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A lead story in Monday’s NY Times tells us that, instead of being settled this weekend as many had prematurely predicted it, the Chicago teacher’s union strike is entering into its second week, today.

Meanwhile, world-renowned educator Dr. Henry A. Giroux has just noted that there’s far more at stake here in this historically (hugely) significant story than meets the eye, via a piece he published over at TruthOut, late this past Thursday. Paraphrasing Giroux: "The fight for public education in Chicago is nothing short of a struggle for American democracy, itself."

(For more on the economic aspects of what Dr. Giroux’s referencing, below, I’d strongly suggest checking out a must-read, outstanding post by economist Michael Hudson over at Counterpunch.org, from just two weeks ago: “Wall Street’s War on the Cities.”)

(NOTE: Dr. Giroux has provided written authorization to the diarist to reproduce his work in its entirety for the benefit of the Daily Kos community. Here’s a LINK to his website. And, here’s a LINK to his Wikipedia page.)

On the Significance of the Chicago Teachers Strike: Bearing Witness to and Challenging  Democracy’s Demise
Dr. Henry A. Giroux
Truth-Out.org
September 13th, 2012

What the world witnessed in Chicago as thousands of teachers, staff, and support personnel went on strike was the emergence of a revolutionary ideal.  

This is an ideal rooted in the promise of democracy, one that challenges corrupt neoliberal practices such as giving corporations and markets the right to define the purpose and meaning of public education; opposes policies that systemically defund public education by shifting the burden of low tax rates for the rich and the cost of  bloated military expenditures  to teachers and other public servants; and refuses to support educational reforms that debase educational leadership and teaching in order to undermine public education as a bulwark of democracy.  

The enemies of public education and other vital social services are committed to draconian cuts in education while simultaneously refusing to increase state and federal spending.  But this is not solely an economic problem. Rather, it is also a political issue wrapped up in the “gutting [of] vital social services such as education, health care, police and public transit services, spending for the disabled and other areas of state services and employment.”[1]  

Under the guise of austerity measures, the burden of deficit reduction now becomes an excuse to remove public education from the discourse of freedom and social transformation. Within this regime of repressive schooling,  education for the masses now consists of a “dumbing down” logic that enshrines top-down high stakes testing, vocationalized education for the poor, schools modeled after prisons, and teachers reduced to the status of mindless technicians.  

The brave teachers in Chicago have had enough of this authoritarian and anti-democratic view of education.   They have revolted in the name of a revolutionary ideal that inserts dignity and power back into teaching and breathes vitality and substance back into the relationship between education and democracy.  In rejecting the primacy of “the market as the sole principle of social and political organization,” they have recognized that what is at stake in the current struggle they face is “a whole generation’s sense of the future.”[2]

They reclaimed the right, if not the responsibility, to assert the civic duty of public education, address the issues of race, class, and agency that over determine the relations of power that bearing down on schools; and assert that the real crisis of education is about the conditions of its democratic institutions and the teachers, students, and citizens who are responsible for maintaining them.  

And while the strike is close to being settled, the ideals it fought for are far from settled. The noble ideals and project underlying this strike were primarily focused on both the purpose of schooling and the vital nature of public education in developing the formative culture necessary to produce the ideas, values, individuals, and public spheres essential for the construction of a vibrant and substantive democracy.

In part, this ideal was fueled by a discourse of outrage, resistance, and struggle on the part of educators, particularly as it is confronted by a hyper-charged vocabulary of denial and humiliation on the part on the part of the economic and political elites who govern the city of Chicago.  

The dominant media with its whipped up frenzy about striking teachers would have us believe that the strike was simply about greedy and dysfunctional unions irresponsibly insisting that teachers and school staff strike in order to preserve unwarranted, cushy benefits and high salaries and other alleged excessive perks.

In actuality, it was about hardworking, dedicated teachers who were striking to preserve, in part, watered down medical benefits, eroding job security, and limited control over the conditions in which they labor while doing everything they can to provide students with a quality education.

What is crucial to remember is that the Chicago teachers strike represents much more than a series of specific school related reforms that empower unions and benefit teachers (surely, a straw man argument if there ever was one). On the contrary, the strike pointed to a much broader series of questions about the meaning of public education, school governance, the quality of classroom pedagogy, and the role of public education as a crucial democratic public sphere.

