conflicts arise, that need interrogating and resolving. Critical pedagogy, allows us to be honourably angry about injustice, and is never about staying in a neutral position, but always about being decisive and active. Critical pedagogues are humanizing agents. We are shown that critical pedagogues are concerned with resistance, courage and action. There are commonalities that bind together these specific pedagogues the editor has chosen to focus upon: he explains that they all are driven by conviction to transform society, they all possess love and care for humanity, and most have them have a link with Paulo Freire and his ideas. Critical pedagogy is therefore about promoting social justice, democratic spaces, and love and hope for humanity.

Some of the more well-known critical pedagogues included in the book are Michael Apple, Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky, Antonio Darder, John Dewey, bell hooks, Henry Giroux Antonio Gramsci, Joe Kincheloe, Donaldo Macedo, Ira Shor, Edward Said, Cornel West, W E B DuBois, as well as a number of other inspiring educationalists (not educationalists in a conventional sense) from diverse backgrounds. The book places emphasis on the autobiographical experiences of each of these pedagogues, and how their powerful, diverse and complex socio-political histories impacted upon their critical consciousness and their desires to transform the world into a just place. Some of these pedagogues have personally experienced oppression and danger, whilst the other pedagogues are have been in dangers of losing their jobs because of their challenging oppressive institutions and practices. Kirylo explains that these pedagogues he has included in his edited collection have shown vast commitment to social justice through visits to oppressed and marginalised communities, through research, teaching and writing about oppression, and through becoming beacons of hope serving humanity.

The audience for this book is students interested in critical pedagogy and social justice issues (education, race, ethnicity, gender, theology, language, power, justice and so on), as well as teachers and other educationalists who are keen on widening their knowledge base on key thinkers and writers in the field of critical pedagogy. The book is extremely useful for those wanting to get to know a range of critical pedagogues, and then use this as a springboard to further research those particular pedagogues who appeal. The book aims to accompany the reader on a journey out of his/her comfort zone, so that s/he reflects upon the social world. A Critical Pedagogy of Resistance: 34 Pedagogues We Need to Know is one of a great number of important books in a contemporary series entitled Transgressions: Cultural Studies and Education, aiming to explore how the intersection of cultural studies and education brings forth fresh new emancipatory and transformative ideas and practices.


Sadia Habib is a doctoral candidate currently researching British identity at Goldsmiths, University of London.  Prior to this she taught English at Key Stages 3,4 and 5 in Manchester and London.

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