Americas Education Deficit and the War on Youth: Reform Beyond Electoral Politics

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Giroux sets his sights on the war on youth and takes it apart, examining how a lack of access to quality education, unemployment, the repression of dissent, a culture of violence, and the discipline of the market work together to shape the dismal experiences of so many young people.

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He urges critical educators to unite with students and workers in rebellion to form a new pedagogy, and to build a new, democratic society from the ground up. Giroux is a social critic and educator. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD Sign in to Purchase Instantly. About the Author Henry A. Show More.

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It's losing its spirit. It's losing its ability to speak to itself in ways that would span the human spirit and the human possibility for justice and equality. Because you talk about casino capitalists, zombie politics, which you say in the book shapes every aspect This casino capitalism as we talk about it, right, one of the things that it does that hasn't been done before, it doesn't just believe it can control the economy.

It believes that it can govern all of social life. That's different. That means it has to have its tentacles into every aspect of everyday life. Everything from the way schools are run to the way prisons are outsourced to the way the financial services are run to the way in which people have access to health care, it's an all-encompassing, it seems to me, political, cultural, educational apparatus.

And it basically has nothing to do with expanding the meaning and the substance of democracy itself. What it has to do is expanding-- what it means to get--a quick return, what it means to take advantage of a kind of casino logic in which the only thing that drives you is to go to that slot machine and somehow get more, just pump the machine, put as much money in as you can into it and walk out a rich man. That's what it's about. The ideology that drives that program is only one of us is going to win.


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I don't have any respect for you. I mean, all I'm trying to do is beat you. I just want to be the one that's left. I want to win the big prize. And it seems to me that what's unfortunate is that reality now mimics reality TV. It is reality TV in terms of the consensus that drives it, that the shared fears are more important than shared responsibilities, that the social contract is the pathology because it basically suggests helping people is a strength rather than a weakness.

It believes that social bonds not driven by market values are basically bonds that we should find despicable. But even worse, in this ethic, the market has colonized pleasure in such a way that violence in many ways seems to be the only way left that people can actually experience pleasure whether it's in the popular medium, whether it's in the way in which we militarize local police to become SWAT teams that actually will break up poker games now in full gear or give away surplus material, equipment to a place like Ohio State University, who got an armored tank.

I mean, I guess-- I'm wondering what does it mean when you're on a campus and you see an armored tank, you know, by the university police? I mean, this is-- everything is a war zone. You know, Senator Graham--when Lindsey Graham, he said-- in talking about the terrorist laws, you know these horrible laws that are being put into place in which Americans can be captured, they can be killed and, you know--the kill list all of this, he basically says, "Everybody's a potential terrorist. I mean, so that what happens here is that this notion of fear and this fear around the notion of security that is simply about protecting yourself, not about social security, not about protecting the commons, not about protecting the environment, turns everybody into a potential enemy.

I mean, we cannot mediate our relationships it seems any longer in this culture in ways in which we would suggest and adhere to the notion that justice is a matter of caring for the other, that compassion matters. Look, as the social state is crippled, as the social state is in some way robbed, hollowed out and robbed of its potential and its capacities, what takes its place?

The punishing state takes its place. You get this notion of incarceration, this, what we call the governing through crime complex where governance now has been ceded to corporations who largely are basically about benefiting the rich, the ultra-rich, the big corporations and allowing the state to exercise its power in enormously destructive and limited ways. And those ways are about militarizing the culture, criminalizing social--a wide swathe of social behavior and keeping people in check.

What does it mean when you turn on the television in the United States and you see young kids, peaceful protestors, lying down with their hands locked and you got a guy with, you know, spraying them with pepper spray as if there's something normal about that, as if that's all it takes, that's how we solve problems? I mean, I guess the question here is what is it in a culture that would allow the public to believe that with almost any problem that arises, force is the first way to address it.

I mean, one has to recognize that in that kind of logic, something has happened in which the state is no longer in the service of democracy. I mean, and I think that question has to address something fundamental and that is what we have, while we have an economic system that in fact has caused a crisis in democracy. What we haven't addressed is the underlying consensus that informs that crisis. What you have is basically a transgression against the very basic ideals of democracy.

We have lost what it means to be connected to democracy.

