Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ch. 5 of Prof. Pennycook's CALx

Chapter 5 The Politics of Pedagogy

Mapping micro and macro relations --> Understanding how power circulates at multiple levels.


Auerbach (1995, p. 12)
The politics of the ESL classroom: Issues of power in pedagogical choices. In J. Tollefson (Ed.), Power and inequality in language education (pp. 9-33). Cambridge University Press.

We are forced to ask questions about the most natural-seeming practices: Where is the class located? Where does the teacher stand or sit? Who asks questions? What kinds of questions are asked? Who chooses the learning materials? How is progress evaluated? Who evaluates it?

Canagarajah, A. S. (1993), Critical ethnography of a Sri Lankan classroom: Ambiguities in student opposition to reproduction through ESOL. TESOL Quarterly, 27 601-626.

-->Relative autonomy of classrooms

Cf Luhmann's systems theory

A system is defined by a boundary between itself and its environment, dividing it from an infinitely complex, or (colloquially) chaotic, exterior. The interior of the system is thus a zone of reduced complexity: Communication within a system operates by selecting only a limited amount of all information available outside. This process is also called "reduction of complexity." The criterion according to which information is selected and processed is meaning (in German, Sinn). Both social systems and psychical or personal systems (see below for an explanation of this distinction) operate by processing meaning.

Furthermore, each system has a distinctive identity that is constantly reproduced in its communication and depends on what is considered meaningful and what is not. If a system fails to maintain that identity, it ceases to exist as a system and dissolves back into the environment it emerged from. Luhmann called this process of reproduction from elements previously filtered from an over-complex environment autopoiesis (pronounced "auto-poy-E-sis"; literally: self-creation), using a term coined in cognitive biology by Chilean thinkers Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. Social systems are autopoietically closed in that they use and rely on resources from their environment; yet those resources do not become part of the systems' operation. Both thought and digestion are important preconditions for communication, but neither appears in communication as such.


Canagarajah (ibid): not to be overdeterministic or overvolitionist; seeing "learner-centerd" pedagogy as a very particular cultural and historical development.

See a rather critical description of learner autonomy in Wikipedia.

Learner Autonomy has been a buzz word in foreign language education in the past decades, especially in relation to life-long learning skills. It has transformed old practices in the language classroom and has given origin to self access language learning centers around the world such as the SALC at Kanda University of International Studies in Japan SALC, the SAC at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and ELSAC at the University of Auckland. As the result of such practices, language teaching is now seen as language learning and it has placed the learner as the centre of our attention in language learning education.

Read my short English essay "Commodifying ELT"

Gidden's notion of structuration --> mutual interdependence of structure and agency.

The theory of structuration, proposed by Anthony Giddens (1984) in The Constitution of Society (mentioned also in Central Problems of Social Theory, 1979), is an attempt to reconcile theoretical dichotomies of social systems such as agency/structure, subjective/objective, and micro/macro perspectives. The approach does not focus on the individual actor or societal totality "but social practices ordered across space and time" (p. 2). Its proponents adopt this balanced position, attempting to treat influences of structure (which inherently includes culture) and agency equally. See structure and agency.
Simply put, the theory of structuration holds that all human action is performed within the context of a pre-existing social structure which is governed by a set of norms and/or laws which are distinct from those of other social structures. Therefore, all human action is at least partly predetermined based on the varying contextual rules under which it occurs.

Structuration theory aims to avoid extremes of structural or agent determinism. The balancing of agency and structure is referred to as the duality of structure: social structures make social action possible, and at the same time that social action creates those very structures.
For Giddens, structures are rules and resources (sets of transformation relations) organized as properties of social systems. Rules are patterns people may follow in social life. Resources relate to what is created by human action; they are not given by nature (explained further below). The theory employs a recursive notion of actions constrained and enabled by structures which are produced and reproduced by those actions. Consequently, this theory has been adopted by those with structuralist inclinations, but who wish to situate such structures in human practice rather than reify them as an ideal type or material property. (This is different, for example, from actor-network theory which grants a certain autonomy to technical artifacts.) Additionally, the theory of structuration distinguishes between discursive and practical knowledge, recognizes actors as having knowledge is reflexive and situated, and that habitual use becomes institutionalized.

