Maxine Greene

Releasing the Imagination: Essays on Education, the Arts, and Social Change

We also have our social imagination: the capacity to invent visions of what should be and what might be in our deficient society, on the streets where we live, on our schools. As I write of social imagination, I am reminded of Jean-Paul Sartre’s declaration that “it is on the day that we can conceive of a different state of affairs that a new light falls on our troubles and our suffering and that we decide that these are unbearable” (1956, pp. 434-435) (p. 5).

We who are teachers would have to accommodate ourselves to lives as clerks or functionaries if we did not have in mind a quest for a better state of things for those we teach and for the world we all share (p.1).

[O]f all our cognitive capacities, imagination is the one that permits us to give credence to alternative realities. It allows us to break with the taken for granted, to set aside familiar distinctions and definitions (p. 3).

Apathy and indifference are likely to give way as images of what might be arise (p. 5).

In many respects, teaching and learning are matters of breaking through barriers—of expectation, of boredom, of predefinition (p. 14).

There are always vacancies: there are always roads not taken, vistas not acknowledged. The search must be ongoing; the end can never be quite known (p. 15).

My interpretations are provisional. I have partaken in the postmodern rejection of inclusive rational frameworks in which all problems, all uncertainties can be resolved. All we can do, I believe, is where nothing stays the same (p. 16).

Maxine Greene

The Dialectic of Freedom


To break with the "cotton wool" of habit, of mere routine, of automatism, is (as we shall see) to seek alternative ways of being, to look for openings. To find such openings is to discover new possibilities-- often new ways of achieving freedom in the world. (1988, p. 2).

"For me, the child is a veritable image of becoming, of possibility, poised to reach towards what is not yet, towards a growing that cannot be predetermined or prescribed. I see her and I fill the space with others like her, risking, straining, wanting to find out, to ask their own questions, to experience a world that is shared.” Maxine Greene, 1987 Commencement address, Bank Street College.

Maxine Greene

Teacher as Stranger

"To take a stranger's vantage point on everyday reality is to look inquiringly and wonderingly on the world in which one lives. It is like returning home from a long stay in some other place. The homecomer notices details and patterns in his environment he never saw before. He finds that he has to think about local rituals and customs to make sense of them once more. For a time he feels quite separate from the person who is wholly at home in his ingroup and takes the familiar world for granted.... Now, looking through new eyes, he cannot take the cultural pattern for granted. It may seem arbitrary to him or incoherent or deficient in some way. To make it meaningful again, he must interpret and reorder what he sees in the light of his changed experience. He must consciously engage in inquiry. When thinking-as-usual becomes untenable for anyone, the individual is bound to experience a crisis of consciousness. The formerly unquestioned has become questionable; the submerged has become visible" (pp. 267-268).

Martin Luther King Jr.

We ask you to focus on the fresh social issues of our day…we ask you to make society’s problems your laboratory. We ask you to translate your data into direction—direction for action. (1966)

"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." (1963)

Mahatma Gandhi

My experience has shown me that we win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party. (Experiments, p. 151)

Mother Teresa

"I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things."

John Dewey

Democracy must be born anew in every generation, and education is its midwife.
-John Dewey.

Paulo Freire

"Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world." — Pedagogy of the Oppressed

"To speak a true word is to transform the world." — Pedagogy of the Oppressed


The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. -
audre lorde

The task of teachers, those obscure soldiers of civilization, is to give to the people the intellectual means to revolt. [Louise Michel / 1830-1905 / Mémoires / 1886]

"Can any person who has heard this music-- I mean really heard it-- be a bad person?" --The Lives of Others

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather the wood or divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea." -- Antoine de Saint Exupery

"The world is a fine place and worth fighting for" - Ernest Hemingway

"Suppose you had the revolution you are talking and dreaming about. Suppose your side won, and you had the kind of society you wanted. How would you live, you personally, in that society? Start living that way now! Whatever you would do then, do it now." - Paul Goodman

"We were simply trying to change the way we went about our everyday lives so that our values and habits of being would reflect our commitment to freedom." bell hooks

"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." -Frederick Douglass

“The school is but a manifestation of public life. As educators we must be political activists who seek a more just public world. The alternative of course is to be school people—satisfied with the existing social order—the silent majority who embrace conservatism” (Dwayne E. Huebner, 1999, The lure of the transcendent: Collected essays by Dwayne E. Huebner, pp. 238-239).