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Higher Education and the Promise of Insurgent Public Memory

Higher Education and the Promise of Insurgent Public Memory

Tuesday, 03 March 2015 00:00
By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout | News Analysis

"What happens to the memory of history when it ceases to be testimony?" - James Young

At a time when both political parties, anti-public intellectual pundits and mainstream news sources view the purpose of higher education almost exclusively as a workstation for training a global workforce, generating capital for the financial elite, and as a significant threat to the power of the military, corporate and financial elite, it becomes more difficult to reclaim a history in which the culture of business is not the culture of higher education. This is certainly not meant to suggest that higher education once existed in an ideal past in which it only functioned as a public good and provided a public service in the interest of developing a democratic polity.

Higher education has always been fraught with notable inequities and anti-democratic tendencies, but it also once functioned as a crucial reminder of both its own limitations and the potential role it might play in attacking social problems and deepening the promise of a democracy to come. As difficult as it may seem to believe, John Dewey's insistence that "democracy needs to be reborn in each generation, and education is its midwife" was once taken seriously by many academic leaders. Today, it is fair to see that Dewey's once vaunted claim has been willfully ignored, forgotten or made an object of scorn.

Throughout the 20th century, there have been flashpoints in which the struggle to shape the university in the interest of a more substantive democracy was highly visible. Those of us who lived through the 1960s remember a different image of the university. Rather than attempt to train MBAs, define education through the lens of mathematical utility, indoctrinate young people into the culture of capitalism, decimate the power of faculty and turn students into mindless consumers, the university presented itself as a site of struggle. That is, it served, in part, as a crucial public sphere that held power accountable, produced a vast array of critical intellectuals, joined hands with the antiwar and civil rights movements and robustly challenged what Mario Savio once called "the machine" - an operating structure infused by the rising strength of the financial elite that posed a threat to the principles of critique, dissent, critical exchange and a never-ending struggle for inclusivity. The once vibrant spirit of resistance that refused to turn the university over to corporate and military interests is captured in Savio's moving and impassioned speech on December 2, 1964, on the steps of Sproul Hall at the University of California, Berkeley:

There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even tacitly take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears, upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all.

The 1960s may have been the high point of that period in US education in which the merging of politics, justice, civil rights and the search for truth made clear what it meant to consider higher education as a democratic public sphere. Not everyone was pleased or supported this explosion of dissent, resistance to the Vietnam War and struggle to make campuses across the United States more inclusive and emancipatory. Conservatives were deeply disturbed by the campus revolts and viewed them as a threat to their dream worlds of privatization, deregulation, militarization, capital accumulation and commodification. What soon emerged was an intense struggle for the soul of higher education. ........................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/news/item/29396-higher-education-and-the-promise-of-insurgent-public-memory

Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy

This is a couple of years old but I just stumbled across it. Excellent presentation by Robert McChesney.


A lecture by Robert McChesney, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

China Monthly Box Office Tops U.S. for First Time Ever

Chinese box-office revenue edged ahead of the United States in February for the first time ever as a record Lunar New Year bonanza brought in $650 million in the second-largest movie market, according to data from research firm Entgroup.

The North American box office for February came in at $710 million, but once Canada was stripped out, the figure was $640 million, making China the biggest box-office market in the world for the month, the firm said.

The Entgroup figures are lower than those for the month for Rentrak and the National Association of Theater Owners, but they highlight a trend that China is set to become the world's biggest film market sooner rather than later, especially as the number of screens increases dramatically every week. ...............(more)


Bill O'Reilly can't beat the box (cartoon)


Winter, don't go away mad. Winter, just go away. (cartoon)


With State Senate’s Approval, Right to Work Looks All But Certain in Wisconsin

(In These Times) MADISON, WISCONSIN—Against the wishes of thousands of angry constituents in two days of protests outside the state capitol building this week, the Wisconsin state senate late Wednesday night voted 17 to 15 in favor of a “right-to-work” law. Only one Republican, a former union member from the northern woodlands of the state, joined all Democratic senators in voting against the anti-union law that the Republican leadership has rushed through an “extraordinary session.”

If the Assembly approves the bill next week—and with a GOP margin of 63 to 36, larger than in the Senate, it is almost certainly expected to do so—Gov. Scott Walker has promised to sign it, giving a former union stronghold the dubious distinction of becoming the 25th state to pass such legislation.

