There would be critical educators that would contest my own approach to critical education, and that is part and parcel of being a critical educator, and their (frequent) opposition to my position is not something that I condemn but engage in the spirit of critical dialogue.
Of course I fully agree with many of the more accepted goals of the liberal variants of critical pedagogy whose arch-categories include the following—to foment dialogue, to deepen our appreciation of public life, to create spaces of respect and appreciation for diversity, to encourage critical thinking, to build culturally sensitive curricula, to create a vibrant democratic public sphere, to try to change the hardened hearts and minds of our increasingly parasitic financial aristocracy, to build knowledge from the experiences and the histories of students themselves, to make knowledge relevant to the lives of students, and to encourage students to theorize and make sense of their experiences in order to break free from the systems of mediation that limit their understanding of the world and their capacity to transform it, to challenge racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, to fight against white supremacy, etc.
JMBT: The first question I would like to ask you is: Considering the fact that you are a critical educator, which would you say are the main components that distinguish a critical education from a traditional one?
PM: While I am a critical educator and have the utmost respect for the field, I do not work in the arena of what might be considered ‘conventional’ critical pedagogy.
In the field of critical education there is an entanglement of visions, locations, practices and these understandably vary from individual to individual, neighborhood to neighborhood, district to district, region to region, country to country, etc.
Critical pedagogy is, after all, part of a geopolitics of knowledge.
At the time, when the wet-sock formlessness of postmodern theory was becoming an unwitting companion of neoliberalism, I was mocked by some in the field for returning to a discredited Marxism.
But the more our daily toil and struggle in the sloughs of ordinary human existence and human suffering increased, and the more our journey within in the fearful paradoxicality of everyday life contrasted with the neat and seemless principles of neoliberal logic of privatization, the more rational Marxism sounded to me. There is no final resting place in the vault of the critical pedagogy pantheon, since critical pedagogy is constantly reinventing itself to meet the challenges of the present.
The work of Freire remains central and we need to remember the initiatives of popular educators and socialist Sunday schools, liberation theologians, schools for factory workers, socialist collectives, and other groups in various parts of the world.
For me, the fundamental goal of critical pedagogy is the struggle for a socialist alternative to capitalism—with capitalism understood as a global ecology of exploitation—and the approach I take builds on conventional approaches to critical pedagogy.
I include in my recent work insights from the “decolonial school” that contests the coloniality of power, I include advances in critical race theory, feminist theory, and ecopedagogy, to name several areas of interest that I feel are important.