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America's Education Deficit and the War on Youth: Reform Beyond Electoral Politics

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America's latest war, according to renowned social critic Henry Giroux, is a war on youth. While this may seem counterintuitive in our youth-obsessed culture, Giroux lays bare the grim reality of how our educational, social, and economic institutions continually fail young people. Their systemic failure is the result of what Giroux identifies as "four fundamentalisms" mark America's latest war, according to renowned social critic Henry Giroux, is a war on youth. While this may seem counterintuitive in our youth-obsessed culture, Giroux lays bare the grim reality of how our educational, social, and economic institutions continually fail young people. Their systemic failure is the result of what Giroux identifies as "four fundamentalisms" market deregulation, patriotic and religious fervor, the instrumentalization of education, and the militarization of society. We see the consequences most plainly in the decaying education system: schools are increasingly designed to churn out drone-like future employees, imbued with authoritarian values, inured to violence, and destined to serve the market. And those are the lucky ones. Young people who don't conform to cultural and economic discipline are left to navigate the neoliberal landscape on their own; if they are black or brown, they are likely to become ensnared by a harsh penal system. 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. 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. Here is a book you won't soon forget, and a call that grows more urgent by the day.


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America's latest war, according to renowned social critic Henry Giroux, is a war on youth. While this may seem counterintuitive in our youth-obsessed culture, Giroux lays bare the grim reality of how our educational, social, and economic institutions continually fail young people. Their systemic failure is the result of what Giroux identifies as "four fundamentalisms" mark America's latest war, according to renowned social critic Henry Giroux, is a war on youth. While this may seem counterintuitive in our youth-obsessed culture, Giroux lays bare the grim reality of how our educational, social, and economic institutions continually fail young people. Their systemic failure is the result of what Giroux identifies as "four fundamentalisms" market deregulation, patriotic and religious fervor, the instrumentalization of education, and the militarization of society. We see the consequences most plainly in the decaying education system: schools are increasingly designed to churn out drone-like future employees, imbued with authoritarian values, inured to violence, and destined to serve the market. And those are the lucky ones. Young people who don't conform to cultural and economic discipline are left to navigate the neoliberal landscape on their own; if they are black or brown, they are likely to become ensnared by a harsh penal system. 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. 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. Here is a book you won't soon forget, and a call that grows more urgent by the day.

30 review for America's Education Deficit and the War on Youth: Reform Beyond Electoral Politics

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trevor (I sometimes get notified of comments)

