Biography of Joe L. Kincheloe, Jr.
Joe Lyons Kincheloe, Jr. was born on Dec 14, 1950, in Kingsport, Tennessee. He was the son of a rural school principal, Joe Sr., and a third grade teacher, Libby Bird. Since he was a Junior, he was called Jodie for most of his life. An only child of older parents, he found himself alone much of the time, and found ways to amuse himself. Jodie learned to do what he called "routines," in the mirror, mimicking the characters he observed as a kid, and teaching himself the piano.
For the first 12 years of his life, he was apprenticed to his uncle, Marvin Kincheloe, a rural circuit preacher in the Methodist Church. By 12, Joe realized he would never be saved, and refused to continue along that path. However, he did learn how to preach.
Joe's parents were staunch democrats, unusual in the mountains of Tennessee; he describes his youth: "Growing up among grotesque forms of classism and racism in the South of the 1950s and 1960s, I soon found a means, while still in high school, to bring people together and move them as a blues musician and songwriter.” By the age of 16, he was the leader of the VIPs, a 4 piece band of white kids in Kingsport who played weekly at school dances. Joe began writing songs at a very young age, and has written well over 600. He also started a satirical newspaper in 8th grade with his friends called DRUT; TURD spelled backward.
Consciously political, Joe's grades were never great, and he tended to piss teachers off with his disagreements, his dislike of segregation, and his defense of underdogs. A high school teacher told him that his aptitude tests showed that he could never be more than a piano tuner, and he should seriously consider vocational school.
Joe went to Emory and Henry College, a small Methodist College in Virginia, where he was promptly put on probation for his participation in anti-war rallies and his long hair. He did eventually graduate, and went to the University of Tennessee for a Masters in history, a Masters in education (when he read Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed), and a Doctorate in educational history---he completed his dissertation on the evangelical camp meetings of fundamentalist Christians in the 1800s in 1980.
Continuing his rock n’ roll, Joe also followed in his parents’ footsteps as a crazed, insane follower of the Tennessee Volunteers Football team. All things Tennessee orange were his, and he made sure everyone who knew him, knew the Volunteers.
Joe's first job was probably his most significant, serving as the department chair of the education department at Sinte Gleska College on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. It was there he began to publish and research on the disenfranchisement of Native Americans. In 1982, Joe was given the Lakota Sioux ceremonial name of TiWa Ska: "Clear Mind or Loving Mind or Brilliant Mind.”
After two years on the reservation, Joe went to Louisiana State University, in Shreveport, where he started a doctoral program in curriculum studies. In 1988 he moved to Clemson University as a full professor with his first two books. In 1989, he attended the Bergamo Conference--a radical Marxist, feminist conference in Dayton, Ohio. It was there he met Shirley Steinberg, and as she describes it, they engaged in the one night stand which never ended.
Although Shirley and her four kids lived in Alberta, within six months they were in Clemson, South Carolina; and Joe was the father of four: Ian, Meghann, Chaim, and Bronwyn. How he loved those kids...claiming they were spiritually his, Joe raised them with Shirley in different states at different universities. The family lived through Hurricane Andrew two weeks after moving to Florida International University. Joe often said it was the most relaxing time of his life, he couldn't write, he just had to find food, ice, and water.
After FIU, and several new books, Shirley and Joe began editing book series, committed to publishing voices that had been marginalized by mainstream educational discourse; they moved to Penn State where Shirley finished a doctorate, then Joe was offered an endowed chair at Brooklyn College. After two years in this position, he was invited to join the CUNY Graduate Center faculty and to create the urban education doctorate.
Joe stayed in NYC with Shirley until 2005, when he was hired to come to McGill University as a Tier One Canada Research Chair. Here, Joe established the Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy. The only one of its kind in the world, the Project is a virtual and literal archives of global initiatives in critical pedagogy; deeply committed to the study of oppression in education… how issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, and colonialism shape the nature and purpose of education. In the spirit of Freire’s work, Joe understood the project as a means to “support an evolving critical pedagogy that encounters new discourses, new peoples, with new ideas, and continues to move forward in the 21st Century. The project is understood as continued evolution of the work of Paulo Freire. empowerment of oppressed peoples.
Joe was passionate, he had many radical loves: his family, rock n’ roll, his students, and writing. Joe’s passion fueled his struggles against inequality, oppression in all of its varied forms, and the stupidification of education.
He is widely recognized for his scholarly contributions to a range of topics, which include post formal thinking, critical constructivism, critical multiculturalism, critical indigenous knowledge, and the work he did with Shirley on critical cultural studies topics such as the notion of kinderculture and christotainment. In addition to his scholarship, Joe taught countless classes and supervised well over 50 doctoral students, most of whom are now well-established scholars and professors all over the world.
He was concurrently writing his 56th, 57th, 58th, 59th, and 60th book when he died, simultaneously...editing over eight different book series with Shirley. He was the senior and founding editor of The International Journal of Critical Pedagogy and the blogmaster to the several thousand registered readers and bloggers of the Freire Project blog. In addition to his scholarship, Joe remained committed to teaching classes and supervising students. And of course, Joe was still writing songs, kept playing the rock n’ roll, and still passionate about everything in life.
-Shirley R. Steinberg,
January 18, 2009
ELEGY FOR JOE by Phil Anderson
JOE IN CONVERSATION WITH THE WORLD by Judith Summerfield
*All photographs and video footage are property of Shirley R. Steinberg and/or the Freire Project, and permission must be secured for their use. To enquire about their use, email Shirley R. Steinberg: firstname.lastname@example.org