In Boston, an English professor is trying to sell his class on society’s collective guilt when said students are already believers in personal responsibility. “We must encourage students to access the antagonist class positions of texts in order to demonstrate how the oppositional voices contained in them identify evidence of class struggle,” Christopher Craig writes in the December 2009 issue of Radical Teacher, “a socialist, feminist and anti-racist journal on the theory and practice of teaching.” “Through this critical process, we can show how the values and interests of the dominant class are not universal but repressive, intended to keep the power relations between the ruling and working class one-sided.”
“For most of us, learning to read texts this way helps us to see through the ruling class ideology that exists in everything from literature to the nightly news.” Craig teaches at Emmanuel College, a Catholic institution of higher learning.
“Hence, our ability to grasp and practice this kind of criticism provides us and our students with the tools necessary to understand literature from a class-based perspective and to acknowledge the ideological forces that attempt to shape our lives,” Craig argues.
Radical Teacher is published by the board of trustees of the University of Illinois.
“They had been encouraged to understand homelessness, unemployment, and crime, for example, as the result of various levels of personal responsibility or just bad luck,” Craig writes of his students. Craig teaches a course on the Political Novel.
“They are respectful, hard working and open-minded,” Craig writes of his students. “But their liberalism is rooted strongly in the idea of American individualism.”
“They see helping the homeless as an opportunity to integrate people back into an economic system where possibility flourishes. One needs only to learn the skills necessary for success.”
As you may have guessed, Craig has a problem with this view. “Most of them have not considered thoroughly how political policies contribute to creating inequitable conditions,” Craig states. “They correctly link the horrific consequences of Hurricane Katrina to the Bush administration’s failure to respond (pro)actively to the catastrophe, for instance.”