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Education and the Crisis of Public Values

Challenging the Assault on Teachers, Students, and Public Education – Second edition

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Henry A. Giroux

Updated with both a new introduction and a series of interviews, the second edition of Education and the Crisis of Public Values examines American society’s shift away from democratic public values, the ensuing move toward a market-driven mode of education, and the last decade’s growing social disinvestment in youth. The book discusses the number of ways that the ideal of public education as a democratic public sphere has been under siege, including full-fledged attacks by corporate interests on public school teachers, schools of education, and teacher unions. It also reveals how a business culture cloaked in the guise of generosity and reform has supported a charter school movement that aims to dismantle public schools in favor of a corporate-friendly privatized system. The book encourages educators to become public intellectuals, willing to engage in creating a formative culture of learning that can nurture the ability to defend public and higher education as a general good – one crucial to sustaining a critical citizenry and a democratic society.
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1. In Defense of Public School Teachers in a Time of Crisis

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The noble tradition that once viewed public school teaching as an important public service is in rapid decline in the United States. This democratic legacy, advanced by important scholars such as Jane Addams and John Dewey, valued teachers for providing a crucial educational foundation in the service of the greater social good. Educators were viewed as a valuable resource in teaching students how to take responsibility for their future, develop an unrelenting fidelity to justice, and hone their ability to discriminate between rigorous arguments and heavily charged opinions. Such an education focused on enabling young people to develop the values, skills, and knowledge required for them to enter adult life as critical citizens capable of questioning “common sense,” official knowledge, public opinion, and the dominant media. Developing the conditions for students to be critical agents was viewed as central to the very process of teaching and learning and was part of the broader project of enabling students to both shape and expand democratic institutions. Since the 1980s, however, teachers have faced an unprecedented attack by those forces that view schools less as a public good than as a private right. Seldom accorded the well-deserved status of public intellectuals in the current educational climate, teachers remain the most important component in the learning process for students, while also serving as a moral compass to gauge how seriously a society invests in its youth and in the future. Yet teachers are now being deskilled, unceremoniously removed from the process of...

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