From “Authentic” to Actual Marxist Educational Theory: Advancing Revolutionary Pedagogies

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Education is central to both the reproduction of capitalism and the revolutionary project of creating a new social order. As revolutionary and leftist activists, organizers, researchers, and academics—along with capitalist and imperialist powers—increasingly turn to educational theory, the pedagogical contents and forms of such theories are of decisive political importance. This article conducts a historical-materialist inquiry into the origins, critiques, and developments of two dominant radical educational theories in imperialist countries—and in much of the world—to advance a revolutionary educational theory adequate to our moment. After establishing the political and strategic significance of the “scholastic apparatus” and its centrality in reproducing and challenging capitalism, this article examines critical pedagogy (the educational spin-off of the Frankfurt School), finding it originated not from Paulo Freire’s praxis but as a break from it. This article investigates Marxist responses to critical pedagogy, arguing they’re held back by their lack of orthodoxy, as Marxist orthodoxy adheres to limitless flexibility and creativity based on material conditions. Reclaiming Freire’s orthodox Marxism, this article homes in on a pillar of his praxis that critical pedagogy and Marxist educational theory avoid: education is only revolutionary within revolutionary organization.

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