LINGUIST List 15.1718

Sat Jun 5 2004

Review: Sociolinguistics: Phipps & Guilherme (2004)

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  • Laura Callahan, Critical Pedagogy

    Message 1: Critical Pedagogy

    Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2004 23:26:52 -0400 (EDT)
    From: Laura Callahan <>
    Subject: Critical Pedagogy

    Phipps, Alison and Manuela Guilherme, ed. (2004) Critical Pedagogy: Political Approaches to Language and Intercultural Communication. Multilingual Matters, Languages for Intercultural Communication and Education 8.

    Announced at

    Laura Callahan, City College of the City University of New York

    This volume consists of an introduction and four papers. The papers are preceded by an abstract given in English plus a language-other-than- English: two in Spanish, one in Portuguese, and one in Korean. References appear separately at the end of each paper.


    Introduction: Why Languages and Intercultural Communication are Never Just Neutral. Alison Phipps and Manuela Guilherme.

    This introduction departs from the model common to edited volumes, in which a summary is given of each paper that follows. Instead, Phipps and Guilherme concentrate on an exposition of the essence of critical pedagogy and its relevance to the disciplines of language teaching and intercultural communication. What distinguishes critical pedagogy from just pedagogy is an insistence on questioning the status quo. An overriding theme is the refusal to conform to practices associated with business-as-usual. The editors state: ''It is our firm conviction that the project of pedagogy in languages and intercultural communication is not a cynical functionalist project that manufactures intercultural and linguistic competences like biscuits, and creates docile bodies fit to serve a machine of global capitalism'' (p. 2). Seven concepts from critical pedagogy considered most applicable to the work of language/culture educators are detailed: reflection, dissent, difference, dialogue, empowerment, action, and hope. Phipps and Guilherme call attention to how the papers contained in this volume incorporate these concepts. They emphasize that scholarship rooted in critical pedagogy takes its form from the public expression of pain, grief, and anger, as well as the desire and responsibility felt by the authors to change existing conditions.

    Betraying the Intellectual Tradition: Public Intellectuals and the Crisis of Youth. Henry A. Giroux.

    Giroux begins with Pierre Bourdieu's (2000) call for committed scholarship, noting the distinction between true intervention and discourses that are limited to academia or ''celebrity-like, public- relations posturing'' (p. 8). In the context of neoliberalism and its consequences for the world's youth, Giroux develops Bourdieu's position on the academic's responsibility to be a public intellectual. Giroux warns that the social contract under which adults used to assume responsibility for children and their future has been replaced by a view of young people as economically unviable at best (p. 11), and a menace to society at worst (p. 10). As evidence of a war against youth (p. 8), he cites diverse factors that have the common result of a disproportionate impact on children, for example: child labor and prostitution, the effects of U.S. sanctions against Iraq, military conflicts across the globe for which the U.S. is the major arms supplier, and domestic repression of young people's civil rights. The essay concludes with a section entitled ''The Responsibility of Intellectuals'', in which Giroux urges pedagogues to prepare youth to be agents of ''civic action and democratic change'' (p. 20). Foremost among the obstacles he sees are ''dominant intellectual traditions that divorce academic life from politics'' (p. 20), and the ''increasing corporatisation of university life'' (p. 17).

    Academic Literacy in Post-colonial Times: Hegemonic Norms and Transcultural Possibilities. Joan Turner.

    Turner focuses on the standards of academic literacy in English and their implications for second language writers and writers who are inexperienced in academic registers. Such writers may be unable to write without drawing attention to their use of language. This in turn draws negative attention to the writers themselves, whose deficiency in English translates to readers as a ''cognitive deficiency per se'' (p. 25). Turner advocates the explicit teaching of academic literacy norms, not only to equip writers to participate in the academic domain, but to give them the tools to discover ways to resist and replace the existing norms. The style of scientific rationality, which positions the writer as ''the ideal observer'' (p. 26), is so much a part of what is expected in academic registers that the price of nonconformance can range from poor grades to a failure to secure job interviews, research grants, or publishing contracts. Turner discusses the case of a doctoral student who hesitates to use a style of writing that would imply her absolute authority on a topic. This student cites the Vietnamese feminist writer and film-maker Trinh T. Minh-ha, who professes a complete disuse of the planned approach to writing that mandates an introduction, development, and conclusion (in Morelli 1996: 4-5). Turner goes on to examine grammatical problems in the student's writing. She raises the point that at the higher levels of education, less attention is paid to formal aspects of students' language use, because their intellectual capacity is not in question.

