Becoming an Activist Academic
Becoming an Activist Academic
Today I speak with Elizabeth Sumida Huaman and Tessie Naranjo about indigenous women and research. They have co-edited the latest issue of the International Journal of Human Rights Education, which was released last week.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman is an associate professor of Comparative and International Development Education at the University of Minnesota. An Indigenous education researcher, her work focuses on the link between Indigenous lands and natural resources, languages, and cultural and educational practices in the North and South America. Tessie Naranjo lives in northern New Mexico and is an internationally recognized Indigenous community education, language revitalization, and arts advocate. She is a founder of the Pueblo Indian Studies Program at Northern New Mexico College where she served as faculty, and former co-Director of the Northern Pueblos Institute.
Citation: Huaman, Elizabeth Sumida & Naranjo, Tessie, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 179, podcast audio, November 4, 2019. https://freshedpodcast.com/indigenouswomen/
Will Brehm 2:55
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman and Tessie Naranjo, welcome to FreshEd.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 3:00
Thank you for having us, Will.
Tessie Naranjo 3:01
I am glad to be here.
Will Brehm 3:03
So, let’s start by talking about colonization – a big topic. In your new co-edited volume, in your introduction, you call it a “strategy of imperialism that has left an indelible mark on colonized lands and people.” What sort of narratives has colonization constructed about indigenous peoples and lands?
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 3:25
I can address that. We talked about this a little bit in our introduction, but I think maybe one of the things that we can clarify is that we’d like to differentiate colonization as a set of actions or patterns that empires will use towards expansion of their empire, and oftentimes that’s bounded by time. So, there is a period of colonization, and then what we’ve seen around the world in different national contexts, is that there’s then a time of decolonization or post-colonization, often referred to as “independence.” I think what Tessie and I are referring to, and what our authors are speaking to, is a condition called “coloniality.” And so, there is an Argentinian scholar that Tessie and I use; his name is Walter Mignolo, and he talks about “coloniality,” which is the ongoing condition of colonial oppression and struggle that’s exemplified through four domains. So, these are four areas where indigenous peoples are encountering resistance and struggle. So, we think very closely about those four domains as: control of economy, which includes manipulation of land and natural resources; control of authority, which is the creation of institutions – political and legal institutions, as well as military; this creation of what is considered normative, so that oftentimes is heavily influenced by ideas of religion, as well as gender and sexuality; and then, this control over knowledge, which is oftentimes most clearly exemplified by the construction of education, and what constitutes knowledge. So, in our issue, we really think very closely about how indigenous peoples are speaking to, or speaking back to, conditions of coloniality in all of those areas. And all of our authors, I think, write about those areas in one way or another. So, they address, really, that entire system of domains, and they address coloniality as a whole, but taking up different lenses. So, one of the things that I think is really important for us to think about is not just how coloniality has left, or leaves us, in a condition where there is that, you know, as we might refer to, this mark on lands and peoples. “Lands” meaning the impact to our natural resources: you know, our earth, our water, our animals, our skies, and so forth. But then also peoples, meaning bodies and psyches. And I think what’s really critical is that our authors who put forth their work so lovingly, speak to that condition. They speak to coloniality in some way or another. And so, for example, we have one author, June Lorenzo, who is from Laguna Pueblo, who talks about this idea, counters this idea, that land and natural resources are only for human exploitation or for capital gain. And she writes about uranium mining in her own village of Paguate in Laguna Pueblo. And we also have authors like Robin Minthorn and Heather Shotton, who take up this idea. So, they would be countering this normative view of gender and sexuality. And primarily, this idea of women in leadership; they take up this idea that you know, women are not leaders because they are not visible, for example, or as visible as men. And they really challenge that.
Tessie Naranjo 7:25
Well, I was thinking about answering the question in terms of fences. I am from one of the pueblos in northern New Mexico, and I have enough knowledge about the history of our place. And I was thinking about when the colonizers came in, first the Spaniards, and then later on the white Americans. And the idea of fences became a part of our understanding. Reluctantly. And so, I was thinking of fences in terms of creating borders and boundaries, and I was thinking of how these fences psychologically make us feel less than.
Will Brehm 8:15
It is interesting. I mean putting up these fences and borders and boundaries and feeling “less than” when thinking about coloniality. And Tessie and Elizabeth, you both sort of mentioned issues of knowledge and even education. And so, you know, I want to ask a little bit about how coloniality has impacted the very meaning of research. So perhaps, Elizabeth, maybe you can start.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 8:44
Sure. So, in terms of how coloniality has impacted research, you know, Tessie and I are, we are community members, and we are educators, and we write as well. And we think. And we speak. I think that you know, but we also come from places. We come from very strong peoples and places that we have very strong connections to. And I think one of the ways that coloniality has shaped dominant understanding of research is to devalue those places, and to devalue our interactions as intellectual beings, as spiritual beings, with those places. So, there are wonderful scholars, some of them in our special issue. Others like Linda Smith, who is a very highly regarded Māori scholar, who has really informed our thinking around decolonizing research approaches, who do that work very well. And they help us to understand how research can be transformed by indigenous peoples. I think one of the issues that we encounter consistently as indigenous peoples is that our knowledge isn’t really knowledge – that what we know, and how we’ve managed to live in a particular place over time, isn’t necessarily something that is considered valuable. You know, it’s this idea that: well, maybe indigenous peoples didn’t really know that much about their environment, or they lived in a way that was haphazard, or they were lucky. When in reality, indigenous peoples have very strong systems and ways of interacting and of living and of thriving in places. And I think that that’s one of the key issues that we are interested in as community members is this idea that we, too, have had research for a very long time as indigenous peoples. We maybe didn’t call it “research.” There’s lots of different ways in our languages that we think about inquiry, and we think about knowledge production. But I also think that there are different reasons that we sought to understand, or to know something, and there were different uses for what we did learn.
Will Brehm 11:15
I mean, it is interesting, the idea that you know, this coloniality, the domain of the normative, as you were saying earlier, and how that has sort of narrowed the very meaning of what science is, to, you know, the scientific method or Western science. But, in fact, there’s so many other and diverse ways of knowledge, of inquiry, of what we might call research, very broadly. And, you know, your special issue really sort of draws out all of these different, diverse traditions of what research could be, and has actually been marginalized by this sort of normative stance of what modern research is supposed to look like.
Tessie Naranjo 11:57
Well, I was thinking about the community that I come from and the pueblo world, that I know more about than any other tribal group. And I was thinking about how we have our own way of researching, so that we understand our place and our land, and I was thinking that our methods are different from that non-tribal world. And I was thinking of how we are more circular in our thinking, we are more fluid in our thinking, and in contrast to the Western way of researching, which is, I don’t know if you call it regimented, but it’s different than the way that we understand how to do things. And I will give you maybe an example or so of how we have learned to live off the land. For example, the irrigation. We are a traditional agricultural people, and so how we learn how to grow corn and beans and squash is something that we learn through experimentation. And so, “researching,” if you want to call it that, has been very much a part of our lives. And in terms of, for example, the pottery making that is a traditional part of our lives: how we’ve learned how to mix clays, and how we’ve learned how to use the plants for coloring the designs on our pots, all of that is a researching. Our place, our land, so that we know what its resources are. Our methods are different, but it is researching, nevertheless.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 13:50
Will, you know, to speak to your point about the Western scientific method, I think Tessie really exemplifies that with her description of pueblo knowledge and living as agricultural people. I think that one of the things that is really disturbing that we’re seeing about the condition of the earth. And what we are seeing in terms of environmental catastrophe today is the distancing of our relationship from our respect and our regard for place. Our respect and our regard for natural resources and land as living beings. And I think that one of the things that, you know, Western science is not our enemy. Western science in many ways, scientists today, I think, are starting to wake up to, and have been, you know, at least for the last several decades. There are voices and people who are talking about. And they are naming it different things. So, they are calling it things like biocultural diversity, you know, or concentric ecology, for example. So, there are people who are understanding and delving more deeply into this idea of relationships. And I think that indigenous peoples, because of our relationships and our regard and our exercise of values, we don’t just talk about the values of respect or the values of love for the things around us. We have ceremonies, we have activities, we have daily things that we do as community members and as individuals, that put those into practice. And I think that people are seeing the importance and the value of that, and certainly, our authors are seeing that. So, for example, we have Danelle Cooper and her coauthors, her wonderful professor-mentors, who have really shaped a beautiful submission that highlights a couple of different sacred places, one of them being Mauna Kea in Hawaii. And we see there the tension between Western science and this drive to build, you know, super telescopes and more telescopes, and things that can really help humans to explore the universe in ways that assume that indigenous peoples didn’t have the capacity, or the technology, to do that. And I think we are talking about different purposes and different uses of technology, different definitions of technology. And I think so much of it comes back to purpose: Why do we seek knowledge? Why do we think about science the way we do? What is the ultimate goal for us? And for many of us who are really attempting to reclaim those connections to the beautiful things around us, and to appreciate the gift of life that we’ve been given, the purpose is to sustain life and to live a life of values and quality where, you know, children and communities and all the creatures can flourish. So, I don’t know that it’s necessarily a clash of Western science because Western science can be used as a tool of and as a resource for us. But it is: what is the purpose, you know? And I think that you know, those of us who were colonized by the Spanish – and there were many communities that were colonized by the Spanish back in the 1500s – you know, we joke about the Spanish being some of the very early colonial researchers. They were very early anthropologists, and they would ask questions, you know, there’s lists of questions that you can see in the archives. What were the questions that they would ask of community members? You know, they would ask questions like … and they knew, they knew that we had a relationship with place. So, for example, our mountain deities are called Apus, and so they would say, “Okay, we know this Apu. You know, the Quechua people, for example, believe that this Apu has a wife and children and so forth. We know that you know, the Quechua people believe that these mountains are families.” And they would ask the question, “Well, okay, what is the name of this Apu? Who is his wife? You know, who are his children?” And then they would say, “And where are his treasures?” And we can see a very early and primitive approach to science, a primitive approach to social science, a primitive approach to inquiry, that is material gain based. And I don’t think that you know, indigenous peoples today – what our authors, especially the authors who are participating in this special issue – are really interested in, is reclaiming our connection. For the purpose of, not just survival, but of really honoring our existence, and the existence of the things that are in creation.
Will Brehm 18:58
I mean, I love that idea of sustaining life rather than exploiting and advancing economic gain in anyway. I mean, you know, it is a very different purpose, as you said. So, Elizabeth, could you talk a little bit about why, in this special issue, you and Tessie basically situate indigenous women at the center of this conversation, in a way. Can you speak a little bit about why that is the case?
