The poverty of pedagogy: From a liberal university to a liberating university.

Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Noonan, Jeff,





Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


The modern liberal university is based upon a philosophical framework first conceptualized by John Dewey in his seminal book Democracy and Education. Although Dewey's philosophy was instrumental in reforming the university, it possesses an inherent contradiction that has proved problematic for the manner in which the modern North American university functions. While Dewey's theories were aimed at democratizing the university and allowing for the pursuit of critical freedom, his main goal was to bring the university in line with the economic realities of industrial capitalism. Herein lies the contradiction: the student is free to study whatever she may wish, but this freedom must ultimately accede to economic integration. The aim of this thesis is to articulate and examine the above contradiction and to investigate how the liberal university functions as a capitalist institution---an institution that is, above all, aimed at supporting the dominant economic framework. Thus I will critically examine the philosophy of education and the liberal university using Marxian philosophy. I will investigate how this institution captures, codes, and disciplines its students. Finally I will attempt to conceptualize an alternative philosophy of education using the ground-breaking theories in Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed.