Against the Current, No. 83, November/December 1999
November 2000: Can We Do Better?
— The Editors
Puerto Rico: The Real Bombers
— César Ayala
Update: Mumia Abu-Jamal's Federal Appeal
— Steve Bloom
Organizing to Stop Police Brutality in Riverside, California: Organizing for Accountability
— interview with Chani Beeman
Big Three Win A Modular Future: Contract Hype and Reality
— Kim Moody
East Timor and Indonesia's Political Explosion
— Malik Miah and Emily Citkowski
Asia: Realities of "Recovery"
— Gerard Greenfield
Iran: Youth Protests and the Regime's Crisis
— an interview with Ali Javadi
The Rebel Girl: Whose Population Bomb?
— Catherine Sameh
Random Shots: Go And Do Likewise
— R.F. Kampfer
- Confronting the Sweatshop Industry
Student-Labor Activism Advances
— Eli Naduris-Weissman
USAS Makes Kathie Lee Cry Again
— Peter Romer-Friedman
- More on the Battles for Education
Claiming What is Ours
— Maria Cordero and Genevieve Gonzáles
The twLF Hunger Strike: A Critical View--On Tactics and a Broader Mission
— Jared Sexton and Frank B. Wilderson III
Education for Change: Henry Giroux and Transformative Critical Pedagogy
— Mark Hudson
- In Memoriam
Michael Sprinker (1950-1999)
— Alan Wald
THESE ARE DIFFICULT times for teachers in U.S. public schools. The increasing size of schools, chronic underfunding of schools serving working-class students (especially students of color), work overload, school violence, professional isolation and the deskilling and devaluing of teachers’ work have led to rising rates of teacher burnout in recent decades. The average career trajectory of a teacher in the United States is about five years.1
Meanwhile, the corporate-controlled media give voice to a conservative chorus calling for “school reform.” The “reforms” demanded include voucher plans and tax credits to force public schools to compete with private schools in the “free-market” economy, “raising standards” and “mandating competencies” through statewide and national standardized testing, and calls for public schools to abandon multicultural and secular humanist curricula in favor of “traditional values” and a back-to-basics “core curriculum.”
These calls in reality amount to an attack on the public education system itself, and on public school teachers in particular. As education theorist Michael Apple has argued,
(T)he political Right in the United States has been very successful in mobilizing support against the educational system and its employees, often exporting the crisis in the economy to the schools. Thus, one of its major achievements has been to shift the blame for unemployment and underemployment, for the loss of economic competitiveness, and for the supposed breakdown of “traditional” values and standards in the family, education, and paid and unpaid workplaces, from the economic, cultural, and social policies and effects of dominant groups to the school and other public agencies.2
This implies that legitimate questions of how to improve the U.S. public education system cannot be seriously addressed without simultaneously addressing the issues of economic exploitation, racist oppression and patriarchal gender relations that form the socio-economic context in which public schools operate.
In other words, schools are not, as the right claims, the problem; rather, the very real problems of schools and those who work and learn in them cannot and will not be solved without a mass-based political movement from below against the injustices of capitalism, sexism and racism.
Thus liberals and other moderates who oppose all or parts of the conservative education agenda but are silent about the essentially repressive nature of U.S. society have no real alternative to offer. At best, they can provide isolated examples of “enlightened” educational practices that perhaps benefit small groups of students and teachers but have little if any impact on the public education system as a whole.3
It follows that what is required to change schools is a critical, unambiguously left theory and practice of education which recognizes that schools cannot be analyzed and changed separately from the struggle to create a nonexploitative, nonracist and gender-egalitarian society.
There is a history of efforts to create an oppositional theory and practice of education in the United States which goes back as least as far as the 1920s and 1930s, to the discussions of the Columbia Teachers College group, the best-known members of which are the social reconstructionists George Counts and Harold Rugg.
