Home Articles Reader Opinion Editorial Book Reviews Discussion Writers Guide About TCRecord
transparent 13

Democracy, Freedom, and Justice after September 11th: Rethinking the Role of Educators and the Politics of Schooling

by Henry A. Giroux - January 16, 2002

In this article I illustrate the many ways in which life in post–September 11 America is both a rupture from some of the antigovernment politics that dominated before these tragic events and an uncanny continuity from the pre–September 11 worship of global capitalism and the virtual abandonment of any effort to create greater equality.

This is a difficult time in American history. The tragic and horrific terrorist acts of September 11 suggest a traumatic and decisive turning point in the history of the United States. Some commentators have compared it to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Others suggest that the history of the twenty-first century will be defined against the cataclysmic political, economic, and legal changes inaugurated by the monstrous events of September 11. Similarly, many people are now aware that, for better or worse, the United States is part of a globalized system, the effects of which cannot be completely controlled.i  There is also a newfound sense of collective unity organized not only around flag-waving displays of patriotism but also around collective fears and an ongoing militarization of visual culture and public space.


As President Bush declared that the United States is at war, the major television networks capitalized on this militarized notion of patriotism, repeatedly framing their news programs against tag lines such as “America at War,” “America Strikes Back,” or “America Recovers.” Fox News Network delivered a fever-pitch bellicosity that informs much of its ongoing commentaries and reactions to the terrorist bombings, framed nightly against its widely recognized image, “America United.” A majority of both the op-ed commentaries in the dominant media and the television commentaries appearing on the major networks, such as ABC, NBC, and CBS, proclaimed their support for government and military action, while giving relatively little exposure to dissenting positions.ii Many news commentators and journalists in the dominant press have taken up the events of September 11 within the context of World War II, invoking daily the symbols of revenge, retaliation, and war. Against an endless onslaught of images of U.S. jets bombing Afghanistan, amply supplied by the Defense Department, the dominant media connects the war abroad with the domestic struggle at home by presenting numerous stories about the endless ways in which potential terrorists might use nuclear weapons, poison the food supply, or unleash biochemical agents on the American population. The increased fear and insecurity created by such stories simultaneously served to legitimatize a host of antidemocratic practices at home, including “the beginnings of a concerted attack on civil liberties, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press,”iii and a growing sentiment on the part of the American public that people who suggest that terrorism is, in part, caused by American foreign policy should not be allowed “to teach in the public schools, work in the government, and even make a speech at a college.”iv Against this militarization of public discourse, Hollywood and television producers provide both Spielberg-type patriotic spectacles, such as the made-for-television HBO dramatic series, Band of Brothers, and Hollywood’s uncritical homage to the military in films such as Behind Enemy Lines, Black Hawk Down, and Spy Games. All of these narratives offer romanticized images of military valor and a hyper-masculine, if not over-the-top, patriotic portrayal of war and violence—while hoping to capitalize on the current infatuation with the military experience by raking in big box office receipts.


In this article I illustrate the many ways in which life in post–September 11 America is both a rupture from some of the antigovernment politics that dominated before these tragic events and an uncanny continuity from the pre–September 11 worship of global capitalism and the virtual abandonment of any effort to create greater equality. In showing both these ruptures and continuities, I hope to help educators contemplate the role that public schools might play in facilitating an alternative discourse grounded in a critique of militarism, consumerism, and racism. Such an alternative discourse would redefine democracy as something separate and distinct from the hyper-individualized market-based relations of capitalism and the retrograde appeal to jingoistic patriotism.


In other words, before the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, popular perceptions of politics and government were that they were either corrupt or irrelevant. It now appears that the government, especially the military and law enforcement, is a defining feature of American life, both pressing and despairing at the same time.v Still, as significant as September 11 might be as a moment of rupture, it is imperative to look at the crucial continuities that either have remained the same or have escalated since the attacks. For instance, prior to September 11th, there was a growing concern with the buildup in racial profiling, the criminalization of social policies, the growth of the prison-industrial complex and multilayered systems of social control and surveillance,vi and the ongoing attacks by the police against people of color.vii  These trends seemed disturbing before the events of September 11th, but now they have the cloak of official legitimacy, buttressed by the sense of insecurity and fear that, in part, mobilizes the call for patriotism and national security. For instance, little has been reported in the dominant media about the attacks and violence waged against people perceived as Middle Eastern. As Mike Davis observes,


The big city dailies and news networks have shown patriotic concern for the US image abroad by downplaying what otherwise might have been recognized as the good ole boy equivalent of Kristallnacht. Yet even the fragmentary statistics are chilling. In the six weeks after 11 September, civil rights groups estimate that there were at least six murders and one thousand serious assaults committed against people perceived as "Arab" or "Muslim", including several hundred attacks on Sikhs.viii


While there has been some resistance in both the media and among diverse groups to the accelerated practice of racial profiling, especially as a result of the USA Patriot Act of 2001, the American public largely supports the indefinite detention by federal authorities of over 11,000 immigrants, only four of whom, according to Davis, have direct links to terrorist organizations.ix


Already imperiled before the aftershocks of the terrorists attacks, democracy appears even more fragile in this time of crisis as new antiterrorist laws have been passed that make it easier to undermine those basic civil liberties that protect individuals against invasive and potentially repressive government actions. Against a government and media induced culture of fear, “Federal law enforcement is being restructured so that the FBI can permanently focus on the War against Terrorism—meaning that it will largely become an elite immigration police—while a mysterious new Pentagon entity, the Homeland Defense Command, will presumably adopt the Mexican border as a principal battlefield.”x A further threat to democracy can be found in the recently passed USA Patriot Act of 2001. This legislation increases law enforcement's power to conduct surveillance, enact wiretaps that do not have to be disclosed to the public, engage in secret searches, and detain legal immigrants indefinitely. It also authorizes the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to resume spying on U.S. citizens. The bill also authorizes secret immigration trials, unreviewable military tribunals, and the monitoring of attorney-client conversations. Not only does the bill introduce a broadly defined crime of “domestic terrorism,” it also allows people to be interned and tried on the basis of secret evidence. Many conservatives and liberals view these laws as both a violation of the Constitution and a threat to some of the most basic freedoms endemic to a democratic state. For instance, conservative columnist William Safire has referred to the military tribunals as “kangaroo courts,” and David Cole, a progressive lawyer, has argued that the Patriot Act “imposes guilt by association on immigrants . . . and resurrects the philosophy of McCarthyism, simply substituting ‘terrorist’ for ‘communist.’” He also argues that “the military tribunals eliminate virtually every procedural check designed to protect the innocent and accurately identify the guilty.”xi


The notion of what constitutes a just society is in flux, betrayed in part by the legacy and language of a commercial culture that collapses the imperatives of a market economy and the demands of a democratic society, and a present that makes humanitarian and political goals a footnote to military goals.xii Instead of seeing the current crisis as a break from the past, it is crucial for educators and others to begin to understand how the past might be useful in addressing what it means to live in a democracy in the aftermath of September 11. This suggests establishing a vision of freedom, equity, education, and justice, as Homi Bhabha, points out  “informed by civil liberties and human rights, which carries with it the shared obligations and responsibilities of common, collaborative citizenship.”xiii  



