Who Owns School?
Authority, Students, and Online Discourse

by Kelly Ritter

New Dimensions in Computers and Composition Series
eds. Cynthia Selfe and Gail Hawisher
Hampton Press, 2010

Reviewed by Rita Malenczyk
Director, University Writing Program and Writing Center
Eastern Connecticut State University


What About Freire?

The Pink Monkey

Psst! Wanna Buy A...?

And His Pants Are Ugly



References and Credits

In Chapter 1, “Who Needs Teachers? The Generation After Liberatory Pedagogy,” Ritter critiques the basis of one teaching method that has attempted to address student alienation: liberatory, or critical, pedagogy as embodied in the work of Paulo Freire.   Ritter’s critique of liberatory pedagogy is based not on Freire’s work itself but on its validity as a way of engaging and liberating American undergraduates who already have access to computer technology and the ability to use that technology for their own ends.  The efficacy of Freire’s pedagogy relies heavily not only on the Brazilian political and socioeconomic roots from which it came but also, Ritter points out, on the authority of the teacher in that context.  For it to “work”—in other words, for students to learn to think for themselves—said students must first submit to the teacher’s greater knowledge and authority. This is why, as Ritter suggests, “the core goals of liberatory pedagogy” in the contemporary United States “have not been as fully realized as its supporters may imagine” (p. 15).  Online technologies, she claims, and students’ extensive use of those technologies, are reflective of students’ desire “to be independent learners and thinkers, as defined on their own terms, rather than those of the institution” (p. 16).  In other words, many twenty-first century American students are already liberated, though not necessarily in ways early advocates of liberatory pedagogy would have envisioned—because liberatory pedagogy, like it or not, still exists within the institution.  And for many contemporary practitioners of that pedagogical method, e.g., Patricia Bizzell and James Berlin, the teacher within that institution is in fact central to the method’s efficacy.