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 19:22
Sure. So, Tessie and I were very interested in promoting and supporting a special issue that involves indigenous women because we are indigenous women. And we do research, we interact with community members, we work with institutions that serve indigenous peoples. And we do that from our own experience. And I can speak for myself to say that I began doing work with generations of Quechua grandmothers – people from my own communities – and I was very interested in, “Well, if I’m having these kinds of experiences and thoughts as an indigenous woman, as a descendant of these women that I’m speaking with, what might be the unique lenses that indigenous women bring to the conversation? Are other women having these kinds of questions? Are they having these kinds of discussions? What feelings are coming up that might be distinct to indigenous women, particularly women who are from the communities where they’re doing the research, or who are serving the people that they hope their research will highlight in some way, uplift, bring forward?” So that’s one of the reasons why I became interested in working on this project with Tessie. And of course, I’ve held her in such high regard for so many years, and have heard the stories of her talking about her mother and her grandmother, and how she was raised by very important people, women who lived daily lives. And similarly, in my own family background, I was raised by people and had a grandmother, who is no longer with us, and aunties, who are people living daily lives in community. Experiencing certain struggles that in many ways are distinct, gender-based struggles for women in my community; I will only speak from my experience. And you know, these are women that, they are not necessarily scholars, they are not necessarily researchers. But in many ways, I think both Tessie and I wanted to pay homage to what we’ve learned from them as well. And to bring together women in this special issue that also come from somewhere, that also have aunties, that also have grandmothers, that also themselves are living daily experiences, and encountering struggles and challenges as women, and that they too have something to offer a broader conversation that is often very lofty – that’s considered very lofty, and academic, and intellectual – which is a conversation about human rights.
Will Brehm 22:22
Tessie, would you like to add anything?
Tessie Naranjo 22:24
Well, I’d first like to get started in my thoughts, and knowing that, in the pueblo world, our world is constructed with the feminine in mind, the female in mind. So, it is a natural understanding that it is the female who is a part of our beginnings. And so, I’ll start with that. And then, Elizabeth invited me to be part of this project; I did not know what I was getting into. But I was resistant, admittedly, because I thought it was too much for me, because I am pretty much, home is important to me, and I don’t stray too far from home. But in the reading, and the helping edit the articles that were submitted, I began to feel that I had the best opportunity to look at what other indigenous females were very passionate about in the work that they were doing to better the lives of their home communities. And I got all of this understanding in appreciation of the feminine through my great grandmother, who was born in 1867, and then raised my mother. Because my mother was raised by my great grandmother, who did not know how to talk English or any other language, except my language, which is Tewa. I have very much appreciation for the strength of the women in my family, as well as for the strength of women in all other tribal communities, and we are doing our part as individuals, whatever place we live at, and whatever our passion is, whatever fight, whatever cause we want to get involved in. I have been able to look at all of these, or read all of these, articles, and just I am so proud of the dedication of the females who have submitted their articles, showing that they are lifelong contributors to bettering the health of their communities.
Will Brehm 24:59
Recently, I guess, I have noticed a lot of talk about indigenous research through, or within, international organizations, like the United Nations. And I just wonder in your opinion, to what extent is the United Nations, and even places like the World Bank – I have seen them promoting ideas of indigenous research, as well. And, you know, what is your take on it? How does that all fit in? Is it helpful? Is it problematic in ways? You know, how do you see the sort of the international push, through international law and human rights groups, advocating for, and supporting, indigenous research and knowledge?
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 25:41
So, there is undoubtedly value to international organizations like the United Nations, that are comprised of, and promote and highlight and create spaces for dialogue, that involve indigenous peoples and recognize indigenous peoples as actors in their own self-determination. There is absolutely a place for that. And I think there is a lot of tremendous work that’s been done by the United Nations. For example, the folks who worked on, including one of our authors, June Lorenzo, who worked on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. And at the same time, I think that we have to recognize what era we’re in. So indigenous human rights, or indigenous rights, are considered to be third generation, the third generation of human rights discourse. So, the first generation, you know, in many ways, really focused on what we might think of as these very normative approaches to rights. So, the first generation was really about political and civil liberties. We also hear a lot about European constructions of rights in terms of male property rights; you know, that is very early on. And then the second generation of rights is really about social and economic rights, as well as equality for women and so forth. But I think it is very telling that indigenous rights are only recently, in many ways, being recognized as this third generation of rights. And I do think that many organizations, and lots of different bodies that are involved with bringing forward indigenous issues and struggles for self-determination, do very good work. But I think there’s conditions to that. I think that those organizations, or really any organization – it could be a grassroots community organization – really needs to have some sort of awareness and be very explicit around certain starting point questions. So, for example, what are rights? What are even rights? What is law, for example? How are those things conceptualized and named by indigenous peoples, representative of indigenous communities, at all levels? And how do those reflect principles that are embedded in indigenous languages? So, is that explicit in the work? I think another point that is really critical is that we also have to think about indigenous self-determination and the role that indigenous self-determination plays in those organizations, which refers to the ability of people to decide how they want to live their lives. And is that an explicit part of the conversation. As well, in any organization, are there clear reporting of biases? Is there also another explicit conversation around power, for example? So, who speaks for indigenous peoples? Who represents indigenous peoples? What constitutes indigenous communities? And how are decisions made? What kinds of questions are being asked? What kinds of goals are being identified? So, I think that there is several different areas of consideration that need to be explicitly laid out if organizations are going to attempt to be less problematic.
Will Brehm 29:30
So, Tessie, I want to bring you into this conversation, and ask a little bit about this concept of land and place, and why it’s such an important concept in indigenous research and education.
Tessie Naranjo 29:40
Well, in thinking about that question, I was thinking about, we have a local tribally run school here in my community. And I go to visit the community school every once in a while, and I love what is happening in the school because the children are learning about who they are and what their place is. Knowing how to appreciate their place, and knowing what it means to have a place, and have an appreciation for that. I was thinking about my mother. I would ask her the question, “What is important, Gia?” And Gia is “mother” in Tewa. She would tell me, “Children,” and I didn’t appreciate that as much as I do in my older age, but it was a very profound response to that question, although I didn’t think so at the time. But it is about kids. It is about children that you teach so that they can move forward and pass on the information so that, as they become adults, they can then become the leaders within the community. So that children, I would say, like by mother, children are probably the most important persons to guide, so that they can then maintain the village as they are growing up, when they grow up. That is what I can say about response to that question. But it is very important, I think, to pass on the knowledge of any community in whatever way you can: Who you are. Names of places in your land area. What your name is, for example. Like in the school, everyone has their tribal name. I can give you example of my tribal name and what it means to me because it talks about place and land. My name is Pae Ojegi in Tewa. I was born in January. My great grandmother, that I talked about earlier, took me to greet the sun and to name me. But we have a deer dance in the wintertime. The deer were passing from the mountains, and these, of course, are humans, dressed with horns on and sticks to emulate the deer coming to visit us in the village. And so, as they were coming by, she looked at the deer passing by, and she said to my mother, “We shall name this Pae Ojegi. Pae Ojegi is “deer with frost on its horns,” and I have loved that name all of my life because it represents the time, the cycles that we live, continuously – we live according to the seasons. And because I was given my name, Pae Ojegi, I am always reminded, whenever I see a deer, for example, the importance of that moment when the men dressed like deer were entering the village. This is a long example to talk about what the children in the small grade school are trying to learn. They are trying to learn about place and land. And they can learn it through names and other things that we are able to teach so that these kids one more time, as my mother said, can pass the knowledge from within our community and pass it forward.
Will Brehm 33:38
So, Elizabeth Sumida Huaman and Tessie Naranjo, thank you so much for joining FreshEd. It really was an honor and a pleasure to talk today. And congratulations on your latest special issue.
Tessie Naranjo 33:49
Thank you, Will.
Elizabeth Sumida Huaman 33:50
Urpillay sonqollay, Will. Really appreciate it and thank you so much to our authors and their families and their communities.
Today Raewyn Connell returns to FreshEd to talk about her new book, The Good University. In it, Raewyn takes a deep dive into the labor that makes a university possible while also detailing the main troubles the institution currently faces.
She argues that a good university must work for the social good rather than for profit. It must embrace its democratic roots and protect the process of being truthful.
Raewyn Connell is Professor Emerita at the University of Sydney. She is an active trade unionist and advocate for workers’ rights, student autonomy and educational reform.
Photo by Peter Hall
Citation: Raewyn, Connell, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 157, podcast audio, June 3, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/raewynconnell2/
Will Brehm 1:30
Raewyn Connell, welcome back to FreshEd.
Raewyn Connell 1:31
I’m very glad to be here.
Will Brehm 1:33
So, congratulations on your new book. And just halfway through this book, when I was reading it, you tell this wonderful story about this famous Jacaranda tree at the University of Sydney. And I want to just ask, what made this tree so famous? And why did you end up writing about it?
Raewyn Connell 1:48
Well, it’s a very beautiful tree. It has lovely purple flowers, and it’s absolutely covered in blossom at a certain time of year, which happens to correspond with when graduations are held. So, for many years, since the invention of color photography, all the graduates would go and stand in front of the tree in their robes and get the photographs at the end of their degree. And it’s all in front of this sort of mock Gothic sandstone building in golden stone. It’s a lovely picture. Well, a few years ago, five or perhaps eight years ago, the University began including in its advertising, a picture of a tutorial group -a discussion group- sitting on the lawn in front of this tree in full bloom. And that was a lovely picture for advertising with the mock Gothic building behind suggesting how ancient and venerable the University was. Unfortunately, it wasn’t true for two reasons: one, no tutorials are allowed to meet on that lawn. Two, the tree actually blossoms after tutorials are over. So, the thing was a fake! And it seemed to me that that somehow represented what was happening in universities as they became more commercialized. There was more fakery and misrepresentation. And just a couple of years after that image was used in the advertising, the tree died. Now, no biologist among my friends would agree that the tree died of shame but one suspected, and that somehow to me symbolized that the university in some sort of crisis. Yeah, universities in general. Well, by corporate standards, there’s no crisis. You know, the higher education industry is booming. There are now more than 200 million university and college students around the world. The flow of fees and money into the system is bigger than ever before. So, from a profit-making and corporate growth perspective, we’re doing wonderfully in universities. But, by other standards, there are terrible problems. I mean the casualization of academic labor force, virtual end of the prospect of a career for very large numbers of university teachers, the growing level of distrust and antagonism between workforce in universities and the managers, the growing level of inequality within universities just in sheer money terms, the level of anger that you see in conflicts in universities now, and of course, the decline of government support for higher education in most parts of the world, not quite all, which escalates in some countries like Hungary -it’s a famous example recently- of outright attacks by government on the university sector -at any rate, parts of it- showing a kind of political antagonism to good higher education, which is very disturbing, indeed. And in that kind of sense, yeah, there is a crisis that’s bubbling/boiling up around us.