Official calls for unity, burdened with rage and grief for those killed or injured in the terrorist attacks, waver between agitprop displays of patriotism and a genuine attempt to understand and address the political reality of balancing civil liberties and national security, fear and reason, compassion and anger. The political reality that emerges from the crisis points to a set of choices the American people are being asked to make that include an ongoing military war in Afghanistan, with the possibility of wider military strikes on other Islamic nations, and the demand to sacrifice some basic civil liberties to strengthen domestic security. Of course, Americans have every right to demand that our children, cities, water supply, public buildings, and most crucial public spaces be safe from terrorists. And we must do something in response to such brutal acts of violence. But the demand for security and safety calls for more than military action and the rescinding of basic civil liberties; it also points to larger political issues that demand a diplomatic offensive based on a critical examination of the very nature of our own domestic and foreign policy. Educators have an important role to play in encouraging such an examination of American history and foreign policy among their students and colleagues. Equally important is the need for educators to use their classrooms not only to help students to think critically about the world around them but also to offer a sanctuary and forum where they can address their fears, anger, and concerns about the events of September 11 and how it has affected their lives. The events of September 11 provide educators with a crucial opportunity to reclaim schools as democratic public spheres in which students can engage in dialogue and critique around the meaning of democratic values, the relationship between learning and civic engagement, and the connection between schooling, what it means to be a critical citizen, and the responsibilities one has to the larger world.xiv


Nothing justifies the violence by terrorists committed against those innocent people who died on September 11th. Americans should be unified against that type of terror, and rightly so, but we need to define not only what we are against but also what we stand for as a nation, and how such a project draws from the principles and values that inform the promise of a more fully developed democracy in a global landscape. In a time of crisis, unity is a powerful force, but it is not always innocent, and it must become part of a broader dialogue about how the United States defines itself and its relationship to the rest of the world, particularly to those Western and Middle Eastern societies that reject or are resistant to democratic and egalitarian rule.


If this national crisis has shattered the American sense of alleged complacency and purported self-indulgence, it has also aroused a sense of unity that has sent a chilling message of intolerance towards dissenting opinions about America’s role. Early casualties included two journalists, Dan Guthrie, a columnist for the Daily Courier of Grants Pass, Oregon, and Tom Gutting of The Texas City Sun, both of whom were fired for criticizing President Bush soon after the terrorist bombings.xv Equally disturbing was a statement issued by both the chancellor and the trustees of the City University of New York, condemning professors who criticized United States foreign policy at a teach-in.xvi Neither the trustees nor the chancellor attended the teach-in, basing their response on articles that appeared in The New York Post. Similar attacks were made by Lynne V. Cheney, wife of the vice president and former chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Scott Rubush, an associate editor of FrontPage magazine. Cheney denounced Judith Rizzo, deputy chancellor of the New York City schools when she “said terrorist attacks demonstrated the importance of teaching about Muslim cultures.”xvii Rubush, while appearing on National Public Radio in October, argued that four faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill had been critical of American foreign policy and should be fired because “They’re using state resources to the practical effect of aiding and abetting the Taliban.”xviii


Cheney was also involved in what was one of the most disturbing attacks on people who have dissented against American foreign policy. She and Senator Joseph Lieberman founded an organization called the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which published the recent report, Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America, and What Can Be Done About It.xix  This report includes a list of 117 comments made by faculty and students in the wake of September 11 and points to such comments to argue that American campuses are “short on patriotism and long on self-flagellation.”xx The report not only suggests that dissent is unpatriotic but also reveals the names of those academics who are allegedly guilty of such crimes. The report was sent to three thousand trustees, donors, and alumni across the country, urging them to wage a campaign on college campuses to require the teaching of American history and Western civilization and to protest and take actions against those intellectuals who are not loyal to this group’s version of patriotism.xxi


Across the United States, a number of professors have been either fired or suspended for speaking out critically about post–September 11 events.xxii Patriotism in this view becomes a euphemism for shutting down dissent, eliminating critical dialogue, and condemning critical citizenship in the interest of conformity and a dangerous departure from what it means to uphold a viable democracy. Needless to say, teachers in both K–12 and higher education are particularly vulnerable to these forms of censorship, particularly if they attempt to engage their students in pedagogical approaches that critically explore the historical, ideological, and political contexts of the attacks and the underlying causes of terrorism, not to mention any controversial subject that calls into question the authority and role of the United States in domestic and foreign affairs. Such censorship shuts down critical inquiry in the schools and prevents students from learning how to distinguish an explanation from a justification. Richard Rothstein, a New York Times reporter, is right in arguing that “[T]eachers should be encouraged to explore whether there are specific policies that may give rise to terrorism, without being accused of undermining patriotism and national unity. Students who are not taught to question our policies will be ill-prepared as adults to improve on them.”xxiii


There is a difference between justifying terrorism and trying to historically contextualize and explain it, and this distinction appears to be lost on those who are quick to argue that academic freedom and civil liberties are expendable in a post–September11th world.xxiv Unfortunately, an unparalleled sense of unity and display of “patriotism” on the part of the American people have also given rise to what some journalists have called a display of “stunning intolerance,”xxv exacerbating an already unrestrained and indiscriminate hatred toward the seven million Americans who are Muslims. In some cases, insults have been replaced by violence, resulting in death, and as the wave of hate speech and incidents escalate, the American people fall prey to the most retrograde and dangerous views. For instance, a Gallop Poll released on October 4, 2001, indicated that “49 percent of the American people said yes to the idea that Arabs, including those who are American citizens, should carry special identification,” and “58 percent demand that Arabs, including those who are Americans, should undergo special, more intense security checks in general."  


Such views reflect an uncritical notion of “patriotism”xxvi and are at odds with the most basic principles of an effective democracy informed by a critical democratic education that encourages, rather than closes down, dialogue, critique, dissent, and social justice. At its best, patriotism means that a country does everything possible to question itself, to provide the conditions for its people to actively engage and transform the policies that shape their lives and others. At its worst, patriotism confuses dissent with treason, arrogance with strength, and brute force as the only exemplar of justice. The main obstacles to justice will not be found in weakening civil liberties, nourishing bellicose calls for revenge, or for drawing lines in the sand between the West and the rest. As George Monblot points out, “[I]t seems that in trying to shout the terrorist out, we have merely imprisoned ourselves. . . . [F]ree speech and dissent have now joined terrorism as the business of ‘evil doers.’ If this is a victory for civilization, I would hate to see what defeat looks like.”xxvii


Ignorance and arrogance are no substitute for reasoned analyses, critical understanding, and an affirmation of democratic principles of justice. Any call for further giving up civil liberties and freedom of speech suggests a dangerous silence about the degree to which civil liberties are already at risk and how the current call for national safety might work to further a different type of terrorism, one not marked by bombs and explosions but by state-supported repression, the elimination of dissent, and the death of both the reality and promise of democracy.


