Beyond Dystopian Education in a Neoliberal Society

This powerful article in Fast Capitalism by Henry A. Giroux considers the overlaps between the ‘reform’ agenda in secondary education and higher education. It’s a little depressing but it does end on a positive note. Read it in full here.

Public and higher education are increasingly harnessed to the interests of corporations, a growing legion of bankers, billionaires, and hedge fund scoundrels, and the warfare state. One consequence is that many public schools, especially those occupied by poor minority youth, have become the new factories for dumbing down the curricula and turning teachers into what amounts to machine parts. At the same time, such schools have become militarized and provide a direct route for many youth into the prison-industrial complex or what has been called the school-to-prison pipeline. What is excised from the educational rhetoric of casino capitalism reform is the ideal of offering public school students a civic education that provides the capacities, knowledge, and skills that enable young people to speak, write, and act from a position of agency and empowerment. At the college level, students are dazzled by a blitz of commercialized spaces that now look like shopping malls, and in between classes they are entertained by a mammoth sports culture that is often as debasing as it is dangerous in its hypermasculinity, racism, and overt sexism.

Privatization, commodification, militarization, and deregulation are the new guiding categories through which schools, teachers, classroom pedagogy, and students are defined. The current assaults on public and higher education are not new, but they are viler and more powerful than in the past. Crucial to any viable reform movement is the need to understand the historical context in which education has been transformed into an adjunct of corporate power as well as the current ways right-wing educational reform is operating within a broader play of power, ideology, and other social forces—which together are applying antidemocratic pressure to change the purpose of schooling and the practice of teaching itself. Making power visible is important, but it is only a first step in understanding how power actually works and how it might be challenged. Recognizing a challenge is not the same thing as overcoming it. Part of the significant task of reinvigorating civic education in the United States necessitates that educators anchor their own work in classrooms through projects that engage the promise of an unrealized democracy against its existing, often repressive, forms. And this is only the beginning of resistance that must struggle for broad-based social change.

Categories: Higher Education

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