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Today we rethink Technical and Vocational Education and Training. Instead of looking at it from a human capital approach, my guest, Leesa Wheelahan, looks at it from a productive capabilities perspective.

Together with Gavin Moodie and Eric Lavigne, Leesa Wheelahan has recently co-written a new report for Education International entitled Technical and vocational education and training as a framework for social justice: Analysis and evidence from World Case Studies.

Leesa Wheelahan is Professor and William G. Davis chair in Community College Leadership at the Ontario Institute for Education Studies at the University of Toronto.

Citation: Wheelahan, Leesa, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 174, podcast audio, September 30, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/wheelahan/

Will Brehm 1:54
Leesa Wheelahan, welcome to FreshEd.

Leesa Wheelahan 1:56
Thank you.

Will Brehm 1:57
So, you have recently put out a new publication, and you begin by talking a lot about the limitations of human capital theory. In your mind, what are those limitations?

Leesa Wheelahan 2:09
There are many limitations to human capital theory. Human capital theory has been the orthodoxy underpinning education from at least the 1980s, where the point and purpose of education was narrowed from what it was – which was preparing people to be citizens in their communities and in society – to producing the labor needed for the workforce. So, education was subordinated to macroeconomic reforms and needs. And in that process, we lost a lot. There is a conception in human capital theory that if you invest in specific education that will lead to specific skills, you will get greater productivity and higher GDP. That just doesn’t work. I mean, even in its own terms, human capital theory doesn’t work. So even if we just look at it within its own parameters, we can see that it doesn’t work in its own terms. For example, if we have a look at what happens when people do qualifications at college or university and then go and get jobs, most people don’t work in the jobs associated with their qualifications; most people work in a different field. You get a tight match between jobs and qualifications in regulated fields.

Will Brehm 3:31
Such as?

Leesa Wheelahan 3:32
Nursing, law, engineering, where you can’t work in those fields unless you’ve got that qualification.

Will Brehm 3:38
But if I did a degree in international relations, I would end up in all sorts of professions.

Leesa Wheelahan 3:44
Exactly. Exactly. And so, one of the problems that we have, particularly in the college sector, which is where our report is focused. Our report is focused on TVET – technical and vocational education and training – and that takes different forms in different countries. And in Canada, that means the college sector. In Australia, that means technical and further education. In the US, it means the community college sector. Now in some countries, it can include senior school, like in Germany and in many of the northern European countries. And in other countries, it’s post-school. And in some countries, it’s both. So, for TVET, human capital theory is a particular problem, because the point and purpose of TVET, as it’s conceived in policy, is to prepare people for specific jobs.

Will Brehm 4:36
Right, so, it would actually be very much connected to human capital theory.

Leesa Wheelahan 4:39
It’s driven by human capital theory. And so the whole idea is – and this particularly underpins competency based training, which is the model of curriculum in many countries in the world, which is particularly problematic, because the whole idea is with competency based training – what we’ll do is we’ll look at a job or break it down into its unit tasks, and we’ll teach people how to do those things. Very narrow conception of what education should be.

Will Brehm 5:07
I always wonder what happens in the future when there’s different market, like labor markets and different jobs that people need to do.

Leesa Wheelahan 5:14
Oh, exactly, right. I mean, and it’s even more stupid, because people don’t actually end up working those jobs.

Will Brehm 5:23
Even in TVET?

Leesa Wheelahan 5:24
Even in TVET. Particularly in TVET. So, in Australia and Canada, which are the two countries where I personally have looked at the data. In Australia, only 33% of graduates from vocational education and training work in the jobs associated with their qualification. 33%.

Will Brehm 5:44
Oh, my gosh.

Leesa Wheelahan 5:45
And this is a tightly defined and scripted competency-based training model and curriculum that underpins that sector.

Will Brehm 5:53
Wow, that’s actually really surprising. I feel actually quite ignorant here about that.

Leesa Wheelahan 5:58
People are usually a bit shocked by that. And in Canada, it’s not quite as bad I think, but it’s still more than half don’t end up working in jobs associated with their qualification.

Will Brehm 6:08
And why is that?

Leesa Wheelahan 6:10
And the reason that’s the case is because what happens is, in countries like Australia, England, Canada, the US, in the anglophone liberal market economies, what happens is that the employers chuck everyone in the sieve as part of the selection process. They give the sieve a good shake, and anyone who doesn’t have a degree falls through, and the only people who are left are people with degrees. And so, what employers do, is they use the level of the qualification as a proxy for the kinds of knowledge and skills and attributes that they want. Now, they might say, “Okay, we’ll have someone who’s got maths as part of their degree, but it doesn’t have to be a specific degree”, you know, or we might want someone who’s got an insight into science or something like that, but doesn’t have to be something specific. So, they use the level of the qualification as the proxy.

