Henry Giroux on Democracy Unsettled: From Critical Pedagogy to the War on Youth

By Peters, Michael A. | Geopolitics, History and International Relations, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Henry Giroux on Democracy Unsettled: From Critical Pedagogy to the War on Youth


Peters, Michael A., Geopolitics, History and International Relations


Henry Giroux is one of the founding theorists of critical pedagogy in the United States and a close friend of the late Paulo Freiré. He and Freiré coedited a very influential series on education and cultural politics for Bergin and Garvey. Giroux has made groundbreaking contributions to numerous fields, including education, critical theory, youth studies, cultural studies, media studies, higher education and public pedagogy. A leading cultural critic in the United States and Canada, he has held positions at Boston University, Miami University of Ohio, and Perm State, and currently occupies the Global TV Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. He is a public intellectual and has written over 50 books, while also collaborating with eminent scholars such as David Purple, Stanley Aronowitz and Peter McLaren. His first book was Ideology, Culture and the Process of Schooling (1981), and he subsequently authored such classics as Theory and Resistance in Education (2001, 2nd ed.); Border Crossing: Cultural Workers and the Politics of Education (2005, 2nd ed.); Disturbing Pleasures: Learning Popular Culture (1994); and The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence, co-authored with Grace Pollock (2010; rev. ed.).

Youth, the state of America and neo liberalism are constant themes in his work. He has written on film and the new media in Breaking in to the Movies: Film and the Culture of Politics (2002) and Beyond the Spectacle of Terrorism: Global Uncertainty and the Challenge of the New Media (2006). He has also written on democracy and the commercialization of public schools and higher education in Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life (2005; 2n ed.); The Abandoned Generation: Democracy Beyond the Culture of Fear (2004); and Take Back Higher Education: Race, Youth, and the Crisis of Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Era, with Susan Searls Giroux (2008). His most recent books continue to elucidate the connections between a formative culture based in critical education and the conditions required for substantive democracy, including Against the Terror of Neoliberalism: Beyond the Politics of Greed (2008), Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability? (2009); Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (2010); On Critical Pedagogy (2011); and Education and the Crisis of Public Values (2011). His work has been anthologized in The Giroux Reader (2006); American on the Edge: Henry Giroux on Politics, Culture, and Education (2006); and Reading and Teaching Henry Giroux (2006). Many of his articles and books have been translated into Spanish, Chinese and a number of other languages.

He has won many awards, given many interviews and his work has been warmly received by the academic community. He is without doubt one of the foremost critical educators of his time.

Michael Peters: Henry, it is a great pleasure to do this interview with you, as a colleague and friend I have much admired over the years and someone who helped me enormously to develop my work and professional self when I was a young academic. As a young New Zealand academic, I remember reading your work in the 1980s. I was a graduate fresh from a philosophy department, hungry for material that took a critical look at the world. I discovered your early work on postmodern criticism and used the book you wrote with Stanley Aronowitz, Education under Siege, as a text in one of the classes I was teaching. You expressed eloquently many ideas that I was currently grappling with and led the way I suspect for a generation when you developed as a public intellectual and cultural critic concerned for the fate of young people. In particular, you generously offered, mentored and supported me in publishing my first book, Education and the Postmodern Condition (foreword by Lyotard) in your Bergin and Garvey series co-edited with Paulo Freiré. The experience really kick-started my academic career and, through your auspices, I went on to publish some six books in your series. …

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