Social Protest as a Liberating Pedagogy of Praxis: Insights from Latina Youth Critical Action Toward Anti-Immigrant Politics.

AuthorCasanova, Carlos R.


Grounded in liberating pedagogy of praxis, this study foregrounds the voices of five undocumented and first-generation Latina youth in Iowa to illuminate social protests as liberating pedagogy of praxis. Results reveal the pedagogical potential of social protest as an educational approach in which 1) Latina youth speak up and share their ideas, which dismantles the silence that restricts their voices and rights to promote social change, 2) Latina youth co-construct knowledge that promotes collective action by their family and community, and (3) Latina youth develop critical consciousness through praxis.


IOWA POLITICS HAS A HISTORY OF ANTI-IMMIGRANT AND ANTI-LATINX culture (Griffith & Gleeson 2019, Olivos & Sandoval 2015). For example, one Iowa Latinx community in Postville, Iowa, was ripped apart in 2008 by one of the largest local, state, and federal workplace immigration raids in the history of the United States (Olivos & Sandoval 2015). In the morning hours in Postville on May 12, 2008, ICE agents collaborated with agents and officers from federal, state, and local agencies to conduct a meatpacking plant raid. Nearly 400 immigrant workers were arrested and charged with multiple offenses (Griffith & Gleeson 2019), scarring the community for years to come.

Instances like this are fueled by the anti-immigrant and anti-Latinx ideology of Iowa political representatives who criminalized the existence of Latinx people. One of the Iowa Congress'most vocal and persistent advocates of strict immigration policies falsely claims that twenty-five Americans die daily because of undocumented immigrants (Knoll et al. 2009, Revee 2013). In addition, the Republican Congressman claims that DREAMers, a term that generally refers to undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children (Pon 2018), have calves the size of cantaloupes because they are hauling seventy-five pounds of marijuana across the desert.

On April 10, 2018, Iowa Republican Governor signed SF 481 into law. SF 481 is an anti-sanctuary city bill created by Iowa Republican Senators. It requires law enforcement agencies to allow officials employed by the state to inquire about the immigration status of individuals, store intelligence, send relevant information to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), assist ICE officials, and allow ICE officials to carry out enforcement activities in a jail or other detention facility to enforce federal immigration law (Manternach 2019). SF 481 was created in the context of the Trump era, which some describe as a profound moment that will have lasting effects on the shape of US society (Levitsky & Ziblatt 2018). Recent scholarship on the impacts of the Trump era found that some of the administrations policies attack the rights, opportunities, and claims to equality of Latinx immigrant students (Herrera & Obregon 2018) and magnify an uncertain and stressful situation for undocumented students and their families (Herrera & Obregon 2018, Rodriguez 2019). Other research suggests that the Trump era led to pervasive microaggressions, which foster anger, hurt, and a level of hopelessness (Munoz et al. 2018). Essentially, the political oppression of the Trump era dehumanizes Latinx communities and restricts engagement in social institutions and society at large.

One approach to challenge the dehumanizing effects of Tramp era politics on Latinx youth is through humanizing pedagogy (Freire 1970) that bolsters Latinx youth critical consciousness (Freire 1973, 1998, 2000) through praxis (Cammarota 2017, Casanova & Cammarota 2019, Freire 1970, Osorio 2018, Villenas 2019). Humanizing pedagogy is a revolutionary pedagogy to "transform existing power and privilege in the service of greater social justice and human freedom" (McLaren 1997,46). Paulo Freire (1970) defines praxis as critical reflection and action toward systems of oppression. For Freire (1973, 1998, 2000), critical consciousness is the way in which oppressed people learn to critically analyze the social conditions that perpetuate their oppression and move toward taking action to change these conditions. In this paper, we draw from Casanova and Cammarota's (2019) existing scholarship on liberating pedagogy of praxis (LPP), a type of humanizing pedagogy, to reveal social protest as liberating pedagogy of praxis.

Also in this study, we build from critical consciousness and humanizing pedagogy to view social protest as a form of LPP. Drawing from Freire's definition, we understand critical consciousness as the ways in which Latinx youth learn how to cultivate agency (Cammarota 2015), build critical hope (Duncan-Andrade 2009), foster collective solidarity, and move forward toward taking collective action to change social conditions that perpetuate oppression. To illuminate social protest as LPP, we draw upon voices of Iowa Latina youth and their participation in social protest specifically aimed at challenging Trump era anti-immigrant politics (Herrera & Obregon 2018, Rodriguez 2019).