But unreflective patriotism as home-team boosterism runs the risk of not only bolstering the conditions for what Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive, calls The New McCarthyism xxviii but it also feeds a commercial frenzy that turns collective grief into profits and reminds us how easy the market converts noble concepts like public service and civic courage into forms of civic vacuity. Frank Rich, an editorial writer for The New York Times, calls this trend “Patriotism on the Cheap” and captures its peon to commercialism in the following commentary:


"9/11" is now free to be a brand, ready to do its American duty and move product. Ground zero, at last an official tourist attraction with its own viewing stand, has vendors and lines to rival those at Disneyland. (When Ashleigh Banfield stops by, visitors wave and smile at the TV camera just as they do uptown at the "Today" show.) Barnes & Noble offers competing coffee-table books handsomely packaging the carnage of yesteryear. On Gary Condit's Web site, a snapshot of the congressman's own visit to ground zero sells his re-election campaign. NBC, whose Christmas gift to the nation was its unilateral lifting of a half-century taboo against hard-liquor commercials, deflects criticism by continuing to outfit its corporate peacock logo in stars and stripes. xxix


Red, white, and blue flags adorn a plethora of fashion items, including hats, dresses, coats, T-shirts, robes, and scarves. Many corporations now organize their advertisements around displays of patriotism—signaling their support for the troops abroad, the victims of the brutal terrorists acts, and, of course, American resolve—each ad amply displaying its respective corporate or brand-name logo, working hard to gain some cash value by defining commercialism and consumerism as the ultimate demonstration of patriotism. xxx As I point out in more detail in the following sections, in this register, consumerism and the squelching of dissent represent mutually compatible notions of a view of patriotism in which citizenship is more about the freedom to buy than the ability of individuals to engage in “critical public dialogue and broadened civic participation leading (so it is hoped) to far-reaching change.” xxxi  It gets worse.

Moral panic following the September attacks has not only redefined public space as the “sinister abode of danger, death and infection” xxxii and fueled the collective rush to “patriotism on the cheap,” it also has buttressed the “fear economy.” Defined as the complex of military and security firms rushing to exploit the national nervous breakdown, xxxiii  the fear economy promises big financial gains for both the defense department, already asking for an additional twenty billion dollar increase from the Bush administration, and the antiterrorist security sectors, primed to terror-proof everything from trash cans and water systems to shopping malls and public restrooms. 


Defined largely through an appeal to fear and a call to strengthen domestic security, the space of the social has been both militarized and increasingly commodified. As such, there is little public conversation about connecting the social to democratic values, justice, or what the public good might mean in light of this horrible attack as a moral and political referent to denounce mass acts of violence and to attempt to secure freedom and justice for all people. In fact, since the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the media has largely treated the notions of freedom and security without any reference to how these terms might be taken up as part of a wider set of political, economic, and social interests that were at work before the terrorists wreaked havoc on New York and Washington, D.C. In part, this is due to the willingness of the largely dominant media, politicians, and others to substitute jingoistic drum beating for a reasoned analysis of what it would mean to “put public affairs back on the American agenda, to revive people’s sense that they have at stake in the way our society is run.”xxxiv  


Such questions are crucial to any national conversation about the relationship among security, freedom, and democracy and the future of the United States, but such a task would demand, in part, addressing what vocabularies and practices regarding the space of the social and political were actually in place prior to the events of September 11th and what particular notions of freedom, security, and citizenship were available to Americans—the legacy and influence of which might prevent them from assuming the role of critical and engaged citizens capable of addressing this national crisis. Instead of seeing the current crisis as a break from the past, it is crucial for the American public to begin to understand how the past might be useful in addressing what it means to live in a democracy in the aftermath of the bombings in New York and Washington, D.C. Public schools should play a decisive role in helping students configure the boundaries between history and the present, incorporating a critical understanding of those events that are often left out of the rendering of contemporary considerations that define the roles students might play as critical citizens. Of course, this will be difficult since many public schools are overburdened with high-stakes tests and harsh accountability systems designed to get teachers to narrow their curriculum and to focus only on raising test scores. Consequently, any struggle to make schools more democratic and socially relevant will have to link the battle for critical citizenship to an ongoing fight against turning schools into testing centers and teachers into technicians.


How we define social with its attendant notions of freedom and security cannot be separated from a legacy of neoliberalism, in which the space of the social is largely defined through a set of market relations that commodify, privatize, and utterly commercialize understandings of freedom and security. Construing profit making as the essence of democracy, neoliberalism provides a rationale for a handful of private interests to control as much of social life as possible to maximize their financial investments. Within this growing marketization and privatization of everyday life, market relations as they define the economy are viewed as a paradigm for democracy itself. Capitalism now defines the meaning of freedom, and to paraphrase Milton Friedman profit making is the essence of democracy. Defined almost exclusively through the rhetoric of commercial forces, the social under the economic policies of neoliberalism has undermined the discourses of moral responsibility, democratic values, and political agency. Abstracted from its notion of the social has been the crucial issue of what it means to provide people with the capacities for them to be critical agents, capable of making collectively binding choices and to carry them out as part of the responsibility of translating social issues into collective action and to insist on a language of the public good. Even worse, the privatized notion of the social that has dominated American life for the last twenty years makes it increasingly difficult for people to invest in the notion of the public good as a political idea, or to believe they can be agents of change and that political and ethical values matter, or that democracy as an experience does not appear as surplus and is worth investing in and fighting for.  


The discourse of security and freedom prior to the September 11th attacks pointed to a very different notion of the social, one that had very little to do with democratic social relationships, compassion, and noncommodified values. Freedom was largely defined as the freedom to pursue one’s own individual interests, largely free of governmental interference, and seemed at odds with a more democratic notion of freedom—which would include, as Edward Said has argued, the “right to a whole range of choices affording cultural, political, intellectual and economic development—[that] ipso facto will lead to a desire for articulation rather than silence.”xxxv Decoupled from freedom, security within the last twenty years has become synonymous with big government and a debilitating form of dependency. Security traditionally meant investing in a welfare state that provided individuals not only with basic rights but also those social provisions that enabled them to develop their capacities as citizens free from the most basic wants and deprivations. This suggested creating a state that provided a modicum of support and services to make sure people had access to decent health care, food, child care, public schooling, employment, basic financial support, and housing.


Under neoliberal social and economic policies, such notions of security became highly privatized as the welfare state was hollowed out. With the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in the 1980s, freedom was defined largely in market terms, removed from questions of equity, and traditional notions of security became a referent point for attacking big government and dismantling the welfare state. The social, in this instance, extending from the Reagan to the Clinton eras, collapsed under the weight of a market philosophy that could only imagine a privatized notion of agency and viewed community as an obstacle to market-based values that stressed excessive individualism, privatization, commercialization, and the bottom line. Under such circumstances, the helping functions of society gave way to the largely policing functions, and the logic of free market exchange undermined those collective structures that fought for social guarantees, public services, and equality of rights. As the social became individualized, uncertainty and fear worked to depoliticize a population that is educated to believe that social problems can only be addressed through private solutions. Within such a climate, shared responsibilities gave way to shared trepidation.


