Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Thanks for this summary of a really good piece- perfect for a new year, Paul. I've recently done some reading on various indices of human happiness and development, from a historical perspective also, but this one is new to me--will read up.
Henry and Susan Giroux have recently written several good pieces on education, and their latest, in Truthout, Beyond Bailouts
, covers some of the same questions that seem to motivate the thought behind the piece you summarize. The key problem- and the most invisible one-- is that all these issues are outside the range of discussion of the neoliberal, Chicago-school dialog. Including the kids.
Giroux attempts to answer the question--
Why is this so?

 These are among the things America should be striving to increase. These are directions that need to be emphasized in public investments and elsewhere. Yet, if you raise these issues in the councils of our major environmental organizations, the answer could likely be, "These are not environmental issues." But they are. They are a big part of the alternative to the destructive path we are on and, as such, they should be seen as environmental measures as well as social ones.

These are the ESSENTIAL environmental issues.

In short, once a country achieves a moderate level of income, further growth does not significantly improve perceived well-being.

The implications of this by-now well accepted fact remain invisible.
There's an easily identified pattern here.
Not only  are these facts not seen in this fashion, they are in truth almost never seen in the public discussion, other than in the form of aimless laments followed by almost purely neoliberal prescriptions.
Here is a snippet or two from their recent piece, that deals with WHY they are just off the table:

Unfortunately, what so many writers and scholars have taken for granted in their thoughtful criticisms of neoliberalism and their calls for immediate economic reform is the presupposition that we have on hand and in stock generations of young people and adults who have somehow been schooled for the last several decades in an entirely different set of values and cultural attitudes, who do not equate the virtue of reason with an ethically truncated instrumental rationality, who know (of)alternative sets of social relations that are irreducible to the rolls of buyer and seller, and who are not only intellectually prepared but morally committed to the staggering challenges that comprehensive reform requires. This is where the fairy tale ending to an era of obscene injustice careens headlong into reality. Missing from the roadmaps that lead us back out of Alice's rabbit hole, back out of a distorted world where reason and judgment don't apply, is precisely the necessity to understand the success of neoliberalism as a pervasive political and educational force, a pedagogy and form of governance that couples "forms of knowledge, strategies of power and technologies of self."(5) Neoliberalism not only transformed economic agendas throughout the overdeveloped world, it transformed politics, restructured social relations, produced an array of reality narratives (not unlike reality TV) and disciplinary measures that normalized its perverted view of citizenship, the state and the supremacy of market relations. In the concerted effort to reverse course, dare one not take account of the profound emotional appeal, let alone ideological hold, of neoliberalism on the American public? The success of a market ideology that has produced shocking levels of inequality and impoverishment and a market morality that has spawned rapacious greed and corruption should raise fundamental questions. How did market rule prove capable of enlisting in such a compelling way the consent of the vast majority of Americans, who cast themselves, no less, in the role of the "moral majority?" The refusal of such an analysis, framed nonetheless as a response, by many theorists (including many leftists) typically explains that working people "do not, under normal circumstances, care deeply about anything beyond the size of their paychecks."(6) But this is too quick, and far too inadequate. We argue that matters of popular consciousness, public sentiment and individual and social agency are far too important as part of a larger political and educational struggle not be taken seriously by those who advocate the long and difficult project of democratic reform.

Each summer I unplug my high-bandwidth connection and start the engine, untie the lines and we drive away into the real world-- of small towns, floating truck drivers and lockkeepers, fishermenand vegetable farmers, retired history buffs and sweating bricklayers.
In preparation, by july 1st., I have a shelf full of summer reading to take along. Last summer it was Naomi Kline, Noam Chomsky, Ursula Le guin, Roberto Saviano, Linebaugh and Rediker, (In some ways the best of the lot--"The many Headed Hydra")Mark Engler, Al Gore, --I made it through most of them,.
After I get back, it takes a while to re accustom myself to Net-think. But THIS was a refreshing breath of new year's air:

 Politics is not simply about the production and protection of economic formations; it is also about the production of individuals, desires, identifications, values and modes of understanding for inhabiting the ideological and institutional forms that make up a social order. At the very least, any attempt to both understand the current crisis and what it would mean to produce a new kind of subject willing to invest in and struggle for a democratic society needs to raise another set of questions in addition to those currently posed. For example:
What educational challenges would have to be addressed in overcoming the deeply felt view in American culture that criticism is destructive, or for that matter

a deeply rooted anti-intellectualism reinforced daily through various forms of public pedagogical address made available by talk radio and the televisual infotainment sectors?[7]

 How might we engage pedagogical practices that open up a culture of questioning that enables people to resist and reject neoliberal assumptions that decouples private woes from public considerations, reduces citizenship to consumerism and makes free-market ideology coterminous with democracy?

