Peter McLaren: Canadian academic (1948-) | Biography, Facts, Information, Career, Wiki, Life
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Peter McLaren
Canadian academic

Peter McLaren

Peter McLaren
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Canadian academic
Is Sociologist
From Canada
Field Social science
Gender male
Birth 2 August 1948
Age 75 years
The details (from wikipedia)


Peter McLaren (born August 2, 1948) is Distinguished Professor in Critical Studies, College of Educational Studies, Chapman University, where he is Co-Director of the Paulo Freire Democratic Project and International Ambassador for Global Ethics and Social Justice. He is also Emeritus Professor of Urban Education, University of California, Los Angeles, and Emeritus Professor of Educational Leadership, Miami University of Ohio. He is also Honorary Director of Center for Critical Studies in Education in Northeast Normal University, Changchun, China.

He is the author and editor of over forty-five books and hundreds of scholarly articles and chapters. His writings have been translated into over 20 languages.

McLaren is married to Yan Wang from Northeast China. They currently live in Orange, California. He has a son and daughter from previous marriages.

McLaren is known as one of the leading architects of critical pedagogy and for his scholarly writings on critical literacy, the sociology of education, cultural studies, critical ethnography, and Marxist theory. Paulo Freire, a founding figure of critical pedagogy, stated: "Peter McLaren is one among the many outstanding 'intellectual relatives' I 'discovered' and by whom I in turn was 'discovered.' I read Peter McLaren long before I ever came to know him personally (...) Once I finished reading the first texts by McLaren that were made available to me, I was almost certain that we belonged to an identical 'intellectual family.'"

During a keynote address at Chapman University on October 25, 2014, Dr. Nita Freire, eminent educational scholar and widow of Paulo Freire remarked: "It is ... a huge thrill for me to see Peter McLaren and Donaldo Macedo, who ever since through discussions and dialogue became old friends of work and friendship, partners of ideological and theoretical ideas of Paulo. They along with Henry Giroux formulated the critical pedagogy as we know of today."

He has developed a reputation for his uncompromising political analysis influenced by a Marxist humanist philosophy and a unique literary style of expression. He has worked with Abahlali baseMjondolo, in South Africa; the landless workers’ movement, Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra – MST, in Brasil, the Zapatistas in Mexico, and members of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela.

Professor McLaren is a faculty member at the Institute of Critical Pedagogy at The Global Center for Advanced Studies and he lectures worldwide on the politics of education. In Finland he gave an Opening Lecture in Paulo Freire Research Center–Finland Inauguration (November 21, 2007).


Peter McLaren was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1948 and raised in Toronto and also, for a 4-year period, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He is the only child of Frances Teresa Bernadette McLaren and Lawrence Omand McLaren, from Canada. McLaren’s early family life was working-class until his father, a WWII war veteran with the Royal Canadian Engineers, returned from battle in Europe and began work as a television salesman, eventually rising to the rank of General Manager of Phillips Electronics, Eastern Canada. McLaren’s mother was a homemaker before working as telephone operator.

McLaren used to read voraciously in literature, philosophy, poetry, social theory, and literary and art criticism, was making creative 35 mm. movies at 16, and dreamt of being an artist or film director. McLaren’s father had one sister, Bonnie, who married Terry Goddard, a WWII Royal Airforce pilot who is credited with helping to sink the German battleship, Bismark. McLaren’s mother had four sisters and two brothers. McLaren compensated for being an only child by spending time with his many cousins, and with engaging in creative writing. McLaren’s first writing award was during middle school where he won top writing honors by producing a science fiction story.

At 19, McLaren hitchhiked throughout the US, met with Black Panthers in Oakland, lived in San Francisco and Los Angeles where he participated in anti-Vietnam war protests, met with Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsburg and began writing poetry and short stories. His first commercial publication was about his great Aunt, Irma Wright, who won the competition of the world’s fastest typist in 1928.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature at University of Waterloo in 1973 (specializing in Elizabethan drama), attended Toronto Teachers College and went on to earn a Bachelor of Education at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Education, a Masters of Education at Brock University’s College of Education, and a Ph.D. at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto (where he worked with the late Richard Courtney, a leading international authority in children's drama).