What teachers in Chicago attempted to tell the American public is that public schools are under attack not because they are failing but because they are public spheres that keep alive the relationship between learning and the hope of a more equitable, free and just society. Public schools are the DNA of democracy and they are under attack by a political virus that reduces teachers to technicians (or worse) and schools to investment opportunities for the rich, on the one hand, and militarized training centers for low income and poor minority students on the other.  The Chicago teachers have taken upon themselves what many other academics in both public and higher education have failed to do. They have been advocating “for education as a public good and critical thinking as perhaps the most important capacity of responsible citizens under a republican form of government.”[3]  

Clearly, public school teachers understood that if they have little control over the conditions of their labor they can become deskilled and treated as technicians while powerless in preventing corporate-driven politicians and conservative administrators from imposing curricular models that devalue critical thought and reduce imaginative inquiry to the teaching of marketable skills.

What becomes clear in this assault on public school teachers and unions is a deeper order of politics that makes visible the attempt being made on the part of right-wing fundamentalists, hedge fund elites, and advocates of privatization to reduce education to training and learning to nothing more than a euphemism for a kind of instrumental, commodified, and privatized test-driven form of illiteracy.

Increasingly, what Diane Ravitch calls the “billionaires club” is fostering on the American public a view of education tied to profit margins and the savage Darwinian shark tank logic of the marketplace.  As Martha Nussbaum points out, the consequences are costly in ethical and political terms. She writes:  “Education based mainly on profitability in the global market  [produces] a greedy obtuseness and a technically trained docility that threaten the very life of democracy itself.”[4]  

The United States is in the midst of a crisis in which corporate-driven models of pedagogy are waging an assault on not only public schools, teachers, unions, and public servants, but on the very ideas, institutions, and pedagogical relations that make a democracy possible. The apostles of casino capitalism are also waging a war on young people by turning their future over to corporate-driven ideologies, modes of governance, and policies that benefit the very people who produced a massive degree of human suffering through the financial crisis of 2008.  

The project of schooling has been stripped of its democratic ideals and is now defined within a reform logic that produces profits for a few and powerlessness for the many.

Let’s be clear. Chicago teachers were not simply fighting for increased benefits, resources, and freedom (however important these demands are). They were fighting primarily against a neoliberal disciplinary machine that would turn public schools into another tool of casino capitalism while destroying any vestige of the relationship between education, public values, and democracy.

This fight was not about simply about the right of public school teachers to have some control over their working conditions and the quality education they labor to provide daily to their students, it was about the struggle over public education as a public sphere that is fundamental to the survival of democracy. A healthy democracy society by all vital social and economic measures is also an educated society and that truism must be understood and embraced as a defense of education as a public good rather than a corporate, privatized, and commodified right. This is precisely the message that has emerged from the Chicago teachers strike , one that can serve as a lesson to other educators and citizens who have a vested interest in education as essential to the survival of a democratic society.  

In what follows, I want to reiterate from my book, Education and the Crisis of Public Values, some of the larger issues at work in the Chicago strike so as to provide a context for why this fight is and was as much a struggle for a substantive democracy as it is a struggle to make clear the need to recognize the value of public schooling and the important civic and educational work that teachers do every day in their capacities as guardians of critical learning and civic justice.

The noble tradition that once viewed public school teaching as an important public service is in rapid decline in the United States. This democratic legacy, advanced by important scholars that extend from John Dewey to Paulo Freire, valued teachers for providing a crucial educational foundation in the service of the greater social good.

Educators were viewed as a valuable resource in teaching students how to take responsibility for their future, develop an unrelenting fidelity to justice, and the ability to discriminate between rigorous arguments and heavily charged opinions.  Teaching for the public good did not simply prepare students for  subordinated labor but for what Stanley Aronowitz calls a[5]

“self-managed life” in which self-management could only occur when people have fulfilled three goals of education:  self-reflection, that is, realizing the famous poetic phrase, "know thyself," which is an understanding of the world in which they live, in its economic, political and, equally important, its psychological dimensions. Specifically "critical" pedagogy helps the learner become aware of the forces that have hitherto ruled their lives and especially shaped their consciousness. The third goal is to help set the conditions for producing a new life, a new set of arrangements where power has been, at least in tendency, transferred to those who literally make the social world by transforming nature and themselves.
Such an education focused on enabling young people to develop the values, skills, and knowledge required for them to enter adult life as critical citizens capable of questioning common sense, official knowledge, public opinion, and the dominant media.

Developing the conditions for students to be critical agents was viewed as central to the very process of teaching and learning and was part of the broader project of enabling students to both shape and expand democratic institutions.

Since the 1980s, however, teachers have faced an unprecedented attack by those forces that view schools less as a public good than as a private right with the Chicago Public School system being the most recent object of such an assault.  Seldom accorded the well-deserved status of public intellectuals in the current educational climate, teachers remain the most important component in the learning process for students, while also serving as a moral compass to gauge how seriously a society invests in its youth and in the future. Yet teachers are now being deskilled, unceremoniously removed from the process of school governance, largely reduced to clerks of corporate sovereignty, or subordinated to the authority of security guards.

They are also being scapegoated by right-wing politicians who view them as the new “welfare-queen” and their unions as a threat to the power of corporations and the values of a billionaire-sponsored, market-driven educational movement that wants to transform schooling into credential factories for the market, depoliticized commercial spheres that promote conformity and negate intellectual inquiry and the power of critical thinking.  

Under policies such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, public education is guttered as public spheres where students learn to become knowledgeable, thoughtful, and capable of participating in the decisions that shape their lives, their relations to others, and the larger world. Education as a lesson in public values, civic politics, and public life is subordinated, if not erased, under the mandate of preparing students through high-stakes testing for competing in the global marketplace.

Underlying these transformations are a number of forces eager to privatize schools, substitute vocational training for education, promote vouchers and charter schools and reduce teaching and learning to reductive modes of testing and evaluation.  All of these reforms are as anti-democratic as they are anti-intellectual. And most importantly, all of them are driven by a deeply anti-labor paradigm and a deep distrust of democracy.

Indications of the poisonous transformation of both the role of the public school and the nature of the work that teachers do abound. The passage of laws promoting high-stakes testing for students and the use of test scores to measure teacher quality have both limited teacher autonomy and undermined the possibility of critical teaching and visionary goals for student learning.

Teachers are no longer asked to think critically and be creative in the classroom. On the contrary, they are now forced to simply implement predetermined instructional procedures and standardized content at best, and at worst put their imaginative powers on hold while using precious classroom time to teach students how to master the skill of test-taking.

Subject to what might be labeled as a form of repressive pedagogy, teachers are removed from the processes of deliberation and reflection and reduced to implementing lockstep, time-on-task pedagogies that do great violence to students.

Behind the rhetorical smokescreen justifying this kind of pedagogical practice, we will find a contradiction between conception and execution that was originally hatched by bureaucrats and “experts” from mainly conservative foundations.

Questions regarding how teachers motivate students, make knowledge meaningful in order to make it critical and transformative, work with parents and the larger community, or exercise the authority needed to become a constructive pedagogical force in the classroom and community are now sacrificed to the dictates of an instrumental rationality largely defined through the optic of measurable utility.

Little is said in this discourse about allocating more federal dollars for public schooling, replacing the aging infrastructures of schools, or increasing salaries so as to expand the pool of qualified teachers.

Nor is anything said about changing the class-based financing structure that allocates unprecedented resources to wealth children and inadequate financial support for those young people from low-income neighbourhoods. Teachers are no longer praised for their public service.

Despite the trust we impart to them in educating our children, we ignore or devalue the firewall they provide between a culture saturated in violence and idiocy and the radical imaginative possibilities of an educated mind capable of transforming the economic, political, and racial injustices that surround us and bear down so heavily on public schools.

Teachers are stripped of their worth and dignity by being forced to adopt an educational vision and philosophy that has little respect for the empowering possibilities of either knowledge or critical classroom practices.

Put bluntly, knowledge that can’t be measured or defined as a work-related skill is viewed as irrelevant, and teachers who refuse to implement a standardized curriculum that evaluates young people through “objective” measures of assessment are judged as incompetent.

Any educator who believes that students should learn more than how to obey the rules, take tests, learn a work skill, or adopt without question the cruel and harsh market values that dominate society “will meet,” as James Baldwin’s “Talk to Teachers” insists, “the most fantastic, the most brutal, and the most determined resistance.”[6]  

And while the mythic character of education has always been at odds with its reality (as Baldwin notes in talking about the toxic education imposed on poor black children), the assault on public schooling in its current form truly suggests that “we are living through a very dangerous time.”[7]  

Stanley Aronowitz builds on this notion by pointing out that under current neoliberal policies what emerges is a form of education wedded not only to a pedagogy of conformity and subordination, but also to a pedagogy of repression. He writes:

Whether intended or not, we live in an era when the traditional concepts of liberal education and popular critical thinking are under assault. Neo-liberals of the Center, not less than those of the right, are equally committed to the reduction of education to a mean-spirited regime of keeping its subjects’ noses to the grindstone.  As the post-war “prosperity” which offered limited opportunities to some from the lower orders to gain a measure of mobility fades into memory, the chief function of schools is repression.[8]
As education is reduced to a mindless infatuation with metrics and modes of testing, the space of public schooling increasingly enforces this deadening experience with disciplinary measures reminiscent of prison culture.  Moreover, as the vocabulary and disciplinary structures of punishment replace education, a range of student behaviors are criminalized resulting in the implementation of harsh mandatory rules that push many students deeper into the juvenile or adult criminal justice systems.[9]

With the rise of the governing-through-crime complex, war has now become a mode of governance in schools and one consequence is that teachers are increasingly removed from dealing with children as an important social investment and democratic symbol of the future.