Counts, author of the famous 1932 pamphlet Dare the School Build a New Social Order?, argued that the child-centered progressive education of his time in effect endorsed existing class relations, and that progressive educators should emancipate themselves from the influence of the “upper middle class” and become active agents of social change. Rugg was the author of a series of social studies textbooks which addressed issues of class conflict and racism, and which were very popular in the 1930s but driven off the market by right-wing political action groups in the 1940s.4
Little significant work was done in the 1940s and 1950s to further develop left theories of education, with U.S. leftists on the defensive in the education field as elsewhere. But out of the political and intellectual ferment of the 1960s and 1970s there have emerged a number of left education theorists, the most prolific and influential of whom is probably Henry Giroux.
For the past twenty years Giroux has been in the forefront of efforts to develop a critical theory and practice of education applicable to conditions in the contemporary United States.5 The goal of this essay is to outline some key themes in Giroux’s work and to encourage readers, especially teachers and future teachers, to familiarize themselves with his work in its entirety. I will also offer some constructive criticisms.
Henry Giroux’s first book Ideology, Culture and the Process of Schooling (1981) elaborated the philosophical foundations for a theory and practice of education that would be not only critical of established institutions and practices but also capable of transforming those institutions and practices, with the ultimate goal of transforming society itself.
Giroux argues that earlier left approaches to schooling, such as Samuel Bowles’ and Herbert Gintis’ Schooling in Capitalist America (1976), focused too one-sidedly on the way schools reproduce the hierarchical division of labor in capitalist society and failed to account for the ways students and teachers resist this process.
These approaches, by making class a central category of analysis, have provided important insights, such as the notion that schools cannot be analyzed outside the socio-economic context in which they operate, and have “helped to expose schools as sorting and tracking institutions that treat and teach [working-class students and students of color] in ways vastly different from their middle- and upper-class counterparts.”
Yet they also have propagated “a monolithic view of domination and an unduly passive view of human beings” and have generally ignored the content of school curricula:
Emphasizing the form of classroom encounters that replicate the social relations of the workplace, they do not consider how the dominant culture is mediated in schools through textbooks, through the assumptions that teachers use to guide their work, through the meanings that students use to negotiate their classroom experiences, and through the form and content of school subjects themselves.6
Thus Giroux argues that for the struggle for educational alternatives to move forward, we must move beyond reproductive approaches “by recognizing that reproduction is a complex phenomenon that not only serves the interest of domination but also contains the seeds of conflict and transformation.”7
Giroux’s critique of the reproduction theorists rests on his reading of the critical Marxist concepts of ideology, hegemony and culture. Drawing on the early work of Lukacs and that of the Czech Marxist Karel Kosik, Giroux argues for “a dialectical conception of ideology that strips it of its narrow definition as simply false consciousness” and that “provides an analysis of how schools sustain and produce ideologies as well as how individuals and groups in concrete relationships negotiate, resist, or accept them.”
This conception of ideology is closely related to Gramsci’s notion of hegemony, which includes not only hegemonic ideologies (i.e. discourses that legitimate class rule) but also, just as important, the material practices that form the structure of daily experience.
In schools, hegemony functions not only “through the significations embedded in school texts, films, and `official’ teacher discourse” but also “in those practical experiences that need no discourse, the message of which lingers beneath a structured silence.” In the Gramscian conception, hegemony is not simply the imposition of the ideology of a dominant class upon subordinate classes; rather, it is “a mode of control that has to be fought for constantly in order to be maintained” in changing historical circumstances.8
Thus, in Giroux’s view,
Gramsci’s notion that hegemony represents a pedagogical relationship through which the legitimacy of meaning and practice is struggled over makes it imperative that a theory of radical pedagogy take as its central task an analysis of both how hegemony functions in schools and how various forms of resistance and opposition either challenge or help to sustain it. 9
Giroux also argues for a politicized notion of culture, in which “culture would be defined in terms of its functional relationship to the dominant social formations and power relations in society.” This implies the notion of class-specific cultures, rather than culture, although it is important to remember that “Issues regarding gender and ethnicity, as well as the dynamics of nature, cannot be framed exclusively within class definitions.” But although “the link between power and culture cannot be reduced to a simple reflex of the logic of capital,” this link does lead directly to the concept of resistance as it relates to modes of radical pedagogy.
