The main pedagogical theory that supports social justice in the classroom is Critical Pedagogy (CP). And, while there a great many Critical Pedagogy theorists that inform Identity Based Education's (IBE's) social justice center, the three theorists below each bring a unique insight from Critical Pedagogy to 21st century learners and Identity Based Education. All of the included components of CP are based around endorsing critical thought in the classroom to empower global learners. So, in terms of IBE, these theories inform and validate the approach of using student experience in the classroom, expanding discourse, and pragmatically empowering students through social critique and responsibility. 

Scholars and educators aligned with CP can trace their practices to Brazilian educator Freire (1991). Freire’s theory to teaching and learning includes foundational notions such as was world-based learning and the critique of social structures. Freire (1968) discusses world-based learning, explaining it as “authentic thinking, thinking that is concerned about reality, does not take place in ivory tower isolation” (p. 61). In another work, Freire (1973) examines “conscientização,” a term that relates to developing a critical consciousness within education. These notions are seminal to IBE. These concepts generate an environment that brings the experiences and identities students live with and places it at the center. IBE then asks students to critique the world around them, which is where students practice critical consciousness.

Paulo Freire

Gore’s research in CP explicates what empowerment entails for marginalized populations. Gore (1989) discusses this complex concept as she examines the idea of "empowerment" in the classroom, warranting that it is in the interest of the world to expand the understandings of what empowerment entails (p. 336). She explains that empowerment for marginalized populations in a classroom is “liberating because [it] challenges dominant discourses” (p. 337). This critique of empowerment of marginalized populations belongs in IBE as it challenges the assumption that empowerment is a concept that is implicit for diverse students. Instead, Gore says that student empowerment is not merely “possessed” but instead “exercised” (p. 336).

Jennifer Gore

Peterson's place in CP is largely based upon his research into social responsibility and its place in a democratic education. Peterson (1991) claims “students should be encouraged to act as if they were living in a democracy” (p. 380). Peterson’s theory of social responsibility insists that while critical consciousness is essential, so is the responsibility to use this consciousness. In the same work, Peterson examines the essentiality of enlightening students to the struggles of history, as he writes “[History] has been fragmented, distorted, and rewritten.” Peterson claims then that as educators we should instead promote that “[History] should be the focus of learning” (p.381). So, within IBE, students not only comprehend the diverse world that they live in, but they have a social responsibility to change it from the inequitable systems of the past.

Robert E. Peterson

"There are a multitude of benefits when all students are engaged in a dialogue about social justice in the classroom, as it fosters critique of social structures and a responsibility to change them."

Some influential texts pertaining to Critical Pedagogy and IBE are the following: 

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Critical Pedagogy Reader

Critical Pedagogy Reader includes a multitude of essays written by critical pedagogy theorists both old and new. Ultimately, the purpose of the text is clear: to inform more democratic education systems and practices. 

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