critical consciousness vs. up-n-out

Most of the literature on successful inner-city teaching focuses on critical consciousness,social justice or racial theory. You don’t have to look far to find these books, most of which enable bright young assistant professors to become bright middle-aged associate professors. And I like some of these books and found some of them immensely helpful in constructing my own classroom practice.

Here’s the problem — the top students, the ones who are most invested in learning and school, the ones who will be engaged regardless of the pedagogy — well, most of those students are looking to get up-n-out. They want to push the button in the glass elevator and be free from the struggles of inner-city living; to re-phrase in a more academic way, they want to be free of daily confrontations with the structural inequalities of urban life.

A critical pedagogy serves these children — as it serves all children — but I do wonder if this sort of classroom does a disservice to a student who wants nothing more than to do well in college. Obviously the best teachers manage both but where should I place my emphasis as a teacher educator?

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