Giroux contends that radical educators must begin by asking questions about the forms of resistance already employed by students in order to develop effective pedagogical strategies. As a starting point, he suggests asking:
First, in what way do specific forms of resistance manifest themselves and what is their relationship to determinants in the wider social order? Second, how do these forms of resistance often end up supporting the modes of domination they attack? Put another way, how do the oppositional elements used by students to wrest some power from the authority of the school do the work in bringing about `the future that others have mapped for them’?11
These questions are critically important because “symbolic power if not translated into political power simply ends up reinforcing dominant social relationships.”
Giroux cites Paul Willis’ study of a working-class “countercultural” group in an urban London high school as an example of the contradictory forms of student resistance. The students in Willis’ study celebrated masculinity and physical labor, but at the cost of rejecting mental labor and a deep-seated sexism and racism.
Thus, in Giroux’s view, “while the collective action of these students represents a realistic response to the lived oppression and alienation embedded in the daily routine of the school, it also has built into it `commonsense’ categories that reproduce the division of labor at the source of its genesis.”
Radical educators must therefore acquire “a critical understanding of the language, modes of experience, and cultural forms of the students with whom they work [which] must be historically situated and politically analyzed in connection with wider economic and social determinants.”12
Only by acquiring this kind of critical understanding will they be able to
seize the positive moment that exists amidst the cracks and disjunctions created by oppositional forces that are only partially realized in the schools. To do so represents a crucial step in translating political understanding into the kind of political struggle that might contest not only the hegemonic practices of the school, but also could trace their source back to the wider society. The contestation for power in the schools, the very power to think and act in a critical capacity, is only one step in the larger struggle to contest the power concentrated in the capitalist state itself.13
Giroux’s notion of basing radical pedagogical strategies at least partly on the lived experiences of students draws considerably on the work of the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, to whom he devotes an entire chapter in Ideology, Culture and the Process of Schooling.
Like Giroux, Freire defines culture not as “an all-embracing neutral category of social science” but in terms of its essentially political function. Similarly, Freire sees knowledge not as neutral, “not as the acquisition of a body of information, but as the result of a human activity situated in human norms and interests.”
Giroux argues that “Freire’s concept of knowledge as a liberating tool easily speaks to a number of ways in which such a concept could be employed to enrich radical educational theory and practice in the West.” Specifically, Freire has shown us that “knowing means looking at knowledge from a perspective that enables men and women to transcend the realms of intellectual habit and common sense,” and he urges us “to develop a pedagogy designed not only to help students generate their own meanings, but also to help them reflect on the process of thinking itself.”
Furthermore, Freire views knowledge “as fundamentally linked to the question of social relationships.”14 This means that
(T)he critical pursuit of knowledge has to be paralleled by a quest for mutual humanization among those engaged in such a pursuit. Unlike `banking education’ that inhibits creativity and domesticates students, a radical pedagogy requires non-authoritarian social relationships that support dialogue and communication as indispensable for questioning the meaning and nature of knowledge and peeling away the hidden structures of reality.15
Another important influence on Giroux’s work has been the work of the Frankfurt School theorists, particularly that of Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse. In Theory and Resistance in Education (1983), Giroux argued that the Frankfurt School’s insistence on the primacy of theoretical knowledge, their critique of positivist rationality, their theory of culture and their analysis of depth psychology provided crucial insights for the development of a critical theory of education.16
Particularly in Ideology, Culture and the Process of Schooling, Giroux developed the notion of a “culture of positivism,” i.e. of a pervasive technocratic rationality that has become a form of cultural hegemony. In this form of rationality, “knowledge becomes identified with scientific methodology and its orientation towards self-subsistent facts whose law-like connections can be grasped descriptively.”
Giroux contends that the logic of technocratic rationality is a powerful mode of legitimation because it “suppresses the critical function of historical consciousness” by denying the possibility “of human action grounded in historical insight and committed to emancipation in all spheres of human activity.”
