Critical Pedagogy and Disney

Kincheloe. Freire. Hooks. These three educators, students, facilitators, trailblazers, and HUMANS have been extremely influential in the growing field/ideology/movement of “critical pedagogy.” So, what is critical pedagogy? Countless definitions abound, but our group thought critically and worked collaboratively to create this definition: 

“Critical pedagogy is a humanistic, interactive process that challenges hierarchical systems of learning, and establishes the co-construction of knowledge in collaboration with educator (facilitator) and student.”     

 ~Arash Sarshar, Erin Heller, Sogand Mohammadhasanzadeh, Patrick Salmons, Hana Lee, Jyotsana Sharma, and Selva Marroquín, 2018 ~

So how did we get to this definition (Mulan – “Let’s get down to business)? We can’t take full credit for it of course (and when you think about it, can we ever take full credit for anything we create, as our thoughts are the culmination of countless interactions and experiences obtained through interactions with countless of the other people … but that is another blog), as we used the expertise and thoughts of the above three stated pedagogical sensai. Their writings all shared common themes of the importance of less clear boundaries between students and teachers (or the elimination of these boundaries all together) … teachers are students and students are teachers … and the importance of teaching should not be merely the transfer of knowledge but the sharing of concepts and the encouragement to think for oneself (remember everyone always says “think outside of the box!”) The idea that ritualistic memorization and regurgitation of facts is not truly learning and that we need to shift away from this outdated approach to “judging” the intellect of students. We need to encourage students to think about things that are not explicitly taught, to think about things never thought about (or verbalized) before, and to not just judge others on their ability to retell what has already be told. School should not be about Beauty and the Beast — that is “tale as old as time.” New ideas, concepts, and theories are the core of growing, developing, and learning. If students only learn what they are told, everything remains stagnant. That brings us full circle (Lion King – “The circle of life!!”) to define the different aspects of our definition of critical pedagogy:

Humanistic: the ability to be human and be vulnerable with students. As an educator being able to convey that one is not necessarily an expert and that knowledge is not an absolute but co-constructed by all the individuals in the classroom environment.

Interactive process that challenges hierarchical systems of learning: it emerged from the necessity of continuing to create an atmosphere of democracy in education because education follows political structures.

Co-construction of knowledge in collaboration with educator and studentWhen thinking about teaching and learning, it should not be understood as a simple student-teacher relationship. Rather what these readings demonstrate, and our own anecdotal teaching experience illuminates, is that there should not be an oppressive figure teaching what should be learned. Thinking about knowledge and its construction between multiple variables allows for diversity, opinion, and actual critical thinking. Opening up the conversation in a Hegelian fashion allows for facilitation by the educator.

Okie. That’s all we got. Education should be like acapella singers — the culmination of ALL of our voices (thoughts) is what makes us great. Drop the mic.

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What animals can teach us about inclusive pedagogy

Wildlife & inclusive pedagogy. How do these words correlate? For some, the relationship may be unclear. But for someone like me who studies animals, the animal kingdom can teach us (humans) a thing or two about inclusive pedagogy. But first, what is inclusive pedagogy? According to Georgetown University “Inclusive pedagogy is a method of teaching in which instructors and classmates work together to create a supportive environment that gives each student equal access to learning. In these courses, the content takes into account the range of perspectives in the class, and is delivered in a way that strives to overcome barriers to access that students might have. Inclusive classrooms work to ensure that both teacher and student participation promote thoughtfulness and mutual respect” ( In other words, inclusive pedagogy is simply making sure that students with different backgrounds, learning styles, perspectives, and experiences all receive an education that works for them (i.e., there is no “one size fits all” in education).

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While animals most likely do not consciously think about inclusive pedagogy or teaching in general, some animals raise and teach not only their own young but the young of others as well. These animals are inclusive. It does not matter to them that some of their pupils/babies/friends/choose whatever word you want, look different, sound different, smell different, act differently, etc. All that matters is that these animals are put in the care-for and teaching role – and they embrace it. Stories about an animal of one species befriending, taking care of, and “teaching” an animal of a different species are relatively commonplace. Of course there are stories that are twisted and misconstrued to pull at heart-strings (e.g., the lioness and the antelope), so it is important to take this all with a grain of salt, but countless examples of true mutual relationships between species exist. For example, there is the dog who is best friends with a duckling and helps teach the duckling to swim and the cat that adopts a baby squirrel that fell out of a tree and teaches the baby squirrel to purr ( I know – my point here may be a bit of a stretch, but I kept thinking about this all weekend and so had to get some of these thoughts out!

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Now, I realize many will argue that these examples of animals taking care of other animals is not teaching and is driven solely by some maternal or paternal instinct. And part of me agrees with that. But, another part of me has observed animals enough to know that they have empathy and compassion towards others and that they communicate in ways that are often too subtle for us to notice. I have watched my dogs teach my puppy how to do certain things (same species example, I know). However, it really doesn’t matter why animals will raise and teach other animals. It only matters that they do (and that it is really cute!)