This article begins with a literature review on humanizing pedagogy, followed by a brief description of LPP, which is the framework we use as a lens to view social protest. We then describe our method of data collection with a detailed description of the research context. In the discussion, we make sense of the data guided by our theoretical framework and prior research on Latinx youth, humanizing pedagogy, and critical consciousness. In addition, we offer a model to illustrate how social protest sites engage Latina youth in an LPP that bolsters the critical consciousness of young people. We conclude by offering implications for educators in and beyond school walls.

Literature Review

Humanizing pedagogy is a teaching approach derived from the work of Brazilian educational theorist Paulo Freire. As described in his seminal book Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), humanizing pedagogy is a revolutionary pedagogical approach constructed to transform oppressive and dehumanizing practices, policies, and ideologies found in what Freire calls a banking model of education (Freire 1970, Salazar 2013). Critics of banking education argue that this style of education is oppressive and dehumanizing and positions students as passive objects and teachers as experts who deposit knowledge into students who enter classrooms as empty vessels (Cammarota & Romero 2006, Freire 1970, Quiroz 2001). In contrast, humanizing pedagogy aims to develop conscientizacao or critical consciousness, which is "learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions, and to take action against the oppressive elements of reality" (Freire 1970, 17). When critical consciousness is reached, participant's "subjectivities transform to foster new possibilities and capacities to see and act differently, proactively in the world--perceptions and action headed towards promoting justice" (Ginwright & Cammarota 2007, 699).

Humanizing pedagogy calls for a deeper understanding and examination of how principles and practices are implemented in and out of the classroom. However, this approach is not without its critics. For example, Dale and Hyslop-Margison (2010) suggest Freire's principles of humanizing pedagogy fail to provide specific formulas and clear methodological examples. Others argue that Paulo Freire's humanizing pedagogy is detached from the context of the classroom and does not offer concrete ideas to implement in the classroom (Schugurensky 2011). Nonetheless, humanizing pedagogy scholars have argued that this approach should be adapted to the unique context of teaching and learning and in the context of local struggles (Bartolome 1994, Salazar 2013).

Over the years scholars have advanced the concept of humanizing pedagogy to challenge oppression and dehumanizing education systems (Andrews et al. 2019, Bartolome 1994, Salazar 2013). Bartolome (1994) is one of the early scholars to advance the concept by arguing for a humanizing pedagogy that respects and uses the reality, history, and perspectives of students as an integral part of the education process. In her review of the literature from across the globe, Salazar (2013) argues for a humanizing pedagogy that interrogates the human experience in the context of power, privilege, and oppression to foster action toward humanization and liberation (Freire 1972, Zinn et al. 2009). Salazar (2013) suggests a shift in the focus of humanizing pedagogy from teacher to the active role of students in co-constructing a humanizing pedagogy.

Central to humanizing pedagogy is praxis--critical reflection and action, which is one approach to develop critical consciousness (Blum & Dale 2021, Casanova 6cCammarota 2019, Franquiz et al. 2019, Freire 1970, Ginwright & Cammarota 2007, Osorio 2018). Praxis has been described as a process where theory and practice inform each other and move continuously through phases, and loop back to the beginning to start the process over (Cammarota 2015). Humanizing pedagogy research offers examples of praxis that develop critical consciousness. Some examples include cultural products--spoken word, music, and the result of youth participatory action research projects (Cammarota 2015), centering students' funds of knowledge and cultural wealth to inform instruction and co-create the curriculum (Blum & Dale 2021), and sharing stories during culture circles that focus on the cultural and historical significance of family rituals (Casanova 6c Cammarota 2019), as well as inequality, injustice, and oppression in the world (Osorio 2018).

Theoretical Framework

In prior research from a larger critical ethnographic study, Casanova 6c Cammarota (2019) developed liberating pedagogy of praxis (LPP). Here we build from and apply LPP principles to exemplify social protests as LPP. Liberating pedagogy of praxis emerged from a prior three-year critical ethnographic study at an Latinx youth community organization in a large urban city in...

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