==>Poststructuration <--Discourse and subjectivity reciprocally reproduce and change each other. "The issue is not merely one of a dialectical relation between macro structure and micro agency but rather a poststructuration of constant recycling of different forms of power through our everyday words and actions. (Pennycook, 2001, p. 120)" 


School as one of the Ideological State Apparatuses

Althusser, L. (1971). Lenin and philosophy and other essays New Left Books.

 Althusser argues our self-consciousness is acquired within the social practices of the capitalistic world. School is one of the Ideological State Apparatuses that inculcate the mindset in us.

Here is Wikipedia's explanation.

Because Althusser held that our desires, choices, intentions, preferences, judgements and so forth are the consequences of social practices, he believed it necessary to conceive of how society makes the individual in its own image. Within capitalist societies, the human individual is generally regarded as a subject endowed with the property of being a self-conscious 'responsible' agent. For Althusser, however, a person’s capacity for perceiving himself in this way is not innately given. Rather, it is acquired within the structure of established social practices, which impose on individuals the role (forme) of a subject. Social practices both determine the characteristics of the individual and give him an idea of the range of properties he can have, and of the limits of each individual. Althusser argues that many of our roles and activities are given to us by social practice: for example, the production of steelworkers is a part of economic practice, while the production of lawyers is part of politico-legal practice. However, other characteristics of individuals, such as their beliefs about the good life or their metaphysical reflections on the nature of the self, do not easily fit into these categories. In Althusser’s view, our values, desires and preferences are inculcated in us by ideological practice, the sphere which has the defining property of constituting individuals as subjects.  Ideological practice consists of an assortment of institutions called Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs), which include the family, the media, religious organisations and, most importantly, the education system, as well as the received ideas they propagate. There is, however, no single ISA that produces in us the belief that we are self-conscious agents. Instead, we derive this belief in the course of learning what it is to be a daughter, a schoolchild, black, a steelworker, a councillor, and so forth.

In "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses," Althusser says about the reproduction of labor power as follows:

How is this reproduction of the (diversified) skills of labour power provided for in a capitalist regime? Here, unlike social formations characterized by slavery or serfdom this reproduction of the skills of labour power tends (this is a tendential law) decreasingly to be provided for ‘on the spot’ (apprenticeship within production itself), but is achieved more and more outside production: by the capitalist education system, and by other instances and institutions.

Schools teach children not only the basic academic knowledge and skills but also the rules of good behaviours. School, Althusser argues, is a device of reproduction of human beings in this society.

What do children learn at school? They go varying distances in their studies, but at any rate they learn to read, to write and to add -- i.e. a number of techniques, and a number of other things as well, including elements (which may be rudimentary or on the contrary thoroughgoing) of ‘scientific’ or ‘literary culture’, which are directly useful in the different jobs in production (one instruction for manual workers, another for technicians, a third for engineers, a final one for higher management, etc.). Thus they learn know-how.

But besides these techniques and knowledges, and in learning them, children at school also learn the ‘rules’ of good behaviour, i.e. the attitude that should be observed by every agent in the division of labour, according to the job he is ‘destined’ for: rules of morality, civic and professional conscience, which actually means rules of respect for the socio-technical division of labour and ultimately the rules of the order established by class domination. They also learn to ‘speak proper French’, to ‘handle’ the workers correctly, i.e. actually (for the future capitalists and their servants) to ‘order them about’ properly, i.e. (ideally) to ‘speak to them’ in the right way, etc.

To put this more scientifically, I shall say that the reproduction of labour power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time, a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order, i.e. a reproduction of submission to the ruling ideology for the workers, and a reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology correctly for the agents of exploitation and repression, so that they, too, will provide for the domination of the ruling class ‘in words’.

