Being and Becoming Woke in Teacher Education


  • Timothy Babulski



The role education plays in society has been contested in the United States since the inception of public education. Historically this contention has produced a delicate balance between promoting the social justice concerns of educating democratic citizens and the disciplinary concerns of individual intellectual development. Teacher preparation programs in American normal schools, colleges, and universities have traditionally struck a similar balance between theory and practice. In the past several decades, however, the rise of neoliberalism in American politics has shifted the balance away from equity, diversity, and inclusivity. The purpose of this study is to provide an account of the lived experiences of teacher candidates with the phenomena of being and becoming “woke” within a teacher education program that reflects neoliberal values but maintains a stated commitment to social justice. This study includes narrative vignettes that explore the phenomenality of “wokeness” as it manifests in the public-school environment and the teacher education program. It also addresses the effects of neoliberalism on teacher candidates’ willingness and ability to take up social justice for themselves, their students, and society.