As the school is militarized, student behavior becomes an issue handled either by the police or security forces. Needless to say, when Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan was the CEO of the Chicago School System he expanded the ongoing militarization of public schools to the great detriment of low-income and poor minority students.  Removed from the normative and pedagogical framing of classroom life, teachers no longer have the option to think outside of the box, experiment, be poetic, or inspire joy in their students.  

Instead, with curriculum and policies now designed to kill the imagination of both teachers and students, the hours spent in classrooms are now a kind of “dead” time.  When not reduced to high stakes drill centers, schools increasingly have become armed camps, sites for those young people now considered excess, disposable, or simply human waste.

For years, teachers have offered advice to students, corrected their behavior, offered help in addressing their personal problems, and gone out of their way to understand the circumstances surrounding even the most serious of student infractions. But the role of teachers, as both caretakers and engaged intellectuals, has been severely restricted by the imposition of a stripped-down curriculum that actually disdains creative teacher work while relegating teachers to the status of clerks.

Ignorance, fear, and learning how to take bubble tests is what now gives public schools a sense of mission and community.  Teaching students to take risks, think critically, or exercise their imagination is now considered a crime in many schools. Profit and efficiency measures now seem to be the only sources of motivation. One consequence of this transformation is the growing frequency of corruption and cheating among school administrators and teachers who want to cash in on the bonuses available to them if they raise student scores.

Under the Bush and Obama administrations, the model of the race track and prison represent mutually reinforcing sides of how public education is now defined. Needless to say, the consequences for both teachers and students have been deadly. Great ideas, modes of knowledge, disciplinary traditions, and honorable civic ideals are no longer engaged, debated, and offered up as a civilizing force for expanding the students’ capacities as critical individuals and social agents. Knowledge is now instrumentalized, and the awe, magic, and insight it might provide are rendered banal as it is redefined through the mindless logic of quantification and measurement that now grips the culture of schooling and drives the larger matrix of efficiency, productivity, and consumerism shaping broader society.

As testing becomes an end in itself, it both deadens the possibility of critical thinking and removes teachers from the possibility of exercising critical thought and producing imaginative pedagogical engagements. These modes of bare pedagogy that take their cues from a market-driven business culture treat teachers as fast-food like minimum wage workers and disdain the notion that public schools may be one of the few remaining places where students can learn how to deal with complicated ideas. As public schools become more business friendly, teachers are rendered increasingly more powerless and students more ignorant.

What we see happening in Chicago and in a host of other cities are a series of market-driven reforms designed to turn public schools into political tools for corporate-dominated legislators, while simultaneously depriving students of any viable notion of teaching and learning.

Bad for schools, teachers, students, and democracy, such neoliberal reforms lacks any viable ethical and political understanding of how schools work, what role they should play in a democracy, and what the myriad forces are that are working to undermine both critical teaching and critical learning. Yet this degradation of teaching and the dumbing-down of the curriculum through an emphasis on high stakes testing, an obsession with free market values, and a devaluing of any form of knowledge or experience that cannot be measured does not capture what is perhaps the most detrimental effect of such reforms: namely, that they promote modes of stratification that favor existing class, racial, and cultural hierarchies.

Chicago educators are calling for a new language for understanding public education as a formative force for democratic institutions and for the vital role that teachers play in such a project. They are demanding that education should be viewed as a moral and political practice that always presupposes particular renditions of what constitutes legitimate knowledge, values, citizenship, modes of understanding, and views of the future. In other words, teaching is always directive in its attempt to shape students as particular agents and offer them a particular understanding of the present and the future.

And while schools have a long history of simply attempting to reproduce the ideological contours of the existing society, they are capable of much more, and therein lie their danger and possibilities. At their worst, teachers have been viewed as merely gatekeepers. At best, they occupy one of the most valued professions we have to educating future generations in the discourse, values, and relations of democratic empowerment. Rather than viewed as disinterested technicians, teachers should be viewed as engaged intellectuals. Regardless of the terms in which this strike will be settled, they fight is not over.  

And teachers in Chicago and elsewhere should be supported in their efforts to construct the classroom conditions that provide the knowledge, skills, and culture of questioning that are necessary for students to participate in critical dialogue with the past, question authority, struggle with ongoing relations of power, and prepare themselves for what it means to be active and engaged citizens in the interrelated local, national, and global public spheres.