    The fundamental concern here is the difference between right wing and left wing conceptions of the purposes of education. To the right wing, education is a transmission of facts. Obsessed with notions of authority, education is about a knowledge rich teacher imparting what they know to knowledge poor students. Education is to give students enough knowledge to be able to get a job and therefore education needs to be directed towards the needs of the economy. Everything else is just so much fluff. The fundamental concern here is the difference between right wing and left wing conceptions of the purposes of education. To the right wing, education is a transmission of facts. Obsessed with notions of authority, education is about a knowledge rich teacher imparting what they know to knowledge poor students. Education is to give students enough knowledge to be able to get a job and therefore education needs to be directed towards the needs of the economy. Everything else is just so much fluff. To ensure our children are getting a proper education is simply a matter of applying scientific management techniques to the classroom. What is it you want kids to know? What is the quickest way of instructing them in that knowledge? How are you assessing they have learnt it? The left wing view of the purpose of education is quite different to this. The point isn’t that kids should leave school all with the same knowledge, with school being a kind of cookie cutting service. It also isn’t to provide students with the skills necessary to get jobs, as such. The problem here is that the jobs are changing so fast that imparting ‘skills’ is just about the best means to ensure kids won’t get jobs in the future. The role of education is rather to help students become life long learners who can, in the words of Freire, read the word and read the world. It is for kids to leave school with the skills to critically understand the world they live in. The right wing view makes sense from a conservative perspective that there is no alternative to the existing organisation of society and that teaching people to question the world around them is precisely the wrong way to go. This conservative view is directly opposed to the revolutionary role the right has played in world politics over the last forty years. It is sometimes hard to remember that in the 1970s Milton Friedman was lamenting that his radical free market views were restricted to the very fringes of society. That is certainly not the case today – today, despite their abject failure by any reasonable measure, they remain the chanted doxa and received wisdom of our generation. And this victory of the right wing over the left has been so complete we need people like Giroux to remind us of the consequences. This is anything but a bright vision. The rising tide of authoritarianism in the US is presented here as a war on youth. Giroux sees the US as a society so decadent that it is essentially suicidal. The attacks on young people: denied proper educations, denied the hope of jobs with living wages and increasingly made pathological merely for being young are the clearest manifestations of this suicidal society. In a society increasingly run on fear, surveillance and military authority, a society with the world’s largest prison population, education increasingly plays its role in social reproduction. And that role is one ensures increasingly large numbers of young people are denied access to effective learning and basically links schools into preparation for the prison system. Giroux documents instance after instance of schools behaving like prisons. The consequences of the privatisation of schools, through charter schools in the US, is horrifyingly documented here. I’m going to have to quote this bit at length: In Chicago, Noble Street Charter Network schools, run by former felon Michael Milken, set up a dehumanizing discipline system that repeatedly issued demerits and fines to students for “minor infractions” ranging from chewing gum and slouching in a chair to looking away from the teacher. The disciplinary apparatus set up by Noble is called the “SMART” policy and demands the following behaviors: “sitting up straight, making eye contact when addressed by the teacher, articulating in standard English, responding to questions and prompts appropriately, and tracking the teacher with their eyes at all times.” Students are not just punished for breaking these rules; they are required to pay a fine. In the course of three years, ten Noble schools netted $386,745 in fines, and if “students failed to pay, they could be held back, regardless of their academic status.” The murder of Trayvon Martin is discussed in a chapter where it is made clear that being black, young and male is a kind of proof of criminality. That someone can murder a child and there be no consequences of that goes some way to proving a suicidal society on its own, I’d have thought. The fact that ‘youth’ now has connotations of angry, violent, dangerous male children says much about the dysfunctions of our society. It is clear that the victory of Milton Friedman’s ideas has resulted in the tearing up of the social contract. Now, the only way to allow the gross inequities in our society to continue is to turn increasingly to harsh authoritarianism and to chant that there is no alternative. To achieve this we also require an education system that does not educate. When you hear people say ‘back to basics’ be aware that this too often means denying children the tools they need to be able to think for themselves. And when we hear people like Bill Gates promoting his ‘free market’ solutions to our ‘education crisis’ know that this is more about private profit than public good. The war on the public is the most disturbing aspect of current day politics. If Giroux’s hope from the Occupy movement is overstated, at least it is born from a belief in the value of democracy and the need for a functioning democracy to be based on an educated and critical citizenry. This book provides a dystopian vision of the US – one dominated by authoritarian systems of containment, consumerism with its citizens lobotomised by mindless entertainment. It is a world dominated by fear and the manipulation by the mega rich of the rest of society to ensure social control and increasing pillage of our common wealth. Who needs fictional dystopias when this is our reality?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Darryl

    Excellent takedown of the neoliberal War against Democracy. If this book doesn't make your blood boil, check to see if you have a pulse. Excellent takedown of the neoliberal War against Democracy. If this book doesn't make your blood boil, check to see if you have a pulse.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tamlynem

    I saw this author talking to Bill Moyers on TV while I was folding laundry this afternoon. I could not tear myself away from the interview, it was so fascinating! Really looking forward to reading the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rhys

    Interesting. Writing style is like Chris Hedges, but Giroux's book seems more substantive. Seemed a little light on the critique on education, though the author kept the theme tied in throughout the book. Interesting. Writing style is like Chris Hedges, but Giroux's book seems more substantive. Seemed a little light on the critique on education, though the author kept the theme tied in throughout the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Good read, dangerous thoughts.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Toby

    5 stars for Mr. Giroux's acuity. He nails "it." "It" being the purpose of neo-liberal aganda and the effect on not only public education but public spheres of discourse. 5 stars for Mr. Giroux's acuity. He nails "it." "It" being the purpose of neo-liberal aganda and the effect on not only public education but public spheres of discourse.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jim

  8. 5 out of 5

    mark mendoza

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    The Truth, thank you.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jbucsak

  11. 4 out of 5

    Amy Cavanaugh

  12. 4 out of 5

    Angeline Liu

  13. 5 out of 5

    James

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ian Moore

  15. 4 out of 5

    Donna Merrill

  16. 4 out of 5

    Derek Fenner

  17. 5 out of 5

    Charles

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pauline

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carl

  20. 4 out of 5

    Drblues

  21. 4 out of 5

    TNRB

  22. 4 out of 5

    Betsy.m

  23. 4 out of 5

    Simona L.

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Trussoni

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Beauchamp

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Farrell

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cheri Smith

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fred Everett

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