McLaren taught elementary and middle school from 1974-1979. Most of that time was spent teaching in Canada’s largest public housing complex located in Toronto’s Jane-Finch Corridor. Cries from the Corridor, McLaren's book about his teaching experiences, made the Canadian bestseller list and was one of top ten bestselling books in Canada in 1980 (Maclean's Magazine, The Toronto Star), initiating a country-wide debate on inner-city schools. (Later McLaren would harshly criticize this book and go on to transform it into the highly acclaimed pedagogical text, Life in Schools).

After earning his doctorate in 1983, he served as Special Lecturer in Education at Brock University where, as a one-year sabbatical replacement, he specialized in inner city education and language arts. After the Dean did not follow through on his promised extension of McLaren's contract, McLaren decided to pursue an academic appointment in the United States. However, he remains on good terms with faculty at Brock University, with whom he remains in a relationship of solidarity and friendship.

McLaren left Canada in 1985 to teach at Miami University's School of Education and Allied Professions where he spent eight years working with colleague Henry Giroux during a time when the epistemology known as critical pedagogy was gaining traction in North American schools of education. McLaren also served as Director of the Center for Education and Cultural Studies, and held the title of Renowned Scholar-in-Residence at Miami University before being recruited by the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, in 1993.

In 2013, McLaren was appointed Distinguished Fellow in Critical Studies at Chapman University, California.


First Phase, 1980-1993

The theoretical orientations of the first ten years of McLaren’s research and writing can be traced to his early undergraduate work in Elizabethan drama, theater arts, and from there to his graduate studies in symbolic anthropology, critical ethnography and social semiotics. As a young man, McLaren had always admired the life and work of William Morris author, poet, artist and craftsman, printer and calligrapher, formidable socialist and activist, businessman and private individual. At the time that he enrolled in doctoral studies at the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (Institut d'Etudes Pedagogiques de L'Ontario), Victor Turner, the world-renowned symbolic anthropologist, was conducting path breaking transdisciplinary work at the University of Virginia, bringing dramaturgical theory and anthropology into close collaboration, particularly as this applied to the study of ritual. McLaren soon became a scholar of Turner's work. After auditing a course at the Toronto Semiotics Institute taught by philosopher Michel Foucault, and another by Umberto Eco, McLaren began to develop a transdisciplinary approach to the study of ritual. He found a rich transdisciplinary milieu in which to conduct his studies at Massey College, University of Toronto. Modeled after Balliol College, Oxford University, England, Massey College facilitates interdisciplinary collaboration among high achieving graduate students from various departments on campus. Looking back at his educational experiences at Massey, it is not surprising that the work of performance theorists, political economists, anthropologists, dramaturgical theorists, literary critics, and symbolic interactionists informed the theoretical basis of his first major scholarly publication, Schooling as a Ritual Performance Towards a Political Economy of Educational Symbols and Gestures (first edition, Routledge, 1986; revised editions, 1994, 1997) which was based on his Ph.D. dissertation.

McLaren’s early work from 1984-1994 spanned diverse intellectual and empirical terrains. He remained steadfast in his interest in the contemporary themes of the Frankfurt School: social psychology in the context of a lack of revolutionary social protest in Europe and the United States; a critique of positivism and science; developing a critical theory of art and representation; an interrogation of the mass media and mass culture; investigating the production of desire and identity; and the globalization of capitalism and forms of integration in neoliberal societies. In other words, when viewed against the major themes of the Frankfurt School, there was a fundamental coherence to his work as a whole.

Further, each of McLaren’s scholarly projects attempted to explore the construction of identity in school contexts within a neo-liberal society. This meant engaging in numerous critical projects: exploring the debilitating effects of logical positivism in the social sciences and the assault on critical theory and critical ethnography; exploring the increasing colonization of the lifeworld by the mass media and developing a critical pedagogy of media literacy and a political aesthetics of pedagogical experience; analyzing the decline of critical rationality in postmodern societies and the development of critical literacies; advancing in specific pedagogical terms the struggle to redefine the meaning of liberation and empowerment in an age of despair and cynicism; investigating the politics of post-liberal societies with specific reference to the practices of cultural racism and sexism, and developing an analysis of the production, distribution, consumption, and exchange of cultural objects in schools and larger social sites with an emphasis on the social construction of subjectivity.

