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Wed Jun 20, 2012, 12:30 PM

Henry A Giroux: Beyond the Politics of the Big Lie: The Education Deficit and the New ...

Henry A Giroux: Beyond the Politics of the Big Lie: The Education Deficit and the New Authoritarianism

First paragraph
Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. -Martin Luther King Jr.

The American public is suffering from an education deficit. By this I mean it exhibits a growing inability to think critically, question authority, be reflective, weigh evidence, discriminate between reasoned arguments and opinions, listen across differences and engage the mutually informing relationship between private problems and broader public issues. This growing political and cultural illiteracy is not merely a problem of the individual, one that points to simple ignorance. It is a collective and social problem that goes to the heart of the increasing attack on democratic public spheres and supportive public institutions that promote analytical capacities, thoughtful exchange and a willingness to view knowledge as a resource for informed modes of individual and social agency. One of the major consequences of the current education deficit and the pervasive culture of illiteracy that sustains it is what I call the ideology of the big lie - which propagates the myth that the free-market system is the only mechanism to ensure human freedom and safeguard democracy.

Last paragraph
James Baldwin, the legendary African-American writer and civil rights activist, argued that the big lie points to a crisis of American identity and politics and is symptomatic of "a backward society" that has descended into madness, "especially when one is forced to lie about one's aspect of anybody's history, [because you then] must lie about it all."42) He goes on to argue "that one of the paradoxes of education [is] that precisely at the point when you begin to develop a conscience, you must find yourself at war with your society. It is your responsibility to change society if you think of yourself as an educated person."43) What Baldwin recognizes is that learning has the possibility to trigger a critical engagement with oneself, others and the larger society - education becomes in this instance more than a method or tool for domination but a politics, a fulcrum for democratic social change. Tragically, in our current climate "learning" merely contributes to a vast reserve of manipulation and self-inflicted ignorance. Our education deficit is neither reducible to the failure of particular types of teaching nor the decent into madness by the spokespersons for the new authoritarianism. Rather, it is about how matters of knowledge, values and ideology can be struggled over as issues of power and politics. Surviving the current education deficit will depend on progressives using history, memory and knowledge not only to reconnect intellectuals to the everyday needs of ordinary people, but also to jumpstart social movements by making education central to organized politics and the quest for a radical democracy.

This is NOT a short article and comes replete with 43 footnotes.

Is is not a hopeful article from what I can glean.

It does feel important tho.

Link: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/9865-beyond-the-politics-of-the-big-lie-the-education-deficit-and-the-new-authoritarianism

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