    Articulating Contact in the Classroom: Towards a Constitutive Focus of Critical Pedagogy. Keith E. Nainby, John T. Warren and Christopher Bollinger.

    Nainby, Warren, and Bollinger examine Paulo Freire's work in critical education research and suggest modifications based on John Stewart's constitutive communication theory. Freire's two-world ontology entails a separation between language--the means of communication--and the world, or the topic of communication. This contrasts with Stewart's (1995) communication theory, in which ''human life is fully constituted in and through communication'' (p. 34). The authors present three implications of the two-world ontology that have relevance for critical pedagogy. Their purpose is not to refute Freire's model, but rather to ''extend and sharpen his critical focus'' (p. 39). Emblematic of what Nainby et al. find most problematic is the theory/practice divide (p. 42). This type of division gives rise to the same type of hierarchy that Freire (2001) opposed in Pedagogy of the Oppressed, in which students are separated from the educational process and ''become a by- product'' (p. 43). The paper ends with a review of Ira Shor's efforts to implement critical educational practices in his classroom, a struggle that is documented in the book When Students Have Power: Negotiating Authority in a Critical Pedagogy (Shor 1996).

    Listen to the Voices of Foreign Language Student Teachers: Implications for Foreign Language Educators. Rosario Diaz-Greenberg and Ann Nevin.

    Diaz-Greenberg and Nevin's essay is informed by the fields of critical pedagogy and multicultural education. It begins with a critique of two approaches to teaching culture in the foreign language classroom: the Four Fs (Food, Fashion, Festivals and Folklore) versus the Five Cs (Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons and Communities). The former has been replaced by the latter in the preparation of language teachers, but often persists in language textbooks. The authors discuss how the critical pedagogical concept of conscientization and the multicultural educational concept of culturally sensitive instructional practices can complement each other. They then report on a study of three foreign language student teachers, and the three themes that emerged from the student teachers' reflections. Finally, an example of the application of dialogue teaching in a high school Spanish-for-Spanish-speakers program is described (Diaz-Greenberg 2003). Interview questions formulated and voted on by the students showed what issues they considered to be most relevant in their lives. Making such issues part of the curriculum would support a key notion in critical pedagogy, by which students become agents and not just objects of the educational process.


    This volume should find an eager audience among students and scholars of critical pedagogy and language teaching. Phipps and Guilherme's introduction is accessible to both newcomers and readers well-versed in the discipline. The four papers offer a balance between theory and practical applications, with the essays by Giroux and Nainby, Warren, and Bollinger falling into the first category, and those of Turner and Diaz-Greenberg and Nevin into the second. Diaz-Greenberg and Nevin in particular offer a useful description of their study's methodology, which will be of interest to others contemplating a qualitative analysis of interview data. Giroux's paper highlights what is at stake in very urgent terms; so much so, that the reader hungers for a slightly more specific discussion than the one which closes his essay, in ''The Responsibility of Intellectuals''. Turner's essay raises two separate issues in academic literacy: nonconformance to the dominant rhetorical style, and lack of control over grammatical structures in written English. While both of these can impede the writer from achieving his or her goals, it is important not to confuse the two. As is pointed out in Turner's paper, individuals who have attained success in some area of life may choose not to conform to rhetorical standards, but the vast majority of writers will not have even this luxury.


    Bourdieu, Pierre (2000) For a scholarship with commitment. Profession 2000.

    Diaz-Greenberg, Rosario (2003) The Emergence of Voice in Latino High School Students. New York: Peter Lang.

    Freire, Paulo (2001) Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 30th Anniversary Edition (ed. and trans. M. Bergman Ramos). New York: Continuum.

    Morelli, Annamaria (1996) Trinh T. Minh-ha in conversation with Annamaria Morelli. The undone interval. In I. Chambers and L. Curti (eds). The Post-colonial Question. Common Skies, Divided Horizons. London and New York: Routledge.

    Shor, Ira (1996) When Students have Power: Negotiating Authority in a Critical Pedagogy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Stewart, John (1995) Language as Articulate Contact: Toward a Post- Semiotic Philosophy of Communication. Albany: SUNY.


    Laura Callahan is an assistant professor of Spanish linguistics in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at the City College, City University of New York (CUNY), and a research fellow at the Research Institute for the Study of Language in Urban Society (RISLUS) at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her current work focuses on language choice in interethnic communication.