My Review of “The Giroux Reader”

The Giroux Reader is by Henry Giroux. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

 

Henry Giroux is renowned for his analysis of society, particularly focusing on youth, commercialism, and hypocrisy. This collection of Giroux’s writing illustrates the breadth and depth of his analysis in all those areas, and more.

I learned about neoliberalism and the corporate grip on American youth; the societal abandonment of youth and the social divestment in the future, and; the wholesale disenfranchisement of the American public in the face of capitalistic greed and personal opportunism.

Giroux is like the town crier challenging us to get out of bed to go fight the fire on “that” side of town. If we don’t it’ll burn our house down – oh, wait – it already is.

 

Order The Giroux Reader.

My Review of “The University in Chains”

The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex was written by Henry Giroux. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

Henry Giroux has written a book for the ages by daftly examining the impacts and effects of history on America today. Framing his argument with the prophetic words of Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell speech to the American public, Giroux details the thorough and heinous complicities of current practices and policies throughout the American higher education system in conjunction with those of the military industry.

The dubiousness of the publicly-funded University of Illinois’s for-profit campus is given new light through Giroux’s famous analysis of the new neoliberalism griping colleges and universities, particularly in light of the ongoing terror of the Bush Administration’s Iraq War. Perhaps most powerful are the radical implications Giroux concludes: rather than simply influencing college research or widening the gap between the haves and have nots in America today, the military-industrial-academic complex is destroying the very foundations of American democracy.

We have no choice rather than respond; Giroux gives us more than ample reason and recommendations for what to do next.

 

Order The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex.

My Review of “Childhood” by David Jenks

Childhood was written by David Jenks. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

 

In Childhood Jenks stabs at the heart of sociology’s obsession with mythology, this time in the form of childhood. By providing a concise, if inaccessible, analysis of why and how sociologists, psychologists, and educators conceive of children, Jenks encourages a critical examination of the assumptions behind many institutions.

This book provides necessary support for conversations about youth rights, civic engagement, and the roles of young people throughout society. It is a powerful tool for the determined popular reader, and an introductory primer for scholars.

 

Order Childhood

My Review of “Walking on Water”

Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution was written by Derrick Jensen. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

 

One of the most important components of both education and activism is contextualization. As Paulo Freire argued, learning must be rooted in the context in which education takes place. For a sixth-grader in the US, that would be their local community; for a elderly person, that might be their family. For Derrick Jensen, that place was in classrooms at a university and a maximum security prison, where he was taught creative writing to Washington state college students and prisoners convicted of robbery, rape, and murder. In this book Jensen shares stories from those places as a guise and guide for the larger lessons, both hinted at and carefully detailed throughout this book.

The lessons here are truly revolutionary. “As is true for most people I know, I’ve always loved learning. As is also true for most people I know, I always hated school. Why is that?” With this opening line, Jensen begins a more-than-casual assault on traditional schooling, railing on everything from classroom seating arrangements to grading; from teaching methods to attendance. The lessons here a resonant of the teachings of both John Holt and John Taylor Gatto, the latter of whom Jensen credits greatly, and they give anecdotal meaning to some of the wisdom of by Grace Llewellyn and William Upski Wimsatt.

Through his lessons, Jensen gives substance and validity to many peoples’ feelings of alienation and disconnectedness in school, and offers a brilliant guide to creative writing along the way. Jensen writes, “Throughout our adult lives, most of us are expected to get to work on time, to do our boss’s bidding…and not to leave till the final bell has rung. It is expected that we will watch the clock, counting seconds till five o’clock, till Friday, till payday, till retirement, when at last our time will again be our own, as it was before we began kindergarten, or preschool, or daycare. Where do we learn to do all of this waiting?” The answer, of course, is school. School is the “day-prison” where we learn to be “a nation of slaves.”

He then follows this daring declaration with another story from his prison experience, where he created “an atmosphere in which students wish to learn…”, which included asking both prisoners and college students to be uncomfortable in their search for meaning through writing. Throughout this book Jensen includes several useful writing tips that offer a unique twist to this book: while a significant diatribe against historical approaches to education, it provides useful methods for self-education and learning through life.

Ultimately Jensen achieves Freire’s challenge of sharing with students the goal of “reading the word through the world,” and in that is Jensen’s greatest success. This book is vitally important to any person seeking inspiration for learning outside the lines, both for its practical advice, and for the fact that it is coming from a seasoned educator. I believe that it can also be important to young people particularly, because through his intelligent, accessible thinking, Jensen acknowledges what many youth believe: school isn’t relevant to young people today because teachers can’t be relevant to learning today. They just don’t know how. However, more importantly, Jensen himself disproves that, and may actually inspire young readers to look into places of higher education for the vital allyship and mentorship that adult educators can potentially offer.

