Rethinking The Academy:

Radical Teachers

The assumption - indeed, the bias - of this article should be clear. In case it is not, I would like to make it very clear indeed: I am interested in defining and in continuing to open the possibilities afforded to both students and teachers by a radical position.

Radical teachers are those who believe in the power of students to teach themselves, and who therefore give students control over the content of courses; this control would include not only the texts read by the class as a whole, but assigning, testing, scheduling, and grading.

The assumption in the radical classroom is that students are there by choice and therefore will act in their own best interests, even when it appears that the student is "resisting" or "acting out." In the radical classroom, a decision not to do a paper or other assignment is simply that, a decision, and it may become the job of the radical teacher to help a student to see that the choices he or she makes are the result of very real priorities in the student's life, so long as the student is willing to face the consequences of the decisions made, either overtly or implicitly. It may be necessary to recommend that a student cut down on the number of courses taken, or even drop out of school altogether.

On the other hand, the radical assumption is that most students, if not all, can succeed, given enough effort on the student's part, though it is not necessarily the job of the teacher to force or nag students into completing various assignments. Instead, the responsibility always rests on the students' shoulders. Of course, one should and does make adjustments based on the academic history and preparation of the students - a first year student ought to be given more warnings than a senior, for instance.

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Last Modified: August 2, 1996

Copyright 1996 by Keith Dorwick