In light of such views and practices, I want to suggest that while the social is being affirmed and reshaped as a result of this terrible tragedy, the terms through which public life and citizenship are being invoked need to be critically engaged within a legacy of neoliberalism that limits profoundly the vocabulary and values available for developing a language of critique and possibility for addressing the responsibilities of critical citizenship and the demands of a democratic society in a time of crisis. For instance, while the role of big government and public services have made a comeback on behalf of the common good, especially in providing crucial services related to public health and safety, President Bush and his supporters remain “wedded to the same reactionary agenda he pushed before the attack.”xxxvi Instead of addressing the gaps in both public health needs and the safety net for workers, young people, and the poor, President Bush is trying to push through a stimulus plan based primarily on tax breaks for the wealthy and major corporations, while at the same time “pressing for an energy plan that features subsidies and tax breaks for energy companies and drilling in the arctic wilderness.”xxxvii Investing in children, the environment, and those most in need as well as in crucial public services, once again gives way to investing in the rich and repaying corporate contributors and suggests that little has changed with respect to economic policy, regardless of all the talk about the past being irrevocably repudiated in light of the events of September 11.


The collapse of public life over the last twenty years makes it all the more essential that the educators rearticulate a notion of the social at the present time that is framed not only against the recent terrorist attacks on the United States but also in light of the emergence of a market-based philosophy that undermines the promise of democracy, the meaning of critical citizenship, and the importance of public engagement. Crucial to such a debate is the role that educators, educational researchers, theorists, and policy makers might play in intervening both with students and others in an ongoing public conversation about the national crisis arising out of the events of September 11th. At the heart of such a debate is the need to decouple a market economy from the notion of democracy, to refuse the neoliberal notion that market relations and profit making constitute the meaning and substance of democracy. Sheldon Wolin has recently argued that we need to rethink the notion of loss and how it impacts the possibility for opening up democratic public life. Wolin points to the need for educators to resurrect and raise questions about “What survives of the defeated, the indigestible, the unassimilated, the ‘cross-grained,’ the ‘not wholly obsolete’.”xxxviii As I have argued elsewhere, “something is missing” in an age of manufactured politics and pseudo-publics catering almost exclusively to desires and drives produced by the commercial hysteria of the market.xxxix What is missing is a language, movement, and vision that refuses to equate democracy with consumerism, market relations, and privatization. In the absence of such a language and the social formations and public spheres that make it operative, politics becomes narcissistic and caters to the mood of widespread pessimism and the cathartic allure of the spectacle. This is especially important for reinvigorating the debate about public education, which the last few years has been dominated by the discourse of testing, privatization, vouchers, and standards. If schools are not to be defined as either training centers for the corporations or as high-stakes testing centers, it is imperative for educators to reassert the discourse of critical citizenship, public participation, and democracy as central to the meaning and purpose of schooling. In part, this means challenging the most basic tenets of neoliberalism, with its central assumption that market relations define the nature of schooling, the social and public life. Or, as Lewis Lapham puts it, democracy cannot be “understood as a fancy Greek name for the American Express Card.”xl


Since the beginning of the 1980s Americans have lived with a heightened sense of insecurity and uncertainty. The tools that were available in the past to deal with the most basic necessities of life such as healthcare, employment, shelter, and education are increasingly disappearing as the welfare state is attacked in the name of market forces that equate profit making with the essence of democracy and consumption as the ultimate privilege of citizenship.xli


As the state is increasingly relieved of its welfare-providing functions, it defaults on its capacity to provide people with the most basic social provisions, extending from health care to public transportation, and simultaneously withdraws from its obligation to create those noncommodified public spheres in which people learn the language of ethics, civic courage, democratically charged politics, and collective empowerment. Within such a turn of events, schools are increasingly defined less as a public good than as sites for financial investment and entrepreneurial training—that is, as a private good. As big business comes to play a central role in school reform, public schools are increasingly asked to operate under the imperative to conform to the needs of the market and reflect more completely the interests of corporate culture. Targeted primarily as a source of investments for substantial profits, public schools are under pressure to define themselves as commercial spheres to restructure civic life in the image of market culture and to educate students as consumers rather than as multifaceted social agents.xlii


Public spheres disappear amid a flurry of commercial activity as shopping malls proliferate, outnumbering both secondary high schools and post offices. Increasingly, a market-based ideology substitutes the discourse of self-reliance and competition for the language of democratic participation, community, and the notion of the public good. One striking example can be seen in the corporate language of schooling, in which notions of competition, self-reliance, and individual choice dominate the discourse of high-stakes testing, the standards movement, the school choice agenda, and the charter school movement. Another example can be seen in many rural towns, where economic growth is tied to a prison-industry complex that promises jobs by building new prisons. Policing and incarceration emerge as part of a larger pattern of social control, dressed up, in part, as strategic growth to reignite the economies of rural towns.xliii Missing from this unfortunate trend is any mention of the horror “at the spectacle of a society in which local officials are reduced to lobbying for prisons as their best chance for economic growth.”xliv Nor is there any mention in the rhetoric of such economic renewal projects that mostly white residents are securing their economic dreams on the transit and lockdown of largely poor African Americans, who make up fully half of the two million Americans currently behind bars in this country.xlv  Nor is there any room in this discourse for recognizing that increasing militarization abroad will mean more militarization on the domestic front, especially against “vulnerable groups such as immigrants and communities of color bearing the brunt of the intensified assault on civil liberties.”xlvi Utopia now becomes privatized and racialized as social problems are translated as personal issues and the tools for translating personal considerations into public issues gradually disappear amid the alleged virtues of corporate competitive values and the incessant celebration in the media of those individuals who have made it in the marketplace because of their ability to "go it alone" through the sheer will of their competitive spirit.xlvii As the social is refigured through the privatized lens of market relations, radical insecurity and uncertainty replace ethical considerations, social justice, and any viable notion of collective hope.


As those public spaces that offer forums for debating norms, critically engaging ideas, making private issues public, and evaluating judgments disappear under the juggernaut of neoliberal policies, it becomes crucial for educators to raise fundamental questions about what it means to revitalize public life, politics, and ethics in ways that take seriously such values as patriotism, “citizen participation, . . . political obligation, social governance, and community,”xlviii especially at a time of national crisis when such terms become less an object of analysis than uncritical veneration. The call for a revitalized politics grounded in an effective democracy substantively challenges the dystopian practices of neoliberalism—with its all-consuming emphasis on market relations, commercialization, privatization, and the creation of a worldwide economy of part-time workers—against its utopian promises. Such an intervention confronts educators with the problem as well as the challenge of analyzing, engaging, and developing those public spheres—such as the media, public education, and other cultural institutions—that provide the conditions for creating citizens who are equipped to exercise their freedoms, competent to question the basic assumptions that govern political life, and skilled enough to participate in shaping the basic social, political, and economic orders that govern their lives. It is precisely within these public spheres that the events of September 11th and military action against Afghanistan, the responsibility of the media, the civic obligation of educators, and America’s role in the world as a superpower should be debated rather than squelched in the name of an unthinking patriotism.