The law will make it illegal for unions and employers to negotiate “union security“ agreements. Such contract provisions typically require all employees in a bargaining unit to pay dues, or some fair share of the regular dues, to pay for the work the union does on behalf of all workers in collective bargaining and representing them in the grievance and discipline processes.

After Congress authorized such state laws in 1947, they were largely confined to the extremely anti-union South, where business owners fought to keep wages low and cultural hostility to collective action ran strong. The ranks of right-to-work states grew irregularly after the 1950s, but the political right has sensed a chance to make progress in the traditionally well-unionized industrial Midwest states and elsewhere since 2012, when states like Michigan and Indiana passed right-to-work laws.

If—or, more accurately at this point, when—the Wisconsin law is approved, the right-to-work campaign will have reached a critical mark: half the states in the U.S. and just under half the private workforce will be under right-to-work rules.

Even supporters concede there is little chance of stopping the law in Wisconsin. ...............(more)


"Is it apathy, or resignation?"

from truthdig:

That’s All, Folks

Posted on Mar 1, 2015
By Peter Z. Scheer


When I started this job nine or so years ago, George W. Bush was in his second term and the U.S. was plainly stuck in two costly, deadly, seemingly endless wars. America was torturing people. Our government routinely lied about pretty much everything. Bush’s attorney general, who tried to eliminate all traces of marijuana and boobies from the national landscape, was replaced by a guy who was somehow worse. The people of New Orleans were drowning and waiting to be saved by the horse enthusiast who was in charge of FEMA. In those times, running Truthdig was a lot easier. The targets were clearly marked.

In a period when the press at large had mostly failed in its duty, Truthdig would avoid quibbling about the obvious and dig for lesser-known truths about the day’s events. We would mine these truths from experts, on-the-ground reports and the small crevices of the Internet and broadcast them as far as our readers, friends and online allies would carry them.

Now, as I write this, an original print of Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster sits behind me, Barack Obama’s eyes overseeing everything I type. How appropriate given what we now know about the NSA. I cannot think of a greater disappointment than President Obama—like so many millions of other Americans, I completely fell for it. I remember sitting in a Nevada home surrounded by volunteers from California, Chicago and elsewhere. Among those migrants were disaffected Republicans who may have more clearly recognized a fellow traveler in the candidate. I thought then that they were the dupes. I was wrong. Regardless, we were united by a common desire for profound change, and we seemed to have found a vehicle for it in Obama. Of course he would go on to squander it all. Truthdig covered the hell out of Obama’s fall from grace. It wasn’t easy, or popular.


Don’t get me started on the national security state. It is baffling to me to think that Richard Nixon’s presidency was brought down by a burglary, while the NSA and other intelligence agencies continue to stampede the Constitution without repercussion. They want to know who you are, what you do, what you say and what you think, and will put you in prison if you dare let anyone know the full extent of what they’re up to. That’s America now, and the collective reaction is “Meh.”


I have two friends who would like to be artists. Instead, one is now a graphic designer, the other makes Internet ads. I have a friend who loves to act; he’s a lawyer. Journalism is now a training camp for PR. The best mathematicians go to work for Wall Street investment firms. Many of these people are shackled to what is estimated by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to be $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. By law, they are not allowed to default. In 1972, the year Jobs dropped out of college, the average annual cost for a four-year education, including fees, room and board, was $2,031, according to the Digest of Education Statistics. In 2013 it was $23,872. That’s an increase of more than 1,100 percent. Reed College, which Jobs attended for six months, now costs $59,960 a year for tuition, room and board, a figure greater than the net worth of the typical American household. Not including books, transportation and other expenses, that’s $239,840 for a bachelor’s degree, which is significantly less valuable in the marketplace now than it was in 1972.


