Critical praxis: Confronting ideologies and community reactions

Year: 1996

Author: Wilson, Eric

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Knowledge is a social construct with this construction being accomplished, essentially, through the use of language. Students, in first year Language in Education begin with the study of membership in communicative groups, appropriateness of particular constructions of reality determined by context, and subsequent choices one makes in text construction. This, in turn, is related to possible implications, especially for children in schools.

A premise underlying the validity os such critical practice (including critical literacy and inquiry) is that true social justice can only be conceived of once what is seen to be 'natural' and 'common-sense' is unmasked as 'charades of reality' (Wilson, 19966) based, often on an inequitable distribution of power. The analysis of texts, using a variety of techniques, is one approach to achieving an awareness of how this is done and its potential effect.

This is a process which involves developing an awareness of assumptions about 'naturalness' through the examination of a variety of familiar texts. Students work through the layers of meaning in text to attempt to locate the Discourses (Gee, 1990) as ideology which cause the text to 'mean' the way it does.

There are a range of tensions which occur for students and staff as well as teachers in the community, resulting from such critical reflection on social practice. These tensions have become the focus of mu interest as students come to various points along a continuum of critical language awareness and realise some implications including immediate impacts on university results, working in 'the field' as student teachers, and looking further, the many and diverse effects on their future teaching praxis.