This article argues that at a moment of crisis in education, the defence of critical pedagogy is vitally important. However, it also suggests that such a defence should be more than a cri de coeur that asserts principles and methods of criticality against those of neoliberal or conservative education policy. Narratives of a totalising “crisis of critique” in education and the wider society are now ubiquitous in the critical pedagogical literature. But while these may mobilize the defence of critical education, they can also obscure tensions between different approaches to critical pedagogy, the history of “the crisis;” the co-optation of critical discourses; the proliferation of radical educational projects that do not draw inspiration from orthodox forms of critical pedagogy; the professional investments that critical educators may have in maintaining the status quo; and the possible relationships between formal education, popular education and broader “public pedagogies.” The article concludes by suggesting that, in addition to defending specific pedagogical projects, it is also important to cultivate a critical attitude that interrogates the politics of critical pedagogy itself, even as we work to defend its necessity for democratic public life.
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