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I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Peter McLaren speak on a “Critical Pedagogy for the 21st Century”, at St. Louis University (St. Louis, MO) on Monday, March 30. McLaren is a professor at UCLA. He shared some things that got me thinking. McLaren is a confessed humanist Marxist/socialist. Socialists vary in their views on justice but here are some commonly shared commitments:

1. Commitment to the public ownership of all means of production (unlike the libertarian who favors economic system based on individual rights; under this laissez-faire capitalism, all means of production are privately owned and there is a totally free market) and;

2. Commitment to the idea of equality; both moral equality (everyone’s life matters) and equality of condition (equality of opportunity, equal satisfaction of needs, and other factors that foster greater social equality). Socialists would argue that limitations on certain economic liberties are justified to promote equality. [For more on the topic of libertarian (or individualistic), socialist and liberal views of justice, see Social Ethics, by Mappes and Zembaty, Chapter 8, Social and Economic Justice, p. 371-73.]

He went on to say, the following:

  • Obama’s hope for changing America will be stymied by capitalism. Capitalism keeps racism alive and well. He asked in passing, “Can morality exist in capitalism?”
  • Under Bush, America experienced ‘soft fascism.’
  • With the election of Obama, we may have seen the final nail in Jim Crow’s coffin but we don’t live in a post-racial society.
  • Our public schools perpetuate the agenda of the ‘ruling class’ by teaching a technical rationality (all problems can be solved by some technological gadget or some technique) and consumeristic materialism.
  • McLaren compared Bush’s presidency to the ‘ruling class.’

I get the impression that McLaren views capitalism as an unrelenting impersonal ‘get out of my way if you don’t want to be smashed’ machine without a conscious. McLaren argues that we should move toward a post or anti-capitalistic pedagogy. McLaren believes we need to teach the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’. He advocates a distribution of the wealth and a participatory democracy of the socialist variety. He is not suggesting a revolution.

What do you think?


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