My Review of Pedagogy of Hope by Paulo Freire

Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Impacts)Pedagogy of Hope: Reliving Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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.

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My Review of “Beyond Resistance”

Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and Community Change: New Democratic Possibilities for Practice and Policy for America’s Youth was edited by Shawn Ginwright. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

For youth workers with a preconceived notion about the roles of young people in society, this collection may be challenging. For teachers who think they know the power of students, Ginwright may be shocking. For young people who think they understanding “the movement”, this book may be eye-opening.

Ginwright collects dozens of the best examples of youth-led and youth-driven activism and refines them to their finest points, charging the reader to do more than complain about apathy or revel in cynicism. He leaves us no choice other than getting up to do something. Thanks Shawn – we need that. This book is an incredible read for anyone interested in the movement at any level.

Before this book the reader might want to see Global Uprising : Confronting the Tyrannies of the 21st Century : Stories from a New Generation of Activists; after it you might want to reference Future 500: Youth Organizing and Activism in the United States.

 

Order Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and Community Change: New Democratic Possibilities for Practice and Policy for America’s Youth.

My Review of “Proto Fascism In America”

Proto Fascism In America: Neoliberalism And The Demise Of Democracy was written by Henry Giroux. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

 

This book is an intelligent, defining account of our times. Scholar Henry Giroux effectively and concisely exposes the tyranny of the Bush Administration, and indisputably links corporations to the highjacking of American democracy. Throughout this publication Giroux draws powerful correlations between news accounts and critical analysis, without oversimplifying or patronizing the reader. He offers a necessary guide to how the issues tie together: prisons, police, spies, weapons, soldiers + racial discrimination, demonizing youth, targeting young people of color for the military + defunding public services, defeating the Clean Air Act, Christian conservatism = neoliberal terrorism in our times. Most importantly though, Giroux details our need to develop a new way of approaching democracy that embraces democratic action and engagement for all people, especially young people.

Giroux explains that part of this new approach is connecting the apparent intransigence of the public today to the larger forces of the anti-community: crass consumerism and the multi-national corporations which have driven the marketplace into every aspect of public life: education, health care, and the duties of the government across the board. Giroux has gone beyond his former analysis of public education and popular media. Instead, his critical eye turns now towards the entities that democratic society insists we all be responsible for: government, community, and our social fabric.

Through this lens Giroux identifies the Bush Administration as hostile towards young people, by militarizing public schools, over-incarcerating young people of color, and defunding youth programs. He writes,

“…[F]ear, punishment, and containment continue to override the need to provide health care for… children, increase the ranks of teachers… repair deteriorating schools, and improve youth services that for many poor students, would provide an alternative to the direct pipeline between school and the local police station, the courts, or prison.”

Giroux particularly identifies George Bush’s refusal to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and carefully deconstructs the effects of education systems that serve as the deliverers and enforcers of a neoliberal agenda intent on taking freedom away from children and youth, people of color and working-class communities. By exposing a school reform agenda intent on taking away the rights of youth, Giroux exposes,

“the not-so-hidden curriculum… that kids can’t be trusted and that their rights aren’t worth protecting. At the same time, they are being educated to passively accept military-sanctioned practices organized around maintaining control, surveillance, and unquestioned authority.”
Giroux contends that this agenda, doubled with the agenda of the “military-industrial-education complex,” reinforces the work of Army recruiters who are speaking directly to youth today. By “discover[ing] hip hop and urban culture,” and disregarding the problems young people, particularly urban and low-income youth, face at home today, the Army lures young people with “the Hummer, where they can pep the sound system or watch recruitment videos.” Giroux explores the effects this has on marginalized youth, as “school becomes a training ground for their ‘graduation’ into containment centers such as prisons and jails.” One is that “young people no longer learn military values in training camps or military-oriented schools.” They are learned through popular media and people: movies, MTV, music, friends, and family.