Will Brehm 7:09
Not the skills you learn within that degree.

Leesa Wheelahan 7:12
That’s right. And so that’s the false premise of human capital theory: the idea that you invest in specific skills in order to advance your position in the labor market. The reality is people don’t end up working those jobs.

Will Brehm 7:30
When human capital theory was being popularized, let’s say in the ’60s and ’70s, there was a counter argument, even at that time. I think it’s called “signaling theory”, is that right? It is more about the degree signals to the employer, just what you were saying. And so now, here we are 40, 50 years later, this is now what we’re realizing again.

Leesa Wheelahan 7:58
Absolutely. And so the whole problem of skills mismatches is not actually the fault of education. Education, particularly vocational education gets demonized for not producing the right kind of skills, or people with the right kind of skills. And in actual fact, the reason why we have skills mismatches is because of the way in which the labor market uses people with qualifications, and the way in which employers select people with qualifications. And so, the problems about skills mismatches are actually being driven by the labor market and less so by education. And that’s a fundamental issue that we’ve got to get right for people to understand. Otherwise, what happens is we get a lot of pressure, particularly in TVET, to try and screw qualifications even more tightly to the labor market, even more tightly to specific jobs. And our argument is that if you do that, if you screw things down more tightly, you’re actually going to cut off students’ options rather than increase them. You’re going to make it harder for students to get jobs outside of that area, when they can’t get jobs in that area anyway. So, that’s why we’re arguing that we need a broader conception of qualifications and the role and purpose of education.

Will Brehm 9:21
So, what would that broader conception look like in your opinion?

Leesa Wheelahan 9:24
So, we think that the broader conception of education needs to actually start with: What kind of person are we trying to produce in society? And in TVET, the general assumption is that you’re producing a worker who is going to be supervised by someone else, someone who doesn’t necessarily have the level of independence and agency in your own work. We think that’s a deeply flawed conception of what a human being is. And so what we argue is that we need a broader conception of education to reflect the fact that the purpose of education is to produce someone who can live a life they have reason to value, who can support their families and communities, who can get jobs where they can contribute to the development of their profession and occupation, who can be creative at work. And that’s why we’ve used the “capabilities approach” as an alternative conceptual framing to human capital series.

Will Brehm 10:31
And so, what does that look like – human capabilities – in the TVET world that you’re looking at?

Leesa Wheelahan 10:35
We’ve actually used the word “productive capabilities” to try and actually define and distinguish what we mean by capabilities. So, by productive capabilities, we mean a form of TVET that allows people to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to live a life they have reason to value, where the emphasis is on human flourishing. Obviously, one’s capacity to get a job is a key and intrinsic part of that because most people spend most of their time actually at work. And so that’s a key part. But the emphasis in human capital theory is on human flourishing. And the whole notion of the capability approach is underpinned by social justice because it’s the idea that people should have the same sorts of opportunities to make choices about how they will live. And so, it’s all about equality of opportunity and outcome, not equality of resources. That’s a key and important difference: it’s about equality of opportunity. And the realization of opportunities, the capacity to make choices, rests upon social, cultural, economic and technological resources. So, you can’t conceive of capabilities without saying, “What are the social arrangements that people can use to make choices about how they want to live their lives?”

Will Brehm 12:08
So, it would have to be contextualized.

Leesa Wheelahan 12:11
Yes, absolutely. It has to be contextualized, so it’s not just about the individual. It’s about the individual in their community and in their society. And that’s why TVET institutions and TVET teachers matter so much. Because what we think is that public TVET institutions are the key local actors in their communities that help people to be able to develop the knowledge and skills that they need to live a life they want to lead in their community and to contribute to their community. And we think that TVET institutions have to be resourced to do this, and they have to be trusted to do this. So historically, what we’ve had with TVET institutions is they’re not trusted, apart from some systems in northern Europe which are a bit different. They have their own issues, but it’s not so much of a problem. But historically, TVET institutions are not trusted.

Will Brehm 13:08
Why not?

Leesa Wheelahan 13:10
It comes from human capital theory again, where this notion that public institutions are subject to produce and capture where the people who work there will work in their own interests and not the interest of their customers.

Will Brehm 13:25
So, it’s all about self-interest: we’re rational humans and our self-interests make us this rational human.

Leesa Wheelahan 13:32
That is right. And, that we will only act in our own interest …

Will Brehm 13:37
which is defined by an economic sort of more money, more higher wage, or whatever it is.