Chicago teachers are assuming the role of engaged public intellectuals and fighting for schools as democratic public spheres. Central to fostering a pedagogy that is open, discerning, and infused with a spirit of critical inquiry, rather than mandates, is the assumption that teachers should not only be critical intellectuals but also have some control over the conditions of their own pedagogical labor. Academic labor at its best flourishes when it enhances modes of individual and social agency and respects the time and conditions teachers need to prepare lessons, research, cooperate with each other, and engage valuable community resources.

Put differently, teachers are the major resource for what it means to establish the conditions for education to be linked to critical learning rather than training, to embrace a vision of democratic possibility rather than a narrow instrumental notion of education, and to honor the specificity and diversity of children’s lives rather than treat them as if such differences do not matter. Hence, teachers deserve the respect, autonomy, power, and dignity that such a task demands.

The basic premise that drove the strike by Chicago public school teachers is that if public education is a crucial sphere for creating citizens equipped to exercise their freedoms and learn the competencies necessary to question the basic assumptions that govern democratic political life, then public school teachers must be allowed to shape the conditions that enable them to assume their responsibility as citizen-scholars. Being able to take critical positions, relate their work to larger social issues, offer multiple forms of literacies, and foster debate and dialogue about pressing social problems makes it possible for teachers to provide the conditions for students to conjure up the hope and belief that civic life matters.

Students should see teachers modeling in the classroom the principle that they can make a difference in shaping society so as to expand its democratic possibilities for all groups. Of course, this is not merely a matter of changing the consciousness of teachers or the larger public, or the ways in which teachers are educated. These are important considerations, but what must be embraced in this recognition of the value of public school teachers is that such an investment in young people is an issue of politics, ethics, and power, all of which must be viewed as part of a larger struggle to connect the crisis of schooling and teaching to the crisis of democracy itself.

Today’s educators face the daunting challenge of creating new discourses, pedagogies, and collective strategies that will offer students the hope and tools necessary to revive education as a political and ethical response to the demise of democratic public life. Such a challenge suggests struggling to keep alive those institutional spaces, forums, and public spheres that support and defend critical education and that help students come to terms with their own power as individual and social agents. And that is exactly what Chicago teachers are fighting for.

What the Chicago teacher’s strike has made clear is that the “public” in education becomes dangerous when it associates teaching and learning with civic values, civic courage, and a respect for the common good—a position decidedly at odds with the unbridled individualism, privatized discourse, excessive competition, and hyper-militarized culture that now run rampant through American society.  Public education is about much more than learning how to take a test, prepare for a job, or raise one’s critical consciousness; it is about imagining a more democratic society and a better future, one that does not simply replicate the present. In contrast to the cynicism and political withdrawal fostered by mainstream media culture, a critical education demands that its citizens be able to translate the interface of private considerations and public issues, recognize those anti-democratic forces that deny social, economic, and political justice, and give some thought to their experiences as a matter of anticipating and struggling for a more just world. In short, democratic rather than commercial values should be the primary concerns of public education.

If the right-wing educational reforms now being championed by the Obama administration and Rahm Emanuel in Chicago continue unchallenged after the strike ends, America will become a society in which a highly trained, largely white elite continues to command the techno-information revolution while a vast, low-skilled majority of poor and minority workers is relegated to filling the McJobs proliferating in the service sector. The children of the rich and privileged will be educated in exclusive private schools while the rest of the population, mostly poor and non-white, will be offered deficit forms of pedagogy suitable only for working in the dead-end, low-skill service sector of society, assuming that these jobs will even be available. Teachers will lose most of their rights, protections, and dignity and will be treated as clerks of the empire. And as more and more young people fail to graduate from high school, they will join the ranks of those disposable populations now filling up our prisons at a record pace. In contrast to this vision, I strongly believe that genuine, critical education cannot be confused with job training.

At the same time, public schools have to be viewed as institutions just as crucial to the security and safety of the country as national defense. If educators and others are to prevent the distinction between education and training from becoming blurred, it is crucial to challenge the ongoing corporatization of public schools, while upholding the promise of the modern social contract in which all youth—guaranteed the necessary protections and opportunities—are seen as a primary source of economic and moral investment and as symbolizing the hope for a democratic future. This is precisely what the teachers strike in Chicago is about.

When CUT President Karen Lewis told a massive crowd of supporters that “This fight is for the very soul of public education, not only in Chicago but everywhere”, she was only partly right. The struggle in Chicago is as much about the fate of democracy as it is about the fate of public schooling in America.

