Giroux: Faculty Should Join Campus Occupy Movements

Writing at Truth-out.org, Henry Giroux argues that faculty belong in the Occupy movement. As protesters arrive on campus, the movement is helping to focus critical attention on higher education:

For many young people in the Occupy movement, higher education has defaulted on its promise to provide them with both a quality education and the prospects of a dignified future. They resent the growing instrumentalization and accompanying hostility to critical and oppositional ideas within the university. They have watched over the years as the university is losing ground as a place to think, dissent, and develop a culture of questioning, dialogue, and civic enlightenment. They are rethinking what should be the role of the university in a world caught in a nightmarish blend of war, massive economic inequities and ecological destruction.

…Not only are they protesting the ways in which universities now resemble corporations treating faculty as a subaltern class of casualized labor and defining students largely as customers and clients; they have also recognized that banks and loan corporations, with their army of lobbyists, have declared war on students, killing any legislation that would reduce the cost of schooling, stifling any legislation that would make it affordable for all working- and middle-class students.

They are also raising serious questions about academics. Where are they when it comes to protesting the corporatization and militarization of higher education?

Giroux, well-known for his work on critical pedagogy and education, has suggested that the Occupy movement is “politics as a form of public pedagogy,” calling student activists “the new public intellectuals.”

Now, he says, academics have something to learn from the movement:

[S]tudents have more to offer than a serious critique of the university and its complicity with a number of antidemocratic forces now shaping the larger society. They are also modeling for faculty new modes of participatory democracy, and exhibiting forms of pedagogy and education that connect learning with social change and knowledge with more democratic modes of self-development and social empowerment. Clearly, academics have a lot to learn from both the ways in which students are changing the conversation about education, important social issues, and democracy, and from what it might mean to imagine a new understanding of politics and a different future.Clearly, academics have a lot to learn from both the ways in which students are changing the conversation about education, important social issues, and democracy, and from what it might mean to imagine a new understanding of politics and a different future.

Faculty and administrators have something to offer, too:

Young people need a space on campuses to talk back, talk to one another, engage in respectful dialogue with faculty and learn how to engage in coalition building. Faculty and administrators can begin to open up the possibility for such spaces by offering the Occupy protesters an opportunity to speak to their classes, create autonomous spaces within the university where they might meet and engage in dialogue with others. They can go even further by joining them in fighting those economic and political forces that are destroying higher education as a social good and as a citadel of rigorous intellectual engagement and civic debate.

Read the full essay, “Why Faculty Should Join Occupy Movement Protesters on College Campuses,” here. Giroux’s earlier essays on Occupy movement are herehere, and here.

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