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And I think that's coupled with a cultural apparatus, a culture, an educative culture, a mode of politics in which people now have gone through this for so long that it's become normalized. I mean, it's hard to imagine life beyond capitalism. You know, it's easier to imagine the death of the planet than it is to imagine the death of capitalism.

I mean-- and so it seems to me Don't you think people want capitalism? They want money? I mean, I think when you--when you read all the surveys about what's important to people's lives, Bill, actually the things that they focus on are not about, you know, "I want to be about the Kardashian sisters," God forbid, right? I mean, I think that what--they the same way we want--we need a decent education for our kids, we want, you know, real health care. I mean, we want the sense of equality in the country.

We want to be able to control the political process so that we're not simply nameless and invisible and disposable. I mean, they basically--they want women to be able to have the right to have some control over their own reproductive rights. I mean, they're talking about gay rights being a legitimate pursuit of justice. And I think that what is missing from all of this are the basic, are those alternative public spheres, those cultural formations, what I call a formative culture that can bring people together and give those ideas, embody them in both a sense of hope, of vision and the organizations and strategies that would be necessary at the very least to start a third party, at the very least.

I mean, to start a party that is not part of this establishment, to reconstruct a sense of where politics can go. BILL MOYERS : Well, you write that the liberal center has failed us and for all of its discourse of helping the poor, of addressing inequality, it always ends up on the side of bankers and finance capital, right. But the issue is much greater than him.

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I mean, the issue is in a system that is entirely broken. It's broken. Elections are bought by big money. The political process is not in the hands of the people. It's in the hands of very few people. And it seems to me we have to ask ourselves what kind of formative culture needs to be put in place in which education becomes central to politics, in which politics can be used to help people to be able to see things differently, to get beyond this system that is so closed, so powerfully normalized.

I mean, the right since the s has created a massive cultural apparatus, a slew of anti-public intellectuals. They've invaded the universities with think tanks. They have foundations. They have all kinds of money. And you know, it's interesting, the war they wage is a war on the mind. The war on what it means to be able to dissent, the war on the possibility of alternative visions.

And the left really has-- and progressives and liberals, we have nothing like that.

I mean, we always seem to believe that all you have to do is tell the truth. But I'm sorry, it doesn't work that way. We're forgetting all those struggles that in fact offered a different story about the United States. It's organized because you have people controlling schools who are deleting those histories and making sure that they don't appear. In Tucson, Arizona they banished ethnic studies from the curriculum. This is the dis-imagination machine. That's the hardcore element.

And we kill the imagination by suggesting that the only kind of rationality that matters, the only kind of learning that matters is utterly instrumental, pragmatist. So what we do is we collapse education into training, and we end up suggesting that not knowing much is somehow a virtue. And I'll and I think what's so disturbing about this is not only do you see it in the popular culture with the lowest common denominator now drives that culture, but you also see it coming from politicians who actually say things that suggest something about the policies they'd like to implement.

I mean, I know Rick Santorum is not-- is kind of a, you know, an obvious figure. But when he stands up in front of a body of Republicans and he says, the last thing we need in the Republican party are intellectuals. And I think it's kind of a template for the sort of idiocy that increasingly now dominates our culture. The atmosphere has been so poisoned, as you know, by what you've been describing, that many people bridle when they hear the term intellectual pursuit.

In the most general sense, we can say, "Intellectuals are people who take pride in ideas. They work with ideas. They believe that there's no such thing as common sense, good sense or bad sense, but reflective sense. That ideas offer the framework for gives us agency, what allows us to read the world critically, what allows us to be literate. What allows us to be civic literacy may be in some ways the high point of what it means to be an intellectual It's for the way in which we can expand and deepen the very processes of democracy in general, and address those problems and anti-democratic forces that work against it.

Now some people make a living as a result of being intellectuals. But there are people who are intellectuals who don't function in that capacity. They're truck drivers. They're workers. I grew up in a working class neighborhood. The smartest people I have ever met were in that neighborhood. We read books. We went to the library together.

