America's Education Deficit and the War on Youth

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

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    America's Education Deficit and the War on Youth
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-347-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Introduction: Challenging Casino Capitalism and Authoritarian Politics in the Age of Disposability
    (pp. 9-28)

    There is by now an overwhelming catalogue of evidence revealing the depth and breadth of the corporate- and state-sponsored assaults being waged against democracy in the United States. Indeed, it appears that the nation has entered a new and more ruthless historical era, marked by a growing disinvestment in the social state, public institutions, and civic morality. The attack on the social state is of particular importance because it represents an attempt to shift social protections to the responsibility of individuals while at the same time privatizing investments in the public good and undermining the bonds of communal solidarity. The...

  5. 1. Beyond the Politics of the Big Lie: The Education Deficit and the New Authoritarianism
    (pp. 29-50)

    The American public is suffering from an education deficit. By this I mean it exhibits a growing inability to think critically, question authority, be reflective, weigh evidence, discriminate between reasoned arguments and opinions, listen across differences, and engage the mutually informing relationship between private problems and broader public issues. This growing political and cultural illiteracy is not merely a problem of the individual, which points to simple ignorance. It is a collective and social problem that goes to the heart of the increasing attack on democratic public spheres and supportive public institutions that promote analytical capacities, thoughtful exchange, and a...

  6. 2. The Scorched-Earth Politics of America’s Four Fundamentalisms
    (pp. 51-68)

    Americans seem confident in the mythical notion that the United States is a free nation dedicated to reproducing the principles of equality, justice, and democracy. What has been ignored in this delusional view is the growing rise of an expanded national security state since 2001,¹ and an attack on individual rights that suggests the United States has more in common with authoritarian regimes like China and Iran “than anyone may like to admit.”² I want to address this seemingly untenable notion that the United States has become a breeding ground for authoritarianism by focusing on four fundamentalisms: market fundamentalism, religious...

  7. 3. Violence, USA: The Warfare State and the Hardening of Everyday Life
    (pp. 69-90)

    Since 9/11, the war on terror and the campaign for homeland security have increasingly mimicked the tactics of the enemies they sought to crush. Violence and punishment as both a media spectacle and a bone-crushing reality have become prominent and influential forces shaping American society. As the boundaries between “the realms of war and civil life have collapsed,” social relations and the public services needed to make them viable have been increasingly privatized and militarized.¹ The logic of profitability works its magic in channeling the public funding of warfare and organized violence into universities, market-based service providers, Hollywood cinema, cable...

  8. 4. Hoodie Politics: Trayvon Martin and Racist Violence in Post-Racial America
    (pp. 91-100)

    The killing of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was a tragedy that struck the entire nation, but too soon devolved into a media spectacle. The young African American man was shot and killed by an overzealous neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, who appeared to have capitulated to the dominant post-racial presumption that equates the culture of criminality with the culture of blackness. While the Florida laws that allowed Zimmerman initially to walk free sparked plenty of moral outrage—including a recognition that racism is alive and well in America and that justice has been hijacked by those who can afford it—the broader...

  9. 5. The “Suicidal State” and the War on Youth
    (pp. 101-116)

    In spite of being discredited by the economic recession of 2008, unfettered free-market capitalism has once again become a dominant force in American society. This pervasive regime of neoliberalism is producing unprecedented inequalities in wealth and income, runaway environmental devastation, egregious amounts of human suffering, and what Alex Honneth has called an “abyss of failed sociality.”¹ The Gilded Age is back with big profits for the ultra-rich and large financial institutions, and increasing impoverishment and misery for middle and working classes. Political illiteracy and religious fundamentalism have cornered the market on populist rage, providing support for a country in which,...

  10. 6. Religious Fundamentalism, the Attack on Public Schools, and the Crisis of Reason
    (pp. 117-130)

    Right-wing fundamentalists such as former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum loathe public schools (derisively labeled government schools), often suggesting that they are wedded to doing the work of Satan. Santorum, true to his love affair with the secular ideology of privatization, prefers homeschooling. For him, homeschooling enshrines the notion of choice, suggesting that individuals are capable of assuming responsibility for educating themselves. But homeschooling and the notion of choice it enshrines are only two expressions of a broader issue: the government’s abandonment of people to whatever social fate or problems they may face—whether it be finding the best education...

  11. 7. Gated Intellectuals and Fortress America: Toward a Borderless Pedagogy in the Occupy Movement
    (pp. 131-142)

    A group of right-wing extremists in the United States would have the American public believe it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of a market society. Comprising this group are the Republican Party extremists; religious fundamentalists such as Rick Santorum, Ayn Rand disciples like Paul Ryan; and a host of conservative anti-public foundations funded by billionaires such as the Koch brothers.¹ Their pernicious influence has transformed the landscape of American political discourse into “fortresses of . . . one truth, one way, one life formula—of adamant and pugnacious certainty...

  12. 8. The Occupy Movement and the Politics of Educated Hope
    (pp. 143-158)

    Having lost its claim on democracy, American society must change direction as a matter of survival. One indication of America’s loss of purchase on a democratic future is the discourse of denial surrounding the crises produced on a daily basis by hyper-punitive casino capitalism.¹ Rather than address the ever-proliferating crises produced by market fundamentalism as an opportunity to understand how the United States has arrived at such a point, the dominant classes now use such crises as an excuse for normalizing a growing punishing and warfare state, while consolidating the power of finance capital and the mega-rich. Uncritically situated in...

  13. 9. Neoliberalism’s War against Teachers in Dark Times: Rethinking the Sandy Hook Elementary School Killings
    (pp. 159-182)

    The tragic deaths of twenty-six people shot and killed on December 14, 2012, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, included twenty young children and six educators. All of the children were shot multiple times. Many more children might have been killed or injured had it not been for the brave and decisive actions of the teachers in the school. The mainstream media was quick to call them heroes, and there is little doubt that what they did under horrific circumstances reveals not only how important educators are in shielding children from imminent threat, but also how demanding their...

  14. 10. Dangerous Pedagogy in the Age of Casino Capitalism: Reclaiming the Radical Imagination
    (pp. 183-205)

    All over the world, the forces of neoliberalism are on the march, dismantling the historically guaranteed social provisions provided by the welfare state, defining profit-making and market freedoms as the essence of democracy, and diminishing state regulation of the economy. At the same time that the forces of privatization, deregulation, and financial marketization tighten their grip on all aspects of society, the social state is transformed into the punishing state and increasingly violates civil liberties as part of an alleged war against terrorism. Echoing the ideology of Margaret Thatcher, advocates of neoliberalism appear secure in their dystopian vision that there...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 206-234)
  16. Index
    (pp. 235-238)