The February issue of Choral Journal is online and features an article titled “Critical Pedagogy and the Choir” by Simon Hill. You can read it in its entirety online at acda.org/choraljournal. Following is a portion from the introduction.
What is critical pedagogy?
Since the release of Paulo Freire’s seminal work Pedagogy of the Oppressed, a singular definition and application of critical pedagogy has been elusive. Broadly speaking, critical pedagogy may be summed up in Freire’s original term conscientização, which roughly translates as conscientization. Conscientization refers to the process by which the unjust workings of a society are realized by the oppressed. The oppressed are then able to reclaim their right to speak as liberated persons, thereby transforming both themselves as individuals and the societies in which they live.1
Freire’s pedagogy stems from his work in educating the illiterate peasant population of Brazil in the mid twentieth century. However, when Freire speaks of the oppressed and the oppressor, he is not just speaking to Brazilians of the time. Freire’s critical pedagogy may be applied in any context and across disciplines.
As choral conductors and educators, where in our field can we fi nd the oppressed and oppressors? How can we transform our practices? How can we facilitate the process of conscientization among our singers? Using strong words such as oppressed and oppressor to describe the choral field might seem jarring, but by using these terms, we are not defining choral music as an innately unjust or oppressive art form. Instead, we are acknowledging the hierarchical nature of our field.
Since the relationship between conductor and choir naturally lends itself to a system of hierarchy (oppressor and oppressed), we can ask how critical pedagogy can guide us to a more liberated system. In this new mode, conductor and ensemble can work together dialogically to transform themselves and the world in which they live.
Critical pedagogy does not begin with predetermined answers; it begins with a problem. Through problem-posing, “People develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they fi nd themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation.”2
Critical pedagogy for choir could invite dialogue around a problem which exists in the world outside of the rehearsal space. It could also present a problem found within the confines of the choral classroom. It is essential that the unveiling of the world comes from within—the choristers—rather than from the conductor telling them what the world is and how they exist within it. Critical pedagogy is a collective process of both discovering and engaging with the world.
- Donaldo Macedo, introduction to Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 50th Anniversary Edition, by Paulo Freire (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2018): 16.
- Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 50th Anniversary Edition, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2018): 83.