Throughout my life as a student and career as a teacher, I have always been drawn to the philosophical; thus, my scholarly interests have leaned heavily toward educational philosophers such as Paulo Freire and Maxine Greene.
In Greene, I found not only a philosophical kinship but also an eclectic style of scholarship that appealed to my essential nature as a lover of literature and English teacher. Greene pulls from literature and history as she weaves a view of the world and education that demands something better than what we have achieved so far.
So it is with great sadness to share—Maxine Greene, TC’s Pre-eminent Philosopher Queen, Dies at 96:
Maxine Greene, the philosopher, author and professor emerita who was perhaps the most iconic and influential living figure associated with Teachers College, passed away yesterday at the age of 96. Described byThe New York Times as “one of the most important education philosophers of the past 50 years” and “an idol to thousands of educators,” Greene was regarded by many as the spiritual heir to John Dewey. Her work remains a touchstone for generations of TC faculty, alumni and students, as well as for scholars and artists around the world.
Please read the entire overview above.
As well, I offer my own Of Rocks and Hard Places—The Challenge of Maxine Greene’s Mystification in Teacher Education, included in a special issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy dedicated to Maxine Greene:
Greene (1978) creates an apt literary framework for her discussion of teacher education with an analogy drawn from Moby Dick (Melville, 1851)—acknowledging the broader context of navigation and the narrower flaw of “mystification” in the field. She reminds her reader of Ahab using rewards to manipulate his crew, to mask his true goals in order to increase the cooperation of that crew: “The point is to keep hidden a ‘private purpose’ that takes no account of the crew’s desires and needs” (p. 53). Then, she adds more directly:
“Traditionally, teacher education has been concerned with initiating the ‘forms of life’ R. S. Peters describes, or the public traditions, or the heritage. Even where emphasis has been placed on the importance of critical thinking or experimental intelligence, there has been a tendency to present an unexamined surface reality as ‘natural,’ fundamentally unquestionable. There has been a tendency as well to treat official labelings and legitimations as law-like, to overlook the constructed [emphasis in original] character of social reality.” (p. 54)
Greene writes here of teacher education, but also moves beyond the classroom, arguing for a critical reflection in all people, both a reflection on Self and a reflection on that Self within a community—“not merely as professionals or professionals-to-be, but as human beings participating in a shared reality” (pp. 54-55).
The books by and about Greene that remain prominent on my bookshelf, packed with sticky notes and reached for often include:
- Landscapes of Learning
- Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change: While academics and scholars have certainly returned to this collection often, I fear it has never been given it proper place in the wider public debates about education. Here Greene speaks to the importance of the arts, the value of teaching writing, and the problems of standards-driven education—all central concerns lingering today and often mis-served in education policy. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
- The Dialectic of Freedom: Along with her central motifs found throughout her work, I recommend this volume for her important consideration of gender, the work of women.
- A Light in Dark Times: Maxine Greene and the Unfinished Conversation: This is an edited volume about the life and work of Greene, and a must-read- work for your bookshelf.
Well before No Child Left Behind and the inevitable move toward Common Core, Greene wrote in Chapter Thirteen of Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change:
Academic rigor, high standards, common learning, technical proficiencies, excellence, equity, and self-development—these themes have arisen over and over since the founding of the public schools. Considering them in present moment of hope tinged with anxiety, we teachers find ourselves (at least on occasion) pondering the nature of our democratic society, wondering about the future of our world….For all the optimism of movement for reform, the moment of hope among educators that I just cited, often a hopelessness infects those who administer and those expected to learn….
What I have been calling the common, then, has to be continually brought into being. We may indeed use representative texts and works of art at certain times; we may us paradigm cases in the various domains; we may even use the popular arts. There is always a flux in the things and ideas of this world, and there is always the need to catch that flux in networks of meaning. Whatever the networks, the focus should be on that dislodges fixities, resists one-dimensionality, and allows multiple personal voices to become articulated in a more and more vital dialogue. (pp. 169, 183)
As Greene has been released to a new landscape, let us dislodge fixities, and resist the siren’s song of misguided reform that fails again and again the humanity of each and everyone of us.
Let’s us fight on as you, Maxine Greene, rest in peace.
As a final small token, a flower picked and offered tentatively:
The Angle of a Landscape—
That every time I wake—
Between my Curtain and the Wall
Upon an ample Crack—
Like a Venetian—waiting—
Accosts my open eye—
Is just a Bough of Apples—
Held slanting, in the Sky—
The Pattern of a Chimney—
The Forehead of a Hill—
Sometimes—a Vane’s Forefinger—
The Seasons—shift—my Picture—
Upon my Emerald Bough,
I wake—to find no—Emeralds—
Then—Diamonds—which the Snow
From Polar Caskets—fetched me—
The Chimney—and the Hill—
And just the Steeple’s finger—
These—never stir at all—
Please see also:
In Print!: Maxine Says from Nick Sousanis