Sunday, February 26, 2017

Henry Giroux: The Responsibility of Education to Transform Legitimating Self-Interest as a Virture, Consumerism as the Noblest Act of Citizenship, and Militarism as a Cherished Ideal

As I continue to passionately work to see and shed veil after veil of my unknowing and ignorance, I find that there are so many layers which have brought us to the place where we find ourselves today. Looking at education is an illuminating part of this process. And as more and more is revealed and made conscious, running parallel with new awareness are questions... so many questions...

What has happened to education in America? Why do as few as six people possess as much wealth as half the global population? Why are we the one developed nation in the world still "debating" global warming? Why are we engaged in endless war? Why are we so highly polarized into us versus them rather than connected as compassionate human beings? Why have we not heeded Martin Luther King, Jr.'s warning against the triple evils of racism, militarism, and excessive materialism? Why do so many of us turn our backs and close our hearts and minds to the great suffering of so many others? How is it that the polar ice caps are melting at a critically alarming rate and that there is a a third great extinction happening? Why don't these issues make the news or, worse yet, why are they denied? Why do we allow ourselves to be limited to narratives which are toxic, like that we must choose between jobs or a healthy environment? Why is "environmentalist" a dirty word to anyone? Why are we not being educated about the impact of neoconservatism and neoliberalism on American politics and on what has happened to education and to our culture and the world over the past 30-40 years? Yes, there is so much good that is happening in the world. And that does not lessen the profound importance of asking these questions and countless others.

Henry Giroux is among those who addresses these issues and more with wisdom, integrity, depth, consciousness and heart. He has authored more than 60 books and is one of North America's most influential public intellectuals. He has also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Educational Research Association.

I first saw Henry Giroux interviewed many years ago on Bill Moyers. And since that time I have come to know and love Henry Giroux. I love him. I love his courage and fierce commitment to truth and how he tirelessly works for justice and to help us heal our world. He inspires me! Because he doesn't turn away from all the shadowy, messy, dark places we humans have been increasingly indoctrinated into not seeing much less doing anything about. And he speaks to the most urgent needs of our times. 

Among those at the very top is the need to deeply transform education in America. We need education which wakes us up to how it is that we humans can become more humane, more whole, more connected, and more conscious of and committed to a higher good for us all.

Bless us all on our journeys of awakening ~ Molly

As co-conspirators in the neoliberal takeover of the social order, higher education today has little to say about teaching students how to think for themselves in a democracy, how to engage with others, or how to address through the prism of democratic values the relationship between themselves and the larger world. Hence, students are treated like commodities and research data - or, worse, as institutional performance indicators - to be ingested and spit out as potential job seekers for whom education has become merely a form of career training. Students are now being taught to ignore human suffering and to focus mainly on their own self-interest, that is, they are being educated to exist in a political and moral vacuum. Education under neoliberalism is a form of radical depoliticization, one that kills the social imagination and any hope for a world that is more just, equal, and democratic.

It cannot be emphasized enough that the slow death of the university as a center of creativity and critique, a fundamental source of civic education and a crucial public good sets the stage for the emergence of a national culture that produces and legitimates an authoritarian society. The corporatization of higher education may, in fact, qualify as one of the most serious assaults against democracy. Certainly, it gives rise to the kind of thoughtlessness that Hannah Arendt believed as at the core of totalitarianism. A glimpse of such thoughtlessness has been on display at Rutgers University, which in 2014 presented an honorary degree to Condoleezza Rice while offering to pay her $35,000 to give a commencement speech. This gesture was clearly motivated by political interests, for how else to explain giving such a prestigious degree to someone whom a number of people consider to be a war criminal? This example is only one of many that exhibit how higher education has now become firmly entrenched in what President Eisenhower once called the military-industrial-academic complex...

The seriousness of the declining numbers of public intellectuals who are willing to address important social issues, aid social movements, and use their knowledge to create a critical formative culture cannot be overstated. Moreover, the retreat of intellectuals engaged in the struggle against neoliberalism and other forms of domination is now, alarmingly, matched by the rise of anti-public intellectuals who have sold themselves to corporate power.... These so-called intellectuals are the enemies of democracy and strive to legitimate modes of identification and values that buy into the notion that capitalism, rather than humanity, is the agent of history. They do not critique democracy for the sake of improving it; rather, they do everything they can to undermine democratic principles. These intellectuals are bought and sold by the financial elite and are nothing more than ideological puppets using their skills to destroy the social contract, critical thought, and all those social institutions capable of constructing non-commodified values and democratic public spheres. Their goal is to normalize the ideologies, modes of governance, and policies that reproduce massive inequalities and suffering for the many, while generating exorbitant privileges for the corporate and financial elite. The growing presence of such intellectuals is symptomatic of the fact that neoliberalism represents a new historical conjuncture in which cultural institutions and political power have taken on a whole new life in shaping politics. And it is precisely on the ideological front that neoliberalism has surpassed any preceding versions of capitalism in gaining ground, through legitimating self-interest as a virtue, consumerism as the noblest act of citizenship, and militarism as a cherished ideal...

Higher education has a responsibility not only to search for the truth regardless of where it may lead, but also to educate students to make authority and power politically and morally accountable. Higher education is one of the few public spheres left with the potential to sustain a democratic formative culture. When it is engaged in communicating critical knowledge, values, and learning, it offers a glimpse of the promise of education for nurturing public values, educated hope, and a substantive democracy. Democracy places civic demands upon its citizens, and such demands point to the necessity of an education that is broad-based, critical, and supportive of meaningful civic values, participation in self-governance, and democratic leadership. Only through such a formative and critical educational culture can students learn how to become individual and social agents rather than merely disengaged spectators. It is imperative that current and future generations be able to think independently and to act upon civic commitments that demand a reordering of basic power arrangements fundamental to promoting the common good and producing a meaningful democracy. 

- Henry Giroux
Excerpted from America's Addiction to Terrorism

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