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Learning What You Cannot Say

Teaching Free Speech and Political Literacy in an Authoritarian Age


John L. Hoben

How do teachers know the limits of their speech? Free speech means more than simply being free to agree, though the authoritarian managerial cultures of many schools increasingly ignore the need for a strong and empowered teaching profession. In response to this ongoing systemic contradiction, Learning What You Cannot Say provides a unique combination of teacher narratives, cultural theory and «black letter law» as part of a broader effort to create an active and effective critical legal literacy. The book explores the subtle ways in which cultural values inform shared perceptions of the black letter law and the detrimental impact of teacher apathy and confusion about rights. Since public schools educate our future citizens who learn not only from books but also by example, strong teacher speech is vital to the continued health of both our education system and our democracy. Any transformative form of political literacy, the author insists, must consider the cultural politics as well as the substantive law of rights.
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Chapter 1. Education & Free Speech

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“Language is no longer linked to the knowing of things, but to men’s freedom.” (Foucault, as cited in Emerson, 1983, p. 245)

As the world watched in July of 2013, Edward Snowden, a U.S. citizen and NSA employee, was forced to seek asylum in Russia after leaking classified information to the press regarding secret American programs that monitored private citizens. According to Snowden, these extensive data collection programs that are truly global in scope constitute unprecedented and dangerous violations of our personal privacy and liberties. Snowden’s disclosures come on the heels of WikiLeaks, which also landed Julian Assange in legal hot water and most recently saw Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified material to members of the press. Arising out of what might be termed a politics of containment, these controversies underscore the way in which information and the power to control communication has become a new kind of political currency in today’s digital world. All of these whistleblowers remind us of a common double bind faced in today’s post-­capitalist Western democracies: namely, the need to ensure that the ­military-surveillance apparatus is given sufficient oversight when it uses secret laws to compel third party disclosures of confidential information, authorize warrantless searches and wiretaps, make arbitrary arrests and detentions, and suspend fundamental civil liberties.

← 1 | 2 → While we often feel that these laws are there to protect us, are we naïve to leave the...

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