In this early period, McLaren’s research emphasized the development of a critical emancipatory consciousness, self-conscious reason, and the centrality of nonidentity thinking towards a non essentialist view of revolutionary consciousness grounded in a theory of intersubjective understanding through language. Practically, his work attempted to create an oppositional cultural politics that enabled teachers and students to analyze how the dominant and negotiated meanings that inform classroom texts were produced and to uncover the ideological and political meanings that circulated within them. McLaren attempted through critical reading strategies to illuminate the dominant pedagogical codes of teachers as well as the normative codes within classroom cultures of students. His purpose was to create alternative readings as well as new pedagogical practices. In this sense, critical pedagogy, as McLaren was formulating it, attempted to re engage a social world that operates under the assumption of its collective autonomy and so remains resistant to human intervention.

In his early work, McLaren engaged four main strands in educational theory and studies: critical ethnography, critical pedagogy, curriculum studies and critical multiculturalism.

Second Phase, 1994–present

McLaren work during the past several decades is not so much a break from his early work, as an extension of it. A discernible shift occurred in the sense that he now focuses more on a critique of political economy. But his early work also included a critique of capitalism, except during that time McLaren operated from primarilya Weberian understanding of class and was concerned at that time with the politics of consumption and lifestyle/identity. McLaren’s new turn saw him focus on the social relations of production and its relation to the production of subjectivity and protagonist agency. Between 1994 up to the present, McLaren’s work is less directed at the classroom per se, and more focused on issues such as a critique of political economy, cultural contact and racial identity, anti-racist/multicultural education, the politics of white supremacy, resistance and popular culture; the formation of subjectivity, the coloniality of power and decolonial education; revolutionary critical pedagogy informed by a Marxist humanist analysis and liberation theology.

During this time McLaren began spending time in Latin America—working with Chavistas in Venezuela and with labor and union leaders in Mexico and Colombia and becoming more interested in Marxist critique of political economy. McLaren came to believe that postmodern theory could be quite a reactionary approach in so far as it failed to challenge with the verve and sustained effort that is demanded of the times the social relations of capitalist production and reproduction. While McLaren adopted the term, critical postmodernism, or resistance postmodernism, to describe his work up until the late 1990s, he recognized that he needed to engage the work of Marx and Marxist thinkers.

The more McLaren began engaging in the work of Marx, and meeting social activists driven by Marxist anti-imperialist projects throughout the Americas, he no longer believed that the work on ‘radical democracy’ convincingly demonstrated that it was superior to the Marxist problematic. It appeared to McLaren that, in the main, such work had despairingly capitulated to the inevitability of the rule of capital and the regime of the commodity. That work, along with much of the work in post-colonialist criticism, appeared to McLaren as too detached from historical specificities and basic determinations. McLaren believed that Marxist critique more adequately addressed the differentiated totalities of contemporary society and their historical imbrications in the world system of global capitalism. Rather than employ the term critical pedagogy, McLaren now uses the term that British educator Paula Allman has christened “revolutionary critical pedagogy.” McLaren describes his current work as Marxist humanist, a term developed by Raya Dunayevskaya, who once served as Trotsky’s secretary in Mexico and who developed the tradition of Marxist humanism in the US. McLaren’s work constitutes counterpoint to the way social justice is used in progressive education by inviting students to examine critically the epistemological and axiological dimensions of democracy in the light of a Marxist critique of political economy and the coloniality of power (a term developed by Anibal Quijano). McLaren's work today comprises poetry, reflections on his activist work in Venezuela, Mexico and other countries, contributions to critical theory and Marxist analysis as applied to current educational policy and reform initiatives.

