Micro-Review of Chapter 4: Why Have School? An Inquiry through Dialectical Materialism by Rich Gibson

DeLeon & Ross, Eds. Critical Theories, Radical Pedagogies, and Social Education (Sense Publishers, 2010).

Gibson’s sweeping “Inquiry” into the titular question of this chapter is an interesting, if sometimes irreverent, or perhaps purposefully playful look at schooling in the U.S. in 2010 from a variety of angles. Gibson is a professor at San Diego State University whose writing I have become familiar with through a possibly now defunct online periodical known as the Rouge Forum. But Gibson has also contributed to magazines like CounterPunch, which I frequently read as well. Also, an essay of Gibson’s about Paulo Freire– actually a sort of “critical intellectual history” I think he called it, has really shaped how I think about liberation theology in education and Freire’s “Critical Education” movement as well.

The title of this chapter alone should reveal much of Gibson’s theoretical critical framework. Gibson affixes the beam of Marxist critical inquiry firmly on the institution of education: its past and present rooted in “capitalist democracy,” a term, which he then thoroughly deconstructs as part of his inquiry, and a potentially violent revolutionary future.

Among the most useful sections in this chapter to me were Gibson’s overview of teachers unionism in the United States at present, by the numbers, and also episodically to illustrate the pervasiveness of corruption that Gibson says is the hallmark of these large unions, which are themselves among some of the largest unions in the country. I will be able to go deeper with my teachers union history with a piece that Wayne Ross and Sandra Mathieson published around the same time as this one I believe. Stay tuned. Likewise, this volume I got from Wayne, which focuses broadly on radical social studies pedagogy, should have a bunch of other good essays to look at maybe later this week.

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