The demonization of public school teachers, unions, and public schooling in general permeates American popular culture and is now a theme dominating a number of right-wing billionaire-produced Hollywood films.[10] The enemy of education in these films is not under- performing teachers or misguided unions, but democracy itself. The current vicious assault on public school teachers, particularly in Chicago at the present moment, is a reminder that the educational conditions that make democratic identities, values, and politics possible have to be fought for more urgently at a time when democratic public spheres, public goods, and public spaces are under attack by market fanatics and other ideological fundamentalists.

These enemies of democracy believe that corporations can solve all human problems or that dissent is comparable to aiding terrorists—positions that share the common denominator of disabling a substantive notion of ethics, politics, and democracy. The rhetoric of accountability, privatization, choice, charter schools, and standardization that now dominates both major political parties in the United States does more than deskill teachers, weaken teacher unions, dumb down the curriculum, punish students, and create a culture of ignorance.  It also offers up a model for education that undermines the idea that the very institution itself is  a public good while disinvesting in a formative culture necessary in creating critical citizens. In this state of fragile democracy, the opportunity for students to learn how to govern and be critical citizens is at serious risk of being hijacked. We should all be grateful for the brave teachers, staff, and students in Chicago who are making visible what should be clear to all Americans: education matters as a public good because democracy is too important to hand over to corporations, hedge fund operators, and other apostles of casino capitalism.  But, of course, the Chicago teachers need more than our gratitude, they need our support and they need it now, regardless of the fact that the strike is coming to a settlement. The Chicago teachers strike is an important call and salvo in the war being waged against all things public, all things associated with public values, all things democratic and it is far from over.  Regardless of how this strike ends, it should have a life far beyond its resolution. Hopefully, this example of this strike will provide the fulcrum for social movements to emerge that will take up this fight remembered not just as a struggle for the future of Chicago public schools but for the fate of all young people and the possibility of their living in a society in which equality, freedom and justice, become the driving force for learning, agency, democracy, and the future.

Notes

1. Anthony DiMaggio, "Gutting Public Education: Neoliberalism and the Politics of Opportunity", TruthOut, (June 25, 2010)

2. Nick Couldry, "Fighting For Its Life: The English University in 2010," Unpublished manuscript.

3. 1G. Rendell, "Politics, pedagogy, the press, and professors (a prickly post)," Blog U, (December 15, 2009).

4. Martha C. Nussbaum, "Education for Profit, Education for Freedom,"Liberal Education, (Summer 2009), p.13.

5. Stanley Aronowitz, "Forward,"Critical Pedagogy in Uncertain Times: Hope and Possibilities, ed. Sheila L. Macrine, (N.Y.: New York, Palgrave MacMillan, 2009) p. ix.

6. James Baldwin, "A Talk to Teachers," Saturday Review (December 21, 1963).

7. Ibid.

8. Stanley Aronowitz, "Paulo Freire 's Pedagogy: Not Mainly a teaching method," in Robert Lake and Tricia Kress, "Paulo Freire's Intellectual Roots: Toward Historicity in Praxis" (New York, NY: Continuum, 2012), in press.

9. I take this up in Henry A. Giroux, "Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?" (Boulder: Paradigm, 2009).

10. Danny Weil, "Film 'Won 't Back Down ' Models Hollywood Propaganda in Age of School Reform." Truthout (September 5, 2012).

Henry A. Giroux holds the Global TV Network chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada. His most recent books include: “Take Back Higher Education” (co-authored with Susan Searls Giroux, 2006), “The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex” (2007) and “Against the Terror of Neoliberalism: Politics Beyond the Age of Greed” (2008). His latest book is Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability,” (Paradigm.)
Here’s more on him from his website
Henry Armand Giroux was born September 18, 1943, in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Armand and Alice Giroux.

Giroux received his Doctorate from Carnegie-Mellon in 1977. He then became professor of education at Boston University from 1977 to 1983. In 1983 he became professor of education and renowned scholar in residence at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where he also served as Director at the Center for Education and Cultural Studies. He moved to Penn State University where he took up the Waterbury Chair Professorship at Penn State University from 1992 to May 2004. He also served as the Director of the Waterbury Forum in Education and Cultural Studies. He moved to McMaster University in May 2004, where he currently holds the Global Television Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies.

He currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada with his wife, Dr. Susan Searls Giroux.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Cuts in education really do not impact the elite (16+ / 0-)

    The elite can afford to send their sons and daughters to top schools in the nation, common men and women can't. They depend on public education, which is seeing a reduction of its influence and ability to educate the populace due to drastic cuts and a "dumbing down," process that replaces critical thinking with automotive-test taking skills.

