©2000 Rosalie P. Shaw & E. G. Rozycki

The Educational Theory of Maxine Greene
(analyst: Rosalie P. Shaw)

edited 8/18/11

I. Theory of Value:

What knowledge and skills are worthwhile learning? Those things which release more and more people for reflective encounters with a range of works of art, works that have the potential to awaken, to move persons to see, to hear, and to feel often in unexpected ways.

Perceptive encounters with works of art can bring human beings in touch with themselves. We must awaken in order to continue our efforts to build a just, compassionate, and meaningful democracy.

Are our ideas on democracy objectively true? It doesn't matter (Greene, p. 60)

What are the goals of education? To help students to realize their deep connection to and responsibility for not only their own individual experience but also for other human beings who share this world.

... being able to express oneself in a number of different "languages" -- including imagery, music, dance (Greene, p. 57)

Students should explore the meaning of the text, share insights with others reevaluate their thinking in light of other ideas.

Students need to come to understand that the reason for learning is to nurture their intellectual talents for the construction of our society into a more democratic just and caring place to live. Citizens must be well informed and have the educational abilities and sensitivities needed to critically examine the world in which we live.

Freedom does not mean absence of responsibility. One can only be free when one accepts responsibility for his/her experience of the world.

II. Theory of Knowledge:

What is knowledge? Knowledge is anything that helps us to know ourselves and the world in which we live.

"Incompleteness -- the open question -- summons us to the task of knowledge and action... we actively insert our own perception into the lived world. It is a process of meaning making." (Greene, p. 74)

How is knowledge different from belief? "Rather than seek out a theory of truth we simply affirm an ethical base for the value of cooperative human inquiry ... we articulate what we believe and what we share." (Greene, p. 69)

Knowledge grows out of beliefs that have been subjected to reflection. w

What is a mistake? To fail, after reflection, to act is a mistake.

We have the power to create ideas and we should act upon those ideas. Although our understanding of the world is not ultimate, it would be a mistake to let this insight paralyze our thinking and actions. Of educators Greene says, "Educators are condemned to action -- by their freedom."

What is a lie? A lie is really anything that is believed without due reflection. Activities that stifle the imagination lead to lies.

III. Theory of Human Nature:

What is a human being? Human beings define themselves through the projects with which they become involved. By means of engagement with a project, the attitude of wide-awakeness develops and contributes to the choice of actions that lead to self formation. A project means the intentionalized vision or purpose of making or constructing the self and the world.

How do human beings differ from other species? Human beings are capable of viewing their own actions and the world critically.

What are the limits of human potential? It is limitless if a person is willing to develop an attitude of wide-awakeness, if he/she is willing to modify what he/she consciously pays attention to.

Wide-awakeness is not morally or politically neutral. Social action and intervention am crucial to attaining and sustaining an attitude of wide-awakeness.

IV. Theory of Learning:

What is learning? The ultimate purpose of education is to help students and their teachers create meaning in their lives. Teacher should challenge the taken for granted, the given and the bound and the restricted.

How are skills and knowledge acquired? Education at its best is a process of teaching people to explore ideas about themselves and the world in which they live, to ask questions about the experience called living and to embrace ambiguity, to notice the unusual without fear and to look upon the ordinary with new eyes.

Place children in speech and free writing situations in which they can find out what they think and why (Greene, p. 54)

V. Theory of Transmission:

Who is to teach? Those who have learned the importance of becoming reflective enough to think about their own thinking and become conscious of their own consciousness (Greene, p. 65)

Introducing works of literature and art into teacher education can help teachers to develop ... (a) conscious concern ... for the particular, the everyday, the concrete. (Greene, p. 69)

Teachers must be taught to educate our children to take responsibility for our collective well being.

By what methods should we teach? Pedagogy is a collaboration in which participants are both part of the group and apart from it. Humanities serve as a catalyst through which teachers and students can explore deeply and thus make meaning out of life and culture.

While it is not really necessary for everyone to be deeply knowledgeable in math and science, it is crucial for everyone to seriously contemplate who we are as individuals and as members of a culture.

A vision of education should be developed within our learning community (Greene, p. 66)

What will the curriculum be? A humanities curriculum should be emphasized. Works of art deliberately created to move people to critical awareness, to a sense of moral agency and to a conscious engagement with the world. They must be central to any curriculum that is constructed today.

Teachers need to bring themselves to school -- use their own lives, knowledge, and explorations as elements within the curriculum

Greene strongly objects to education focused on world-class technical achievements rather than on creating a community of citizens. (Greene, p. 64)

VI. Theory of Society:

What is society? The good society is deeply rooted in a tradition of democratic community. We must assume a critical stance toward whatever community emerges from our efforts to create culture. The values of pluralism and cohesiveness are. central. Democratic community is deeply rooted in an existentialist notion of wide-awakeness

Principles of equality justice and freedom have to be chosen by living individuals in the light of individuals' shared life with others (Greene, p 66)

What institutions are involved in the educational process? Good education is ultimately rooted in the conscious or unconscious visions of what is considered a good society. Democracy is a way of life, not just a form of government - it needs to be practiced in social and political locations. Democracy is brought into our lives by personal relationships, recreation and education.

VII. Theory of Opportunity:

Who is to be educated? Since democracy and community are always in the making, everyone needs to be educated. As human beings we can create culture. We must broaden our concept of democracy beyond the political realm of society.

We must learn how to enable the diverse young to join the continually emergent culture's ongoing conversation. (Greene, p. 56)

VIII. Theory of Consensus

Why do people disagree? Disagreement is to be expected. Each person acts out of his/her own consciousness. Consciousness is perceptual and the world may give multiple interpretations.

How is consent achieved? Since there are no final agreements, teachers and students should simply learn to love the questions.

Whose opinion takes precedence? While many opinions are possible and all opinions deserve consideration, those leading to democracy and freedom should get precedence. Greene is concerned the in the classroom we must be concerned with inquiry and able to uncover those ideologies that masquerade as neutral frameworks.

Bibilography and References

Ayers, W. and Miller, T. (Eds.) (1998). A Light in Dark Times: Maxine Greeneand the Unfinished Conversation. New York: Teachers' College Press.

Pinar, W. (Ed.) (1998). The Passionate Mind Of Maxine Greene: 'I am ... not yet' Bristol, Pa: Falmer Press, Taylor & Francis Inc.

Gender Equity for Mathematics and Science, Notes on Invited Faculty presentations, Maxine Greene http://www.woodrow.org/teachers/math/gender/O

Greene, M. (1995). Releasing the Imagination: Essay; on Education, the Arts, and Social Change San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.