In other words, the school (but also other State institutions like the Church, or other apparatuses like the Army) teaches ‘know-how’, but in forms which ensure subjection to the ruling ideology or the mastery of its ‘practice’. All the agents of production, exploitation and repression, not to speak of the ‘professionals of ideology’ (Marx), must in one way or another be ‘steeped’ in this ideology in order to perform their tasks ‘conscientiously’ -- the tasks of the exploited (the proletarians), of the exploiters (the capitalists), of the exploiters’ auxiliaries (the managers), or of the high priests of the ruling ideology (its ‘functionaries’), etc.

The reproduction of labour power thus reveals as its sine qua non not only the reproduction of its ‘skills’ but also the reproduction of its subjection to the ruling ideology or of the ‘practice’ of that ideology, with the proviso that it is not enough to say ‘not only but also’, for it is clear that it is in the forms and under the forms of ideological subjection that provision is made for the reproduction of the skills of labour power.

Is Bernstein too deterministic when he makes a distinction between the restricted code and the elaborated code?

The entry of Basil Bernstein in Wikipedia says:

Basil Bernstein made a significant contribution to the study of communication with his sociolinguistic theory of language codes. Within the broader category of language codes are elaborated and restricted codes. The term code, as defined by Stephen Littlejohn in Theories of Human Communication (2002), “refers to a set of organizing principles behind the language employed by members of a social group” (p.278). Littlejohn (2002) suggests that Bernstein’s theory shows how the language people use in everyday conversation both reflects and shapes the assumptions of a certain social group. Furthermore, relationships established within the social group affect the way that group uses language, and the type of speech that is used.

According to James Atherton of the Doceo Teaching and Learning Website, the construct of restricted and elaborated language codes was introduced by Basil Bernstein in 1971. As an educator, he was interested in accounting for the relatively poor performance of working-class students in language-based subjects, when they were achieving scores as high as their middle-class counterparts on mathematical topics. In his theory, Bernstein makes a direct correlation between societal class and language.

According to Bernstein in Class, Codes and Control (1971),
“Forms of spoken language in the process of their learning initiate, generalize and reinforce special types of relationship with the environment and thus create for the individual particular forms of significance” (p.76). That is to say that the way language is used within a particular societal class affects the way people assign significance and meaning to the things about which they are speaking. Littlejohn (2002) agrees and states, “people learn their place in the world by virtue of the language codes they employ” (p.178). The code that a person uses indeed symbolizes their social identity (Bernstein, 1971).
The two types of language codes are the elaborated code and the restricted code. The restricted code does not refer to restricted vocabulary just as elaborated code does not refer to better, more eloquent language. According to Atherton (2002),

the essence of the distinction is in what the language is suited for. The restricted code works better than the elaborated code for situations in which there is a great deal of shared and taken-for-granted knowledge in the group of speakers. It is economical and rich, conveying a vast amount of meaning with a few words, each of which has a complex set of connotations and acts like an index, pointing the hearer to a lot more information which remains unsaid.

Within the restricted code, speakers draw on background knowledge and shared understanding. This type of code creates a sense of includedness, a feeling of belonging to a certain group. Restricted codes can be found among friends and families and other intimately knit groups.