Will Brehm 5:25
Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen photos of many years ago, protests in Chile, just recently, protests in Brazil. Even in the UK, there’s been these mass protests of university lecturers fighting for basically better pensions and better wages and trying to resist this sort of corporatization of the university. So where do we begin? If this is this crisis that we see -and in your book, you basically start by looking at the foundations of the university, and really focus on the massive amount of labor that universities do in a way. All the different types of people that make a university possible require huge amounts of labor. Can you talk a little bit about, you know, what sort of labor actually happens based on your long career in universities?
Raewyn Connell 6:17
Well, what I do in the first chapters of the book is show how research, the production of knowledge, has to be understood as a form of work -a complex and intricate kind of work, but work nevertheless, with a workforce in certain conditions. And the same for teaching too. Education involves a form of labor by the teachers and by the students for that matter. And we have to understand the circumstances in which this work is done, the relationships that shape the work in order to understand the production of knowledge and the educational process itself. Now as the universities have got more commercialized and commodified, this labor has been changing. And the conditions of this labor has been changing. So, the academic work: Well, there’s a much higher level of casualization and insecurity for academic workers, as more of the face-to-face teaching is done by people in insecure, short-term jobs. The role of academics in longer term jobs has also changed. They’ve become a kind of middle management group responsible for organizing a casualized, insecure workforce. There’s been an intensification of labor. This is not unusual in today’s economy. That’s true in other industries as well. But it’s quite striking in academic work. The growth of a long hours culture, the decline of the sense that you have time to sit and think and look around, read around and come up with fundamental new ideas -this is now harder simply because of the change in the kind of work. And there’s more control over academic labor via audits and measurement, and management surveillance. Even a simple decision, like when you’ve done some research, you’ve written an article about it, where you publish it, that used to be your own decision as to where you should publish it to reach the audience who needed to know. No! That doesn’t apply anymore. There are now management pressures to publish only in high-prestige journals in the most central countries in the world, and so forth. So, that’s a very significant set of changes in academic labor. And for non-academic workers, what I call the operations workers, who are half the workforce of universities, the work also has been changing -sometimes in the same ways. There’s more sort of surveillance and control from above, so fewer people are just trusted to get on with a job, assume that they know what their job is, and they should get on with it -there’s less and less of that. More surveillance, more auditing. But there’s also more outsourcing of work in universities. That is, workers who actually work for the university, but are not employed by the university, rather employed by another company, which has a contract with the university management and that changes relationships in universities too as it would in any place where that kind of thing happened. Because people working in an outsourced basis for another company don’t have rights, don’t have recognition on campus, are not likely to be there long-term so they can’t develop long-term relationships with the teaching or research staff, and there’s just less of the basic, ground-level know-how on which universities have depended in order to work effectively as organizations. So, more control concentrated at the top means less effective work down below. And that has been happening on a large scale in universities.
Will Brehm 10:25
And has there been any consequences or impacts on student learning? I mean, this seems to be a major function of the university. So, with these various reforms, with this corporate-style management, this power residing at the top in these administrations, what effect on the student?
Raewyn Connell 10:42
Two things: One, because corporate management drives for lower wage costs, lower labor costs, they’re terribly interested in technologizing university teaching. So, MOOCs are the classic example of that, the massive online open courses, which have something like a 90% dropout rate, I mean they’re quite stunning. But in other ways too, the learning experience is more computerized, more technologized, therefore, more -and this is the other side of it- in various ways more formalized. So, we have more frequent and technologically controlled testing. There’s less scope for ambitious but out of the way learning practices by the students. They’re more, sort of on a prescribed path all the time. I can remember -this is, you know, I’m now one of the older generation very much. When I was an undergraduate doing a history program, we actually had two years in the middle of the degree with no exams at all. We had an exam at the end of the two, but for two years, we could pursue our own learning interests, we had to attend courses, lectures, tutorials, and so forth. But we weren’t tested. And, you know, modern students, I think -and this applies to schools, as well as universities- are tested to within an inch of their lives sometimes. And I think that really degrades the kind of learning experience that a university should be.
Will Brehm 12:25
So, one of the things you mentioned earlier was that there’s something like 200 million students enrolled in higher education around the world. And in a way, this is very much a massification of higher education. So many more people today are going to university than say 50 years ago. And we talked-
Raewyn Connell 12:45
-and that’s a good thing.
Will Brehm 12:46
Right. That’s a good thing. And universities often talk about this in terms of equity, and diversity, and opportunity, and enlarging that student base. But in your book, you start calling the university sort of “privilege machines”. You talk about how they actually produce inequality. And so, I wanted to know, in your mind, how are universities complicit in the production of inequality?
Raewyn Connell 13:08
Hmm. Well, universities have always been connected with privilege and power throughout their history. So, a phrase like “a college man”, a bit out of date now but it used to be an expression which signaled leisure and money among young people. Well, as the university system has expanded, it’s also become more unequal in itself. So, we’ve now got this massive hierarchy of universities from the very well-funded privileged institutions down to a worldwide mass of higher education institutions, colleges, universities, called different things in different places. And that’s symbolized by the league tables that are now published, you know, with Harvard on top, and MIT and Stanford up there at the top, and your local community college way down at the bottom. Now, the biggest part of the expansion, very recently, has been in privately owned, for-profit universities. That’s now a large sector worldwide. And I would emphasize the for-profit part because what these kinds of colleges sell, basically, is vocational training. They do hardly any research, that’s not their game and they have a very casualized workforce so that you’re not getting a high quality of educational thinking there because people don’t have time and opportunity to do that thinking. But you do have connections with local industries, local businessmen, who are often on the boards, and even involved in developing the curricula of those kinds of colleges. So, what you’re getting then, is an apparent mass expansion but also a change in the character of most higher education as that expansion occurs, which becomes a thinning out of the university or the college experience and a commodification of what it’s taken to be. So, the advertising, the marketing of the for-profit private colleges, is all about what this ticket you’re getting should yield you in terms of future income. Now that benefit often doesn’t happen because labor markets themselves are changing, and the meaning of qualifications in labor markets change. But that’s the way universities, on a mass scale, are now sold. I’m entirely in support of professional education. I think that’s a correct business of universities, and there I differ from some other critics who criticize the idea of professional education. I think that’s a central role of universities. But professional education itself should be an intellectual proposition, it should be involve thinking carefully and at length about the ethics, about the social meaning of the profession that you’re going into, it should involve understanding the clients that your profession is going to meet, so it truly involved social sciences, philosophy, humanities, other technical areas -all of those kinds of knowledges should be involved in good professional education. And I think that is being thinned out now in a very worrying way.
Will Brehm 16:48
So, I guess the obvious question then is, what can be done? What does a university look like that doesn’t embrace this corporate management, doesn’t embrace these sort of for-profit logics that many universities are around the world today? Like, what’s the alternative in a way?
Raewyn Connell 17:05
Well, there are multiple alternatives. It’s not a single blueprint that we should be following. That’s part of my critique of the “league table” mentality that assumes we all want to be like Harvard and we don’t frankly. So, one thing then is diversity. Multiplicity of purposes, and styles, and approaches to teaching, and knowledge. There are multiple knowledge systems in the world. We’ve talked about that kind of thing before. It should be part of the universities thinking. Universities now model hierarchy and even propagandize in favor of inequality. All this jargon that comes out about “excellence” really gets up my nose!
Will Brehm 17:58
I don’t know what it even means!
Raewyn Connell 18:00
It’s just a signifier of inequality, basically. And also, the nonsense that comes out about leadership. Leadership, for what for heaven’s sake! in what direction? Well, I think there is a direction which we should be leading and that’s democracy, and public service, and that doesn’t need hierarchies and league tables for heaven’s sake! Talk about self-satirizing university systems, they’re now developing league tables for public service!
Will Brehm 18:39
So how can a university be democratic? How can that ideal be embraced inside a university?
Raewyn Connell 18:45
Well, parts of it is already there. We do know how to run institutions democratically. And that’s what you know, the last 200 years of global history has taught us. There are ways of doing that. So, we have leaderships that are elected, we have forms of responsibility, from top-down and bottom-up, rather than just one way. We diversify the membership of institutions, we take steps to make social inclusion real rather than simply symbolic and selective. We can’t have a democratic education and a democratic knowledge system in an authoritarian institution, it doesn’t work.
Will Brehm 19:34
So, what would that mean? That would mean giving more power to the professors to make decisions to drive the direction of the university, than the central management?
Raewyn Connell 19:43
More power to the whole of the workforce. Remember that half of the workforce of universities are non-academic and they also have know-how and commitment and ideas and should be part of the governing process of the institution. I mean, what I’m talking about is, you know, you can put in the phrase, ‘industrial democracy’, we know how to do that. We’ve done it in cooperatives, in mainstream industries, we do know how to do that kind of thing. It’s not rocket science. But we have been shifting away from those ideas in higher education, as in other industries recently, and there’s a struggle on our hands, I think. The other thing to remember is that at the core of the modern university is a system of knowledge, which I call the ‘research-based knowledge formation’. So, research is central to the knowledge on which we build our curricula, on which we base our professional practices, and which we give to the world at large, is what universities offer. And there’s a democratic core in research, actually. I mean, we don’t necessarily represent it that way because we give Nobel prizes, to a very few top scientists, or the media will drool over the professor with the furthest away galaxy, or the latest cure for cancer. But in fact, research knowledge is a democratic theme in itself. It’s produced by a whole workforce, not just by individual stars. Particular research programs involve research teams, not, in most cases, individual stars. Or the individual stars are standing for teams of 20, 30, 100 people. And they depend on other teams and other researchers. The term publication, which has become a kind of sight of tension and horror for young academics, is actually a sign of that democratic character of knowledge. We put our knowledge out there when we publish. We put it out there for everyone to see, and for other people to build on. That’s the whole point of publication.
Will Brehm 22:08
Yeah, its publication, not ‘priva-cation’.
Raewyn Connell 22:11
Exactly, exactly! And we’re building in the knowledge system, that universities depend on and produce, we’re building a “knowledge commons”. We’re building a common social resource in research-based knowledge. So, there’s a democratic element at the very heart of universities, which is not necessarily immediately obvious, but it’s there. And we can build on it.
Will Brehm 22:39
And it’s particularly not obvious when, you know, Elsevier and Wiley and Sons, and Taylor and Francis are owning that knowledge commons. And it sort of does take that public out of publication.
Raewyn Connell 22:52
Yeah, that’s a classic example of the harm that’s done by privatization, I think. And it is being resisted. There’s quite a strong movement now to reverse that by open access policies on the part of funders, by a kind of movement among academics towards open access for other ways of circulating knowledge that don’t run into those monetary barriers. That’s a hot topic in universities now and I’m very glad to see that kind of struggle going on.
Will Brehm 23:29
So, the beginning of our talk today, you talked about this sort of fake image that the University of Sydney was promoting, and it sort of gets to this idea of truth. And this idea of, what is the role of the universities in being truth?
