My Review of “Taking Back Higher Education”

Take Back Higher Education: Race, Youth, and the Crisis of Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Era was written by Henry Giroux and Susan Searls Giroux. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

 

In Take Back High Education, Giroux and Giroux take a continuing analysis of the neo-liberalization of American education one step further by going for the heart of the academy. They begin this journey by acknowledging that schools should not be narrowed out as “the key to revitalizing a waning political democracy.” However, consistent with more than 25 years of critical reflection, the authors contend that higher education should be partners in the struggle for social justice, and that academics have a responsibility to engage young people in that struggle.

Giroux and Giroux charges the reader to look farther than schools by openly wondering “How do we invent a language of community or dare to asset a notion of public good…?” Throughout this book they return to this question, offering challenges to students, academics, and professors alike. The authors readily call on educators to build courses by combining “democratic principles, values, and practices with… the histories and struggles of those often marginalized because of race, class, gender, disability, or age” (p99).

Giroux and Giroux portray colleges and universities as being more than neglected by a public that denies their relevance; because of that, higher education is surrendering academic freedom and judiciousness to the highest bidder: namely, the corporate gods of the US. This new education-market economy is turning once prestigious institutions into psuedo-companies, bent on the “bottom line” and profit margins. However, the responsibility for the “take back” of higher education falls equally on administrative, political, and academic shoulders. Giroux and Giroux call on educators to move beyond the land of academia and to integrate- personally and academically- into the larger spheres in the community, where culture and politics are truly learned and made relevant. They also implore educators to work collectively with other academics and with the larger community as partners- not experts- in important domestic problems. [In a particularly important honor to our work, Giroux and Giroux cite The Freechild Project as an example of academics becoming engaged as allies with resources to share (p115).]

Continually hammering the faults of profiteering in higher education, the authors write, “Neoliberalism, fueled by its unwavering belief in market values and the unyielding logic of corporate profit-making, has little patience with non-commodified knowledge or with the more lofty ideals that have defined higher education as a public service.” While this sounds specific to the settings of the community colleges, state colleges, and universities we might or have attended, there is truth within this statement that affects many workers in the nonprofit sector. The frightening indifference of neoliberalism to the mission of nonprofit service work has been tearing at the heart of this field in the last fifteen years that I’ve been in it. However, there is more on this in Henry Giroux’s next work.

At the end of the book the authors pose the question of whether there is a hope for democracy in higher education. After reading their thorough examination of the onslaught of neoliberalism against public goods, services, and civic freedoms in education, readers may think that Giroux and Giroux may think otherwise. Rather, they offer a different, more hopeful future. Highlighting the work of student activists across the nation, they offer the strikes, demonstrations, rallies, and other protests young people have led in the past ten years as evidence of the insurgent call for democracy in schools. Coupled with the allyship of professors and the larger community, there is a possibility for better higher education. According to Giroux and Giroux that possibility is none other than the “promise of an unrealized democracy – a democracy that promise a different future, one that is filled with hope and mediated by the reality of democratic-based struggles.” That’s the future that we work for everyday – and the reason why you should read this book.

 

Order Take Back Higher Education: Race, Youth, and the Crisis of Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Era.

My Review of “Pedagogy of Hope”

Pedagogy of Hope was written by Paulo Freire. The book is essential for Freirians; first-time readers of his work want to go to the original, and then onward. Eventually, come back to this book and you’ll appreciate its depth a lot.

Freire examined his own career consistently, revisiting his beliefs as often as some people change socks. This book was written a quarter century after Pedagogy of the Oppressed, with the purpose of reliving the experience of writing it. He examines his own experiences, offering some of the personal story behind his society-changing critical theory. This book is for people who’ve read the original and want to know more, particularly from a humanizing perspective.

 

Order the Pedagogy of the Oppressed here.

The Freechild Project

Working with a group of youth and youth advocates across the nation, Adam assumed responsibility for creating and maintaining The Freechild Project and its accompanying website since September, 2001. 

Through Freechild, Adam has partnered with hundreds of organizations in twelve countries and 43 states focused on engaging young people in social change. The website reaches hundreds of thousands of users around the world every year, and the publications I’ve written for it have been downloaded more than a million times. As of September 2017, The Freechild Project Facebook group has more than 3,000 members.

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Elsewhere Online

Why Youth Can’t Wait

I look at the people around me and see the prisons and traps
we’re all stuck in. From an early age we are taught and trained
shown that we should stay put, sit still, hold on, walk (don’t run),
and be quiet. Whatever you do, be quiet.

So we do. We go to polite schools or content jobs and type and
read and feel nice. Our hair’s nice and our hearts are nice. We
live nice lives.

But what if… what if we were shown the whole picture from the first
day? What if they said “Hey, when you’re poor, you’re screwed.
If you’re black, you’re challenged. If you’re female, you’re up a creek
. Oh, yeah, and you’ll be young too! Let’s not even go there!”

What if we could awaken all people to the chains that tie them down?
What if everyone saw that we’re responsible for holding ourselves
down? What if the message of systematic and deliberate oppression
was exposed and the entire society- everyone everywhere- saw
that young people are looked down up, frowned upon, sat upon and
shat upon throughout their whole youth…

Then they become adults. And the world turns, and they start pooping
on youth… and the cycle continues…

We’ve gotta speak up. We’ve gotta act up. We’ve gotta quit putting
up, giving up and settling down.

We cannot wait any longer.

Its time to get up. Stand up. Scream out loud. Dream out loud.
We’ve gotta break outta the chains that hold us down. We’ve
gotta stand up for what is ours: freedom. The freedom to earn.
The freedom to learn. The freedom to speak. The freedom to
serve.

We’ve gotta tie people together instead of tearing them apart. We’re
taught that we’re not the same because we’re young and old, black
and white, educated and ignorant, rich and poor.

But we’re the same. And that’s why young people have gotta be free.

No one is free until everyone is free. Free Youth Now.

Download a spoken word version by Robert Grant here.

A Tribute to Z

Zzzzz – I hear it when I sleep

Zzzzz – I hear it when you preach
Zzzzz
There are so many words that start with z
Why is it that they all sound weird to me?
Zebra and zarth
Zeno and Zebulon
I didn’t know I could possibly go on so long!
Ziti and zest
Zither and zit
I’m beginning to think that Z is pretty hip!
Zepplin and zygote
Zoophile and Zoe
She’s not even Greek – unless I didn’t know.
Zoo’s are fun
Getting zonked can be great
Zien is a protein and Zen Buddhism can wait
Zax, zipper, zircon and Zealous
Go Z!
Why don’t you just tell us that this zipping Zimbabwean zephyr of a poem is really just a message to the one who will roam!

This is Adam Fletcher’s poetry blog. All works are copyright 2009 by Adam Fletcher, unless otherwise stated. Do not reproduce in any fashion without the explicit permission from the author.

Firestarter Youth Empowerment Program

Adam contracted with the Village of Caroline, Alberta Family and Community Support Services to develop and deliver a youth empowerment program called Firestarter between 1997 and 2000. Caroline is a rural community that sits on the edge of the Canadian Rockies. Contracting with Adam to design and facilitate a youth empowerment program over three consecutive years, local middle and high students participated in what has become the popular FireStarter Youth Empowerment CurriculumFirestarter Youth Empowerment Curriculum was first published by The Freechild Project in 2001, and again by the Points of Light Foundation in 2002.

 

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