As a replacement for human agency, we are offered “a form of social engineering analogous to the applied physical sciences,” in which “the interdependence of knowledge, imagination, will, and creativity are lost in a reduction of all phenomena to the rule of the empirical formulation.”
In a society dominated by the logic of technocratic rationality, “the concept of historical consciousness appears as a disturbing irrationality.” The culture of positivism “represses `ethics’ as a category of life and reproduces the notion that society has a life of its own, independent of the will of human beings.”17
Thus Giroux argues that the crisis in history education (i.e. the public’s growing belief in the “irrelevance” of history) is not an academic problem but essentially a political one, attributable “to the growing effect of the culture of positivism on the process of schooling itself, and in this case, particularly the social studies field.”
He points out that in U.S. education the social sciences in general and curriculum theory in particular have historically endeavored to model themselves on the methods and assumptions of the natural sciences, by seeking “to develop a rationality based on objectivity, consistency, `hard data,’ and replicability.”
Furthermore, since the 1970s, “Calls for accountability in education, coupled with the back-to-basics and systems management approaches to education, have strengthened rather than weakened the traditional positivist paradigm in the curriculum field.” This paradigm “elevates methodology to the status of a truth and sets aside questions about moral purposes as matters of individual opinion.”18
Giroux argues that in positivist educational practice,
Classroom knowledge is often treated as an external body of information, the production of which appears to be independent of human beings. From this perspective, objective knowledge is viewed as independent of time and place; it becomes universalized, ahistorical knowledge. Moreover, it is expressed in a language that is basically technical and allegedly value free. This language is instrumental and defines knowledge in terms that are empirically verifiable and suited to finding the best possible means for goals that go unquestioned. Knowledge, then, becomes not only countable and measureable, it also becomes impersonal.19
Giroux’s view that positivist education is “a form of legitimation that obscures the relationship between `valued’ knowledge and the constellation of economic, political, and social interests that such knowledge supports” is supported by a number of studies analyzing the way knowledge is presented in social studies textbooks.
He cites Jean Anyon’s analysis of elementary school social studies textbooks, which found that the knowledge presented in these texts tends to be knowledge that formally justifies and legitimates dominant institutional arrangements, values and beliefs. U.S. society and the political system are “presented in one-dimensional consensual terms,” abstracted from the effects of class and power.
Some of the more recent texts have begun presenting material on “controversial issues,” but “intellectual, moral, and political conflict” is still avoided.20 Thus Giroux contends that radical educators must “take as a starting point the need to delegitimize the culture of positivism and the socio-economic structure it supports”21 by asking fundamental questions such as:
(1) What counts as social studies knowledge? (2) How is this knowledge produced and legitimized? (3) Whose interests does this knowledge serve? (4) Who has access to this knowledge? (5) How is this knowledge distributed and reproduced in the classroom? (6) What kinds of classroom social relationships serve to parallel and reproduce the social relations of production in the wider society? (7) How do the prevailing methods of evaluation serve to legitimize existing forms of knowledge? (8) What are the contradictions that exist between the ideology embodied in existing forms of social studies knowledge and the objective social reality?22
Giroux’s reading of Frankfurt School theory also informs his effort, in Theory and Resistance in Education, to reconstitute the concept of the “hidden curriculum,” i.e. “those unstated norms, values, and beliefs embedded in and transmitted to students through the underlying rules that structure the routines and social relationships in school and classroom life.”
He argues that the existing literature on the hidden curriculum “has failed to develop a dialectical conceptual framework for grasping education as a societal process …in which different social groups both accept and reject the complex mediations of culture, knowledge, and power that give form and meaning to the process of schooling.”
The basis for such a dialectical approach, in Giroux’s view, can be found in Adorno’s notions of negativity, contradiction and mediation.
Negativity “represents a mode of critical engagement with the dominant culture, the purpose of which is to see through its ideological justifications and explode its reifications and myths.” Contradiction is the principle “informed by the assumption that the contradictory nature of social reality in the wider sense, and school life in particular, invalidates mainstream appeals to the imperatives of social harmony and the logic of consensus.”
