Toward a Theory of Anti-Oppressive Education

“In an attempt to address the myriad ways in which racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of oppression play out in schools, educators and educational researchers have engaged in two types of projects: understanding the dynamics of oppression and articulating ways to work against it. Whether working from feminist, critical, multicultural, queer, or other perspectives, they seem to agree that oppression is a situation or dynamic in which certain ways of being (e.g., having certain identities) are privileged in society while others are marginalized. They disagree, however, on the specific cause or nature of oppression, and on the curricula, pedagogies, and educational policies needed to bring about change. Collectively, they point to what I see as four ways to conceptualize and work against oppression. In this article, I describe and critique each approach, noting how different approaches are helpful for achieving different goals. I argue that though educators have come a long way in detailing approaches that address different forms and different aspects of oppression, they need to make more use of poststructuralist perspectives in order to address the multiplicity and situatedness of oppression and the complexities of teaching and learning. Broadening the ways we conceptualize the dynamics of oppression, the processes of teaching and learning, and even the purposes of schooling is necessary when working against the many forms of social oppression that play out in the lives of students. Doing so requires not only using an amalgam of these four approaches (which many educators already do), but also “looking …”

View Full Article