Raewyn Connell 23:46
Yeah. I should say that I’m not particularly blaming the University of Sydney. I mean, that’s just where I happen to be. And I happened to know that tree from a long time, because I’m also a graduate of this university. But what the University of Sydney was doing was what the University of Melbourne is doing, the University of Queensland is doing, what all the universities in the country in one way or another have been doing, and internationally too. So, I was trying to give an example of something that is, in fact global, as a problem. And why I think that’s significant is that universities do have a cultural role. I mean, they’re not -the corporation famously has, there’s a lovely saying, by Lord Chancellor of England in the 18th century, that “a corporation has no body to be kept, and no soul to be damned therefore it can do as it likes”. And that is pretty much the attitude of the mainstream corporation. And as universities approach the status of money-making corporations which indeed, some of them now are 100% that, they inhabit that kind of situation. And the problem is that universities DO have a soul. And that soul concerns truth. It’s the cultural commitment to telling the truth. And anyone who has done research, you know, I’ve been a researcher for more than 50 years. And I know how difficult it is to establish truth. But that’s what research is, it’s hard work. It’s a struggle. So, you know, it involves interacting with many people and trying to understand situations and speak the truth. It’s difficult, but it’s what we’re about. And if universities start fudging the truth in advertising, pretending to be what they are not, misrepresenting reality, then they are doing terrible damage to their own cultural position as the institutions that embody truth telling. That seems to be a very, very serious problem. And, and that’s why I get, you know, more angry about what seems to many managements to be just good commercial practice. It’s not good university practice.
Will Brehm 26:05
Are you hopeful that the university will soon move away from this corporate-style management? Or are there examples of universities around the world that are actually doing something different? And yes, it could be a multiplicity and a diversity of different ways of managing and organizing the university but sometimes I get very pessimistic about the whole industry that I have spent the last ten years of my life working in. And I don’t know, is it going to change in my lifetime or am I going to be battling this corporate-style management for the rest of my career?
Raewyn Connell 26:41
It’s a good question. And I think everybody involved in these issues at times despairs at the difficulty of moving in a more democratic direction. And I’m sustained, I think -I mean, I’m originally a historian. So, I’m always interested in the history of institutions. And I took some time when I was working on this project to go back into the history of universities and look specifically at the history of alternative universities. And it turns out, there is a wonderful history of alternative and experimental universities all over the world, which is not all that widely known. But things like, for instance, there’s an extraordinary story of the Flying University in Poland, which was developed back in the 1880s, when Poland or most of Poland was part of the Russian Tsarist Empire. And the Russian regime tried to control universities, to ratify them, and to exert regime control over them. So, the Poles went underground and invented a kind of underground university, which became known as the Flying University because its classes would move around from place to place in Warsaw in order to avoid the police. And taught a whole curriculum, natural science, educational sciences, humanities and so forth, all under the radar. And after the 1905 revolution in Russia, that came to the surface, became legal, became a regular university. Then Poland was invaded by the Nazis and they did it again, under incredible repression during the Second World War. Then the Russians threw the Nazis out and established a communist regime in Russia, which restored the universities but also attempted to control them and the Poles did it again! They had a Flying University teaching all the forbidden kinds of social sciences and humanities. Now, that’s one story, there are anti-colonial universities in India, which was set up by people like Rabindranath Tagore, the poet, back in the 1920s as a place for the meeting of civilizations rather than the Eurocentric curriculum in the universities the British had set up in the colonial system. When the pink tide occurred in Latin America 10 or 15 years ago, a series of progressive governments around the continent, they set up reform universities too. Indigenous universities, working class universities, universities in remote parts of the country with rural populations and so forth, publicly funded, bringing in new groups of people who, for years, they’ve been excluded from the university system. In AotearoaNew Zealand, there’s a university which is based on Maori indigenous culture. Similar things in parts of India, all over Central America, in parts of South America, like Bolivia, there are now indigenous universities which have curriculum that try to blend research-based knowledge with indigenous knowledge and develop curricula that are relevant to indigenous communities. So, there’s lots of experimentation in the history when you go looking for it, and that, to me, is a deep source of hope. People have done it in the past, it’s still possible for us to move in these directions now.
Will Brehm 30:34
And that actually is incredibly hopeful that the system that we’re in today is not static, and it can change and there is a history of change over time. And that’s deeply, deeply hopeful.
Raewyn Connell 30:45
I had a bit of involvement in this kind of work back in the 1960s when I was a radical student among the many other radical students. I was involved in setting up what we called Free University in Sydney, which was a student-directed, cooperative learning institution that did a couple of dozen courses on a variety of issues that we felt were missing from the mainstream university curricula. I’ve taught in publicly funded universities that were part of another reform movement, the kind of “Green Fields” universities set up in the 1960s and 70s in countries like Australia, Britain, the United States. The expansion of the University of California was a good example of that, places like UC Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara Davis, were involved. You know, experimentation with curricula, combinations of disciplines, student-centered teaching practices, lots of really interesting educational innovation happening in those institutions over a period of 20-25 years. So even in the mainstream system, it is possible to innovate and democratize in inventive ways.
Will Brehm 32:04
Well, Raewyn Connell, thank you so much for joining FreshEd. You know, I read your book, and it’s like a love letter to the university itself. And it’s critical but supportive and offers so much beautiful history. So, I mean, I can’t recommend it enough. And I just want to say thank you for writing the book and getting these ideas out there. And, as a young academic, I must say that I am actually very hopeful of being in this industry and in this career and hopefully getting involved in some of these new movements to diversify the university. So, thank you very much for joining FreshEd and you’re always welcome back on in the future.
Raewyn Connell 32:40
That’s great to hear. Thank you.
Today we talk about the history and recent rise of Islamophobia worldwide. My guest is Mariam Durrani, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Hamilton College.
In our conversation, we discussed both the state policy infrastructure enabling Islamophobia while also the everyday discourses and actions that normalize the Othering of a particular group. Dr. Durrani also discusses her own life story of growing up in a military family and witnessing the rise of Islamophobia in the aftermath of September 11th.
Mariam Durrani recently published the book chapter “Communicating and Contesting Islamophobia.”
Citation: Durrani, Mariam, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 152, podcast audio, April 29, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/mariamdurrani/
Transcript, translation, and resources:
Many universities worldwide hope to internationalize and push faculty to produce knowledge across disciplines. That’s easier said than done.
My guest today, Angela Last, looks at these university fads and finds difficult ethical dilemmas that scholars must overcome.
Angela Last is Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Leicester. Angela is an interdisciplinary researcher in the field of political ecology, drawing on her background in art & design and science communication to investigate environmental controversies and geographical knowledge production. She has been writing the blog Mutable Matter since 2007.
The chapter discussed in today’s podcast was published in Decolonizing the University (2018, Pluto Press).
Citation: Last, Angela, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 130, podcast audio, October 15, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/last/
Transcript, Translation, Resources:
Today we look at the lessons that can be learned from radical histories. My guests are Aziz Choudry and Salim Vally. They’ve edited a new volume entitled: Reflections on Knowledge, Learning and Social Movements: History’s Schools (Routledge, 2018).
They see history as an organizing tool and discuss the ways in which social movements have learned from the past.
Aziz Choudry is Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Social Movement Learning and Knowledge Production in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University and a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, University of Johannesburg. Salim Vally is the Director of the Centre for Education Rights and Transformation, an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Johannesburg, and a Visiting Professor at the Nelson Mandela University. They are both active in various social movements and solidarity organizations around the world.
Today we dive into the nightmare that is the growing tide of fascism worldwide and the prospects and perils this nightmare holds for public education.
My guest today is the renowned scholar, Henry Giroux. He has a new book entitled American Nightmare: Facing the challenge of Fascism, which will be published in May.
Henry Giroux is the McMaster University Professor for Scholarship in the Public Interest and the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. He has written over 60 books and is considered one of the top educational thinkers today.
Citation: Giroux, Henry, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 106, podcast audio, March 5, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/giroux/
Will Brehm 1:38
Henry Giroux, welcome to FreshEd.
Henry Giroux 1:41
Nice, Will. Wonderful to be on.
Will Brehm 1:43
You’ve written a new book called American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism. Before getting into that book and America and what’s going on currently in America vis-a-vis public education, I just want to ask you, what went through your mind in November 2016 when you realized that Donald Trump won the presidency?
Henry Giroux 2:08
Well, I think what went through my mind was that there’s been a long series of assaults on American democracy and the United States, back especially to the 1970s, when the social contract was under siege and was appearing to collapse. And a discourse of demonization, racism, Islamophobia and objectification and commodification and privatization seemed to take over the country. I thought that Trump was the endpoint of this; he’s sort of the Frankenstein monster that was let out of the room. And I thought it was an incredible tragedy for democracy. And I thought that, unlike some other leftists, I thought that the consequences would be drastic once he assumed office. And I think in many ways, that’s proven to be right.
Will Brehm 2:57
In what ways has it proven to be right over the last year?
Henry Giroux 3:00
Well, I think all you have to do is look at the policies that he’s attempted to implement and the language that he’s used to define his mode of governance. I mean, this is a guy who basically has embraced neo-Nazis, ultra-nationalism. He’s a serial liar. He’s obviously done everything he can to promote an anti-immigration logic. He’s threatened to expel the whole range of young people – 800,000 young people – called dreamers from the United States. He’s lowered taxes for the ultra-rich to the point where that will take an enormous toll on public services and public goods. He’s putting into place a series of people who are basically either inept, or utterly anti-democratic, to run institutions such as the EPA – the Environmental Protection Agency – or a whole range of other institutions, in which they are diametrically opposed to the interest that those institutions represent. Because they’re institutions that suggest that government has a responsibility to basically work for the people. They don’t believe that; they believe that government should only basically serve the financial elite and the financial and economic interest, and that freedom is basically about deregulating business and allowing the corporate elite to run wild. So that’s just a series, among other things, of things that he’s done. But I think that he’s put into place a notion of governance that suggests that the United States is no longer a democracy; that we’re on the road to a kind of neofascism dressed up in the American flag, and it’s very frightening.
Will Brehm 4:43
And so, this is this fascism that you talk about in your new book?
Henry Giroux 4:47
This is the fascism that I talk about, whether we’re talking about the ultra-nationalism that he promotes. Whether we’re talking about the racism, the xenophobia. Whether we’re talking about the logic of disposability, the racial cleansing that is behind many of his policies. The embrace of a corporate elite that replaces the political state with a corporate state. All of these things have echoes of this glorification of national greatness. The claim that he’s the only one who can save America. And we’ve heard this language before. And we heard it in the 1930s. And we heard it in the 1940s. And we heard it later in the 1970s in Latin America. This is a language that suggests that the enemy of politics is democracy. And I think that Trump embodies that language and is basically at work again, in promoting it.