As Jensen ponders the weight of the world throughout the book, including wrestling with conservatism, hopelessness and apathy, war, and many other feelings, he leaves readers with a challenging thought that easily summarizes the motivation of this book, and lends this book its essentialness in the activist library: “There is much work to be done. What are you waiting for? It’s time to begin.”

It is time to begin. Thank you, Derrick Jensen, for giving us a roadway to get started.

Youth On Board

From 2006-10, Adam supported the national nonprofit Youth On Board as they continued and expanded their efforts to promote systemic youth engagement in Boston Public Schools. He also rewrote two of their publications, 15 Points to Successfully Involving Youth in Decision-Making and Youth On Boards.

Adam partnered with Youth On Board (YOB) to provide resources and develop case studies focused on the Boston Student Voice Project. Working through the district Office of High School Reform, YOB facilitated the Boston Student Advisory Council for three years to that point. They also coordinated the district-wide Student Engagement Advisory Council (SEAC).

YOB assisted with the development of small learning communities in the former Hyde Park High School by facilitating a strategic student voice plan in the school. SoundOut supported these efforts in an ongoing basis with technical assistance and critical evaluations.

Adam also supported Youth On Board activities in several schools and district programs. They included:

  • Monument High School
  • Social Justice Academy
  • The Engineering School
  • Community Academy of Science and Health
  • Boston Student Advisory Council
  • Student Engagement Advisory Council

 


Related Articles

Elsewhere Online

Washington OSPI Changing SPACES

Adam contracted with the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Title V and Innovative Programs to facilitate the Changing SPACES (Students Partnering to Advocate for Change in Environments in Schools) in 2006. He partnered with staff from the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Title V and Innovative Programs to coordinate and facilitate a statewide project for 10 high schools focused on involving students in creating environments in schools that engage students. Activities included professional development for educators and administrators, training for students, and evaluations of school projects. Partner schools were recognized by the state superintendent for their participation in the project.

Partner Schools

  • Colfax High School
  • Harbor High School (Aberdeen)
  • Wishkah Valley High School


Related Articles

 

New York State Student Support Services Center

For three years from 2006-08, Adam contracted with the New York State Student Support Services Center in LeRoy, New York to provided expert guidance on Meaningful Student Involvement in school improvement. Adam provided ongoing training and consulting to the NYS Student Support Services Center as they implemented a statewide initiative focused on meaningful student involvement.

Working with dozens of K-12 schools statewide, Adam’s activities included keynote presentations and individual school consultations at workshops across the state, as well as ongoing consulting and writing for the Center.

Outcomes included the development of a replicable statewide strategy for engaging and sustaining meaningful student involvement in school improvement. Adam also worked with a number of BOCES focused on student voice, student engagement, and related topics as part of this project.

Related Articles

 

Seattle Student Equity Project

From 2006 to 2008, Adam conceptualized, launched, and directed the Seattle Student Equity Project as a partnership of SoundOut and the Seattle Public Schools Office of Equity and Race Relations. He worked with eight high schools in Seattle to create, develop, and support Student Equity Teams focused on Meaningful Student Involvement and race relations in high schools across the city.

The Seattle Student Equity Project focused on three themes:

  • Equity and Race Relations Bringing communities together through open dialogue and honest reflection around what is meant by racism and the impact is has on our society and more specifically, students.
  • Student Voice Engaging the perspectives and actions of young people in educational activities that partner students with adults to improve schools.
  • Service Learning Combining powerful opportunities to help others with substantial classroom learning goals.

Every Student Equity Team was invited to participate in a program that includes four components:

  • Ongoing Training for students and adults focused on each project theme in order to increase the capacity through knowledge-sharing and skill-building;
  • Student-Led Evaluations of student perspectives about equity and race relations in Seattle Public Schools;
  • Service Learning Projects that are designed, implemented, and evaluated by students in response to student-led evaluations, and;
  • Cross-School Collaborations through monthly meetings and training that encourage students to share experiences and brainstorm responses.