Two factors work against such a debate on any level. First, there are very few public spheres left that provide the space for such conversations to take place. Secondly, it is increasingly difficult for young people and adults to appropriate a critical language, outside of the market, that would allow them to translate private problems into public concerns or to relate public issues to private considerations. For many young people and adults today, the private sphere has become the only space in which to imagine any sense of hope, pleasure, or possibility. Market forces focus on the related issues of consumption and safety. Reduced to the act of consuming, citizenship is “mostly about forgetting, not learning.”xlix  And as social visions of equity and justice cede from public memory, unfettered brutal self interests combine with retrograde social polices to make security a top domestic priority. One consequence, once again, is that all levels of government are being hollowed out, reducing their role to dismantling the gains of the welfare state as they increasingly construct policies that criminalize social problems and prioritize penal methods over social investments, even as the post–September 11 events have rallied a renewal on the part of many Americans in the importance of big government as a provider of public services, public infrastructures, and public goods. Hence, it is not surprising that the current concern with security, with its implied notions of further militarizing and policing ever more aspects of daily life, is surprisingly disconnected from the disturbing rise of a prison-industrial complex that also prioritizes punishment over rehabilitation, containment over social investment.l


For many commentators, the events of September 11th signaled a turn away from the complacency, cynicism, and political indifference that allegedly attested to civic disengagement and the “weak” character of the American public. In this discourse, the focus on character seemed to replace any sense of either the complexity of the American public or how it has been shaped by dominant political, cultural, and economic forces. Frank Rich, an op-ed writer for The New York Times argues that the terrorist acts had revitalized the patriotic spirit of a “country that during its boom became addicted to instant gratification.”li Rich seems to forget that the luxury of such “gratification” only applied to the top twenty percent of the population. He also ignores the fact that while most Americans exhibit a disinclination to vote or put too much faith in their government, they also have been bombarded by a corporate culture that not only relentlessly commercializes and privatizes noncommodified public spheres but also has almost nothing to say about civic values, civic engagement, or the importance of nonmarket values in enabling people to identify and fight for those public goods and spheres, such as public schools and a noncommercial media, that are essential to any vibrant democracy. When citizenship is reduced to the spectacle of consumerism, it should come as no surprise that people develop an indifference to citizen engagement and to participation in democratic public life.lii In fact, I want to stress once again that when notions of freedom and security are decoupled and freedom is reduced to the imperatives of market exchange, and security is divested from a defense of a version of the welfare state distinguished by its social provisions and “helping functions,” not only does freedom collapse into a brutal form of individualism but also the state is stripped of its helping functions while its policing functions are often inordinately strengthened. Even as the foundations of the security state are being solidified through zero-tolerance policies, antiterrorist laws, soaring incarceration rates, the criminalization of pregnancy, racial profiling, and anti-immigration policies, it is crucial that educators and scholars take up the events of September 11th, not through a one-sided view of patriotism that stifles dissent and aids the forces of domestic militarization but as part of a broader effort to expand the United States’s democratic rather than repressive possibilities.


Unlike some theorists who suggest that politics as a site of contestation, critical exchange and engagement has either come to an end or is in a state of terminal arrest, I believe that the current, depressing state of politics points to the urgent challenge of reformulating the crisis of democracy as part of the fundamental crisis of vision, meaning, education, and political agency. If it is possible to gain anything from the events of September 11th, it must be understood as an opportunity for a national coming together and soul searching, a time for expanding democratic possibilities rather than limiting them. Politics devoid of vision degenerates into either cynicism, a repressive notion of patriotism, or it appropriates a view of power that appears to be equated almost exclusively with the militarization of both domestic space and foreign policy initiatives. Lost from such accounts is the recognition that democracy has to be struggled over—even in the face of a most appalling crisis of political agency. Educators, scholars, and policy makers must redress the little attention paid to the fact that the struggle over politics and democracy is inextricably linked to creating public spheres where individuals can be educated as political agents equipped with the skills, capacities, and knowledge they need not only to actually perform as autonomous political agents but also to believe that such struggles are worth taking up. Central to my argument is the assumption that politics is not simply about power but also, as Cornelius Castoriadis points out, “has to do with political judgements and value choices,”liii indicating that questions of civic education—learning how to become a skilled citizen—are central to both the struggle over political agency and democracy itself. Finally, there is the widespread refusal among many educators and others to recognize that the issue of civic education—with its emphasis on critical thinking, bridging the gap between learning and everyday life, understanding the connection between power and knowledge, and using the resources of history to extend democratic rights and identities—is not only the foundation for expanding and enabling political agency but also takes place across a wide variety of public spheres through the very force of culture itself,liv particularly through the growing power of a mass-mediated culture.lv


For many educational reformers, education and schooling are synonymous. In actuality, schooling is only one site where education takes place. As a performative practice, pedagogy is at work in a variety of educational sites—including popular culture, television and cable networks, magazines, the Internet, churches, and the press—where culture works to secure identities; it does the bridging work for negotiating the relationship between knowledge, pleasure, and values, and renders authority both crucial and problematic in legitimating particular social practices, communities, and forms of power. As a moral and political practice, the concept of public pedagogy points to the enormous ways in which popular and media culture construct the meanings, desires, and investments that play such an influential role in how students view themselves, others, and the larger world. Unfortunately, the political, ethical, and social significance of the role that popular culture plays as the primary pedagogical medium for young people remains largely unexamined by many educators and seems almost exclusively removed from any policy debates about educational reform. Educators also must challenge the assumption that education is limited to schooling and that popular cultural texts cannot be as profoundly important as traditional sources of learning in teaching about important issues framed through, for example, the social lens of poverty, racial conflict, and gender discrimination. This suggest not only expanding the curricula to allow students to become critically literate in those visual, electronic, and digital cultures that have such an important influence on their lives, but it also suggest teaching students the skills to be cultural producers as well. For instance, learning how to read films differently is no less important than learning how to produce films. Within this expanded approach to pedagogy, both the notion of what constitutes meaningful knowledge as well as what the conditions of critical agency might point to a more expansive and democratic notion of civic education and political agency.


Educators at all levels of schooling need to challenge the assumption that either politics is dead or that any viable notion of politics will be determined exclusively by government leaders and experts in the heat of moral frenzy to impose vengeance on those who attacked the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Educators need to take a more critical position, arguing that critical knowledge, debate, and dialogue grounded in pressing social problems offers individuals and groups some hope in shaping the conditions that bear down on their lives. Public engagement born of citizen engagement is urgent if the concepts of the social and public can be used to revitalize the language of civic education and democratization as part of a broader discourse of political agency and critical citizenship in a global world. Linking a notion of the social to democratic public values represents an attempt, however incomplete, to link democracy to public action, and to ground such support in defense of militant utopian thinking (as opposed to unadorned militancy) as part of a comprehensive attempt to revitalize the conditions for individual and social agency, civic activism, and citizen access to decision making while simultaneously addressing the most basic problems facing the prospects for social justice and global democracy.


Educators within both public schools and higher education need to continue finding ways of entering the world of politics by both making social problems visible and contesting their manifestation in the polity. We need to build on those important critical, educational theories of the past to resurrect the emancipatory elements of democratic thought, while also recognizing and engaging their damaged and burdened historical traditions.lvi We need to reject both neoliberal and orthodox leftist positions, which dismiss the state as merely a tool of repression, to find ways to use the state to challenge, block, and regulate the devastating effects of capitalism. French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu is right when he calls for collective work by educators to prevent the right and other reactionaries from destroying the most precious democratic conquests in the areas of labor legislation, health, social protection, and education.lvii At the very least, this would suggest that educators defend schools as democratic public spheres, struggle against the deskilling of teachers and students, and argue for a notion of pedagogy that is grounded in democratic values rather than those corporate-driven ideologies and testing schemes that severely limit the creative and liberatory potential of teachers and students.


