There are lots of meanings of “critical education”. Here’s what we mean when naming ourselves a “critical education project”:
- First, there is critical thinking. Critical thinking is thinking carefully about things so that you can actually understand, explain, and act on the reality before you. Critical thinking leads to understanding reality. It is an honest attempt to see the world as it is, in all its complexity, all its diversity, and all its contradictions. Critical education embraces critical thinking.
- Second, there is critical education. Critical education is a philosophy of education with its formal roots in the scholarship of Paulo Freire, bell hooks, Henry Giroux, and others. This philosophy of education is both critical in the thinking sense (as it embraces praxis, reflective-action through dialogue, in order to understand, explain, and act on reality) and critical in the sense of being opposed to de-humanizing forms of education (e.g. “banking education” – with its roots in capitalism and colonialism).
- Third, there is education as critical. This is a recognition of education as critical to one’s human development, or the fulfilment of one’s human potential. It is also the recognition that education teaches critical (essential) things, because these things support development through learning. Education, as a developmental process, supports essential learning by teaching students “cognitive tools” (skills, concepts, and ways of knowing, thinking, and relating) that are needed for survival and power and that, as tools, expand the student’s own capacity and potential through growth. Critical learning is therefore essential to growth.
The point of the Critical Education Project is to help teachers teach essential things (like literacy, voice, power, inquiry, connection, and place) in order to provide students with a worthwhile and meaningful education (a process of value to the student – as a member of their community). This process is humanizing. It is powerful. And it is educational.
This approach, teaching learning (learning as essential to supporting one’s development), is grounded in the theories of Lev Vygotsky, another scholar whose work is central to the model of inquiry on which this project is based.