My Review of “Bringing It Together”

Bringing It Together: Uniting Youth Organizing, Development and Services for Long-Term Sustainability was written by K. Zimmerman, M. Chow and T. James for the Movement Strategy Center. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

 

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the a rush of youth-led activism in America, focusing a variety of issues including social justice, school improvement, and so-called “youth liberation”. The issues were highlighted through a variety of actions, including protest marches, rallies, and teach-ins, with riots, arrests, and curfews as regular results. Analyses within various efforts identified corporatization, militarism, and elitism as the forces to fight against.

Unfortunately, many people today- including youth and adults- bemoan the lack of those specific actions in these dangerous times. Many well-meaning liberal activists collectively yearn for the action embodied “back in the day.” However, after leading The Freechild Project for five years, I have consistently found that while youth activists share analyses with the past, the actions of youth organizations are more sophisticated than ever before – and that’s a good thing. A new report from the Movement Strategy Center calledBringing It Together: Uniting Youth Organizing, Development and Services for Long-Term Sustainability gives ample evidence that youth activism has “grown up” – and beyond a hunch, they show exactly why that is right and good for young people and communities today.

Similar to their popular youth co-created report Making Spaces-Making Change, [read a review here] in Bringing It Together the Movement Strategy Center spotlights six organizational case studies from youth-led and youth-driven organizations on the West Coast. As the subtitle of the report states, there are many correlations between youth organizing, youth development, and youth services. Throughout this piece the authors show how a growing number of organizations are intentionally uniting those approaches to provide a more holistic, supportive, and sustainable model of social change “as part of a very long-term vision for social justice movement building and healthy living.” If only more youth-serving organizations were so intentional.

The organizations featured here work in diverse communities, including Latino/a migrants, African American teens, an American Indian reservation, inner city communities, and LBGTQ youth. The issues are just as disparate: cultural awareness, women’s empowerment, education reform, voter registration, immigrant rights, and a bevy of other topics. That is what makes the authors’ findings about the common approaches to innovation between these groups that much more startling: the threads weave together to create a strong, empowering, and sustainable course of action. More importantly, they form a brilliantly effective strategy for social change on multiple fronts, including community organizing and cultural awareness, youth development and community services.

Throughout the report, the depth of analysis and possibility for field movement becomes startlingly clear. By clearly delineating each program’s history, goals, approaches, structure, partnerships, and progress, the authors continually move beyond the current rhetoric and postulating popular among numerous youth organizing intermediaries. Their observations and recommendations succeed in creating a vibrantly accessible and teachable framework for an integrated approach to youth action.

Through very approachable writing and research methods, the authors call the failure of many youth-serving organizations to put their work into a larger context to task in a very subtle way. As Paulo Freire often wrote, there is nothing neutral about our presence in the world, and before we can begin to change the world, we have to name it and critically understand it. Youth workers reading this report may find the authors’ explanation of the “Resource Power Triangle” particularly effective way of transforming their regular approaches into non-traditional action.

Getting back to the history: within 20 years, by the late 1970s, many observers and former participants from said that the American “youth movement” was dead. The American Indian Movement and the Black Panthers had been brutally suppressed; Students for a Democratic Society and Weather Underground imploded; Youth Liberation morphed, hippies became yuppies, and the rest is history.

Or is it? Since the late 1980s and early 90s the new movement has been growing. Today’s activists are standing on the shoulders of giants, yet creating space for themselves as well. The authors of this report note that “we are living at the end of the era of the New Deal.” George Bush’s so-called “ownership society,” paralleled by the increasing promotion of the importance of “social entrepreneurship,” is tearing apart the historical fabric of public responsibility in the US. This study shares scholar Henry Giroux’s analysis of the effects of neoliberalism on low-income youth and young people of color, as schools close, prisons swell, health programs end, and public programs become privatized.

The Movement Strategy Center’s new report illustrates- without a doubt- that youth-led community organizing is responsive, effective, wide-ranging, sophisticated, and powerful. This document is a vital contribution to further understanding, growth and hope for the future of our communities.

 

Title: Bringing It Together: Uniting Youth Organizing, Development and Services for Long-Term Sustainability

Authors: K. Zimmerman, M. Chow and T. James

Publisher: Movement Strategy Center

Secondary Academy for Success

From 2003-06, Adam consulted with Secondary Academy for Success in Bothell, Washington, to integrate students as partners into their school improvement planning process. 

Adam provided training to nontraditional student leaders at this alternative high school in suburban Seattle. After facilitating a school-wide forum for 150 students on school improvement, students joined committees and made reports to the school board on how they think schools should change. Their input drove school improvement efforts for the next several years, including a school redesign process that was implemented.

 

Related Articles

 

Elsewhere Online