Leesa Wheelahan 13:41
That’s right. And so, the policy in the ’80s and subsequently to that, has been that public TVET institutions have to be disciplined by the market. And the point of all this is to make them more responsible, entrepreneurial, more hungry so that they’ll respond to customers’ demands. And so what that’s led to in many systems, and particularly one case that I know the most about which is Australia – because I’m from Australia, but also we did a case study on Australia – is that, when you have a market-driven approach to TVET, what’s happened in Australia is that public policy has conceived of TAFE, the public institution of TVET in that country (Technical and Further Education) as just one provider in a market, interchangeable with other providers, and that that’s actually what makes it more competitive. Well, in actual fact, it’s taken TAFE to the brink, and unless there’s serious reinvestment in TAFE, we have the danger that we’ll end up with a residual system, a residual public system that produces “just-in-time” training just for now, rather than preparing people for their careers and for their lives. And so, what we’re arguing is that public institutions, TVET institutions, rather than being mistrusted, need to be highly trusted. And they need to be trusted as the local actors where they work with their communities.

Will Brehm 15:14
So how does that happen? If that market fundamentalism, I don’t think is disappearing. I don’t think Scott Morrison in Australia is going to be thinking outside of market fundamentalism, outside of human capital theory, even if he might not use those words.

Leesa Wheelahan 15:33
No, that’s right. And the problem that we’ve got in Australia is that … So, Scott Morrison is a conservative; he heads the conservative government. The problem that we’ve got in Australia is that the actual policy framework that’s gutted TAFE was first developed by the Labor Party.

Will Brehm 15:51
Oh my gosh. When did that happen?

Leesa Wheelahan 15:53
In 2008. What happened was that Gillard was the Labor prime minister, and their whole policy or education policy, was underpinned by human capital theory. Their policy on early childhood education – three-year olds, and four-year olds – in the first paragraph it talks about investing in human capital.

Will Brehm 16:19
So, what’s a human capital skill for a three-year-old? Coloring inside the lines?

Leesa Wheelahan 16:24
Well, God knows. It was just so absurd, really. And just so reductive. So, we had a federal Labor government, but the way that it works in Australia is that it’s a policy partnership between the state and the federal governments. And so, it was the Victorian Labor government that first introduced the most marketized policies, and they lead the way. Now the difference between conservatives and Labor is that the conservatives think that the public institution is by definition a problem because it believes in private enterprise; it believes in competition. And so, it doesn’t like public institutions. In contrast, the Labor Party doesn’t hate TAFE, doesn’t hate public institution, but it wanted it to behave like a private provider and use the discipline of the market. Now, what happened in all the states where Labor was in government, they got thrown out of government, as happens, and conservative governments got elected, and they took these policies to their logical conclusion. And so, we ended up in Victoria, where TAFE went from having 70 or 80% of publicly funded education to 33% at its nadir. It’s now above 40%, because the new Labor government is trying to reinvest in it, and Labor recognized that its policy was fundamentally flawed and has taken TAFE to the brink. And it has committed, in many states, to ensure that 70% of public funding goes to TAFEs. So, there is some sign that the market orthodoxy is being weakened and undermined, but it’s still pretty strong.

Will Brehm 18:12
And, has a similar phenomenon happened in other countries, where the marketization or the privatization of TVET is occurring?

Leesa Wheelahan 18:22
Yes. So, if we have a look at England, which is one of our other case studies, what you’ll see is that there has been massive cuts in funding over years, as you know. So, an absolute collapse in adult learning, as a result of funding policies in colleges there. It’s happening in many of the anglophone systems.

Will Brehm 18:49
When you think about this productive capabilities, as you’re calling it, it’s a very complex understanding of what education is. And so, I would imagine then translating that into public policy is actually quite hard. With human capital, it’s very very simple. It’s this GDP per capita, and it becomes what skills to match with the labor force. And it becomes a very simple policy solution. And I think that’s probably one of the reasons human capital has become so dominant worldwide. So, are there any examples of where TVET policy is actually, more or less embodying some of these more complex notions of productive capabilities?

Leesa Wheelahan 19:37
So, the problem for researchers is always how to translate research into policy. And that problem exists with this whole conceptual framework. But I think that we’re getting there on this, and I think that the report that we’ve done for Education International is a step forward. In that report, we’ve focused on eight case studies, and we tried to take one lesson from each case study about what TVET should be like, or what TVET needs, to put together a understandable and comprehensible policy framework. But for me, the main thing is to say, “You can’t do this unless you have strong public TVET institutions.” So that’s how I translate it into policy: is to talk about the role of the public institution and to talk about the role that public institutions play in local, regional, economic, social and cultural development. There’s a lot of work that public TVET institutions have always done that is invisible, and unless you’ve worked in one, you don’t know that it happens. For example, I don’t know a single director of a public TVET institution who’s not on their local regional economic board. Or a single college where the senior management are not involved in the local community infrastructure. Or where the teachers aren’t involved with their local communities, particularly the most disadvantaged communities. So, this work happens, but it’s not well understood.