At the same time, such educators must resist the reduction of the state to its policing functions, while linking such a struggle to the fight against neoliberalism and the struggle for expanding and deepening the freedoms, rights, and relations of a vibrant democracy. Postcolonial theorist Samir Amin echoes this call by arguing that educators should consider addressing the project of a more realized democracy as part of an ongoing process of democratization. According to Amin, democratization “stresses the dynamic aspect of a still-unfinished process” while rejecting notions of democracy that are given a definitive formula.lviii Educators have an important role to play here in the struggle to link social justice and economic democracy with the equality of human rights, the right to education, health, research, art, and work.


On the cultural front, teachers as public intellectuals can work to make the pedagogical more political by engaging in a permanent critique of their own scholasticism and promoting critical awareness to end oppression and forms of social life that disfigure contemporary life and pose a threat to any viable notion of democracy. Educators need to provide spaces of resistance within the public schools and the university that take seriously what it means to educate students to question and interrupt authority, recall what is forgotten or ignored, make connections that are otherwise hidden, while simultaneously providing the knowledge and skills that enlarge their sense of the social and their possibilities as viable political agents capable of expanding and deepening democratic public life. At the very least, such educators can challenge the correlation between the impoverishment of society and the impoverishment of intellectuals by offering possibilities other than what we are told is possible. Or as Alain Badiou observes “showing how the space of the possible is larger than the one assigned—that something else is possible, but not that everything is possible.”lix In times of increased domination of public K–12 education and higher education it becomes important, as George Lipsitz reminds us, that educators—as well as artists and other cultural workers—not become isolated “in their own abstract desires for social change and actual social movements. Taking a position is not the same as waging a war of position; changing your mind is not the same as changing society.”lx


Resistance must become part of a public pedagogy that works to position rigorous theoretical work and public bodies against corporate power and the militarization of visual and public space, connect classrooms to the challenges faced by social movements in the streets, and provide spaces within classrooms and other sites for personal injury and private terrors to be transformed into public considerations and struggles. This suggests that educators should work to form alliances with parents, community organizers, labor organizations, and civil rights groups at the local, national, and international levels to better understand how to translate private troubles into pubic actions, arouse public interest over pressing social problems, and use collective means to more fully democratize the commanding institutional economic, cultural, and social structures of the United States and the larger global order.


In the aftermath of the events of September 11, it is time to remind ourselves that collective problems deserve collective solutions and that what is at risk is not only a generation of minority youth and adults now considered to be a threat to national security but also the very promise of democracy itself. As militarism works to intensify patriarchal attitudes and antidemocratic assaults on dissent, it is crucial for educators to join with those groups now making a common cause against those forces that would sacrifice basic constitutional freedoms to the imperatives of war abroad and militarism at home.



Rather than define the social through the raw emotions of collective rage and the call for retribution, it is crucial at this momentous time in our history that educators set an example for creating the conditions for reasoned debate and dialogue by drawing on scholarly and popular sources as a critical resource to engage in a national conversation about the place and role of the United States in the world, the conditions necessary to invigorate the political and shape public policy, and to break what Homi Bhabha has called “the continuity and the consensus of common sense.”lxi Against the often uncomplicated and ideologically charged discourses of the dominant, national media, educators must use whatever relevant resources and theories they can as an important tool for critically engaging and mapping the important relations among language, texts, everyday life, and structures of power as part of a wider effort to understand the conditions, contexts, and strategies of struggle that will enable Americans to be more self-conscious about their role in the world, how they affect other cultures and countries, and what it might mean to assume world leadership without reducing it to the arrogance of power.


The tools of theory emerge out of the intersection of the past and present; they respond to and are shaped by the conditions at hand. Americans need new theoretical tools—a new language—for linking hope, democracy, education, and the demands of a more fully realized democracy. While I believe that educators need a new vocabulary for connecting how we read critically to how we engage in movements for social change, I also believe that simply invoking the relationship between theory and practice, critique and social action will not do. Any attempt to give new life to a substantive democratic politics by educators must also address how people learn to be political agents, what kind of educational work is necessary within what kind of public spaces to enable people to use their full intellectual resources to both provide a profound critique of existing institutions and struggle to create, as Stuart Hall puts it, “what would be a good life or a better kind of life for the majority of people.”lxii   


As committed educators, we are required to understand more fully why the tools we used in the past often feel awkward in the present, why they fail to respond to problems now facing the United States and other parts of the globe. More specifically, we need to understand the failure of existing critical discourses to bridge the gap between how society represents itself, particularly through the media, and how and why individuals fail to understand and critically engage such representations to intervene in the oppressive social relationships and distorted truths they often legitimatize.


Educators, scholars, and policy makers can make an important contribution politically and pedagogically in the current crisis in revitalizing a language of resistance and possibility, a language that embraces a militant utopianism while constantly challenging those forces that seek to turn such hope into a new slogan or punish and dismiss those who dare look beyond the horizon of the given. Hope, in this instance, is the precondition for individual and social struggle, the ongoing practice of critical education in a wide variety of sites, the mark of courage on the part of intellectuals in and out of the academy who use the resources of theory to address pressing social problems. But hope is also a referent for civic courage and its ability to mediate the memory of loss and the experience of injustice as part of a broader attempt to open up new locations of struggle, contest the workings of oppressive power, and undermine various forms of domination. At its best, civic courage as a political practice begins when one’s life can no longer be taken for granted. In doing so, it makes concrete the possibility for transforming hope and politics  into an ethical space and public act that confronts the flow of everyday experience and the weight of social suffering with the force of individual and collective resistance and the unending project of democratic social transformation.


Within the prevailing discourses of neoliberalism and militarism that dominate public space, there is little leeway for a vocabulary of political or social transformation, collective vision, or social agency to challenge the ruthless downsizing of jobs, resist the ongoing liquidation of job security, the inadequacy of health care, many public schools and public institutions, and the disappearance of sites from which to struggle against the elimination of benefits for people now hired on a strictly part-time basis. Moreover, against the reality of low-wage jobs, the erosion of social provisions for a growing number of people and the expanding war against young people of color, the market-driven consumer juggernaut continues to mobilize desires in the interest of producing market identities and market relationships that ultimately appear, as Theodor Adorno once put it, nothing less than “a prohibition on thinking itself.”lxiii


It is against this ongoing assault on the public, and the growing preponderance of a free market economy and corporate culture that turns everything it touches into an object of consumption, that educators and others must offer a critique of American society and the misfortunes it generates out of its obsessive concern with profits, consumption, and the commercial values that underline its market-driven ethos. As part of this challenge, educators should help their students bridge the gap between private and public discourses, while simultaneously putting into play particular ideologies and values that resonate with broader public conversations regarding how a society views itself and the world of power, events, and politics.