McLaren's Critical Pedagogy

McLaren’s work has broken new ground in education. He is considered one of the architects of critical pedagogy, having been influenced early in his career by Paulo Freire and Henry Giroux. He also has been credited with laying the groundwork for performance studies in education with the publication of his book, Schooling as a Ritual Performance. The Peter McLaren Upstander Lecture was recently announced as part of the Annual International Critical Research in Applied Theater Symposium, Auckland, New Zealand. The lecture is to be presented each year by a graduate student in education from the School of Critical Studies in Education at the University of Auckland. Currently McLaren is known as one of the leading exponents of revolutionary critical pedagogy, an approach to everyday life influenced by Marxist humanist philosophy, also known as a “philosophy of praxis.” McLaren’s work is controversial for its uncompromising politics of class struggle. McLaren is also a gifted orator and social activist, and his academic writing has been both praised and criticized for its unique blend of poetry and literary tropes and cutting-edge theoretical analysis. At least one documentary is in the planning about McLaren's life.

McLaren approaches critical pedagogy as a praxiological effort to develop a politics of everyday life in a number of ways. First, it situates its critical analyses within the realms of popular culture Secondly, it pays close theoretical attention to the ways in which everyday discourses and social practices both constitute and reinforce relations of power as well as serve as sites for struggle, resistance, and transformation. Thirdly, critical pedagogy as developed by McLaren attempts to seize opportunities to make links between new social movements and the networks of power associated with "school life." It does this by attempting to link the micropolitical (everyday lives of teachers and students) with the macropolitical (larger economic, cultural, social, and institutional structures).

Critical pedagogy, as McLaren develops it, seeks to analyze the possibilities for the resistance and transformation of social life, both individual and collective, personal and macropolitical. It engages in such an analysis by attempting to understand how wider relations of power are played out in the agential spaces of classroom and community life but also by attempting to investigate how wider structures of mediation at the level of the economy are able to "take root" in the everyday lives of students and teachers who operate at the level of common sense actions. This means constantly reflecting on the cultural construction of the identities of teachers, students, researchers and also connecting such critical reflection to a wider terrain of political action and class struggle. McLaren takes critical pedagogy beyond a discursive politics that sees politics as merely a text to be deconstructed and interpreted. Instead, McLaren approaches cultural politics as a terrain that operationalizes the textuality of political life by linking textuality to materiality. That is, McLaren seeks to make connections between the texts that we read (cultural artifacts) and those that read us (the realm of language and discursive structures in general) in light of current modes and social relations of production and the political consequences that these connections bring about in our pedagogies, curricula, and policies.

Between 1994–present, McLaren revised and extended some of his earlier insights in Schooling as a Ritual Performance, and Life in Schools, and other works, through an engagement with Marx and leading Marxist philosophers and theorists.

While anti-capitalist struggle and Marxist analysis has an indistinct and relatively undigested place in the field of educational theory, there is some movement towards Marx in the social sciences here in North America. Marx is being revisited by social scientists of all disciplinary shapes and sizes – even, and perhaps most especially and urgently today, when capitalism is in a state of severe crisis. While hardly on their way to becoming entrenched and pervasive, Marx’s ideas are taking their significance most strikingly from the particular and varied contexts in which his ideas are being engaged. Thank to McLaren’s work, Marx’s ideas are gaining traction in education.

In McLaren’s post-1994 phase, Marxist theory has provided McLaren with an approach to praxis that is fundamentally necessary to better contextualize changes in the socio-political and economic sphere as it relates to education. Through McLaren’s current reengagement with Marx, and the tradition of historical materialism, McLaren supports the work of colleagues whose work is paving the way for new generations of educationalists to encounter Marx. Marx is being reevaluated on numerous fronts today: sociology, political science, philosophy, economics, ethics, history, and the like.

Recent developments

Honorary doctorates

Peter McLaren was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Lapland, Finland in 2004 and by Universidad del Salvador, Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2010. He also received the Amigo Honorifica de la Comunidad Universitaria de esta Institucion by La Universidad Pedagogica Nacional, Unidad 141, Guadalajara, Mexico.

La Fundacion McLaren de Pedagogía Critica

In 2005, a group of scholars and activists in Northern Mexico established La Fundacion McLaren de Pedagogía Critica to develop a knowledge of McLaren's work throughout Mexico and to promote projects in critical pedagogy and popular education. On September 15, 2006 the Catedra Peter McLaren was inaugurated at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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