Will Brehm 21:14
And it happens more so than higher education generally, like a university system?

Leesa Wheelahan 21:20
Well, there is, of course, overlap between what public colleges do and what universities do, but there is a big difference. And one thing that we do have to try and do is articulate a mission for colleges that is different to what schools do and different to what universities do. So, one of the problems for TVET has been that it’s always been defined residually as being what universities don’t do and what schools don’t do, but we argue there’s stuff that they can do that universities and schools can’t do. And one of those is that universities tend not to be as involved in local industries as the college. The colleges have a much closer engagement with work in the areas. Universities tend to work at a higher level of abstraction and tend to have more of a national focus. Although you do have many universities, of course, which have a regional focus. And universities do have close relations with work in areas where they teach regulative classes, like nursing, for example. But the colleges do that to a much greater extent. And what we think is that the colleges not only have a role in helping people develop the knowledge and skills they need for their lives and for work, but they have a role in transforming work, which we don’t think universities can do quite so well, because they’re closely involved. So for example, just to give you an illustration, if we think about the teacher of the electrical trades apprentices, what they should be supported to do – and develop the qualification so they know how to do it – is to take the insights from engineering. And to think about how should that change the work of electrical apprentices in the next five years or in the next 10 years. And what should be the changes for curriculum as a result? Or another example would be aged care. What are the insights that research is producing on Alzheimer’s? And how should the work of aged care workers change as a result of this new research? Now, the people who are doing the research on Alzheimer’s don’t have an intimate understanding of what aged care workers do on a daily basis. The teachers in the college do. So, the teachers in the colleges should be the ones who are thinking about, “Well here’s what we now know that we didn’t know before. So, what does that mean for the way aged care workers do their work every day?”

Will Brehm 23:53
It’s very unbelievably practical, isn’t it?

Leesa Wheelahan 23:55
Yes.

Will Brehm 23:57
I’ve been in aged care facilities. You see so many people doing so many things to take care of this aging population that many countries are now experiencing. So, to me, that’s an example that makes so much sense. And that is not a residual issue for TVET. This is something they can …

Leesa Wheelahan 24:18
It’s core.

Will Brehm 24:18
It’s core. Exactly.

Leesa Wheelahan 24:23
So, this is a form of applied research, but it’s not “big R” research, but it’s the form of applied research that can drive innovation.

Will Brehm 24:30
Right, and have huge impact.

Leesa Wheelahan 24:32
Yes, absolutely. And so, we think in every area where TVET is working, that teachers are the ones who have a better understanding of what’s happening in workplaces. In part, because they come from those workplaces. So TVET teachers are usually people who’ve got experience working in the industry. So, they’re industry experts as well as expert teachers, so they have this dual professional identity. And because they come from that industry, they have good understanding what happens. But they don’t get the time or the resources that they need to undertake this role as effectively as they might. So, what we think in terms of articulating a mission for the colleges is that they can develop, codify and institutionalize knowledge about the nature of work, and how work should change in a way that universities can’t do. And that they can be part of a process of renewal of work, and meaningful work. And so, this is what we’re trying to do with this report: is to articulate the kinds of things that colleges can and should be funded and supported to do.

Will Brehm 25:47
It seems like it’s one step in many more to come in how to translate this conceptual framework into contextualized policy from different countries and different regions within countries, I would imagine.

Leesa Wheelahan 26:02
That’s right. And so, the importance of TVET institutions as being a local actor, as having agency as an institution, about understanding what is it that their community needs, working in partnership with their communities. Now TVET institutions already do that, but what we’re talking about is recognizing that role, institutionalizing that role, and trusting them to be able to do that. At the moment in many countries, colleges do that despite the policy frameworks, and despite the funding mechanisms. So, we’re saying, in contrast, that should be explicitly funded, explicitly recognized. And furthermore, that TVET’s role in innovation, and in transforming work should also be recognized.

Will Brehm 26:51
Well, Leesa Wheelahan, thank you so much for joining FreshEd. It really was a pleasure talking today.

Leesa Wheelahan 26:56
A pleasure. Thank you.

Coming soon!
Coming soon!

