eleştirel pedagoji

Journal of Critical Pedagogy
ISSN: 2822-4698

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65 Peter Mc Laren


"On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

--H.L. Mencken, July 26, 1920, in the Baltimore Evening Sun

 Peter McLaren

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the vast chasms of inequality that exist in Christo-fascist regime of the United States and in other countries throughout the world.  These have been exposed in new ways as a result of how successfully various countries have or have not met the challenge of protecting the most vulnerable within their populations.  The pandemic has made what appears to be a congenitally paranoid and conspiracy-prone population in the US feel even more vulnerable. As a result Trump supporters have transmogrified into an Islamophobic  cult, amplifying the transcendental desire of their great leader, the “chosen one” of God, and his desire to build more walls, to halt immigration and to keep political refugees locked up while warehousing their children in filthy cages on its borders.   


Trump is a neofascist President whose malignant narcissism and penchant for lying and gaslighting the public has become the object of rebuke worldwide, yet in the United States his popularity remains steady among his base which includes white ethno-nationalists, neo-Nazis, anti-globalists and economically disenfranchised working-class whites, as well as evangelical Christians who follow the "prosperity gospel" (God will make you rich) and who wish to bring about an American theocracy.   The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed   the damaged state of  the health care system, and the inability of the government to protect its citizens during a major social crisis. This failure will leave a permanent scar across the social tissue of the country.  Whether this signals a major step in the decline of the American empire is still open to debate. Trump's attempts at reopening businesses before the pandemic has been brought under control is likely to create a more powerful spike in the number of deaths from Covid-19. 

We share the air we breathe with others, and yet some countries have a substantially a better quality of air as a result of the geopolitics of austerity capitalism. We share the earth and seas with others and yet some can afford to go into self-quarantine in a luxury yacht on the Mediterranean while others are forced to fight the infection with several families crowded together in a single apartment with no electricity or running water.  Yet the novel coronavirus can survive in both clean air and polluted air. At the time of this writing it has killed well over a hundred thousand Americans, many of whom were older Americans in congregant living.  It has also exacerbated racism against people of color, Asians in particular, even as people of color are disproportionately affected by the virus, given their specific underlying health conditions due to poverty and lack of essential health care facilities. 

It is undeniable that President Donald Trump and the whiplash presidency he runs from inside the twitterverse is responsible for the deadly acceleration of the spread of the coronavirus in its early stages by ignoring it, or calling it a “hoax” designed to destroy his presidency. His gross incompetence and that of his administration is surely responsible for thousands of deaths in the US.  And the tragedy of this pandemic should not distract us from other actions taken by the Trump administration that are as comparably dangerous.  Renowned linguist and arguably the most important critic of US foreign policy over the past half century, Noam Chomsky, famously proclaimed that the modern Republican Party is "the most dangerous organization" in human history. Chomsky points out that in a recent government report, Trump's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration predicted that the planet would warm by 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century and yet has shockingly decided not to do anything about it.  The assumption of this group is that automotive emissions will pale in comparison to climate change so we might as well allow them to expand unhindered, regardless of the deadly consequences on human health and well-being.  When stupidity and a lack of human empathy and decency mix with mad-dog misanthropy, the results are combustible. Trump has been silent about police murders of black men.

During his presidency, we have seen a dramatic rise in white supremacist ethno-nationalist groups, neo-Nazis and heavily armed militia movements and the alt-right “electric Boogaloo-ers” who favor the white supremacist version of “accelerationism” (intensify social discord as a way to expedite the collapse of liberal democracy which they feel has become too “politically correct”) in the hopes of starting a race war and exterminating people of color. In other words, they support policies that alienate white people in order to motivate them to incite more extreme forms of violence and thus collapse the system through amplifying acts that bring about social tension and chaos. 

In response to violent protests over the murder of  George Floyd by Minnesota police (which was, in effect, a public lynching), Trump called the protestors “thugs” and warned them in a tweet that he will send in the military to quell the riots, using the phrase, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” This phrase was borrowed from an infamous 1967 threat from then-Miami-Dade County Sheriff Walter Headley aimed at black teenagers. For those white nationalists and neo-Nazis wanting to start a race war, Trump’s tweet could not have been more appealing. The recent uprising  has further exposed the major flaws in the justice system across the country. Trump's comments will only exacerbate the problem, prolong the uprising, and create the conditions for the further spread of the coronavirus. 

The contradictions that mark Trump’s attack on civilization are absent of any dialectical Aufhebung, they never reach resolution, they just ricochet in an echo chamber of negations, denying any historical movement, only historical paralysis, anti-history. Even Trump’s narcissism is self-preening, having given birth to a monster that stalks the twitterverse (as if Trump had access to a Krell “plastic educator” from the film, Forbidden Planet).

Public education under the Trump administration continues to be under attack as budget deficits caused by the coronavirus are being used to justify massive cuts to public education across the country. Betsy de Vos, the Secretary of Education continues to providing public dollars to religious (i.e. “Christian”) schools and to push for charter schools run by for-profit companies and bolstered by anti-union privatization measures. Her long term goal is to dismantle public education altogether. She has been quoted as saying “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”

 (Her brother, security contractor Eric Prince, founder of the infamous private mercenary army, Blackwater USA, now runs a business that recruits ex-spies to infiltrate liberal groups and has offered “lethal” services to a sanctioned Russian mercenary group.)  De Vos's education policy has only intensified the "school-to-prison pipeline" that sees African American and Latino student populations criminalized at an early age. They are disproportionally punished in school settings, setting the stage for being sent to a juvenile detention center.  