Educators cannot completely eliminate the vagaries of a crude patriotism, but we can work against a politics of certainty, a pedagogy of terrorism, and institutional formations that close down rather than open up democratic relations. This requires, in part, that we work diligently to construct a politics without guarantees—one that perpetually questions itself as well as all those forms of knowledge, values, and practices that appear beyond the process of interrogation, debate, and deliberation. Democracy should not become synonymous with the language of the marketplace, oppression, control, surveillance, and privatization.


The challenge to redefine the social within those democratic values that deepen and expand democratic relations is crucial not only to the forms of citizenship we offer students and the larger public but also to how we engage the media, politicians, and others who would argue for less democracy and freedom in the name of domestic security. This is not to suggest that national security is not important. In fact, no country can allow its population to live in fear, subject to arbitrary and cowardly terrorist acts. But there has to be a balance and a national conversation among the people of this country about the extent of such a threat and what privileges have to be conceded and at what point democracy itself becomes compromised.


Educators have an important role to play making their voices heard both in and outside of the classroom as part of an effort to articulate a vibrant and democratic notion of the social in a time of national crisis. Acting as public intellectuals, they can help create the conditions for debate and dialogue over the meaning of September 11 and what it might mean to rethink our nation’s role in the world, address the dilemmas posed by the need to balance genuine security with democratic freedoms, and expand and deepen the possibilities of democracy itself.



i Zygmunt Bauman captures this sentiment well in his observation that “Although it has been unnoticed, ignored, or played down by most of us, the truth is that the world is full. The great dream of the West, the dream that there is always a new place to discover, a new land to colonize, has dissolved. The great hope that a nation could wall itself off from the others is likewise over.” Zygmunt Bauman, “Global Solidarity,” Tikkun 17:1 (January/February 2002): 12.

ii On this issue, see Lewis Lapham, “Drums Along the Potomac,” Harper’s Magazine (November 2001): 35–41; Steve Rendall, “The Op-Ed Echo Chamber, Extra (November/December 2001):  14–15; Seth Ackerman, “Network of Insiders,” Extra (November/December 2001): 11–12.

iii Eric Alterman, “Patriot Games,” The Nation (October 29, 2001): 10.

iv Cited in the National Public Radio/Kaiser Family foundation/Kennedy School of Government Civil Liberties Poll. Available on line at http://www.npr.org/news...civillibertiespll/011130.poll.html (November 30, 2001): 3.

v Carl Boggs argues that in the 1990s, “American society had become more depoliticized, more lacing in the spirit of civic engagement and public obligation, than at any other time in recent history, with the vast majority of the population increasingly alienated from a political system that is commonly viewed as corrupt, authoritarian, and simply irrelevant to the most important challenges of our time.” In Carl Boggs, The End of Politics (New York: Guilford Press, 2000), vii. I also take up this theme in Henry A. Giroux, Public Spaces, Private Lives: Beyond the Culture of Cynicism (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001).

vi On the growing culture of surveillance, see William G. Staples, The Culture of Surveillance: Discipline and Social Control in the United States (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997).

vii For some excellent sources on the growing repression in American life, see, David Garland, The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001); Jill Nelson, Police Brutality (New York: Norton, 2000); David Cole, No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System (New York: The New Press, 1999).

viii Mike Davis, “The Flames of New York,” New Left Review 12 (November/December 2001): 48. Davis points out that of the 11,000 being held only 4 have direct connections to bin Laden (p. 49).

ix Davis, op.cit., 49.

x Davis, op.cit., 50.

xi Both quotes are from David Cole, “National Security State,” The Nation (December 17, 2001): 4–5.

xii Jonathan Schell, “Seven Million at Risk,” The Nation (November 5, 2001): 8

xiii Homi Bhabha, “A Narrative of Divided Civilizations,” The Chronicle Review, Section 2 of the Chronicle of Higher Education (September 28, 2001), p. B12.

xiv For some excellent examples of such teaching practices, see the special issue of Rethinking Schools 16(2), titled “War, Terrorism, and America’s Classrooms.”

xv Richard Reeves, “Patriotism Calls Out the Censor,” The New York Times On the Web, retreived from www.nytimes.com (October 1, 2001): 1.

xvi Robin Wilson, “CUNY Chancellor, Trustees Denounce Professors Who Criticized U.S. Policy After Attacks,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, available http://chronicle.com/free/2001/10/2001100502n.htm (Friday, October 5, 2001): 1.

xvii Cited in Richard Rothstein, “Terror Excuses and Explanations,” New York Times (October 17, 2001): 20.

xviii Cited in David Glenn, “The War on Campus: Will Academic Freedom Survive,” The Nation (December 3, 2001): 11.

xix Lieberman has since denounced the report and his role in founding the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. A report in the December 21, 2001, on line version of the Chronicle counters Lieberman's claim and argues that he was a founding member of the organization. See Thomas Bartlett, “Sen. Lieberman Distances Himself from Report Decrying Campuses’ ‘Blame America’ Attitude,” available at http://chronicle.com/daily/2001/12/2001122105n.htm

xx Goldie Blumenstyk, “Group Denounces “Blame America First’ Response to September 11 Attacks,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, available at http://chronicle.com/free/2001/11/2001111202n.htm  (Monday, November 12, 2001): 1. For the full report, see Jerry L. Martin's and Anne D. Neal's self-righteously titled book, Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What We Can Do About It (Washington, DC: The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 2001).

xxi For a critical analysis of this report and its political implications for higher education, see Eric Scigliano, “Naming–and Un-Naming–Names,” The Nation (December 31, 2001): 16.

xxii David Glenn, “The War on Campus: Will Academic Freedom Survive,” The Nation (December 3, 2001): 11–14.

xxiii Richard Rothstein, “Terror, Excuses, and Explanations,” New York Times (October 17, 2001): 20.

xxiv One telling sign of the creeping suppression of dissent can be found in an article by Maria Puente in USA Today. Puente defines the current public outcry against dissent as simply a matter of confusion that has its roots in the political correctness movement of the last decade. Hence, she suggests that the suppression of dissenting opinions is nothing more than an overly sensitive response to language and that we have now entered a period that demands that Americans not only be politically correct but also emotionally correct. Implicit in this embarrassing commentary is the assumption that the left is responsible for the current attack on freedom of speech, and that the defense of the latter has nothing to do with either ethical or legal principles. This is the same logic that Rev. Jerry Falwell used in his remarks in which he blamed liberals, homosexuals, abortion supporters, and Hollywood for the terrorist acts of September 11th. See Maria Puente, “Potentially Confusing,” USA Today (Monday, October 8, 2001), p. 6D.

xxv Robin Wilson and Ana Marie Cox, “Terrorist Attacks Put Academic Freedom to the Test,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (October 5, 2001), p. A12.

xxvi Cited in Edward Said, “Backlash and Backtrack,” on line at L-commdialogue&Lists.psu.edu, p. 1.

xxvii Cited in Zygmunt Bauman, “Global Solidarity,” Tikkun 17(1):  14.

xxviii Matthew Rothschild, “The New McCarthyism,” The Progressive (January 2002): 18–23.

xxix   Frank Rich, “Patriotism on the Cheap,” The New York Times (January 5, 2002), p. A31.