The World Bank hasn’t always made loans to education. Post-World War II, the Bank focused mainly on infrastructure. Even when it did start lending to education in the 1960s, it used the idea of manpower planning, the process of estimating the number of people with specific skills required for completing a project. Only in the 1970s did the World Bank begin to think of education in terms of rates of return: the cost-benefit calculation that uses expected future earning from one’s educational attainment.

The introduction of rates of return inside the World Bank was no easy process. The internal fights by larger-than-life personalities were the stuff legends are made from. Yet, these disputes often go unnoticed, hidden behind glossy reports and confidence.

Today Stephen Heyneman takes us back in time when he introduced rates of return to the World Bank. He discusses how he used them to his advantage and how he ultimately lost his job because of them.

Stephen Heyneman is Professor Emeritus of international education policy at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. He served the World Bank for 22 years between 1976 and 1998.

Citation: Heyneman, Stephen, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 155, podcast audio, May 20, 2019. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/heyneman/

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American students are in debt. Some forty-four million Americans collectively hold over $1.4 trillion worth of debt. Those numbers have increased since the Global Financial Crisis from 10 years ago.

Today I speak with Ben Miller, a senior director for Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress. Ben specializes in higher-education accountability, affordability, and financial aid, as well as for-profit colleges. His most recent op-ed – “The Student Debt Problem is Worse than we Imagined” – appeared in the New York Times in August.

Citation: Miller, Ben, interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 126, podcast audio, September 17, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/benmiller/

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What are Americans’ views of higher education?

The common story is that people see higher education as an investment in the future of an individual. More education from the best university will result in high salaries in the future. In this story, the public doesn’t appear. It’s all about the private good of higher education.

But what if this story is wrong? Or at least biased by the very questions being asked? Instead of asking if higher education is an investment in one’s future job prospects, what if we asked about higher education’s public value?

Well, my guests today did just that.

Noah Drezner and Oren Pizmony-Levy, together with Aaron Pallas, conducted a nationally representative survey in America on views of higher education. Their findings tell a new and powerful story.

Noah Drezner is an Associate Professor of Higher Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, where Oren Pizmony-Levy is an Assistant Professor of International and Comparative Education.

Citation: Drezner, Noah D. & Pizmony-Levy, Oren, interview with WillBrehm, FreshEd, 124, podcast audio, August 19, 2018. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/drezner-pizmony-levy/

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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.

Coming soon!

 

For over two years, this podcast has aimed to disseminate academic ideas through the medium of audio. This year FreshEd will continue to air interviews with scholars from around the world, but we are also going to experiment. Over the holidays, I got to thinking about new ways I could use audio.

Listeners are now familiar with me in the role of interviewer where the focus is on other people’s ideas. I thought maybe you would also interested in hearing about some of my ideas and how they have been influenced by some of the interviews I’ve conducted.

But it’s not as if I’m going to interview myself.

Instead, today’s show captures what it sounds like inside my head as I piece together different ideas and attempt to form a coherent academic argument. It’s like an academic article for your ears.

But not exactly.

Through the soundscape, I’ve tried to convey how seemingly random ideas come together, the moments of synchronicity, and the thesis that comes out of the mix.

This episode is the first installment of The Idea, and is about the indebted student in American higher education.

Rwanda is perhaps most well-known for the genocide it experienced in the 1990s. In its post-conflict development, the country has had to balance colonial legacies, state centralizing tendencies, and the zeitgeist of neoliberalism. This has made for a careful balancing — one that has left the government regulating the society and economy while simultaneously reducing its responsibility to citizens.

In education, this balancing act manifests in the government’s three aims: credentials, controls, and creativity. The education system is based on credentials awarded through examinations, a colonial hangover, and controls students as part of the state’s centralization efforts; yet, somehow, the system promotes creativity so students can pursue a learner-centered education tailored to their own needs, preparing them for the 21st century labor market of precarious work.

My guest today, Catherine Honeyman, has a new book that explores Rwanda’s opportunities, challenges, and paradoxes in post-conflict development through the policy of mandatory entrepreneurship education, which is believed to be the country’s beacon for economic growth. Catherine Honeyman is a visiting scholar at the Duke Center for International Development and Managing Director of Ishya Consulting. Her new book, The Orderly Entrepreneur, takes us inside both policy making circles and classrooms to understand part of Rwanda’s social transformation. The Orderly Entrepreneur received an honorable mention from the Globalization and Education SIG’s 2016 Book Award.

Citation: Honeyman, Catherine, A., interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 64, podcast audio, March 13, 2017. https://www.freshedpodcast.com/catherinehoneyman/

Transcript, translation, and resources:

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