Troubling the Meaning of “Troubling”

Question: Kumashiro (2009) argues that “troubling knowledge” does not mean “rejecting” knowledge. Using an example, explain what the thought processes involved in troubling knowledge might look like.

What is most interesting to me about Kumashiro’s section about “troubling knowledge” is that the words he chooses to make his point involve a “troubling” in themselves. For instance, the word “troubling,” typically has negative connotations, whole the word “good,” has, well, good connotations. Thus when Kumashiro write something like: “Traditionally, teacher education programs have contributed to this problem by not significantly troubling the ways that dominating views and practices of “good” teachers contribute to oppression and hinder anti-oppressive change,” (p. 1) it requires a reader to abandon what they believe to be the connotations of “troubling” and “good” in order to properly understand his point. When Kumashiro says “troubling”—a word whose synonyms include “worrying,” “upsetting,” and “disturbing”—he does not intend for readers to see this word as a negative instrument for educators. Instead, he asks that we see “troubling knowledge” as a necessary and positive tool in creating anti-oppressive.

Kumashiro does not expect “troubling knowledge” to mean completely rewriting everything that an oppressive system has provided us with, nor does it mean abandoning the world as we know it. Rather, it asks that we look deeper for the roots of “commonsensical” knowledge. It means asking “Who said this and why?” and “Who benefits from this knowledge?” The goal of an educational system, one which strives for anti-oppressive practices, requires that we ask these questions as teachers, and that we encourage students to ask these questions, inside and outside of our classrooms. Thus “troubling knowledge” does not require us to reject everything we know, nor is the intention to completely shake the ground on which we stand. This would likely cause so much anxiety that a person is no longer interested in positive change. “Troubling knowledge” simply asks that we ask questions to generate enough discussion and concern that students begin to press for change.

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