What are the implications of theorizing education, pedagogy and the practice of learning as essential to social change and where might such interventions take place?

 How might it be possible to theorize the pedagogical importance of the new media and the new modes of political literacy and cultural production they employ, or to analyze the circuits of power, translation and distribution that make up neoliberalism's vast pedagogical apparatus - extending from talk radio and screen culture to the Internet and newspapers?

 At stake here is both recognizing the importance of the media as a site of public pedagogy and breaking the monopoly of information, which is a central pillar of neoliberal common sense. These are only some of the questions that would be central to any viable recognition of what it would mean to theorize education as a condition that enables both critique, understood as more than the struggle against incomprehension, and social responsibility as the foundation for forms of intervention that are oppositional and empowering. To imagine a simpler solution is to be sold on a fairy tale.

Rediscover that rarest and most precious of treasures- a pedagogy of patterns and people, of problem solving and perspiration--and the true locus of happiness will emerge as unique yet multiple, individual and communal, and the questions posed by Giroux and Speth will begin to unravel.


Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Sun Jan 4th, 2009 at 10:14:45 AM EST
addition to Speth's piece. You're from 'Education'. Do you sometimes think that all of this train-to-the-test emphasis of the last 8 years or so has been foisted simply to avoid these wider questions in the school environment?

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Sun Jan 4th, 2009 at 11:07:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The mechanisms of pedagogical perpetuation (sorry- I seem to be stuck in alliteration) of neoliberalism need not be a part of a conspiracy theory-- just the sad result of a couple processes:
--a century and a half (or so) of intellectual pandering by tame theorists and universities who make it their business to produce intellectual fig leaves (The Invisible Hand, Market Forces, Free Trade,  etc.)for the professional plunderer class that emerged with the mercantile (spelled Capitalist) overclass, and
--Once the production of endless garages filled with "stuff" became not only possible, but became recognized as the most addictive political event and powerful mode of social control in human history--
It was a done deed.

Once we were good and well hooked, the media and the schools fell right into line.


Do you sometimes think that all of this train-to-the-test emphasis of the last 8 years or so has been foisted simply to avoid these wider questions in the school environment?

Of course, but to "foist" implies a human agency and a plan-- and it's probably not that. It's part of a process implicit in the consumer society, and in a view of the world as endless competition, endless battle-- a battle to "conquer nature", to tame the wilds, to gain market share--then rape them. If you conduct your affairs at the point of a gun (as we do) or based on plunder, you probably need to massage the narrative into a less ugly version.

This is all over, Paul. resource scarcity has resurrected the much-maligned but resurgent Malthusian dialog.
What was Jimmy Buffet's prophetic lyric?

"Cannon's don't thunder, and there's nothing to plunder,
I'm an over-forty victim of fate--"

Bush declared victory in Iraq, and is packing up.
Israel is trying one last blast of savagery in Palestine, and it will accomplish just what we did in Iraq--nothing.
But not only are the cannons losing their thunder, --we already plundered most of the world, and broke ourselves in the process.

The problem I see is that people will realize this fact about two decades after it's too late to fix.

Giroux's piece was called "Beyond Bailouts". This topic, (and Speth's) is at the heart of the process of replacing exploitive and consumptive patterns of life with policy and patterns more in accord with physical and social realities--which is what ET should be about, in my opinion. The overwhelming response to your diary helps to explain my long absences from here, as much as summer vacations.
Thanks again.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 5th, 2009 at 04:35:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't mean to necessarily imply a conspiracy theory. That is, it could be a C.T., but it could also be a nearly subliminal process. Many people, including many teachers, do not want to be involved in a debate. Almost all of the 'larger questions' are contentious to some degree. If the upper echelons say to you, "Here's your marching orders: This is the test that we upper echelons have all agreed to use. Your job is to teach to this test."; then there is little argument - at least until the opposition gets organized. Makes life easier for awhile.

Your penultimate sentence indicates some disenchantment with the response here. Don't fret, please. There are many important topics, and folks have their priorities.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Mon Jan 5th, 2009 at 11:06:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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