Young people are not islands from themselves, disconnected from larger concerns in society. Through action for social change all young people can become actors in the larger spectrum of society. It is through these actions that youth can become engaged in democracy and effectively learn from their life experiences. Neoliberalism is the attempt of consumerist, corporate America to steal politics, history, and culture from popular society, instead replacing them with an economy of greed, and consumption. This book provides an critical bridge for facilitators of youth action to connect young people to the fight against modern American fascism, and challenge young people with a powerful, accessible call to action.

In the end, Giroux calls on us, individual people, to fight neoliberalism in our lives and to end its widespread grips on our society. Young people are central to this challenge. He ends the book with a call to “act… now because the stakes have never been so high and the future so dark.” With George Bush continuing to damn young people and escalating the war against youth, young people and their allies are faced with no choice but to take action. These are our times, and as The Freechild Project has exposed, young people have the capacity. This book can serve as a powerful weapon in the fight.

My Review of “The Terror of Neoliberalism”

The Terror of Neoliberalism was written by Henry Giroux. Here is my review for The Freechild Project.

Every person who works with young people should know that politics is more than the Democrats or who you are voting for in the next election. Much more. Dozens of people have spent hundreds of hours speaking and thousands of pages writing to explain how politics underscores everything that we–as individuals and as a society–do every moment of every day of our lives. This kind of politics helps us make up our minds about what clothes to wear to work; what job to work at; who we work for; and, most importantly to youth workers and educators, what work we actually do.

A new book illustrates how a hellacious political reality is actually altering the society we live in right now. In The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy, scholar/author Henry Giroux outlines how neoliberalism–the belief that the private sector should be wholly responsible for the public good–is about more than money. Throughout this book, Giroux explains how neoliberalism is actually a set of values, ideologies, and practices that is actively recreating America today–for the worse. Of course, CNN, the presidential elections, and the never-ending war in Iraq have proven that the political and economic reality of democracy in the US has changed. But Giroux exposes a more terrifying plot.

Neoliberalism is changing the very meaning of democracy today. Where democracy once depended on people becoming socially and politically involved throughout their communities, today that is an option. The schools, youth programs, community centers, and agencies where many young people spend the majority of their days have lost their place at the table of democratic importance. Do you want to understand the onslaught of high-stakes testing in schools? The defunding of programs for children and youth? The ongoing newspaper stories about so-called youth apathy? The seeming disregard for children and youth that fills our communities today?

Giroux cites the resistance against neoliberalism in all of its forms around the world today. The work of The Freechild Project, the mass movement against globalization, and the struggle for social justice in education each epitomize the struggle; but individually none summarizes the whole effort. Giroux writes, “…[Activism is] not limited to identity politics focused on particularized rights and interests.” Instead, the interests of young people and their communities, as well as those of the anti-globalization movement and many others are put into the larger context of building democracy. As Giroux explains,

“Democracy in this view is not limited to the struggle over economic resources and power; indeed, it includes the creation of public [places] where individuals can be educated as political agents equipped with the skills, capacities, and knowledge they need…”

With that premise established early in the book, Giroux proceeds to dissect and examine the realities of neoliberalism. He details the ability of the government to extinguish the capacity of society to make significant change in society by examining the effects of September 11, 2001, and the militarization of America. Giroux also outlines how neoliberalism has created a “new racism,” evidenced by the corporate powers that control law enforcement, education systems, and increasingly, community governments.

However, with his emphasis of the effects of neoliberalism across the spectrum, Giroux pulls a coup by reintroducing his ongoing analysis of youth in the US today with a chapter entitled, “Class Casualties: Disappearing Youth in the Age of Market Fundamentalism. What the chapter essentially proposes is that children and youth are subject to the whims of society, despite (or because of) the reality that young people “embody the project dreams, desires, and commitment of a society’s obligations to the future.” With this premise, Giroux sketches out how the American War Against Youth continues, as the programs and services which once benefited children and youth are slashed across the board, and as popular culture increasingly erases any optimistic expectations society may have of young people. Giroux explains,

“Rather than being cherished as a symbol of the future, youth are now seen as a threat to be feared and a problem to be contained… Youth are currently being framed as both a generation of suspects and a threat to public life.”

