Detroit as a Marker for Divorcing Place-Based Education and Orthodox History from Oppressive Pedagogy Practices


  • Joshua Musicant Rutgers University



place, place-based education, PBE, pedagogy, social studies pedagogy, history pedagogy, pedagogical theory, social theory and pedagogy


Most research and practice surrounding place-based education is focused in STEM-specific initiatives. This article takes a social theoretical approach to question that predominance, underscoring the role of STEM in bipartisan, nationalist narratives in the United States since the 1980s to suggest that place-based practice serves an oppressive function when instituted without corresponding place-based pedagogy in social studies. These potentially oppressive dynamics are argued to be acute in urban contexts in which orthodox, didactic pedagogical methods in social studies education promote complacence within an oppressive economic system. These orthodox methods are contextualized within the perspective of social theorists from Baudrillard to Fukuyama that history has increasingly been made to appear as a static procession as opposed to as a transformable process in which young people can participate. Using the author’s experience as a place-based educator in Detroit, the article charts a path for an orthodox but critical, place-based social studies curriculum for high school students in Detroit in which history is taught backwards through the context of the city and its history, a process that is replicable in other localities. It also charts an unorthodox, dynamic, dialogical social studies curriculum in Detroit---also replicable in other localities---for educators invested in place-based processes of knowledge production with young people. These processes utilize a deep place method in which the classroom and the dynamics therein are made a critical aspect of place.


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