Teaching and the struggle for justice
Review by Alpesh Maisuria
Marc Pruyn and Luis Huerta-Charles have assembled an impressive community of well-known scholars to contribute to this timely book*. Teaching Peter McLaren's work is absolutely crucial in the face of increasing mass injustice in a capitalist world where the tentacles of globalisation spread wider and wider.
This is an invigorating book that pays tribute to one of the most prolific theoreticians of the last 20 years. The locus of the essays is the struggle for justice through the contribution of McLaren's work. Aside from the theory, one of the major strengths of this book is the special attention dedicated to McLaren the human being, his personality and his character. The reader discovers that McLaren is a famous scholar but, essentially, also a gent. The book is a humbling experience in this sense.
One of the great assets of this book is the range of contributors in terms of global area and cross-disciplinarity, who reflect the rippling influence of McLaren's work. Numerically it also boasts a composition of 16 contributors, who make up four parts entitled: Introduction and Contexts, The Arc and the Impact of McLaren's work, McLaren Across Contexts, and finally McLaren the Marxist. Collectively the authors succinctly capture McLaren's history from the counter-culture of the 1960s, his stint with postmodernism, and his evolution from critical pedagogy to revolutionary pedagogy.
The first part of the book is a personal journey through how and when people have found the McLarian pedagogic spirit. The editors, then Shirley Steinberg, and Antonia Darder open the book by warmly describing how McLaren and his work have affected, influenced and stimulated their own scholarly activity, and those who they have taught. These accounts are written with passion and the reader is unwittingly forced to think about their own journey of discovery.
In part two Roberto Bahruth, Zeus Leonardo, and Alipio Casali with Ana Maria Arjaujo Freire embark on a mission to elaborate the ways in which McLaren's work is adaptable and can be reconfigured for every context. The contributors remark that McLarian ideas are not confined by spaces or places. They are powerful because they face the challenge as posed by oppression, neo-liberalism, cruel capitalism, oppressive hegemony, and confirmative pedagogy - all of which are global viruses.
In part three, Pep Leistyne, and Marcia Moraes show us that McLaren's theories are not bound to particular contexts or a specific situation. Alicia de Alba and Marcela Gonzalalez Arenas also point out the paradoxes and counter-clarity that results from the challenge arising from what is described here as "cultural contact".
Mike Cole, Ramin Farahmandpur, Dave Hill, and Curry Matlott in the final chapter provide an analysis of the contribution that McLaren has had by consolidating critical and revolutionary pedagogy with a Marxist and socialist ideology.
This book is humorous, stimulating, and in parts highly praises McLaren and his work. By the same token the book also deals with the criticisms, especially the section entitled Criticisms from Students and the Academy. This deals frankly and openly about challenges students have in intellectually accessing and grasping McLaren's theories and concepts. The book deals with his acknowledgement of post-modern theory, which many scholars, including Cole and Hill who feature in this book, believe to be incompatible with raison d'etre of Marxism. This is an exemplar of the exhilarating arguments contained in this book.
The writing style of this book is geared to the teacher, but also to students beginning their journey into academia who will find it understandable, although in parts a dictionary of "critical thought" may be handy. It would undeniably be of benefit to be familiar with the works of Paulo Freire, Antonio Gramsci, and Karl Marx.
But this is a must read book for anyone interested in critical theory. It captures wonderfully the compelling theories and endearing personality of Peter McLaren, and the effect he has had on renowned scholars. I challenge anyone to read this book and not feel a sense of hope afterwards.