We drank on Friday nights. We talked about Gramsci. We drove to Boston I mean, we tried to find ways to both enliven the neighborhoods we lived in. But at the same time, we knew that that wasn't enough. That one-- that there was a world beyond our neighborhood, and that world had all kinds of things for us to learn. And we were excited about that. I mean, we drank, danced and talked. That's what we did. And yet you describe what you call a shift away from the hope that accompanies the living, to a politics of cynicism and despair. HENRY GIROUX : What leads me to this is something that we mentioned earlier, and that is when you see policies being enacted today that are so cruel and so savage, wiping out a generation of young people, trying to eliminate public schools, eliminating health care, putting endless percentage of black and brown people in jail, destroying the environment and there's no public outrage.

There aren't people in the streets. You know, you have to ask yourself, "Has this market mentality, is it so powerful and that it's become so normalized, so taken for granted that the imagination, the collective imagination has been so stunted that it becomes difficult to challenge it anymore? But I've always felt that in the face of the worst tyrannies, people resist. They're resisting now all over the world. And it seems to me history is open. I believe history is open. I don't believe that we have reached the finality of a system that is so destructive that all we have to do is look at the clock and say, "One minute left.

We have to acknowledge the realities that bear down on us, but it seems to me that if we really want to live in a world and be alive with compassion and justice, then we need educated hope. We need a hope that recognizes the problems and doesn't romanticize them, and also recognizes the need for vision, for social organizations, for strategies.

We need institutions that provide the formative culture that give voice to those visions and those ideas. BILL MOYERS : You've talked elsewhere or written elsewhere about the need for a militant, far-reaching, social movement to challenge the false claims that equate democracy and capitalism.

We know that there are people working in local communities all over the United States around particular kinds of issues, whether it be gay rights, whether it be the environment, whether it be, you know the Occupy movement, helping people with Hurricane Sandy. We have a lot of fragmented movements. And I think we probably have a lot more than we realize, because the press gives them no visibility, as you know. So, we don't really have a sense of the degree to which these-- how pronounced these really are.

Segment: Henry Giroux on Zombie Politics | Moyers & Company | ofogerolamam.tk

I think the real issue here is, you know, what would it mean to begin to do at least two things? To say the very least, one is to develop cultural apparatuses that can offer a new vocabulary for people, where questions of freedom and justice and the problems that we're facing can be analyzed in ways that reach mass audiences in accessible language. We have to build a formative culture. We have to do that. Secondly, we've got to overcome the fractured nature of these movements.


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I mean the thing that plagues me about progressives in the left and liberals is they are all sort of ensconced in these fragmented movements that seem to suggest those movements constitute the totality of the system of oppression that we are facing. Look, we have technologies in place now in which students all over the world are beginning to communicate with each other because they're realizing that the punishing logic of austerity has a certain kind of semblance that a certain normality that, in common ground, that is affecting students in Greece, students in Spain, students in France.

And it seems to me that while I may be too old to in any way begin to participate in this, I really believe that young people have recognized that they've been written out of the discourse of democracy. That they're in the grip of something so oppressive it will take away their future, their hopes, their possibilities and their sense of the future will be one that is less than what their parents had imagined. And there's no going back. I mean, this has to be addressed.

And it'll take time. They'll build the organizations. They'll get-- they'll work with the new technologies. And hopefully they'll have our generation to be able to assist in that, but it's not going to happen tomorrow. And it's not going to happen in a year. It's going to as you have to plant seeds. You have to believe that seeds matter. But you need a different vocabulary and a different understanding of politics.

Look, the right has one thing going for it that nobody wants to talk about. Power is global. And politics is local. They float. They have no allegiance to anyone. They don't care about the social contract, because if workers in the United States don't want to compromise, they'll get them in Mexico.

So the notion of political concessions has died for this class. They don't care about it anymore. There are no political concessions. That's why they're so savage. They're so savage because there's nothing to give up. They don't have to compromise. The power is so arrogant, so over the top, so unlike anything we have seen in terms of its anti-democratic practices, policies, modes of governance and ideology.

That at some point, you know they feel they don't have to legitimate this anymore. I mean, it's because the contradictions are becoming so great, that I think all of a sudden a lot of young people are recognizing this language, this whole language, doesn't work. The language of liberalism doesn't work anymore. No, let's just reform the system. Let's work within it. Let's just run people for office. My argument would be, you have one foot in and you have one foot out. I'm not willing to give up the school board. I'm not willing to give up all forms of electoral politics.