Sunday, April 20, 2014

Shor: Empowering Education


Reading “Empowering Education: Education as Politics” by Ira Shor this week was pretty much a review of the entire semester. The chapter had so many ideas that we’ve talked about in this class that as I read, I could hear snippets of ideas from our class discussions and from other authors about how schools should work and how education should be. I decided to use this last post to connect it all together and reflect on the class in general.

Shor’s main argument in this chapter is that school is primarily a social experience for children. He uses the term “socialization,” which he explains by quoting Piaget: “to educate is to adopt the child to an adult social environment…the child is called upon to receive from outside the already perfected products of adult knowledge and morality” (12). This means that when children go to school, while they might be there to learn about math or history, they are actually learning the most about society and how they are each meant to functions in our world. The current methods of teaching in American schools are making students less and less curious about the world. Kids are also constantly being reminded about the status quo, since their learning does not prepare them to be successful critical thinkers of leaders; they are taught to submit to authority and work under someone else, causing a huge lack of motivation for them to work hard and learn in school. It’s not what they learn, but how they learn it that affects whether they can submit to or challenge the culture of power. In Shor’s words, “Curriculum is one place where dominant culture can either be supported or challenged, depending on the way knowledge is presented and studied” (33).

Looking at what Shor has to say, I’m able to pick out the themes from the other reading’s we’ve done. I noticed a huge connection to Finn in most of the article. Shor talks about how education is only effective if the lessons build thinking skills and creativity and relate to real life. Finn talks about this concept in “Literacy With and Attitude,” telling us how differences in schooling between social classes limits many students because only the children from elite families gain critical thinking skills through actively participating in their education. They learn real life skills, while the poor students get lectures learn how to memorize facts and submit to authority. I also saw a bit of Delpit, who argues that students always need to be taught the culture of power in order to understand and function within it. Shor also uses this idea, which he calls the “central bank of knowledge,” which according to him is society’s rules and facts exclusive to those in power. He even states that in order to help all students understand, teachers must “use students’ thought and speech as the base for developing critical understanding” (33-34). Ideas from Collier and Rodriguez made appearances here too, since they both argue that students’ first languages and cultures but be honored and used to the classroom to help them learn.  I was also able to connect to Kahne and Westheimer in this chapter.  Overall, Shor proves that we need a system that empowers the student rather than the teacher, and doesn’t enforce the status quo and stereotypes in society. He has learned through experience that the system everywhere needs to change.
Kahne and Westheimer also argue that we need to change our society’s system in order to make a difference in the future.
I thought that the Shor chapter really wrapped up the semester nicely. Because of everything that we’ve read and talked about this semester, I read the article feeling like I already knew about most of these issues. The chapter took so many of the themes from our class and pieced them all together into one main idea that the system has to change. To do this, teachers need to be taught how to empower their students. Now that we’re all aware of these issues in schools, as teachers, we will be able to help make that change in our schools and our society as a whole.



  1. Julie, you are always very insightful. I have really enjoyed it when you speak in class. You did a great job pulling everything we've learned together. I have really enjoyed being in class with you.

  2. I really liked you post this week, and how you connected the article to basically every other article that we've read. I felt the same as you when you said that you felt like you already knew about the issues written about in the article. Great job!

  3. Julie! Good job I enjoyed reading your connections! Especially the ones to Finn! I didn't catch that till I just read your blog! Good Job:)

  4. Julie, great post this week! I agree with Gianna, I loved how your main connection was Finn. I saw him too but you really went into depth with him! I thought this was a good piece to end the semester with. Like you said, we'll be awesome teachers now that we've been exposed and aware of all of these things from all of our previous readings :)

  5. Excellent blogs all semester long, Julie. Great job.