Giroux details how “the ongoing war against justice, freedom, citizenship, and democracy” is focused at young people today. He thoroughly explores how curfews, physical searches, profiling, and drug testing are heaved upon schools, youth programs, and communities as solutions to the “youth problem.” Poverty, childcare, healthcare, and education are all challenges that must be meant by an ever-growing private sector. Meanwhile, the number of children and youth who struggle to survive in low-income communities and communities of color grows, while federal policies increasingly legitimize “tough love” policies for all of America’s youth. Giroux also examines how juvenile detention for youth and lock-up rooms for 8-year-olds typify the norm, not the exception. This is neoliberalism at work in the lives of young people today.

Neoliberalism is seeping “into every aspect of American life… It thrives on a culture of cynicism, insecurity, and despair.” But the solution is as complex as the problem. “Democracy is too weak,” Giroux quotes Benjamin Barber as saying. When culture combines with politics to become entertainment (Giroux says think of the California governor), and when corporate powers– instead of the democracy– control the media, we’ve got a serious problem. And it is not an issue of whether education (and youth programs, or community organizations) has “become contaminated with politics; it is more importantly about recognizing that education is already a space of politics, power, and authority.”

Giroux proposes that we, as young people, youth workers, and educators “appropriate, invent, direct, and control” the politics within our efforts. Whether you facilitate after school activities, work with youth-led community organizing programs, or teach in a middle school classroom, you have the opportunity– or more appropriately, the responsibility– to “work against a politics of certainty, a pedagogy of censorship, and an institutional formation that closes down rather than opens up democratic relations.”

The one of his most directive moments yet, Giroux implores educators to “teach students to be skilled citizens… learn how to use the Freedom of Information Act, know constitutional rights, build coalitions, write policy papers, learn the tools of democracy, analyze social problems, or learn how to make a difference in one’s life through individual and social engagements.”

In the final chapter of this book Giroux deeply explores the implications of the work of Edward Said, renowned a renowned theorist, activist, and author. Giroux explores the implications of Said’s work on neoliberalism, sighting his recognition that “the war on terror has become a rationale for a war on democracy… against any movement that fights for justice, liberty, and equality…” Giroux offers Said’s life and work as a “model and inspiration for what it means to take back politics, social agency, collective struggle, and the ability to define the future.” He repeats Said’s call for “academics, students, and other cultural workers” to activate, mobilize, organize, and agitate society by “educating the public to think and act as active citizens in an inclusive democracy.”

But the conclusion the book holds the gauntlet over our heads, collectively, as people who are committed to young people, social change, and justice. Giroux cites Said’s call for groups to “put aside their petty squabbling over identities and differences and to join together collectively… [as a] coalition against those forces of totalitarianism lite, without anyone much noticing, or for that matter complaining.” This call for awakeness resonates with Dr. Martin Luther King’s message in his final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?, where he wrote:

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”

In The Terror of Neoliberalism, Henry Giroux reissues this call, reemphasizes Said’s mission, and issues a new demand for all of us to become active, engaged, and effective allies in our collective struggles against neoliberalism, and for democracy. It is up to you to hear this call.

My Review of “Against the Terror of Neoliberalism”

Against the Terror of Neoliberalism: Politics Beyond the Age of Greed by Henry Giroux. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

Teachers, youth workers, and parents who want to change the world: Read this book. Henry Giroux has written the essential book for anyone who wants to understand the powerful forces that are changing our world today, and the effects these forces are having on the most important people we work and live with everyday: children and youth. If you are tired of the over-simplified Fox News-style explanations of increased poverty, demoralized social fabric and machoistic militarism that come from most mainstream progressive sources, then Giroux’s new book is a great read. He puts everything into context: education reform, the American empire, and increased jailing all find their places in the mess of modern U.S. culture, and better yet, Giroux doesn’t hesitate to tell it like it is.

As a parent, an educator, and as a youth worker I recommend this book strongly to anyone yearning to understand why, how, and where our young people fit into – and need to fit into – the world today. Because of this book I am looking in my own “educated hope,” and am now recommitted to “make the promise of a democracy and a different future worth fighting for.” I hope you are, too.

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.

 

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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.

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