    If one cannot think, one cannot rebel or question or oppose authority. One becomes obedient and takes orders.

    It helps maintain the status-quo

    The educated class can be dominated by the elites and their lineage, while the children of the working class are to serve the elites and their lineage.

    Cutting public education enforces this binary-opposition.

    •  Uhmm, Hold On (4+ / 0-)

      The wealthy class does have to have increasingly educated and skilled workers to work in their factories, offices, life sciences industry, etc... the pace of technological advancement is not decreasing.

      I think we're more than a few years off from robots doing everything.

      "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

      by Superpole on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 04:13:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  there are many components to an education... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bobswern, Shawn Russell

        critical thinking skills are not necessarily part of the bargain, nor is a good background in history nor what we used to call civics.

        education can be purely vocational, rather than the sort of broad liberal arts education that one might have think of when education is discussed.

        i'm part of the 99% - america's largest minority

        by joe shikspack on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 07:55:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  And how many Chicago teachers (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobswern, Words In Action

      send their kids to private schools?

      The elite can afford to send their sons and daughters to top schools in the nation, common men and women can't. They depend on public education...
    •  Regardless of where they send their own kids, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      joe shikspack

      they still currently contribute $ to public education.

      Until they get their vouchers...

      Purging predominantly minority voters and requiring them to present IDs to vote in the face of VIRTUALLY NON-EXISTENT VOTER FRAUD is RACISM! I hereby declare all consenting Republicans RACISTS until they stand up and object to these practices!

      by Words In Action on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 06:47:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Obama's buddy Rahmney (11+ / 0-)

    is really showing his stripes:

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel to striking Chicago teachers: See you in court

    The Chicago teachers strike may not end the way they want it to: Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans Sunday evening to sue the union and force what he called an illegal strike to end immediately. After little over two hours of reportedly contentious deliberation on Sunday afternoon, 800 teachers union delegates voted against ending the strike after negotiators from the district and the union had reached a tentative deal. Emanuel's office said it had told the city’s legal counsel to work with the school district’s attorneys to file an injunction in court to return students to their classrooms "immediately."
    Meanwhile, it looks like Obama's Justice Department will be appealing Judge Forrest's NDAA Ruling. Of course, they don't WANT to do so but those mean Republicans are "forcing" their hand. All we have to do is elect more Democrats and everything will be peachy keen!

    “The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.” – Abraham Lincoln

    by Sagebrush Bob on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 12:53:08 AM PDT

    •  The architect of these policies, Arne (9+ / 0-)

      Duncan, is the Presidents education Czar.

    •  Again, Rahmbo Has Enthusiastic Support (7+ / 0-)

      from anti union, throw the middle class under the bus Paul Ryan!

      what is wrong with this picture, folks?

      Hate to say I am correct yet again-- but those of you here for a few years know that some time ago I flat out stated there was going to be a big problem with the so called "new" democratic party, created by yes, Bill Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Mr McAuliffe, and others-- who back in 1996 thought it a grand idea to move the party wayyyyy to the right in order to deflect Gingrinch and win that election.

      how'd that work out for us?

      Now somebody has some 'splaining to do-- i.e. the support of Rahm Emanuel by people like Koch Bros financed Paul Ryan-- who, even if he and elite rep Rmoney lose this time-- Ryan is touted as the new mug of the repug party. so we're stuck with this guy for the foreseeable future.. and the wealthy class strategy to destroy FDR's New Deal, destroy the middle class, not commit the funding obv needed to improve our nation's infrastructure, etc.

      Hideous.

      Now the strike is in its second week. because of the above rather large DISconnect.. guess who had a long talk with Rahmbo last night?

      "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

      by Superpole on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 04:27:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  For a moment there, I thought he was trying (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bobswern, mkor7

      to negotiate and put the strike behind us in good faith. Things seemed move along quickly and mostly positively in the last week.

      But then he goes strong arm, as I understand it, by not wanting to wait until the terms are fully digested by the teachers and spelled out in writing...? And actually filing a lawsuit over it?

      Purging predominantly minority voters and requiring them to present IDs to vote in the face of VIRTUALLY NON-EXISTENT VOTER FRAUD is RACISM! I hereby declare all consenting Republicans RACISTS until they stand up and object to these practices!

      by Words In Action on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 06:52:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I love how Rahm et al basically call teachers... (16+ / 0-)

    overpaid bums with no right to strike, but keep going back to the investment banking trough between government jobs, for another round of multi-million dollar paychecks for doing nothing.