The concept of mediation, on the other hand, “points to the importance of the active intervention of men and women in the production and reception of meaning,” and “highlights the ideological interests and contradictions inherent in cultural texts and social processes” by “subjecting them to a mode of critical reflection that exposes the social function of those meanings and ideas legitimated by the dominant culture.”23
Giroux argues that “Underlying the logic of the hidden curriculum and schooling is a structured silence about the relationship between class and culture.”
The dominant culture leaves its imprint on “a whole range of school practices, i.e. the official language, school rules, classroom social relations, the selection and presentation of school knowledge, the exclusion of specific cultural capital, etc.” But this imprint “is not simply inscribed or imposed in the consciousness or ideologies of the oppressed;” rather, it is “mediated—sometimes rejected, sometimes confirmed.”
Giroux suggests that educators use the concept of ideology as critique to question their own pedagogical assumptions about knowledge, learning, achievement, human nature, objectivity, teacher-student relations, school authority, etc., and that pedagogical practices must be examined “against their potential to foster rather than hamper intellectual growth and social inquiry.”
Such a process of self-questioning is necessary “if teachers are to move beyond the role of being agents of cultural reproduction to that of being agents of cultural mobilization.”24 But Giroux argues that even this is not sufficient:
While it is important to use the concept of the hidden curriculum as a heuristic tool to uncover the assumptions and interests that go unexamined in the discourse and materials that shape school experience, such a position does not go far enough. It is crucial that the notion of the hidden curriculum also be linked to a notion of liberation, grounded in the values of personal dignity and social justice. As such, the essence of the hidden curriculum would be established in the development of a theory of schooling concerned with both reproduction and transformation.25
Giroux concludes Theory and Resistance in Education with a call for a new, “alternative” public sphere. He argues that radical pedagogy “must be viewed as having an important but limited role in the struggle for oppressed groups to reclaim the ideological and material conditions for organizing their own experiences,” and that radical educators will have to break out of their professional isolation and “establish organic connections with those excluded majorities who inhabit the neighborhoods, towns, and cities in which schools are located.”26
This means being “actively educative,” i.e. thinking and acting not merely as teachers, but as citizens:
As radical educators, we can help destroy the myth that education and schooling are the same phenomenon; we can debunk the notion that expertise and academic credentials are the primary qualifications of the “intellectual,” and, equally important, we can provide, discuss, and learn from historical and contemporary examples in which working-class people and others have come together to create alternative public spheres.27
This concept of radical education points to the necessity of redefining the relationship between theory and practice “if the goal of creating alternative public spheres is to be taken seriously.” Giroux warns against a view, all too common, in which “Teachers and other such `intellectuals’ are seen as theorists, and the people who are alleged to benefit from such theorizing are the objects and agents of practice.”
This view “suffers from a thorough misunderstanding about how human agents mediate and act on the world,” because “it fails to comprehend that people in different structural and social positions are constantly theorizing at different levels of abstraction and within different sets of ideological assumptions and discourses about the nature of social reality.”28
Instead, Giroux argues that
(T)he human subject should be reintroduced into the process of theorizing. The truth claims of specific theoretical perspectives have to be analyzed and mediated through dialogue and democratic social relations (it is assumed that university academics, for instance, can listen and learn something from teachers, staff workers, etc.). Central to such a process is the fundamental notion of critique, a notion that should inform such exhanges and processes. More specifically, critique should be organized around historical and sociological modes of analysis. That is, the “self” and the wider society must be understood as socially constructed and historically constituted through social practices that are contradictory in nature but anchored in a totality of dialectical relations, i.e. society.29
The concerns in Giroux’s next two books, Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life (1988) and Teachers as Intellectuals (also 1988), flow directly from this notion of an alternative public sphere. In the former, Giroux argued that in the 1980s the resurgent right created a new public philosophy “that defines citizenship in a political vacuum, that is, as an unproblematic social practice sanctioned through an appeal to an equally uncritical reading of America’s cultural heritage.”