Bernstein makes a correlation between social class and the use of either elaborated or restricted code. He reports that in the working class you are likely to find the use of the restricted code, whereas in the middle class you find the use of both the restricted and elaborated codes. His research argues that the working class have access only to restricted codes, the ones they learned in the socialization process, where “both the values and role systems reinforce restricted codes” (Littlejohn, 2002 p.179). However, the middle class, being more geographically, socially and culturally mobile has access to both the restricted codes and elaborate codes. (Atherton, 2002). The restricted code is less formal with shorter phrases interjected into the middle or end of a thought to confirm understanding. For example, “you know" ,” “you know what I mean,“ “right?” and “don’t you think?” Elaborated codes have a longer, more complicated sentence structure that utilizes uncommon words and thoughts. In the elaborate code there is no padding or filler, only complete, well laid out thoughts that require no previous knowledge on the part of the listener, i.e., necessary details will be provided. According to Bernstein (1971), a working class person communicates in restricted code as a result of the conditions in which they were raised and the socialization process. The same is true for the middle class person with the exception that they were exposed to the elaborate code as well. Both groups use restricted code at some point, for as Atherton (2002) points out, “Everyone uses restricted code communication some of the time. It would be a very peculiar and cold family which did not have its own language.”

5. 3. 1 Bourdieu and Forms of Capital

Wikipedia provides a good introduction to Bourdieu's works.  Bourdieu argues that how a person distinguishes herself depends upon her "cultural capital".

Bourdieu's theory of class distinction

Pierre Bourdieu developed theories of social stratification based on aesthetic taste in his 1984 work Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (in French, La Distinction) published by Harvard University Press. Bourdieu claims that how one chooses to present one’s social space to the world -- one’s aesthetic dispositions -- depicts one’s status and distances oneself from lower groups. Specifically, Bourdieu hypothesizes that these dispositions are internalized at an early age and guide the young towards their appropriate social positions, towards the behaviors that are suitable for them, and an aversion towards other lifestyles.

Pierre Bourdieu theorizes that class fractions teach aesthetic preferences to their young. Class fractions are determined by a combination of the varying degrees of social, economic, and cultural capital. Society incorporates “symbolic goods, especially those regarded as the attributes of excellence, […as] the ideal weapon in strategies of distinction” Those attributes deemed excellent are shaped by the interests of the dominating class. He emphasizes the dominance of cultural capital early on by stating that “differences in cultural capital mark the differences between the classes”

Class distinction often appears in "Habitus." The concept is defined in Wikipedia as follows:

Habitus can be defined as a system of dispositions (lasting, acquired schemes of perception, thought and action). The individual agent develops these dispositions in response to the objective conditions it encounters.

"Cultural capial" is related to "economic capital", "social capital," and "symbolic capital."

In 'The Forms of Capital' (1986), Bourdieu distinguishes between three types of capital:
Economic capital: command over economic resources (cash, assets).
Social capital: resources based on group membership, relationships, networks of influence and support. Bourdieu defines social capital as "the aggregate of the actual or potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition."
Cultural capital: forms of knowledge, skills, education,and advantages that a person has, which give them a higher status in society. Parents provide their children with cultural capital by transmitting the attitudes and knowledge needed to succeed in the current educational system.
Later he adds symbolic capital (resources available to an individual on the basis of honor, prestige or recognition) to this list.

Symbolic capital is regarded as a source of power.

Bourdieu sees symbolic capital (e.g. prestige, honour, the right to be listened to) as a crucial source of power. Symbolic capital is any species of capital that is perceived through socially inculcated classificatory schemes. When a holder of symbolic capital uses the power this confers against an agent who holds less, and seeks thereby to alter their actions, they exercise symbolic violence.


"Native speakers of English have linguistic capital that can be turned into economic capital (access to jobs), and because of the symbolic capital accorded to this linguistic capital, native speakers often claim social and cultural capital of other sorts." (Brutt-Griffler & Samimy 1999)

Revisiting the Colonial in the Postcolonial: Critical Praxis for Nonnative-English-Speaking Teachers in a TESOL Program
Authors: Brutt-Griffler, Janina; Samimy, Keiko K.
Source: TESOL Quarterly, Volume 33, Number 3, Autumn 1999 , pp. 413-431(19)

Here is the conclusion of their study, which is perhaps more subtle than the above summary suggests:

Drawing on Pennycook’s (1998) analysis of English and the discourses of colonialism as well as on the data in the present study, we find that the construct of nativeness in ELT has a lived reality in postcolonialism. As we have shown, it is a site of struggle for many nonnative-English-speaking professionals. It indeed might be a product of a colonial European culture that still resonates in the practice and theory of ELT. Although
many prominent scholars have pointed out its problematic nature, the construct of nativeness has remained at the center of much recent analysis.

