Critical Pedagogy and Our North Stars

Over the past month I have been taking a course on a wonderful philosophy of education called Critical Pedagogy.  Critical pedagogy’s most influential theorist, Paolo Freire, compared the education system to banking.  In this banking model, teachers make deposits of knowledge which students bank for future use.  Because of this, students often approach their education as consumers and passive receivers of knowledge rather than active agents shaping their own lives.

And yet, this is how UNESCO and the IFLA define information literacy, and it is a far cry from passivity;

Information Literacy lies at the core of lifelong learning. It empowers people in all walks
of life to seek, evaluate, use and create information effectively to achieve their personal,
social, occupational and educational goals. It is a basic human right in a digital world
and promotes social inclusion of all nations.

Lifelong learning enables individuals, communities and nations to attain their goals and
to take advantage of emerging opportunities in the evolving global environment for
shared benefit. It assists them and their institutions to meet technological, economic and
social challenges, to redress disadvantage and to advance the well being of all.

This definition of information literacy means that the banking model to teaching is not going to cut it.  Students need to learn how to use information for more than financial gain.  They need to use it to make this world a better place for everyone.  At the OJCS one of our North Stars is ‘Each Person is Responsible for the Other.’  This is at the core of critical pedagogy.

The OJCS is already very active in empowering our students to be active agents in their own education.  ‘Genius Hour’ is one example of how our teachers are living these ideals and allowing students the opportunity to pursue their passions and become creators of knowledge.  Many of these projects have the goal of changing the world for the better too.

Another facet of critical pedagogy is that each student has unique perspectives and experiences to share, which is a way they can teach the teachers and their classmates.  This concept connects to the North Star ‘We are always on inspiring Jewish journeys.’  The unique perspective at our school is the Jewish perspective.  That perspective will make the experiences of our students different from those of students at non-Jewish schools.  For that reason, it is important for teachers to see through that lense.

Another key aspect of critical pedagogy is that teaching shouldn’t be the domain of the teacher alone.  Allowing students self-directed learning and discussion time during lessons is one way empower students to think for themselves and find ways to apply the lesson to their own personal experiences.  One OJCS North Star is that “We own our own learning.  We own our own story”.  Each student has so much to share and so much to teach us.  But to do so, they need lots of teacher-created opportunities to share.

One of the things we hear a lot at staff meetings is that at OJCS we are all lifelong learners.  Teachers and students are always challenging themselves and learning all the time.  This is another North Star “We Learn Better Together.”  So this course presented an opportunity for me to learn and grow.  Learning about critical pedagogy will directly impact the way that I design workshop curriculum and will change what I expect as outcomes.  Right now I mainly educate about information literacy, but to me critical pedagogy is about empowering students to take that knowledge and become ethical, active, global citizens.


Accardi, Maria T.  Critical Library Instruction: Theories & Methods.  Duluth: Library Juice Press.  2010
Elmborg, James.  Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice.  The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Volume 32, Number 2.  2006.
Delpit, Lisa.  Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom.  New York: New Press, 1995.

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