When the best and brightest are chained to a monthly loan payment that leaves them just enough for food, housing and some minor consumer distraction to get them back on the hamster wheel, they’re never really going to do anything about global warming, or Ebola, or Syria, or poverty, or hunger, or the war in the Congo that killed 5.4 million people while no one was paying attention. Those things will exist on Twitter, where great ideas, thought up in stolen moments at work, go to shrink and die. .............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/thats_all_folks_20150301

Chris Hedges: Tariq Ali: The Time Is Right for a Palace Revolution

from truthdig:

by Chris Hedges

PRINCETON, N.J.—Tariq Ali is part of the royalty of the left. His more than 20 books on politics and history, his seven novels, his screenplays and plays and his journalism in the Black Dwarf newspaper, the New Left Review and other publications have made him one of the most trenchant critics of corporate capitalism. He hurls rhetorical thunderbolts and searing critiques at the oily speculators and corporate oligarchs who manipulate global finance and the useful idiots in the press, the political system and the academy who support them. The history of the late part of the 20th century and the early part of the 21st century has proved Ali, an Oxford-educated intellectual and longtime gadfly who once stood as a Trotskyist candidate for Parliament in Britain, to be stunningly prophetic.

The Pakistani-born Ali, who holds Pakistani and British citizenships, was already an icon of the left during the convulsions of the 1960s. Mick Jagger is said to have written “Street Fighting Man” after he attended an anti-war rally in Grosvenor Square on March 17, 1968, led by Ali, Vanessa Redgrave and others outside the U.S. Embassy in London. Some 8,000 protesters hurled mud, stones and smoke bombs at riot police. Mounted police charged the crowd. Over 200 people were arrested.

Ali, when we met last week shortly before he delivered the Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture at Princeton University, praised the street clashes and open, sustained protests against the state that erupted during the Vietnam War. He lamented the loss of the radicalism that was nurtured by the 1960s counterculture, saying it was “unprecedented in imperial history” and produced the “most hopeful period” in the United States, “intellectually, culturally and politically.”

“I cannot think of an example of any other imperial war in history, and not just in the history of the American empire but in the history of the British and French empires, where you had tens of thousands of former GIs and sometimes serving GIs marching outside the Pentagon and saying they wanted the Vietnamese to win,” he said. “That is a unique event in the annals of empire. That is what frightened and scared the living daylights out of them (those in power). If the heart of our apparatus is becoming infected, (they asked) what the hell are we going to do?” ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/tariq_ali_the_time_is_right_for_a_palace_revolution_20150301

Seattle: Sound Transit Reaches Record Ridership in 2014

Sound Transit once again set all-time annual records in 2014 for boardings on its trains and buses. The latest numbers, reported at the Feb 26 Sound Transit Board meeting, reflect an increase of more than 8 percent over 2013, bringing average weekday boardings to more than 109,000 for 2014 and total boardings to an estimated 33 million.

"Each year more and more people hop aboard Sound Transit's trains and express buses," said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. "These gains mean not only happier and more productive commuters, but fewer cars on our congested roads."

Sound Transit's rate of ridership growth was more than four times that of transit ridership nationally. The latest American Public Transportation Association numbers show 1.8 percent growth from third quarter 2013 to third quarter 2014. ..............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.masstransitmag.com/press_release/12049578/sound-transit-reaches-record-ridership-in-2014

With Chicago Tired of “Mayor 1%,” Chuy García Could Actually Win His Runoff with Rahm Emanuel

from In These TImes:

With Chicago Tired of “Mayor 1%,” Chuy García Could Actually Win His Runoff with Rahm Emanuel
While money poured into the recent mayoral and aldermanic elections, voters showed that they are tired of business as usual.


“He’s like a helium balloon,” Marcos Muñoz told me last week, speaking about Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “He keeps rising and rising, and he doesn’t even know he’s popped.”

Muñoz was with Cesar Chavez in the Central Valley in California in 1965, part of a seminal labor movement demanding rights and respect for farmworkers. After a stint organizing for the United Farmworkers in Boston, where he met his wife, Muñoz settled four decades ago in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. That’s where he met Jesus “Chuy” García, a political activist with the vibrant, independent movement then pushing for immigrants rights, labor rights and basic services in black and Latino neighborhoods.

Muñoz described how he was skeptical of García at first, but was won over when García joined the grassroots brigade of locals who would sweep the alleys of trash and broken glass.

Last night García made history, forcing Emanuel into the Chicago’s first-ever mayoral election run-off by winning 34 percent of the vote to Emanuel’s 45 percent.

This moment can be seen as a victory not only for Cook County Commissioner García, a Mexican immigrant who still lives in Little Village, but for Muñoz and the countless other Chicagoans who make the city what it is through their hard work, their creativity, their very existence. .......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/17685/chicago_election_runoff_chuy_rahm

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