Professing Education
A publication of the Society of Professors of Education
June, 2003. Vol.2 No.1

Professing Education

John M. Novak and Kenneth A. McClelland,

Brock University


As we head into our second volume of Professing Education, a semi-annual publication of the Society of Professors of Education, we are quite excited by the responses we have received to our call for essays dealing with the theme, "Fighting the Miseducation of the Democratic Public." We are especially pleased that we can bring to you our exclusive interview with one of North America's leading critical educational theorists, Peter McLaren. McLaren is Professor in the Division of Urban Schooling, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author and editor of forty books on the sociology of education, critical pedagogy, and critical social theory. He is also the inaugural recipient of the Paulo Freire Social Justice Award from Chapman University.

In this interview McLaren offers a provocative analysis of the United States' (George W. Bush's) military machine and its use as the prime vehicle for neo-liberal economic policy writ large in an expanding web of war. As we live in a time of much global turmoil and violence, there is an almost deafening silence emanating from the left, especially from within the academy. McLaren punctures that silence here with a revitalization of some salient, though often misused and misrepresented Marxist themes, so as to fuel an almost moribund left to begin voicing critical resistance to the totalizing power of neo-liberal economic policies. He remains committed to non-violent revolution (as compared to "tinkering" reforms and redistributions within the dominant capitalist system) leading to a transformed post-capitalist society. As he says: "When I talk about revolutionary transformation, I am talking about education, the development of revolutionary social consciousness as a direct challenge to reformist consciousness…." The result is a full-fleshed and comprehensive interview that is provocative, probing, and thoroughly educative.

In the first essay, Peter Carbone provides an articulate treatment of some "bedrock assumptions" underlying democratic educational theory. He takes a close look at the role of the intelligent citizen, especially the critically intelligent citizen, as an integral requirement for an open and free society. Drawing on Richard Paul's distinction between weak and strong-sense critical thinkers, Carbone urges educators to cultivate strong-sense critical thinking in their students, so as to offer not only democratic resistance to the status quo but perhaps more importantly, to keep the critical desire alive that future generations might continue to ask important questions about themselves and their society.

In the next essay, Jan Armstrong turns her critical gaze inward to the university itself asking us to reflect on "three professional challenges" faced by today's professors of education. The challenges, as she states them, are as follows: "preparing future professors; modifying institutional reward structures; and resisting pressures to trivialize, commodify, and de-contextualize the curriculum." What follows is a clear and concise "direct hit" on some of the most pressing maladies afflicting not only those professing in Education but all of those who profess within the contemporary academy. Written with clear-sightedness and offering some good practical suggestions as well, Armstrong's contribution resonates with a genuine care for and commitment to her students. Her emphasis, finally, falls on students getting what it should be important to get from a university education _ a critical sense of their contexts. A good university education, argues the author, should be something that cannot be gotten anywhere else, thus being a real alternative to what can be gotten anywhere else. Furthermore, the university should be oppositional at its core so as to be always in a position to challenge "dominant modes of communication." This produces articulate, engaged, and intelligent citizens and we think the author would agree that a healthy and educative democracy depends on such engagement.