Trump’s poisoned reasoning has put us on a collision course with existential madness.  Critical educators must counter this madness by creating a new historic bloc and turn the current rebellion on the streets into a revolution by working for the creation of political or direct democracy, for the direct control of the political process by citizens, for economic democracy, for the ownership and direct control of economic resources by the citizen body, for democracy in the social realm by means of the self-management of educational institutions and workplaces, and for the ecological justice that will enable us to reintegrate society into nature. 

In this historical moment,  the alt-right has become the prehensile tail of libertarianism, has created a zeitgeist of apocalyptic revelation—to his base of supporters, Trump is bringing them closer to the end times of the Christian apocalypse, halleluliah!   Hatred and bigotry has descended into the bowels of the American Armageddon psyche, emerging in the toilet bowl of a dangerously repurposed form of state-sponsored fringe theology known as Christian dominionism designed to keep Trump in power, to legitimize his nympholeptic narcissism and theocratic aspirations to be God’s ‘chosen one.”  There is no quick means of flushing out this vermin post-truth logic from the American psyche as the alt right (i.e., white ethno-nationalists and anti-globalists) are steadily clawing their way towards a New American Fascism in the midst of this pandemic with their rabble- rousing war-cry of dismantling the federal government, their declaration of war on face masks and coronavirus lockdowns, their refusal to follow directives for social distancing, and their dissemination of the most bizarre conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus that has led armed protestors to occupy government statehouses and to warn against an impending race war that will lead white people to a glorious victory. 

Educators need to challenge these heightened forms of racialized fascism weaponized even further through the toxic rhetoric steaming out of the throat of our neo-fascist Criminal-in-Chief, Donald Trump. Critical pedagogy reminds us that we have the collective power to transform the world of capital into a world free of necessity through the revolutionary force of socialism. The promised land can therefore only promise to be a place of struggle, not a land of milk and honey. We are the seeds in the soil of a new counter-world. It is up to decide what that world is to look like and how to get there. The historically contingent Marxism that grounds our revolutionary critical pedagogy examines history as dialectical rather than as determined or teleological (moving towards some endpoint), and since history is moved by human labor,  Marxists educators can provide strategies and tactics that are, themselves, historical, and grounded in the history of race, class and gender struggle. History does not resolve into self-consciousness but takes the form of praxis,  the outcome of which is productive without being overdeterministic, emphasizing reciprocally just and dignified and dignifying relations among people and their relation to others and to nature. 

 Incremental reforms, are insufficient.  Needed change cannot be implemented within the existing system. Major structural changes are necessary to deal with the current existential crisis.  

We can reclaim our humanity by choosing either the liberal model of pleading with the corporations to temper their cruelty and greed, the a revolutionary model that has declared war on social and economic equality. Each of these models is fiercely and hopelessly entangled in each other's conflictual embrace, and it makes more tactical sense at this point to adopt a dialectical (both/and) rather than an either/or approach.  Our struggle is about reform and revolution—not “either” reform or revolution—and  it is not only about  hurling invective at government policies, but about a sustained march towards a revolutionary consciousness and praxis. That is why it is so important to teach students about the dynamics
of the capitalist system-its movement from global capitalism to transnational capital and Che Guevara’s dialectical conception of education which is formed internally through analyzing the continuous contractions of external influences on the life of individuals. Paulo Freire has taught us that dialogical pedagogy can achieve the kind of class consciousness necessary for a powerful social transformation. By participating in an analysis of the objective social totality, it becomes possible for us to struggle simultaneously for a social universe outside of the value form of labor. 

After the pandemic eases its death grip, I don’t want students to adapt to a broken system. And I don’t want them to fix a broken system because if it is broken then it might not be on the right track to begin with. I want students to be able to understand what systemic  changes need to be made and to fight for those changes—in short, I want them to engage in the kind of learning that can help them and others transform the system from one of capitalist overaccumulation to socialism.  What we need is to build socialist citizens, as Che Guevara would often remind us.  We do not suddenly become socialists by instituting necessary changes in the social relations of production alone.  This must be accompanied by a socialist education.  And this means we need teacher education for a socialist future.  One important way to achieve this is  through revolutionary critical pedagogy. 


Many if not most critical educators would likely support the following progressive themes associated with a liberal democracy: education is a socio-political process that is designed to create critical thinkers who will be motivated to use their critical skills to create an equitable and diverse society; education should be student-centered and some of the most important learning theories involve Deweyean, Freirean and Vygotskyian  approaches that emphasize social interaction and cognition, dialogue, dialectical reasoning, student experience, communication, collaboration and community-building; education cannot be politically neutral and must side with the oppressed in order to build a socially just society that emphasizes human and economic rights. While these pedagogical imperatives are important, in themselves, they are  insufficient, since they can be practiced to some extent within the realm of capitalist societies, that is, without changing the system. Teacher education needs to focus on creating a social universe outside of the imperatives of capitalist interests, outside of the status quo of  white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.  And that means creating an education system that can work towards this goal.  We are far from achieving this. Systemic change is what we need.  And we need to learn as much as we can about how we can achieve this socialist goal. 



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