April 11th Conference: Rethinking the University

I’ll be part of a roundtable at this weekend’s conference: Rethinking the University: Labor, Knowledge, Value

My roundtable will be: “Radical Pedagogy.”

I’ll talk about Teaching as Dialogue, attempting to put some flesh and experience on Paulo Freire’s hope that teaching can become a dialogue.

The questions: what is dialogue, how to practice this with actual students/people, how to become and be such a teacher who can inspire the students to
seek meaning in their own futures, to learn from the dialogue and move on. These are all complicated practices, needing constant study of the students who are actually present, and the need to maintain one’s own “presence” with them, so that the teacher is not talking from “memory,” but is “right there” to respond to the actual students in the ongoing dialogues.

The politics of dialogue are also complex. Students – after all is said and done – are students of the course, and they are students of “their teacher.” The problems of having “sufficient power” to inspire the future, to help them create meaning for themselves – revolves about portraying/living as one who is thoughtful, moral, loving of subject, of students, and seeking meaning in the teacher’s own life and work.

Dangers include the temptations of the power yielded by students, to tell them how to think and be – to have ready “answers” to all questions – or to overstep one’s power and move from questioning to interrogation modes. So, the study of oneself – and of one’s students – are ongoing tasks. It is helpful, probably vital for teaching as dialogue, to have a couple of good, critical friends who will help keep the teacher grounded.