The Crisis of Meaning

The Crisis of Meaning: In Culture and Education

David Trend
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttscn0
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Crisis of Meaning
    Book Description:

    Investigating what he views as an inseparable link between culture and politics, Trend analyzes how notions of patriotism, citizenship, community, and family are communicated within specific public and private institutions. He extends the meaning and purpose of pedagogy as a cultural practice outside the classroom, focusing on political activism in education, the mass media, and the art world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8616-2
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. One The Crisis of Meaning in Culture and Education
    (pp. 1-17)

    Pick up any newspaper and it is clear that the United States is facing a democratic crisis. Conventional definitions of citizenship and national identity have been thrown into question by ruptures in the global political landscape, changing postindustrial economic relations, shifting racial demographics, and new attitudes toward sexuality and religion. In a post-cold war era lacking in superpower conflicts, old fears of foreign insurgency have been supplanted by anxieties about trade deficits, declining educational standards, and a loss of common purpose. As social inequities continue to increase, citizens are losing faith in the government and in the master narratives supporting...

  5. Two What’s in a Name? National Identity and Media Literacy
    (pp. 18-37)

    Nationality is a fiction. It is a story people tell themselves about who they are, where they live, and how they got there. As such it is a complicated and highly contested text. In the contemporary United States, issues of national identity resonate in debates over educational reform, literary canons, multiculturalism, political correctness, and artistic freedom. All of these result, at least in part, from the paradoxical manner in which “nations, like narratives, lose their origins in the myths of time and only fully realize their horizons in the mind’s eye.”² One’s location in this narrative, one’s ability to write...

  6. Three Ordinary People: Material Culture and the Everyday
    (pp. 38-57)

    In the preceding quotation from his often cited 1958 essay “Culture Is Ordinary,” Raymond Williams posed a defining question for cultural studies. Why indeed has culture been conventionally defined in such narrow terms, and why are those terms endlessly reconstituted in successive discourse? What is behind the compulsion among traditionalist historians, curators, and journalists to separate the “extraordinary” in their writing from the common stuff of daily existence? How does the competitive structure of a market economy extend even to its most progressive quarters?

    Every day another salvo is fired in the ongoing battle between defenders of “the best and...

  7. Four A Change of Address: Homelessness and the Politics of Voice
    (pp. 58-74)

    “Remember when we thought we could make a difference?” asks a recent advertisement from the Plan International foster parents program. “When I was in college we fought every kind of social and economic injustice. We sang songs like ‘He Ain’t Heavy. He’s My Brother,’ and we thought we could change the world. Then I started having other responsibilities.”² The ad tells the story of Adrienne, a woman in her mid-thirties. “She’s bright, concerned, hardworking. She has a loving husband and a good job. Yet she has never lost her awareness of problems like poverty in the world. Nor that deep...

  8. Five Look Who’s Talking: Contested Narratives of Family Life
    (pp. 75-90)

    “Thank you for not talking about your relationship,” reads the opening cartoon in John Callahan’s bookDigesting the Child Within.²In recent years, Callahan has achieved cult status for his cynical views of New Age introspection and twelve-step quests for “wellness.” His favorite target is the family, as in his portrait of “The Dysfunctional Family Robinson,”³ or his image of a politically correct marriage ceremony: “I now pronounce you man and wife, if you don’t mind putting a label on it.”⁴

    Callahan’s humor portrays an era in which the family, especially the conventional nuclear family, is an object of scrutiny...

  9. Six Read My Lips: Bureaucratic Rhetoric and Narrative Authority
    (pp. 91-104)

    “Democracy” is a relative term. Like any other expression, its meaning is a matter of interpretation, debate, and contest. In recent years it is a word we have heard a great deal—from the “democratic” reforms in Nicaragua, to the suppression of democratic protest in China’s Tiananmen Square, to the democratic revolutions throughout Eastern Europe, to the democratic liberation of Kuwait. Yet despite such historic circumstances on the international front, the U.S. state of domestic democratic freedom could not be more in question.²

    If freedom implies the enfranchisement of all voters, how is it that the majority of citizens do...

  10. Seven The Color of Money: Cultural Policy and the Public Interest
    (pp. 105-121)

    In the 1990s the arts have moved from the margins of public debate to the center, as politicians, journalists, and government bureaucrats have recognized art’s importance in shaping human identities and forging values. Recent controversies over literary canons, school curricula, and arts censorship all reflect a growing awareness of the relationship of culture to public life. Unfortunately, this important relationship is often misunderstood and distorted by those who would exploit culture for political ends by blaming it for ills ranging from welfare dependence to car jacking.

    Political opportunism aside, these misunderstandings have two sources. The first is the outdated view...

  11. Eight Rethinking Media Activism: Why the Left Is Losing the Culture War
    (pp. 122-137)

    At the height of the recent arts censorship controversies, conservative columnist Patrick Buchanan wrote a column entitled, “In the War for America’s Culture, Is the ‘Right’ Side Losing?”² In this frequently quoted piece Buchanan claimed that while conservatives had been busy defending democracy around the globe, leftists had been infiltrating schools, the media, and the art world at home. It is no secret what happened next, as numerous legislators, religious figures, and journalists cashed in on the publicity of the ensuing “culture war.”³ It also should go without saying that the Left has never held “all the commanding heights of...

  12. Nine Pedagogy and Ethics: Notes for a Radical Democracy
    (pp. 138-148)

    Much of this book has been devoted to an analysis of the culture wars and of the strategies both Right and Left have used in the struggle over civic subjectivity. Without a doubt, conservatives are seeking to regain their grip on U.S. politics by targeting cultural issues. With a rhetoric of ethical foundationalism, the Right has seized on popular symbols to put both liberals and radicals on the defensive. This has included an appropriation of the very vocabulary of “morality” and “community” once thought to be the province of the Left. As a result the leftist coalition finds itself in...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 149-170)
  14. Index
    (pp. 171-174)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 175-175)