 This issue was also explored brilliantly by Doug Kellner with respect to the war against Iraq under the senior Bush presidency. See, Douglas Kellner, Media Culture: Cultural Studies, Identity, and Politics Between the Modern and the Postmodern (New York: Routledge, 1995), especially pp. 213–214.


 Carl Boggs, The End of Politics (New York: Guilford Press, 2000),  vii.

xxxii Mike Davis, “The Flames of New York,” New Left Review 12 (November/December 2001): 44


 Ibid., p. 45.


 Willis, “Dreaming of War,” 12. I am not suggesting that all of the media is behind the war or presenting simply the standard government line. On the contrary, there has been an enormous amount of dissent in a wide variety of media, especially on the Internet. At the same time, while critical and dissenting voices have been aired even in the dominant print and visual media, this in no way should suggest any reasonable notion of balance.


 Edward W. Said, “The Public Role of Writers and Intellectuals,” The Nation 273(9), p.31.


 Editorial, “Bush’s Domestic War,” The Nation (December 31, 2001): 3.




 Sheldon Wolin, “Political Theory: From Vocation to Invocation,” in Jason Frank and John Tambornino, eds. Vocations of Political Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 4.


 Henry A. Giroux, Public Spaces, Private Lives: Beyond the Culture of Cynicism (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001).


 Lewis Lapham, “Res Publica,” Harper’s Magazine (December 2001): 10.


 Even Maureen Dowd, a columnist for the New York Times, recently claimed that she couldn’t take increasing control of American society by corporate interests, that George W. Bush continues “to give away the store to Big Business. [and that] His White House has become a holding company for Big Money and Media Oligarchy–Murdoch, Gates, Case, Eisner, Redstone.” See Maureen Dowd, "I Can’t Take It Anymore,” The New York Times (September 9, 2001): 19.


 A more recent analysis of the corporatization of schooling can be found in Kenneth J. Saltman, Collateral Damage: Corporatizing Public Schools-A Threat to Democracy (Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2000). See also, Henry A. Giroux, Stealing Innocence: Corporate Culture’s War on Children (New York: Palgrave Press, 2001).


 See Peter Kilborn, “Rural Towns Turn to Prisons to Reignite Their Economies,” New York Times (August 1, 2001), p. A1


 Paul Street, “Prisons and the New American Racism,” Dissent (Summer 2001): 49–50.


 Consider that “in the last twenty years the Justice Department’s budget grew by 900 percent; over 60 percent of all prisoners are in for non-violent drug crimes; an estimated one-in-three black men between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine are under some type of criminal justice control or sought on a warrant; nationwide some 6.5 million people are in prison, on parole, or probation. [This suggests] that the United States is an over-policed, surveillance society that uses prison as one of its central institutions.” Given the current talk about limiting civil liberties, these figures make such a demand all the more problematic. See Christian Parenti, “The ‘New’ Criminal Justice System,” Monthly Review 53:3 (2001): 19.

xlvi Betsy Hartman, “The Return of Relevance” (October 29). reproduced from sysop@zmag.org

xlvii Zygmunt Bauman, The Individualized Society (London: Polity Press, 2001).

xlviii Carl Boggs, The End of Politics (New York: Guilford Press, 2000), p. ix.

xlix Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization: The Human Consequences (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), 82


 For an excellent commentary on how the current discourse of security undermines some basic civil liberties, see Bruce Shapiro, “All in the Name of Security,” The Nation (October 21, 2001): 20–21.


Frank Rich, “The End of the Beginning,” The New York Times, (Saturday, September 29, 2001), p. A23.

lii For one excellent analysis of this issue, see Ralph Nader, “Corporate Patriotism,” available online at www.citizenworks.org (November 10, 2001).

liii Cornelius Castoriadis, “Institution and Autonomy,” in Peter Osborne, A Critical Sense: Interviews with Intellectuals (New York: Routledge, 1996), 8.


 Richard Rothstein, an educational columnist for The New York Times, argued in a recent commentary that many teachers are unprepared to talk about or respond to the recent terrorist attacks because they are simply unprepared and know nothing about the issues. I am not sure this is entirely true, but I would argue that because schools increasingly model their curriculum on standardized forms of knowledge and largely reduce educators to teach for the test, teachers are ill-prepared to connect what they teach to the broader social issues, or to even see the relevance of connecting learning to the outside world. It is precisely at a time when a national crisis intrudes on the curriculum that we get a sense of the degree to which current educational policies are deskilling teachers. I would argue that most teachers are very interested in these issues, and are very knowledgeable, but are positioned to squelch their own knowledge for the standardized nonsense that now passes for school knowledge. See Richard Rothstein, “Teach Students More Than Where to Put the H in Afghanistan,” The New York Times National (Wednesday, September 19, 2001), p. A24. Rothstein does provide a web site for teachers and students interested in the recent terrorist attacks. See www.nytimes.com/learning/terrorism.


 See Henry A. Giroux, Public Spaces, Private Lives: Beyond the Culture of Cynicism (Lahnam, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2001).


 I am referring to work that extends from John Dewey to some of the more prominent contemporary critical educational theorists such as Paulo Freire and Amy Stuart Wells.


 Pierre Bourdieu, Acts of Resistance (New York: Free Press, 1998).


 Samin Amin, “Imperialization and Globalization,” Monthly Review (June 2001): 12.


 Alain Badiou, Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil (London: Verso, 1998), 115–116.


 George Lipsitz, “Academic Politics and Social Change,” in Jodi Dean, ed. Cultural Studies and Political Theory (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), 81.


 Gary Olson and Lynn Worsham, “Staging the Politics of Difference: Homi Bhabha’s Critical Literacy,” Journal of Advanced Composition 18 (3) (1999):  11.


 Stuart Hall cited in Les Terry, “Traveling ‘The Hard Road to Renewal,” Arena Journal, no. 8 (1997): 55.


 Theodor W. Adorno, Critical Models (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 290.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: January 16, 2002
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 10871, Date Accessed: 1/29/2022 12:02:59 AM

Purchase Reprint Rights for this article or review
Article Tools
Related Articles

Related Discussion
Post a Comment | Read All

About the Author
  • Henry Giroux
    Penn State University
    E-mail Author
    Henry A. Giroux holds the Waterbury Chair Professorship and is currently the director of the Waterbury Forum in Education and Cultural Studies at Penn State University. His most recent books include: Breaking in to the Movies: Film and the Culture of Politics (Basil Blackwell, 2002); Beyond the Corporate University, edited with Kostas Myrsiades (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001); Public Spaces, Private Lives: Beyond the Culture of Cynicism (Rowman and Littlefield, 2001); Theory and Resistance in Education, 2nd edition (Bergin and Garvey, 2001); Impure Acts: the Practical Politics of Cultural Studies (Routledge, 2000); The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (Rowman and Littlefield, 2000); Stealing Innocence: Corporate’s Culture’s War on Children (St. Martin’s Press, 2000), Channel Surfing: Racism, the Media, and the Destruction of Today's Youth (St. Martin's Press and MacMillan–England, 1998). His primary research areas are cultural studies, youth studies, critical pedagogy, popular culture, social theory, and the politics of public and higher education.
Member Center
In Print
This Month's Issue