“There is a degree of acceptance among us all, no matter how critical we might be, of traditions and national-cultural norms, an acceptance that not only must be considered but can be exploited in promoting changes in the systems that sort us in particular ways. Yet mine will not be a radical view, in an orthodox Marxist sense, though it will be a view that aims at something more than relativism or pluralism.”
–Victor Villanueva

Key Terms: Problematic (Althusser), hegemony, subaltern (Gramsci)

In this excepted chapter, “Considerations for American Freireistas,” Victor Villanueva sets out to “mediate between the two prevalent trends among American Freireistas today: 1) the trend to reduce politics to discussions of the different cultures and histories found in the classroom, and 2) the trend to convert the classroom into a political arena that aims at pointing out injustices and instigating change” (623).

He argues that “history and culture alone do not make for a political sensibility, that such a view is reductive of the complex combinations of cultures and histories in American minorities, and that multiculturalism alone can be deceptive” (623). However, he also asserts that “the overtly political freshman composition classroom” is “not likely to be received by the very students to whom such a politic would be directed” (623). Thus, he argues, “to achieve a pedagogy that aims at more than mere reform we must begin by acknowledging the unlikelihood of dramatic revolutionary change in the most immediate future” (623). Indeed, Villanueva claims, “We can turn to advantage the ways hegemony exploits traditions and the ways hegemony allows for change, ultimately making for changes that go beyond those allowed by the current hegemony” (624).

Villanueva writes that “Since hegemony is a network woven with the threads of both the official and the popular, consisting of the ideologies of the dominated and the dominant, it is permeable. Contradictions slip through” and thus, he asserts, “Hegemony contains the possibility for counterhegemony” (625). However, he also acknowledges that in the contemporary US composition classroom, “counterhegemony cannot easily be sold” (626). Observing the attempts of contemporaries and colleagues at achieving a Freireian, transformative classroom experience, Villanueva points out that no matter how well-built the curriculum might be, if it does not inspire change and action in the students, then it fails. To this end, Villanueva advocates for a dialectic approach: “A dialectic between tradition and change would provide the means for access, acknowledging the political, the while avoiding propaganda” (635).

This might not be as satisfying to the revolutionary mindset as more overtly liberatory pedagogy, “imparting a vision of truth,” Villanueva acknowledges, but he also points out that this may get students involved–which is, perhaps, the real goal.


Villanueva, Victor, Jr. “Considerations for American Freireistas.” 1991. Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader. 1st Ed. Ed. Victor Villanueva. Urbana: NCTE, 1997. PDF File.

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