The present study aimed at a reexamination of the question of NNESTs at the theoretical level and provided a practical approach to the empowerment of the NNEST. Toward this end, we drew on the principles of Freire’s (1993) critical pedagogy and Weedon’s (1997) theory of subjectivity. The underlying argument of our critical praxis was that if critical pedagogy is to lead to change and empowerment, we can no longer promote only the existing approaches to the study of the question. In particular, we argue that it is critical to address this side of ELT education within an ESOL teacher preparation program and develop new conceptual tools. As such, the issues involved in nativeness must first be articulated through the experiences and self-representation of both NNESTs and native-English-speaking teachers to challenge the professional boundaries and their ideological basis. As the present study has shown, it is critical to raise consciousness about the role of international teachers of English in the field and validate the tools for their empowerment. Empowerment, as Lather (1991) argues, constitutes “people coming into a sense of their own power, a new relationship with their own contexts” (p. 2). Although achieving such empowerment remains complex, this study demonstrated that many of the students found a new relationship with their contexts, analyzed the causes of their powerlessness, and generated a new sense of agency. We conclude that new critical approaches that reexamine such basic constructs need to become part of ESOL teacher education and research within a TESOL curriculum. (p. 429)

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
Lather, P. (1991). Getting smart: Feminist research and pedagogy with/in the postmodern. London: Routledge.
Pennycook, A. (1998). English and the discourses of colonialism. London: Routledge.
Weedon, C. (1997). Feminist practice and poststructuralist theory. Oxford: Blackwell.

"Bourdieu inadvertently forecloses the possibility of an agency that emerges from the margins of power." (p. 156)

Judith Butler (1997) Excitable speech: A politics of the performative. New York: Routledge.

5.3.2 Resistance and Change

The notion of cultural politics by Jordan & Weedon (1995) Cultural Politics: Class, Gender, Race And The Postmodern World

* Whose culture shall be the official one and whose shall be subordinated?

* What cultures shall be regarded as worthy of display and which shall be hidden?

* Whose history shall be remembered and whose forgotten?

* What images of social life shall be projected and which shall be marginalized?

* What voices shall be heard and which shall be silenced?

* Who is representing whom and on what basis?

* How can marginalized and oppressed people be empowered to change their social position?

* What is cultural democracy and how can it be achieved?

"Classrooms, from this perspective, are also sites where identities are produced and changed." (Pennycook, 2001, p. 129)

Critical Classroom Discourse Analysis
Author: Kumaravadivelu, B.
Source: TESOL Quarterly, Volume 33, Number 3, Autumn 1999 , pp. 453-484(32)

My primary purpose in this article is to conceptualize a framework for conducting critical classroom discourse analysis (CCDA). I begin with a critique of the scope and method of current models of classroom interaction analysis and classroom discourse analysis, arguing that they offer only a limited and limiting perspective on classroom discourse. I then contend that the concepts of discourse enunciated in Foucauldian poststructuralism and Saidian postcolonialism can be employed to develop a critical framework for understanding what actually transpires in the L2 classroom. Drawing insights from these two discourse traditions, I attempt to construct a conceptual framework for CCDA and present basic principles and procedures that might make CCDA possible. I conclude the article with suggestions for further exploration that CCDA might open up.

Here are excerpts from what Kumaravadivelu regards as the fundamental characteristics of Critical Classroom Discourse Analysis.

*Classroom discourse, like all other discourses, is socially constructed, politically motivated, and historically determined. ...

*The racialized, stratified, and gendered experiences that discourse participants bring to the classroom setting are motivated and molded not just by the learning and teaching episodes they encounter in the classroom but also by the broader linguistic, social, economic, political, and historical milieu in which they all grow up.

