Now that exams are over, I will hopefully have time to start spending more time on this blog. I’ve been thinking a lot about critical information literacy the past few months, but I have spent most of my free time just trying to read as much as I can on critical education in general and related material. As usual when I start any new research, I get carried away and start reading very broadly and grab hold of every connection I stumble upon. My reading these past few months has included all of the articles I posted earlier as well as a collection of books on critical pedagogy, constructivism, enactivism and cognition, free education, and more, including the following titles:
Critical Constructivism Primer, by Joe Kincheloe
Finding Freedom in the Classroom, by Patricia Hinchey
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
A Primer of Libertarian Education, by Joel Spring
Compulsory Mis-Education and The Community of Scholars, by Paul Goodman
The Embodied Mind, by Francisco Varela, et al.
Introduction to Critical Theory, by David Held
Critical Pedagogy: notes from the real world, by Joan Wink
Education and the Significance of Life, by J. Krishnamurti
Some of these I’ve finished and some I’m still digesting and others are waiting in the wings. These have all been very rewarding and thought-provoking, but what does it all have to do with information literacy? I’ve been trying to relate everything I’m reading to information literacy specifically and librarianship in general. I believe that there is a very strong connection, but how do I explain this connection to others and how do I encourage other librarians to explore these issues themselves?
As I see it, there are two major problems with talking about developing a critical information literacy or a critical practice of librarianship. The first problem is the language of critical theory and critical education. Just providing a simple explanation of what is meant by these terms poses a serious problem. I may attempt such an explanation in the near future, but I’m not about to do so now. I highly recommend Joe Kincheloe’s primers on critical constructivism and critical pedagogy, published by Peter Lang as a way into this area of academic writing. I think it is necessary to take these ideas out of the closed academic environments they now inhabit and make them more accessible to everyone. This is something I hope to work toward in this space.
The second problem is a political one. It is a problem because anyone who finds fault with the current system and works to change it or abolish it is considered to be taking a political position, whereas those who contribute to the continuation of the current system by doing nothing are considered apolitical. Of course, this isn’t the case. Choosing not to act is just as political as choosing to act, it is simply easier. If you choose to criticise the current system and take steps to change it or abolish it altogether, you will most certainly be seen as a radical, a subversive, or a troublemaker by many colleagues and certainly by those who benefit under the current system.
To counter these two problems it is necessary to be well armed with a clearly developed theory and the ability to express this theory to anyone who might question your actions. This theory should then directly affect your practice which will in turn inform and further develop your theory. As I develop my own understanding of this theory and my ability to express it, I will share my findings here and in the classroom. I am hoping to help develop a teaching module as an introduction to critical information literacy for elementary school teachers as part of a foundations of education course. I’ll include some notes here on how this develops. In the meantime, the reading continues. Any suggestions?