Will Brehm 5:39
And do you see some of what Trump embodies being found in other parts of the world? Just recently, Xi Jinping has … it looks like he’s going to be in power indefinitely in China. And Duterte in the Philippines. And I just read an article about a new ultraright party in Italy that is glorifying Mussolini. So, is this fascist tendency, this ultraright, pronational tendency being found worldwide? And if so, what’s causing it? Why do we see this resurgence of right wing, ultranationalist parties emerging worldwide?
Henry Giroux 6:21
I think there are a couple of things at work. I think that, first of all, what we’re seeing is the emergence of what is called illiberal democracy, the term coined, of course, in Hungary. And I think in many ways, Trump is enabling this, because he’s aligned himself, and actually has celebrated many of these fascists, in ways to suggest that this kind of politics in the 21st century is totally acceptable. So I think in some ways, the most powerful country in the world, in sort of, in many ways, reached out and began to legitimate an anti-immigration and Islamophobic, a racist kind of discourse that is linked to questions of racial purity, and racial cleansing, that has opened up the possibility for many of these countries to basically embrace this logic. And I think there are other issues. Each country has its own issue, but I think the inability of these countries to deal with questions of compassion and justice, these are countries that in many ways have been governed by a neoliberal logic that really has no respect whatsoever for notions of community. No respect whatsoever for notions of compassion. No respect whatsoever for what it means to embrace in a kind of loving way, the possibility of the other. This is a logic that elevates self-interest, nationalism, violence, and the spectacle of consumption to the highest level of acceptance. And I think that what flows out of this in the face of particular kinds of crises that serve as a thread running through all of these countries, is a basic fear of what we might call “the other”, “the stranger”. Couple that with the fact that you have a global capitalism at work that in many ways has taken power away from these countries, so that the only thing that they have left is an appeal to cultural sovereignty. Is that appeal to cultural nationalism. Because basically, you have a ruling elite now that is global. It’s not rooted in nation states. It flows. Politics is based in nation states, and power is global. So, you have an enormous paradigm change in the redefinition of politics itself. And I think that one of the things that happens when you see this is that the states, as the social state collapses, as social goods and social provisions dry up, you have the rise of the punishing state. Because the only thing left for the states to really be able to do this is basically to criminalize social problems and do what they can basically become repressive states. Generally, they can exercise power. That way they can survive. So, I think all of these threads are really common for many of these states, many of these countries.
Will Brehm 9:09
So, you call Trump the endpoint, in a way, in this nightmare that is American fascism. And of course, it has these roots in racism and neoliberalism. It would make sense that the roots here also go through the Democratic Party, that this is not simply a Republican issue in the American context. Would you agree with that?
Henry Giroux 9:33
Yes, I do. I think there are two issues to really understand here. I think that both parties are basically wedded to the financial elite, as we well know. I mean, both parties are funded by the financial elite. On one level, you’ve got a Democratic Party that takes on a sort of liberal discourse, but never challenges in any fundamental way, the massive inequality, or the financialization of the economy, or the rule by bankers and hedge fund managers. They don’t challenge that; they’re in bed with that stuff. On the other hand, you have a Republican Party that now is filled with people who also are wedded to the financial elite. But this is a party that’s been taken over by extremists. They’re not just wedded to the financial elite; they’re wedded to something more than that. They’re wedded to an ultra-nationalism, a sort of notion that white Christianity is the official religion of the United States. They’re wedded to the notion of racial cleansing. They basically have accelerated all of the great tragedies and crimes of the past in ways in which they’re no longer coated. They’ve given them a new visibility. So, they’re not apologetic about their racism. They’re not apologetic about Islamophobia. They’re not apologetic about attacking young people. They’re not apologetic about making short term investments rather than long term investments. And they’re not apologetic about it anyway, about destroying the welfare state and the social contract. But what both parties share is they really believe that capitalism and democracy are the same thing, and that capitalism and democracy is basically something run by the financial elite, by the ruling elite, the 1%. Neither party has any trouble with that argument. There are factions within the Democratic Party that will challenge that – Bernie Sanders and so forth and so on – but they’re marginal and they don’t belong in the Democratic Party. The biggest mistake Sanders ever made was not starting a third party.
Will Brehm 11:29
So, in your opinion, how are capitalism and democracy separate?
Henry Giroux 11:33
They’re separate in the sense that you can’t have democracy when you have a system that promotes massive inequalities in wealth and power; it just doesn’t work. It seems to me to have that degree of inequality, and to support it in every way, to allow all the commanding institutions of a country to be controlled by a handful of elites and corporations, is the antithesis of democracy. Democracy means people have power. They have power to shape the conditions under which they live their lives. They have some power over the economy. They have access, they have social provisions, they have political rights, personal rights, social rights. That doesn’t happen under capitalism. Capitalism is a ruinous system that basically is organized around the production of profit at the expense of human need. That’s not a formula for democracy.
Will Brehm 12:25
And so, what would a social contract look like in your opinion, within this?
Henry Giroux 12:29
At the very least, a social contract would guarantee political rights. But it would guarantee political rights and individual rights along with social rights, meaning that you would have economic rights, you would have a social wage. You would massively limit massive degrees of inequality. It would mean that people would have access to higher education, to health care. All the things that become central to how we live out our sense of agency and make it possible would be part of the social contract and the public good. When you don’t have that, you don’t have a democracy. And it seems to be the degree to which you want to call it socialism as a form of social democracy, or you want to call it socialism in ways that simply allow the most important structures, infrastructures, resources, of a society to be a government-controlled phenomena, that’s a mix that we have to figure out. But I think the bottom line is, you have to realize that in a democracy, the first question you have to raise is, “What does it mean to provide the conditions for people to have a sense of agency, and not merely to be able to survive?” So that their capacities can be developed in a way in which they have access to do other things simply than struggle to eat, simply to struggle in the midst of poverty, simply to struggle for meaningful work, simply to struggle to find a way to pay massive loans in order to get a decent education, simply not to struggle to have decent health care. These are central questions that are not just simply about power, they’re about the capacity to live. To live with dignity.
Will Brehm 14:10
And so, let’s shift to education here. In your last book, called ‘The Public in Peril’, you use the term … you said, you wanted to see “the political more pedagogical”. What did you mean by this?
Henry Giroux 14:23
What I mean by that is that one of the things that has disturbed me, and one of the things I’ve written about for many years, and I’m not the first, although I think probably I’ve developed it more repeatedly than most people, is that education is central to politics. I mean, you can’t talk about politics if you can’t talk about consciousness. If you can’t talk about changing the way people think, if you can’t talk about engaging them in a dialogue with a vocabulary in which they can invest themselves, identify with, and be able to recognize the conditions under which they find themselves so that they can either learn how to change those conditions, or to understand what those conditions mean in terms of their own sense of oppression. And I think that all too often, we equate domination with simply institutions, and we say that the only way you can talk about power is to talk about economic structures. But I’m sorry, as important as economics is and economic structures are, you also have to talk about what it means to create the conditions for people to be able to think, to be self-reflective, to be able to identify with certain kinds of narratives, to have information available in which they can become self-reflective individually and collectively. And I think the tool is what I would call pedagogy. The ability to intervene in people’s lives with vocabularies, and social relationships, and values, the moral and political scripts in which people can all of a sudden be moved by the power of persuasion and logic and reason and truth has to be central to any politics.
Will Brehm 15:59
And so, what’s the role of schools, like the institutions run by the government, the public schools, in this pedagogical effort to make politics more pedagogical?
Henry Giroux 16:10
I think that schools are probably one of the few places left we’re not controlled by corporations entirely. Where actually, this kind of teaching can take place, where people can have debates, where people can be exposed to positions that are historical, scientific, that offer up the possibility for engaging in modes, and creating modes of civic literacy and social responsibility. Schools, basically, at their best, should be democratic, public spheres. They should be actively involved in not only teaching young people about the great traditions, whatever they might be, that offer the best in human learning, and what it means to be civilized, from a whole range of traditions, but also what it means to take on a sense of social and political and ethical responsibility. So that one recognizes that one lives in a society with others. And that one has to struggle over democracy, struggle over justice, to learn that no society is ever just enough, and that that’s as central to learning as learning whatever it is that’s of value in terms of the kinds of human resources that are out there and available to be appropriated, engaged and discussed.
Will Brehm 17:26
Is it possible to accomplish some of those things inside, say, charter schools, in America?
Henry Giroux 17:33
Charter schools basically have a long tradition, particularly in the United States, of simply segregating students. And at the same time, sort of displacing with the possibility of unions, ruining unions, undermining unions, and operating off the assumption that schools are basically a private venture rather than a public good. So, I don’t have a lot of faith in charter schools. Is it possible that some charter schools, when they’re pumped up with enormous amounts of money on the part of hedge fund managers simply so they can become a model for destroying public schools can work? Yes, maybe. But all the research seems to suggest that, at best, they’re no better, if not worse, than public schools. I don’t believe that public schools should be privatized. I think that they’re a public good, they’re not a private right. And I think as soon as we start talking about schooling as a private right and we started talking about schools as for-profit institutions, we destroy their possibilities as democratic public spheres.
Will Brehm 18:38
I’m not so hopeful then Betsy DeVos would agree with you there.
Henry Giroux 18:41
Betsy DeVos is probably one of the most hated people in America, because people realize what she’s about. She’s a billionaire who hates public schools and has claimed that her mission in life is to bring God’s kingdom to students. She’s a religious fanatic. She’s an ideological fundamentalist and a religious fanatic. And now she’s the Secretary of Education of the United States. What does that say about education? What does that say about this administration? I mean, Donald Trump has made it clear: he loves the uneducated. He’s said that many times. He’s a guy who doesn’t read books. He basically eats McDonald’s hamburgers and watches Fox News. This is not exactly a guy that’s going to embrace any institution that offers the possibility of educating students or adults to think critically. He finds those institutions enormously dreadful and challenging. And actually, more than that, he’s used them as a pathology. That’s why he invented the notion of fake news. And that’s why he’s a serial liar and continues to believe that he can say anything because he believes that he doesn’t have to be held accountable. In a democracy, people are held accountable. But he’s not a guy who believes you should be held accountable. That’s the mark of any fascist dictator.
Will Brehm 19:55
So, what is to be done here? So, for people who agree with you, like myself, what can we do to protect public education as a democratic social contract or a democratic social good?