This discourse has produced “a form of historical amnesia” in which “the notions of struggle, debate, community, and democracy have become subversive categories.” Giroux contends that while “schools have become increasingly conservative bastions of citizenship education in the 1980s,” radical educators have meanwhile “failed to develop a programmatic discourse for reclaiming citizenship education as an important battleground around which to advance emancipatory democratic interests.”
He argues for “reclaiming the historical legacy of a critical theory of citizenship,” and suggests that the work of George Counts, Harold Rugg and other social reconstructionists of the 1920s and 1930s provides an important legacy for this effort—a legacy that, while not flawless, “has been almost completely ignored by contemporary educators, even those working within the critical tradition.”
What makes the work of the social reconstructionists so important, in Giroux’s view, is that they saw education “as part of an ongoing struggle to develop forms of knowledge and social practices that not only made students critical thinkers but also empowered them to address social problems in order to transform existing political and economic inequalities.”
The social reconstructionists also argued for the notion that “citizenship education could take place not merely in the school but also in the wider social sphere through the political agency of counterpublics such as labor unions, churches, neighborhood organizations, journals, and so on.” Unfortunately, the reconstructionist vision of citizenship education “reached its ascendancy during the depression and virtually slipped into oblivion by the 1950s.”30
In Teachers as Intellectuals Giroux addressed the ideological and material constraints that make it difficult for teachers to assume their rightful roles as “transformative intellectuals,” by reducing teachers “to the status of specialized technicians within the school bureaucracy, whose function then becomes one of managing and implementing curricular programs rather than developing or critically appropriating curricula to fit specific pedagogical concerns.”
This deskilling and devaluing of teachers’ work is a result of “the increasing development of instrumental ideologies that emphasize a technocratic approach to both teacher preparation and classroom pedagogy.” Giroux contends that teacher training programs often teach “methodologies that appear to deny the very need for critical thinking.”31 More specifically,
Instead of learning to raise questions about the principles underlying different classroom methods, research techniques and theories of education, students are often preoccupied with learning the “how to,” with “what works,” or with mastering the best way to teach a given body of knowledge. For example, the mandatory field-practice seminars often consist of students sharing with each other the techniques they have used in managing and controlling classroom discipline, organizing a day’s activities, and learning how to work within specific time tables.32
The same technocratic approach operates in the teaching field itself to reduce “teacher autonomy with respect to the development and planning of curricula and the judging and implementation of classroom instruction,” as evidenced by the proliferation of “teacher-proof” curriculum packages.
Giroux argues that the purpose of these packages is to legitimate “management pedagogies,” in which “knowledge is broken down into discrete parts, standardized for easier management and consumption, and measured through predefined forms of assessment.” The underlying assumption is that “the behavior of teachers needs to be controlled and made consistent and predictable across different schools and student populations.”
Management pedagogies also assume erroneously that “all students can learn from the same materials, classroom instructional techniques and modes of evaluation.” In Giroux’s view, instead of being reduced to implementing curricula produced by so-called experts, “teachers should be actively involved in producing curricula materials suited to the cultural and social contexts in which they teach.”
He argues that by defining teachers’ work as intellectual, as opposed to purely technical, labor, “we can begin to rethink and reform the traditions and conditions that have prevented teachers from assuming their full potential as active, reflective scholars and practitioners,” i.e. as “transformative intellectuals” who can “educate students to be active, critical citizens” and “speak out against economic, political, and social injustices both within and outside of schools.”33
Giroux’s belief that the role of radical pedagogy in the struggle for social justice is ultimately limited, that radical educators must go outside the schools and enter the wider social sphere, along with his increasing pessimism about public schools as agencies of social change in a deeply conservative period, led to a major theoretical shift in his work in the 1990s.34 In Border Crossings (1992), Disturbing Pleasures (1994), Fugitive Cultures (1996) and Channel Surfing (1997), Giroux has increasingly turned his attention away from schools and toward broader issues of U.S. cultural politics viewed in a pedagogical context.
While the limits of space and time do not permit me to deal with these works in depth here, I will offer a few observations.
