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The Neoliberal Attack on Education

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Posted on Oct 17, 2012
lilyrhoads (CC BY 2.0)

By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout

(Page 5)

At a time when our civil liberties are being destroyed and public institutions and goods all over the globe are under assault by the forces of a rapacious global capitalism, there is a concrete urgency on the horizon that demands not only the most engaged forms of political opposition on the part of teachers, but new modes of resistance and collective struggle buttressed by rigorous intellectual work, social responsibility, and political courage. The time has come for educators to distinguish caution from cowardice and recognize the need for addressing the dire crisis public education is now facing. As Jacques Derrida reminds us, democracy “demands the most concrete urgency ... because as a concept it makes visible the promise of democracy, that which is to come.”[25] We have seen glimpses of such a promise among those brave students and workers who have demonstrated in Montreal, Paris, Athens, Toronto and many other cities across the globe.

As engaged intellectuals, teachers can learn from such struggles by turning the colleges and public schools into vibrant critical sites of learning and unconditional spheres of pedagogical and political resistance. The power of the existing dominant order does not merely reside in the economic or in material relations of power, but also in the realm of ideas and culture. This is why educators must take sides, speak out and engage in the hard pedagogical work of debunking corporate culture’s assault on teaching and learning, orient their teaching for social change, connect learning to public life. At the very least, educators can connect knowledge to the operations of power in their classroom, provide a safe space for students to address a variety of important issues ranging from the violation of human rights, to crimes against humanity. Assuming the role of public intellectual suggests being a provocateur in the classroom; it means asking hard questions, listening carefully to what students have to say and pushing teaching against the grain. But it also means stepping out of the classroom and working with others to create public spaces where it becomes possible not only to “shift the way people think about the moment, but potentially to energize them to do something differently in that moment,” to link one’s critical imagination with the possibility of activism in the public sphere.[26] This is, of course, a small step, but if we do not want to repeat the present as the future or, even worse, become complicit in the workings of dominant power, it is time for educators to collectively mobilize their energies by breaking down the illusion of unanimity that dominant power propagates while working diligently, tirelessly and collectively to reclaim the promises of a truly global, democratic future.

Notes:

[1] See, for example, Jeff Madrick, Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present (New York: Vintage, 2011); Charles Ferguson, Predator Nation (New York: Crown Business, 2012); Henry A. Giroux, Zombie Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism (New York: Peter Lang, 2010). 

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[2] David Theo Goldberg, “The Taxing Terms of the GOP Plan Invite Class Carnage,” Truthout (September 20, 2012).

[3] See Joseph E. Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality (New York: W.W. Norton, 2012);  Michael Sandel, What Money Can’t Buy (New York: FSG Publishing, 2012).

[4] Les Leopold, “Hey Dad, Why Does This Country Protect Billionaires, and Not Teachers?”, AlterNet, (May 5, 2010).

[5] David Glenn, “Public Higher Education Is ‘Eroding From All Sides,’ Warns Political Scientists,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, (Sept. 2, 2010).

[6] Noam Chomsky, “Public Education Under Massive Corporate Assault—What’s Next? AlterNet (August 5, 2011).

[7] Peter Seybold, “The Struggle Against the Corporate Takeover of the University,” Socialism and Democracy 22:1 (March 2008), pp1-2.

[8] Nancy Hass, “Scholarly Investments,” The New York Times (December 6, 2009), p.ST1 10

[9] ?Diane Ravitch, “Two Visions for Chicago’s Schools,” Common Dreams, (September 14th, 2012). Online:

[10] ?See: Sadhbh Walshe “US education orientation for minorities: the school-to-prison pipeline,” The Guardian (August 31, 2012). See also, Henry A. Giroux, Youth in a Suspect Society (New York: Palgrave, 2009);  see the ACLU Report: Locating the School to prison pipeline.

[11] Zygmunt Bauman, Society Under Siege (Malden, MA: Blackwell: 2002), p. 170.

[12] Salvatore Babones, “To End the Jobs Recession, Invest an Extra $20 Billion in Public Education,” Truthout, (August 21, 2012).

[13] FT’s Lex blog, “U.S. Defense Spending: What’s the Real Figure?,” The Globe and Mail (May 28, 2012).

[14] Daniel Trotta, “Cost of War $3.7 Trillion and Counting, 258,000 Dead,” Reuters, (June 28, 2011)

[15] Ibid., Babones.

[16] Arundhati Roy, Power Politics (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2001), p. 6.

[17] Bill Readings, The University in Ruins (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), pp. 11, 18.

[18] Zygmunt Bauman, In Search of Politics (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999),  p. 170.

[19] Zygmunt Bauman, Society Under Siege (Malden, MA: Blackwell: 2002), p. 70.

[20] Lynn Worsham and Gary A. Olson, “Rethinking Political Community: Chantal Mouffe’s Liberal Socialism,” Journal of Composition Theory 19:2 (1999), p. 178.                             

[21] John Cavanagh, “Seven Ways to End the Deficit (Without Throwing Grandma Under the Bus),” Yes! Magazine, (September 7, 2012).

[22] Ibid.

[23] Noam Chomsky, “Paths Taken, Tasks Ahead,” Profession (2000) p. 34.

[24] Pierre Bourdieu, “For a Scholarship of Commitment,” Profession (2000) p. 44.

[25] Jacques Derrida, “Intellectual Courage: An Interview,” Trans. Peter Krapp, Culture Machine, Vol. 2 (2000), p. 9.

[26] A Conversation between Lani Guinier and Anna Deavere Smith, ‘Rethinking Power, Rethinking Theater,” Theater 31:3 (Winter 2002), pp. 34-35.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.


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