Henry Giroux 20:13
I think some questions have to be raised that all of a sudden bring to the forefront what education really is about and why it’s so vitally important. And I think that one of the questions has to be is “What role does education play in a democracy?” And the second question has to be, “How does democracy function, and continue to function, in ways that make certain demands upon education?” I think that what we have to recognize is that education is probably one of the most powerful educational forces in the world, certainly in terms of formal schooling, that offers the possibility for creating a formative culture that allows people to think critically and be informed. I mean, Dewey, Arendt, a whole range of philosophers, Castoriadis, have been telling us for years – and they’re right – you can’t have a democracy without informed citizens. And I think that when we realize how crucial higher education, public education is to the creating the formative culture that makes a democracy possible, then we’ll stop talking about it in terms of simply training workers. Education is not training; they’re different things. And we’ve lost sight of that in the United States. The script has been flipped. And all of a sudden education now is simply an adjunct of corporate life, of corporate demands, of corporate needs. And I think that in many ways, what we see in Parkland, and what we see among young people all over the country, whether we’re talking about, you know, a whole range of movement, of BlackLivesMatter movement, a whole range of movements, people are saying, “Hey, look. There’s a certain violence that’s going on in this country that in part is linked to education, both within and outside of the schools, that makes people vulnerable to systemic terror, to systemic violence, and it’s got to stop.” And it’s got to stop because we have to restructure and rethink the relationship between democracy and capitalism, and probably begin to say capitalism and democracy are not the same thing. The second thing is we’ve got to invert and fight some of the most pernicious and poisonous elements of neoliberalism. And the most poisonous in my mind, is the one that suggests that the only responsibility that matters is individual responsibility. That’s it. That you’re responsible for everything that goes on in the world, and you have no right to believe that there are social problems out there over which you individually have no control. And that you do not have to assume that burden. And by assuming that burden, you completely dismantle the link or the ability to translate private issues into larger social considerations. That’s depoliticizing. That means you become depoliticized. That means you become cynical. That means you blame yourself for all the problems in which you find yourself. And it means that basically, you’re out of the loop politically. That there’s nothing that can be done except to basically become part of the opioid crisis, collapse into cynicism, or just retreat into the worst kinds of despair.
Will Brehm 23:17
So, would it be correct to say that you think the sort of civic courage that is needed is to repoliticize a lot of the spaces that have been depoliticized?
Henry Giroux 23:29
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think that what we need to do is we need to talk about public spheres that engage and raise the possibility of civic literacy and civic courage and social responsibility to the point where we can reclaim the language of democracy. We can once again talk about compassion. We can once again talk about social relationships that are not simply based on exchange relations, commodified relations. We can talk about the notion of community and what it means. We can assume that dependency is not a pathology, that community is not something that you hate, and that shared responsibilities are a lot more important than shared fears.
Will Brehm 24:11
Are there any examples of such systems or even just schools where this happens, where this politicization happens?
Henry Giroux 24:22
There are schools all over the country in the United States that basically err on the side of these kinds of progressive ideas. And there are countries that are on the side of these progress. The social democratic countries, whether you’re talking about Finland, or Sweden, or Germany. I mean, some places where higher education is free. Public education is free. Even in Canada, not the most pronounced social democracy in the world. But look, I get sick, I don’t pay anything. I just walk into a hospital, I make appointments with doctors, I get free medical care. In the United States, half the debts that people have, bankruptcies, are due to health care expenses. So, I mean, there are there examples all over the world of countries that have basically put into place social provisions and social safety nets that allow people to live with a certain degree of dignity. And I think we need to learn from them. And I think we need to look very carefully at what that means, in terms of what it means to invest in the future of young people rather than disinvest in young people and operate off the assumption that making money is far more important than, for instance, the lives of young people. For instance, the gun manufacturers, many of the gun rights people, they truly believe that we live in a country where killing children is less important, actually, than basically making money off the selling of guns.
Will Brehm 25:54
Are you hopeful that America will get out of this nightmare, will return to a social democratic society where the public good of education exists?
Henry Giroux 26:06
Intellectually, I’m pessimistic. In terms of the future, I’m hopeful. I think that these are very dark times. All over the world, I think the rise of fascism is emerging once again. I think there are signs that people are mobilizing. I think that the contradictions are becoming so great that people all of a sudden who wouldn’t be political are becoming more political and getting actively involved. I think that young people represent a paradigm shift for the most part, from what we’ve seen in the past, in that they’re more tolerant, they’re more savvy technologically, they’re more politically astute. And I want to hope that young people all of a sudden will recognize that being written out of the future, and being written out of the script of democracy is enough of a challenge to be faced that they will not only create moments and demonstrations, but actually create movements that will be broad-based enough to be able to really challenge the power structures that are in place in many of these countries today, including the United States.
Will Brehm 27:09
Well, Henry Giroux, thank you so much for joining FreshEd, and thank you so much for all the writing you’ve done over the years. I’m a huge fan.
Henry Giroux 27:17
Well, I’m delighted to be on, and thank you so much for having me.
Will Brehm 1:38
Henry Giroux, bienvenue à FreshEd.
Henry Giroux 1:41
C’est bien, Will. Merveilleux d’être sur.
Will Brehm 1:43
Vous avez écrit un nouveau livre nommé American Nightmare : Faire face au défi du fascisme. Avant d’aborder ce livre et l’Amérique et ce qui se passe actuellement en Amérique en matière d’éducation publique, je voudrais vous demander ce qui vous est passé par la tête en novembre 2016 quand vous avez réalisé que Donald Trump avait gagné la présidence ?
Henry Giroux 2:08
Eh bien, je crois que ce qui m’a traversé l’esprit, c’est qu’il y a eu une longue série d’attaques contre la démocratie américaine et les États-Unis, surtout dans les années 1970, quand le contrat social était assiégé et qu’il semblait s’effondrer. Et un discours de diabolisation, de racisme, d’islamophobie et d’objectivation, de marchandisation et de privatisation semblait prendre le dessus sur le pays. Je croyais que Trump était le point final de tout cela ; il est en quelque sorte le monstre Frankenstein qu’on a laissé sortir de la pièce. Et j’ai cru que c’était une incroyable tragédie pour la démocratie. Et j’ai pensé que, contrairement à certains autres gauchistes, je pensais que les conséquences seraient dramatiques une fois qu’il aurait pris ses fonctions. Et je crois qu’à bien des égards, cela s’est avéré être vrai.
Will Brehm 2:57
De quelle façon a-t-il prouvé qu’il avait raison au cours de l’année dernière ?
Henry Giroux 3:00
Eh bien, je crois qu’il suffit de regarder les politiques qu’il a tenté de mettre en œuvre et le langage qu’il a employé pour définir son mode de gouvernance. Je veux dire, c’est un type qui a essentiellement embrassé les néo-nazis, l’ultra-nationalisme. C’est un menteur en série. Il a manifestement fait tout ce qu’il pouvait pour promouvoir une logique anti-immigration. Il a menacé d’expulser des États-Unis toute une série de jeunes – 800 000 jeunes – appelés “rêveurs”. Il a baissé les impôts pour les ultra-riches au point que cela aura un effet énorme sur les services publics et les biens publics. Il met en place une série de personnes qui sont soit inaptes, soit totalement antidémocratiques, pour diriger des institutions telles que l’EPA – l’Agence de protection de l’environnement – ou toute une série d’autres institutions, dans lesquelles elles sont diamétralement opposées à l’intérêt que ces institutions représentent. Parce que ce sont des institutions qui suggèrent que le gouvernement a la responsabilité de travailler essentiellement pour le peuple. Elles ne croient pas cela ; elles croient que le gouvernement ne doit servir que l’élite financière et les intérêts financiers et économiques, et que la liberté consiste essentiellement à déréglementer les affaires et à permettre à l’élite des entreprises de faire des folies. Ce n’est donc qu’une série, entre autres, de choses qu’il a faites. Mais je pense qu’il a mis en place une notion de gouvernance qui suggère que les États-Unis ne sont plus une démocratie ; que nous sommes sur la voie d’une sorte de néofascisme déguisé en drapeau américain, et c’est très effrayant.
Will Brehm 4:43
Et donc, c’est de ce fascisme dont vous parlez dans votre nouveau livre ?
Henry Giroux 4:47
C’est de ce fascisme que je parle, qu’il s’agisse de l’ultra-nationalisme qu’il prône. Qu’on parle du racisme, de la xénophobie. Qu’il s’agisse de la logique de la disposition, du nettoyage racial qui est derrière beaucoup de ses politiques. L’adhésion d’une élite d’entreprises qui substitue à l’État politique un État d’entreprises. Toutes ces choses ont des échos de cette glorification de la grandeur nationale. L’affirmation qu’il est le seul à pouvoir délivrer l’Amérique. Et nous avons déjà entendu ce langage. Et nous l’avons entendu dans les années 1930. Et nous l’avons entendue dans les années 40. Et nous l’avons entendue plus tard dans les années 1970 en Amérique latine. C’est une langue qui suggère que l’ennemi de la politique est la démocratie. Et je crois que Trump représente cette langue et qu’il est à nouveau à l’œuvre pour la promouvoir.
Will Brehm 5:39
Et voyez-vous ce que Trump incarne dans d’autres parties du monde ? Tout récemment, Xi Jinping a … il paraît qu’il va être au pouvoir indéfiniment en Chine. Et Duterte aux Philippines. Et je viens de lire un article sur un nouveau parti d’extrême-droite en Italie qui glorifie Mussolini. Alors, cette tendance fasciste, cette tendance ultralégislative et pronationnelle se retrouve-t-elle dans le monde entier ? Et si oui, quelle en est la cause ? Pourquoi voyons-nous cette résurgence des partis de droite, ultranationalistes, émerger dans le monde entier ?