*The L2 classroom is not a secluded, self-contained minisociety. ...

*The L2 classroom also manifests, at surface and deep levels, many forms of resistance, articulated or unarticulated. ...

*Language teachers can ill afford to ignore the sociocultural reality that influences identity formation in and outside the classroom, nor can they afford to separate learners’ linguistic needs and wants from their sociocultural needs and wants.

*The negotiation of discourse’s meaning and its analysis should not be confined to the acquisitional aspects of input and interaction, to the instructional imperatives of form- and function-focused language learning activities, or to the conversational routines of turn-taking and turn-giving sequences. ...

*Classroom discourse lends itself to multiple perspectives depending on the discourse participants’ preconceived notions of what constitutes learning, teaching, and learning outcomes; therefore, any CCDA needs to identify and understand possible mismatches between intentions and interpretations of classroom aims and events.

*The objective of language education should be not merely to facilitate effective language use on the part of language learners but also to promote critical engagement among discourse participants. ...

*Teachers need to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to observe, analyze, and evaluate their own classroom discourse so that they can, without depending too much upon external agencies, theorize what they practice and practice what they theorize, thus contributing to the dismantling of the debilitating dichotomy between theorists and teachers, between producers and consumers of pedagogic knowledge.

Kumaravadivelu (1999, pp. 472-473)


Failing to problematizing its own status as a regime of truth (Foucault's term) (Pennycook, 2001, p. 132)?


One of the concerns Johnson has about critical pedagogy is that its exclusive focus on politics and its failure to capture the moral aspect of teaching.

Putting Critical Pedagogy in Its Place: A Personal Account
Author: Johnston, Bill
Source: TESOL Quarterly, Volume 33, Number 3, Autumn 1999 , pp. 557-565(9)

As I made clear above, I agree wholeheartedly with the claim that schooling is political in nature, and I believe that it is crucial to understand the workings of power in educational systems and contexts. However, I also believe very firmly that in essence teaching is not primarily about power or politics. My own view is that fundamentally teaching is about the moral relation between teacher and students; that is, the essence of teaching is moral, not political, in nature ( Jackson, Boostrom, & Hansen, 1993; Johnston, Juhasz, Marken, & Ruiz, 1998; Noblit & Dempsey, 1993; Noddings, 1984). I believe that although questions of power and culture and their attendant classifications (gender, race, sexual orientation) are of vital importance in understanding the processes of education, these can only be properly understood through the lens of moral interaction.that is, of the juxtaposition of values.
Johnson (1999, pp. 560-561)

5.5.1 Postmodernism and Ethics

Corson (1997) argues that without opening its epistemology applied linguistics may fail to contribute to improve the human condition.

Applied Linguistics 1997 18(2):166-188
Critical Realism: An Emancipatory Philosophy for Applied Linguistics?
David Corson

I would argue that only an inclusive epistemology is ethically acceptable once we have decided that the reasons and the accounts of stakeholders are ontologically basic to our actions as researchers and practitioners in applied linguistics. This is because only an inclusive epistemology is consistent with all three ethical principles [=the principle of equal treatment, the principle of respect for persons, and the principle of benefit maximization] at the same time. In other words, applied linguistics needs to open its windows to other disciplines and to other points of view, especially to the points of view of its informants, clientele, and potential victims. If it does not do so, applied linguistics will fail to show respect for persons as autonomous moral agents who deserve equal treatment similar to the treatment applied linguists themselves would expect as people, and in not meeting the third principle, it will also fail to maximize the welfare of humanity in general.
Corson (1997, p. 183)

Ethics "not as part of a fixed moral code that guides the behavior of the individual but rather as part of a contingent way of thinking and acting that is always in relation to social, cultural, and political relations." (Pennycook, 2001, p. 137)


"Doing critical work is dangerous work." (Pennycook, 2001, p. 138)


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