Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Progressive Politics in the Classroom.

Michel Foucault in "Foucault Live" lays out several hypotheses about progressive politics (page 48-49). In particular, he says, "A progressive politics is one which recognizes the historical conditions and specified rules of a practice, whereas other politics recognize only ideal necessities, univocal determinations, or the free play of individual initiatives" and "a progressive politics is one which defines in a practice the possibilities of transformations and the play of dependencies between these transformations, whereas other politics rely on the uniform abstraction of change or the thaumaturgical presence of genius" (48). 

Similarly, James Berlin in "Rhetoric and Ideology for the Writing Class" posits social-epistemic rhetoric as a way to teach that is "self-consciously aware of its ideological stand, making the very question of ideology the center of classroom activities, and in doing so providing itself a defense against preemption and a strategy for self-criticism and self-correction" (478).

To me, it seems as though Foucault's progressive politics and Berlin's social-epistemic rhetoric should go hand-in-hand. Foucault's "progressive politics," being aware of "historical conditions" and "rules" alongside "possibilities of transformations" sounds as though it is "self-consicously" aware of its ideology and avoids "preemption." How would a combination of these two ideas look in the classroom?  Is it possible to use alternative/"progressive"/"self-consciously aware" readings in the classroom to provide a foil to mainstream society without including readings from dominant ideologies? How can we break down univocal determinations and individualism in the classroom to help students analyze social systems?

2 comments:

  1. These are important questions in terms of teaching. Berlin's quote reminds me of the practice of asking students to look at where they're standing ideologically, what kind of experiences they have had and how that relates to how they see a position. They do not have to tell the teacher about their ideologies and experiences, but becoming aware that they are not truly neutral, and neither is the teacher, can help them better understand what shapes their positions on specific issues. As far as bringing in alternative/progressive readings, there are usually students in the room that bring to the table the dominant ideologies. Allowing them to freely voice what they think can start a conversation; I don't think it is always necessary to counter one reading or piece of media with another.

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  2. I agree, Margo. I usually like to use examples from society to back up mainstream culture as my "showing the other side" to alternative readings. And you're right, too, a lot of times, students in class will bring up the mainstream view as a way to bring in dominant ideologies.

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