Henry Giroux 6:21
Je crois qu’il y a plusieurs choses à l’œuvre. Je pense que, tout d’abord, ce que nous voyons est la naissance de ce que l’on appelle la démocratie illibérale, le terme inventé, bien sûr, en Hongrie. Et je pense qu’à bien des égards, Trump permet cela, parce qu’il s’est aligné, et qu’il a en fait célébré nombre de ces fascistes, de manière à suggérer que ce genre de politique au 21e siècle est tout à fait acceptable. Je pense donc qu’à certains égards, le pays le plus puissant du monde a, en quelque sorte, à bien des égards, tendu la main et commencé à légitimer un discours anti-immigration et islamophobe, un discours de type raciste lié aux questions de pureté raciale et de nettoyage racial, qui a ouvert la possibilité pour beaucoup de ces pays d’embrasser fondamentalement cette logique. Et je crois qu’il y a d’autres problèmes. Chaque pays a son propre problème, mais je crois que l’incapacité de ces pays à traiter des questions de compassion et de justice, ce sont des pays qui, à bien des égards, ont été régis par une logique néolibérale qui n’a vraiment aucun respect pour les notions de communauté. Aucun respect pour les notions de compassion. Aucun respect pour ce que cela signifie d’embrasser avec amour la possibilité de l’autre. C’est une logique qui élève l’intérêt personnel, le nationalisme, la violence et le spectacle de la consommation au plus haut niveau d’acceptation. Et je crois que ce qui en résulte, face à des types particuliers de crises qui servent de fil conducteur à tous ces pays, c’est une peur élémentaire de ce que nous pourrions appeler “l’autre”, “l’étranger”. Ajoutez à cela le fait que vous avez un capitalisme mondial à l’œuvre qui, à bien des égards, a enlevé le pouvoir à ces pays, de sorte que la seule chose qui leur reste est un appel à la souveraineté culturelle. C’est un appel au nationalisme culturel. Parce qu’au fond, vous avez maintenant une élite dirigeante qui est mondiale. Elle n’est pas enracinée dans les États-nations. Elle coule. La politique est fondée sur les États-nations, et le pouvoir est mondial. Il y a donc un énorme changement de paradigme dans la redéfinition de la politique elle-même. Et je crois que l’une des choses qui se passe quand vous voyez cela, c’est que les États, à mesure que l’État social s’effondre, que les biens sociaux et les dispositions sociales se tarissent, vous avez la montée de l’État qui punit. Parce que la seule chose qui reste aux États pour pouvoir vraiment faire cela, c’est essentiellement de pénaliser les problèmes sociaux et de faire ce qu’ils peuvent faire pour devenir des États répressifs. En général, ils peuvent exercer le pouvoir. De cette façon, ils peuvent survivre. Donc, je pense que tous ces fils sont vraiment communs à beaucoup de ces États, beaucoup de ces pays.
Will Brehm 9:09
Donc, vous appelez Trump le point final, d’une certaine façon, dans ce cauchemar qu’est le fascisme américain. Et bien sûr, il a ces racines dans le racisme et le néolibéralisme. Il serait sensé que les racines ici passent aussi par le parti démocrate, que ce n’est pas simplement une question républicaine dans le contexte américain. Êtes-vous d’accord avec cela ?
Henry Giroux 9:33
Oui, je suis d’accord. Je crois qu’il y a deux questions à comprendre ici. Je pense que les deux partis sont fondamentalement mariés à l’élite financière, comme nous le savons bien. Je veux dire que les deux parties sont financées par l’élite financière. D’un côté, vous avez un parti démocrate qui tient une sorte de discours libéral, mais qui ne remet jamais en cause de manière fondamentale l’inégalité massive, ou la financiarisation de l’économie, ou la domination des banquiers et des gestionnaires de fonds spéculatifs. Ils ne remettent pas cela en question ; ils sont au lit avec ces choses. D’un autre côté, vous avez un parti républicain qui est maintenant composé de personnes qui sont également mariées à l’élite financière. Mais c’est un parti qui a été repris par les extrémistes. Ils ne sont pas seulement mariés à l’élite financière, ils sont mariés à quelque chose de plus que cela. Ils sont mariés à un ultra-nationalisme, une sorte de notion selon laquelle le christianisme blanc est la religion officielle des États-Unis. Ils sont mariés à la notion de nettoyage racial. Ils ont en fait accéléré toutes les grandes tragédies et tous les crimes du passé de telle sorte qu’ils n’en sont plus recouverts. Ils leur ont donné une nouvelle visibilité. Donc, ils ne s’excusent pas de leur racisme. Ils ne s’excusent pas de leur islamophobie. Ils ne s’excusent pas d’avoir attaqué des jeunes. Ils ne s’excusent pas d’avoir fait des investissements à court terme plutôt qu’à long terme. Et ils ne s’excusent pas non plus d’avoir détruit l’État-providence et le contrat social. Mais ce que les deux parties partagent, c’est qu’elles croient vraiment que le capitalisme et la démocratie sont la même chose, et que le capitalisme et la démocratie sont fondamentalement quelque chose de dirigé par l’élite financière, par l’élite au pouvoir, le 1%. Aucun des deux partis n’a de problème avec cet argument. Il y a des factions au sein du Parti démocrate qui contesteront cela – Bernie Sanders et ainsi de suite – mais elles sont marginales et n’ont pas leur place au sein du Parti démocrate. La plus grosse erreur que Sanders n’ait jamais faite a été de ne pas créer un troisième parti.
Will Brehm 11:29
Alors, à votre avis, comment le capitalisme et la démocratie sont-ils séparés?
Henry Giroux 11:33
Ils sont distincts dans le sens où vous ne pouvez pas avoir de démocratie quand vous avez un système qui promeut des inégalités massives de richesse et de pouvoir ; cela ne marche tout simplement pas. Il me paraît qu’avoir ce degré d’inégalité, et le soutenir de toutes les manières, permettre que toutes les institutions dirigeantes d’un pays soient contrôlées par une poignée d’élites et de sociétés, est l’antithèse de la démocratie. La démocratie implique que les gens ont le pouvoir. Ils ont le pouvoir de façonner les conditions dans lesquelles ils vivent leur vie. Ils ont un certain pouvoir sur l’économie. Ils y ont accès, ils ont des dispositions sociales, ils ont des droits politiques, des droits personnels, des droits sociaux. Cela n’arrive pas sous le capitalisme. Le capitalisme est un système ruineux qui s’organise essentiellement autour de la production de profits au détriment des besoins humains. Ce n’est pas une formule pour la démocratie.
Will Brehm 12:25
Et donc, à quoi ressemblerait un contrat social à votre avis, dans ce cadre ?
Henry Giroux 12:29
Au minimum, un contrat social garantirait les droits politiques. Mais il garantirait les droits politiques et les droits personnels en même temps que les droits sociaux, c’est-à-dire que vous auriez des droits économiques, vous auriez un salaire social. Vous restreindriez massivement les degrés d’inégalité. Cela impliquerait que les gens auraient accès à l’enseignement supérieur, aux soins de santé. Toutes les choses qui deviennent centrales dans la façon dont nous vivons notre sens de l’action et la rendent possible feraient partie du contrat social et du bien public. Sans cela, il n’y a pas de démocratie. Et il me semble que c’est la mesure dans laquelle vous voulez l’appeler socialisme en tant que forme de social-démocratie, ou vous voulez l’appeler socialisme d’une manière qui permet simplement aux structures, infrastructures, ressources les plus importantes d’une société d’être un phénomène contrôlé par le gouvernement, c’est un mélange qu’il nous faut trouver. Mais je pense qu’en fin de compte, vous devez réaliser que dans une démocratie, la première question que vous devez vous poser est la suivante : “Qu’est-ce que cela signifie de fournir les conditions permettant aux gens d’avoir un sens de l’action, et pas seulement de pouvoir survivre ? Pour que leurs capacités puissent être développées de manière à ce qu’ils aient accès à d’autres choses que de lutter pour manger, de lutter au milieu de la pauvreté, de lutter pour un travail digne de ce nom, de lutter pour trouver un moyen de payer des emprunts massifs afin d’obtenir une éducation décente, de ne pas lutter pour avoir des soins de santé décents. Ce sont des questions centrales qui ne concernent pas seulement le pouvoir, mais aussi la capacité à vivre. De vivre dans la dignité.
Will Brehm 14:10
Et donc, passons à l’éducation ici. Dans votre dernier livre, intitulé “Le public en péril”, vous employez le terme … vous avez dit que vous vouliez voir “le politique plus pédagogique”. Que vouliez-vous dire par là?
Henry Giroux 14:23
Ce que je veux dire par là, c’est que l’une des choses qui me perturbe, et l’une des choses sur lesquelles j’ai écrit pendant de nombreuses années, et je ne suis pas le premier, bien que je pense l’avoir probablement élaborée plus souvent que la plupart des gens, c’est que l’éducation est au cœur de la politique. On ne peut pas parler de politique si on ne peut pas parler de conscience. Si vous ne pouvez pas parler de changer la façon dont les gens croient, si vous ne pouvez pas parler de les engager dans un dialogue avec un vocabulaire dans lequel ils peuvent s’investir, s’identifier et être capables de reconnaître les conditions dans lesquelles ils se trouvent, de sorte qu’ils puissent soit apprendre à modifier ces conditions, soit comprendre ce que ces conditions signifient en termes de leur propre sentiment d’oppression. Et je crois que trop souvent, nous assimilons la domination à de simples institutions, et nous disons que la seule façon de parler de pouvoir est de parler de structures économiques. Mais je suis navré, aussi importantes que soient l’économie et les structures économiques, vous devez aussi parler de ce que signifie créer les conditions pour que les gens puissent penser, réfléchir sur eux-mêmes, s’identifier à certains types de récits, disposer d’informations leur permettant de réfléchir sur eux-mêmes individuellement et collectivement. Et je pense que l’outil est ce que j’appellerais de la pédagogie. La capacité d’intervenir dans la vie des gens avec des vocabulaires, des relations sociales, des valeurs, des scénarios moraux et politiques dans lesquels les gens peuvent tout à coup être mus par le pouvoir de la persuasion et de la logique, de la raison et de la vérité, doit être au centre de toute politique.
Will Brehm 15:59
Et donc, quel est le rôle des écoles, comme les institutions gérées par le gouvernement, les écoles publiques, dans cet effort pédagogique pour rendre la politique plus pédagogique ?
Henry Giroux 16:10
Je crois que les écoles sont probablement l’un des rares endroits où nous ne sommes pas entièrement contrôlés par les entreprises. Où, en fait, ce genre d’enseignement peut avoir lieu, où les gens peuvent avoir des débats, où les gens peuvent être confrontés à des positions qui sont historiques, scientifiques, qui offrent la possibilité de s’engager dans des modes, et de créer des modes d’alphabétisation civique et de responsabilité sociale. Les écoles, au fond, dans le meilleur des cas, devraient être des sphères démocratiques et publiques. Elles devraient participer activement non seulement à l’enseignement aux jeunes des grandes traditions, quelles qu’elles soient, qui proposent le meilleur de l’apprentissage humain, et de ce que signifie être civilisé, à partir de toute une série de traditions, mais aussi de ce que signifie assumer un sens de la responsabilité sociale, politique et éthique. Pour que l’on reconnaisse que l’on vit dans une société avec d’autres. Et que l’on doit se battre pour la démocratie, se battre pour la justice, pour apprendre qu’aucune société n’est jamais juste assez, et que c’est aussi essentiel pour apprendre que d’apprendre tout ce qui a de la valeur en termes de types de ressources humaines qui sont disponibles et qui peuvent être appropriées, engagées et discutées.
Will Brehm 17:26
Est-il envisageable d’accomplir certaines de ces choses dans des écoles à charte, par exemple, en Amérique ?