  •  There is no surer path to the immolation of our (12+ / 0-)

    culture and democracy than the destruction of independent thought in the service of "efficiency" and "market reforms" that are simply social eugenics for the preservation of a "corporate" state. A corporate state dedicated to the enslavement of the poor, working class and the destruction of upward mobility in service to its own greed, power and domination.

    We are beginning to live in an era and culture of inverted totalitarianism with the trappings of democratic forms as a thin veneer over the power of oligarchical rule by our plutocracy. We are treated as if we are the sum total of what we produce and consume, our only value laying in that construct and if for any reason, illness, age, obsolescence of a skill set, etc... we fall out of that construct of "worth" we are detritus, to be discarded like used toilet paper, flushed into the sewer of poverty and idleness.

    "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

    by KJG52 on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 02:46:35 AM PDT

  •  Rahmbo Requests Injunction, He's No Longer (13+ / 0-)

    interested in fair negotiation with Chicago teachers.

    FAIL. Now the mayor wants to force Chicago teachers to accept his demands. wow.. sounds like anti-union GOP tactics to me.

    The week-old teachers strike in Chicago's public schools will continue into the new week, after a representative group of the Chicago Teachers Union decided not to end the walkout even though union leaders and school officials had reached a tentative contract deal.

    The move left Mayor Rahm Emanuel vowing to go to court to force teachers back to work, calling Sunday's actions by the union "a delay of choice that is wrong for our children."

    The mayor announced in a statement that he's asked city lawyers "to file an injunction in circuit court to immediately end this strike." He contended the strike is illegal because "it is over issues that are deemed by state law to be nonstrikable, and it endangers the health and safety of our children."

    Hmm, Rahm claims to be "concerned" about the health of Chicago students-- but several schools have leaking roofs and few classrooms have air conditioning. where is the funding to fix these problems?

    why do 160 Chicago schools not even have libraries?

    http://www.cnn.com/...

    "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Superpole on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 04:42:40 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for posting this (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobswern, Joe Hill PDX

    Giroux should not only be on the reading lists of progressive educators, but progressives everywhere,

    This well written essay doesn't have an ounce of fat in it and is even more devastating in the fact it is 100 percent accurate.  I hope this gets enough rec's to make the list and gets Giroux a wider audience.

    I worry about the weight of the strike on the teachers.  Like many of us, they are living paycheck to paycheck, and I worry their resolve will be broken the longer the strike lasts.

  •  Hitler's WWII plan for the Slavic world (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobswern

    "Teach them enough so that they can make change and read street signs for deliveries."

    It's a bit misguided to place fascism or Nazism as one point in history, and then what went before and after in others.

    There's always been political and economic elites who regard the rest of humanity as garbage, as a problem to be managed. That thread is still quite alive, and moreover, will never quit in their efforts, regardless of setbacks and defeats.

    What was that saying about eternal vigilance and liberty?

    In John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education (I forget exactly where) he quotes the c.1880s speech on the Senate floor where it is proposed that education be scaled back and oriented toward the ends of business, as it is contributing to unrest among the lower classes and workers.

    Now Gatto is against forced schooling, but only because it is, and has been, constructed so as to keep people limited to serve the interests of the Elites.

    In a more modern setting we have Why Are Finland's Schools So Successful?

    Finland has vastly improved in reading, math and science literacy over the past decade in large part because its teachers are trusted to do whatever it takes to turn young lives around. This 13-year-old, Besart Kabashi, received something akin to royal tutoring...

    ...The transformation of the Finns’ education system began some 40 years ago as the key propellent of the country’s economic recovery plan. [jp's bolding]...

    ...If one method fails, teachers consult with colleagues to try something else. They seem to relish the challenges. Nearly 30 percent of Finland’s children receive some kind of special help during their first nine years of school.

    Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/...
    ...

    ...Race to the Top initiative invites states to compete for federal dollars using tests and other methods to measure teachers, a philosophy that would not fly in Finland. “I think, in fact, teachers would tear off their shirts,” said Timo Heikkinen, a Helsinki principal with 24 years of teaching experience. “If you only measure the statistics, you miss the human aspect.”...

    And of course, children -- those we massively drug and those not -- are not humans but merely widgets to our of-so-practical realists in leadership positions.


    The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

    by Jim P on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 09:07:17 AM PDT

  •  Here's My Take Today Re: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobswern, Joe Hill PDX

    how Rahmbo's handling of the Chicago teacher's strike is alot like how Romney/Bain Capital would handle it-- and what is at stake regarding public school funding.

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    "A civilization which does not provide young people with a way to earn a living is pretty poor". Eleanor Roosevelt

    by Superpole on Mon Sep 17, 2012 at 09:10:33 AM PDT

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