First of all, much of Giroux’s work on popular culture in the 1990s has been extraordinarily insightful, ranging from the worldview of Benetton ads to Disney’s “politics of innocence,” from representations of youth in Hollywood films to “political correctness,” from “bashing the sixties” to the O.J. trial and more.
Second, Giroux’s 1990s work has been couched in various postmodern discourses, as opposed to the language of Western Marxism that informed his earlier work. While this is not a bad thing in and of itself, it does lead to a third observation, which is that Giroux in the 1990s seems to have retreated from class as a central category of analysis.
In a recent interview, Giroux addresses this issue, saying that while class is an important “social determinant,” he has never believed that class or any other category alone “could provide an explanation for everything,” that “we live in an enormously complicated world,” and that he is more “concerned about the inter-relationships among categories” than he is with “single narratives such as class.”35
He is certainly correct that we cannot adequately theorize class without taking race and gender into account (and vice versa), and that no single category can “provide an explanation for everything.” But if class (i.e. the conflict between wage-labor and capital) is not the single most crucial contradiction in capitalist society, if all we have is the “inter-relationships among categories,” then on what social basis can we organize a cohesive political struggle of the majority against capitalism and its injustices?
Thus a fourth, related observation: While Giroux has always been clear about the necessity for collective struggle against oppression and capitalist state power, he has never been very specific (in his earlier or later work) about the forms he thinks such a struggle should take.
Does he support the organization of an independent working-class party, and the affiliation of teachers and their unions with such a party? What about the regressive politics of the teachers unions? Does he support rank-and-file struggles for democracy in the AFT and other unions? Giroux (as far as I know) is silent on these matters, but an alternative public sphere must include independent working-class politics and democratic unions if it is to represent any kind of real alternative to the bourgeois public sphere.
Despite these qualms and reservations, I would argue that the work of Henry Giroux is an extremely important contribution to the ongoing effort to develop and nurture a critical theory and practice of education. He should be read by all (not just teachers) who care about the future of public education and the struggle for a socially, politically and economically just society.
1.Bennett de Marrais, Kathleen, and Margaret D. LeCompte, The Way Schools Work: A Sociological Analysis of Education, 2nd edition (Longman 1995), 133, 148-151.
2.Apple, Michael W., Cultural Politics and Education (Teachers College Press 1996), 28.
3.See, for example, the discussion of Theodore Sizer’s Coalition of Essential Schools in “Schools That Work,” in U.S. News & World Report, October 7, 1996, 58-64.
4.Urban, Wayne J., and Jennings L. Wagoner, Jr., American Education: A History (McGraw-Hill 1996), 248-250; Bennett de Marrais and LeCompte, The Way Schools Work, 205; Joel Spring, American Education, 8th edition (McGraw-Hill 1998), 232-233.
5.Besides Giroux, other left theorists of education who emerged in the U.S. during this time include Michael Apple, Samuel Bowles, Herbert Gintis, Peter McLaren and Ira Shor.
6.Giroux, Henry A., Ideology, Culture and the Process of Schooling (Temple University Press 1981), 92-93, 97, 98.
16.Henry A. Giroux, Theory and Resistance in Education: A Pedagogy for the Opposition (Bergin & Garvey 1983), 7-41.
17.Giroux, Ideology, Culture and the Process of Schooling, 41-46.
20.Ibid., 53. Also see James Loewen’s recent study of high school U.S. history textbooks, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (Simon & Schuster 1996).
23.Giroux, Theory and Resistance in Education, 47, 61-62, 64-65.
30.Giroux, Henry A., Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life: Critical Pedagogy in the Modern Age (University of Minnesota Press 1988), 3-11.
31.Giroux, Henry A., Teachers as Intellectuals: Toward A Critical Pedagogy of Learning (Bergin & Garvey 1988), 122-123.
34.Giroux, Henry A., Border Crossings: Cultural Workers and the Politics of Education (Routledge 1992), 1ff.
35. Interview with Henry A. Giroux,” in Education, Power, and Personal Biography: Dialogues with Critical Educators, ed. Carlos Alberto Torres (Routledge 1998), 142.
ATC 83, November-December 1999