Henry Giroux 17:33
Les Charter Schools ont une longue tradition, surtout aux États-Unis, de ségrégation des élèves. Et en même temps, elles se déplacent avec la possibilité de constituer des syndicats, de les ruiner, de les saper et de fonctionner en partant du principe que les écoles sont essentiellement une entreprise privée plutôt qu’un bien public. Je n’ai donc pas beaucoup de foi dans les écoles à charte. Est-il possible que certaines écoles à charte, quand elles sont gonflées par d’énormes sommes d’argent de la part des gestionnaires de fonds spéculatifs simplement pour qu’elles deviennent un modèle de destruction des écoles publiques, puissent marcher ? Oui, c’est possible. Mais toutes les recherches semblent indiquer que, au mieux, elles ne sont pas meilleures, sinon pires, que les écoles publiques. Je ne crois pas que les écoles publiques devraient être privatisées. Je pense qu’elles sont un bien public, elles ne sont pas un droit privé. Et je pense que dès que nous commençons à parler de l’école comme d’un droit privé et que nous commençons à parler des écoles comme d’institutions à but lucratif, nous détruisons leurs possibilités en tant que sphères publiques démocratiques.
Will Brehm 18:38
J’ai moins d’espoir que Betsy DeVos soit d’accord avec vous sur ce point.
Henry Giroux 18:41
Betsy DeVos est probablement l’une des personnes les plus haïes en Amérique, parce que les gens se rendent compte de ce qu’elle est. C’est une milliardaire qui déteste les écoles publiques et qui prétend que sa mission dans la vie est d’apporter le royaume de Dieu aux étudiants. C’est une fanatique religieuse. C’est une fondamentaliste idéologique et une fanatique religieuse. Et à présent, elle est la secrétaire à l’éducation des États-Unis. Qu’est-ce que cela signifie pour l’éducation ? Qu’est-ce que cela dit de cette administration ? Je veux dire que Donald Trump a été clair : il aime les personnes sans éducation. Il l’a dit à plusieurs reprises. C’est un type qui ne lit pas de livres. Il mange essentiellement des hamburgers McDonald’s et regarde Fox News. Ce n’est pas exactement un type qui va embrasser n’importe quelle institution qui offre la possibilité d’éduquer les étudiants ou les adultes à la réflexion critique. Il trouve ces institutions énormément horribles et difficiles. Et en fait, plus que cela, il les utilise comme une pathologie. C’est pourquoi il a inventé la notion de fausses nouvelles. Et c’est pourquoi il est un menteur en série et continue à croire qu’il peut dire n’importe quoi parce qu’il croit qu’il n’a pas à être tenu responsable. Dans une démocratie, les gens sont tenus responsables. Mais ce n’est pas un type qui croit qu’on doit être tenu responsable. C’est la marque de tout dictateur fasciste.
Will Brehm 19:55
Alors, qu’est-ce qu’il faut faire ici ? Alors, pour les gens qui sont d’accord avec vous, comme moi, que pouvons-nous faire pour préserver l’éducation publique comme un contrat social démocratique ou un bien social démocratique?
Henry Giroux 20:13
Je crois qu’il faut se poser certaines questions qui placent soudain au premier plan ce qu’est vraiment l’éducation et pourquoi elle est si essentielle. Et je crois que l’une de ces questions doit être : “Quel rôle l’éducation joue-t-elle dans une démocratie ? Et la deuxième question doit être : “Comment la démocratie fonctionne-t-elle, et continue-t-elle de fonctionner, d’une manière qui impose certaines exigences à l’éducation ? Je pense que nous devons reconnaître que l’éducation est probablement l’une des forces éducatives les plus influentes au monde, certainement en termes de scolarisation formelle, qui offre la possibilité de générer une culture formatrice qui permet aux gens de penser de manière critique et d’être informés. Je veux dire, Dewey, Arendt, toute une série de philosophes, Castoriadis, nous disent depuis des années – et ils ont raison – qu’on ne peut pas avoir de démocratie sans citoyens informés. Et je crois que quand nous réaliserons à quel point l’enseignement supérieur, l’éducation publique est cruciale pour la création de la culture formatrice qui rend une démocratie possible, alors nous cesserons d’en parler en termes de simple formation des travailleurs. L’éducation n’est pas une formation, ce sont des choses différentes. Et nous avons perdu cela de vue aux États-Unis. Le scénario a été inversé. Et tout d’un coup, l’éducation n’est plus qu’un complément de la vie des entreprises, de leurs exigences, de leurs besoins. Et je pense qu’à bien des égards, ce que nous voyons dans Parkland, et ce que nous voyons chez les jeunes de tout le pays, que nous parlions, vous savez, de toute une série de mouvements, du mouvement BlackLivesMatter, de toute une série de mouvements, les gens disent : “Hé, regardez. Il y a une certaine violence dans ce pays qui est en partie liée à l’éducation, tant à l’intérieur qu’à l’extérieur des écoles, qui rend les gens vulnérables à la terreur systémique, à la violence systémique, et il faut que cela cesse”. Et cela doit arrêter parce que nous devons restructurer et repenser la relation entre la démocratie et le capitalisme, et probablement commencer à dire que le capitalisme et la démocratie ne sont pas la même chose. La deuxième chose est que nous devons renverser et combattre certains des éléments les plus pernicieux et les plus toxiques du néolibéralisme. Et le plus toxique à mon avis, est celui qui suggère que la seule responsabilité qui compte est la responsabilité individuelle. C’est cela. Que vous êtes responsable de tout ce qui se passe dans le monde, et que vous n’avez pas le droit de croire qu’il existe des problèmes sociaux sur lesquels vous n’avez aucun contrôle individuel. Et que vous n’avez pas à supporter ce fardeau. Et qu’en assumant ce fardeau, vous démantelez complètement le lien ou la capacité de traduire des problèmes privés en considérations sociales plus larges. C’est dépolitiser. Cela signifie que vous devenez dépolitisé. Cela signifie que vous devenez cynique. Cela signifie que vous vous blâmez pour tous les problèmes dans lesquels vous vous trouvez. Et cela implique qu’au fond, vous êtes politiquement hors du coup. Qu’il n’y a rien à faire, si ce n’est participer à la crise des opiacés, sombrer dans le cynisme, ou simplement se replier sur les pires formes de désespoir.
Will Brehm 23:17
Donc, serait-il correct de dire que vous croyez que le type de courage civique requis est de repolitiser beaucoup d’espaces qui ont été dépolitisés ?
Henry Giroux 23:29
Absolument. Absolument. Je pense que ce que nous devons faire, c’est parler de sphères publiques qui engagent et soulèvent la possibilité d’une alphabétisation civique, d’un courage civique et d’une responsabilité sociale au point de pouvoir reconquérir le langage de la démocratie. Nous pouvons à nouveau parler de compassion. Nous pouvons à nouveau parler de relations sociales qui ne sont pas simplement basées sur des relations d’échange, des relations marchandes. Nous pouvons discuter de la notion de communauté et de ce qu’elle signifie. Nous pouvons supposer que la dépendance n’est pas une pathologie, que la communauté n’est pas quelque chose que l’on déteste et que les responsabilités partagées sont beaucoup plus essentielles que les craintes partagées.
Will Brehm 24:11
Y a-t-il des exemples de tels systèmes ou même seulement des écoles où cela se produit, où cette politisation se produit ?
Henry Giroux 24:22
Il y a des écoles dans tout le pays aux États-Unis qui se trompent fondamentalement du côté de ce genre d’idées progressistes. Et il y a des pays qui sont du côté de ces progrès. Les pays sociaux-démocrates, qu’il s’agisse de la Finlande, de la Suède ou de l’Allemagne. Je veux dire, certains endroits où l’enseignement supérieur est gratuit. L’enseignement public est gratuit. Même au Canada, ce n’est pas la social-démocratie la plus prononcée au monde. Mais écoutez, je tombe malade, je ne paie rien. J’entre à l’hôpital, je prends des rendez-vous avec des médecins, je reçois des soins médicaux gratuits. Aux États-Unis, la moitié des dettes des gens, les faillites, sont dues aux dépenses de santé. Il existe donc dans le monde entier des exemples de pays qui ont essentiellement mis en place des dispositions sociales et des filets de sûreté sociale qui permettent aux gens de vivre avec un certain degré de dignité. Et je pense que nous devons en tirer les leçons. Et je crois que nous devons examiner très attentivement ce que cela signifie, en termes de ce que cela signifie d’investir dans l’avenir des jeunes plutôt que de désinvestir dans les jeunes et de partir du principe que gagner de l’argent est bien plus essentiel que, par exemple, la vie des jeunes. Par exemple, les fabricants d’armes, de nombreux défenseurs des droits des armes, pensent vraiment que nous vivons dans un pays où tuer des enfants est moins essentiel, en fait, que de gagner de l’argent en vendant des armes.
Will Brehm 25:54
Avez-vous l’espoir que l’Amérique sortira de ce cauchemar, qu’elle reviendra à une société sociale-démocrate où le bien public de l’éducation existe?
Henry Giroux 26:06
Intellectuellement, je suis sceptique. En ce qui concerne l’avenir, je suis plein d’espoir. Je crois que nous vivons des temps très sombres. Partout dans le monde, je pense que la montée du fascisme émerge à nouveau. Je pense qu’il y a des signes que les gens se mobilisent. Je pense que les contradictions deviennent si grandes que des gens qui ne seraient pas politiques deviennent soudainement plus politiques et s’impliquent activement. Je pense que les jeunes représentent un changement de paradigme pour la plupart, par rapport à ce que nous avons vu dans le passé, en ce sens qu’ils sont plus tangibles, ils sont plus avertis sur le plan technologique, ils sont plus astucieux sur le plan politique. Et je veux souhaiter que les jeunes reconnaissent tout d’un coup que le fait d’être écrit du futur, et d’être écrit du scénario de la démocratie est un défi suffisant à relever pour qu’ils ne se contentent pas de créer des moments et des manifestations, mais qu’ils créent en fait des mouvements qui seront suffisamment larges pour pouvoir réellement contester les structures de pouvoir qui sont en place dans beaucoup de ces pays aujourd’hui, y inclus les États-Unis.
Will Brehm 27:09
Eh bien, Henry Giroux, merci beaucoup d’avoir rejoint FreshEd, et merci beaucoup pour tous les écrits que vous avez faits au fil des ans. Je suis un grand fan.
Henry Giroux 27:17
Je suis ravi d’être à l’antenne, et merci beaucoup de m’avoir.
Translation sponsored by NORRAG.
Today we take a broad definition of education and explore the process of released prisoners re-integrating into American society.
My guest is CalvinJohn Smiley, an assistant professor at Hunter College, City University of New York. Calvin is currently co-editing a book with Keesha Middlemass entitled Prisoner Reentry in the 21st Century: Critical Perspectives of Returning Home, which will be published by Routledge.
In our conversation, Calvin puts prisoner reentry in a historical context and argues that the American prison system should not simply be reformed but must be abolished altogether.
Citation: Smiley, CalvinJohn, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 104, podcast audio, February 18, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/smiley/
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