Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Henry Giroux on the corporate control of Universities

For over 30 years Canadian academic Henry Giroux has been an intelligent and challenging thinker and writer on educational matters. Back in the early 1980's when I was working in curriculum development Giroux's work was a big influence.

As well as being a prolific writer and thinker, Giroux has been a politically engaged and radical academic. He has suffered because of that and was forced out of a number of USA university positions because he was considered too radical and outspoken. The illusion of academic freedom.

Giroux has left the USA and is now Chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada. Henry Giroux's books include the recently-released "Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?" and "The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex."

In a recent piece "The Corporate Stranglehold on Education," Giroux writes:
There is also the move on the part of many universities towards embracing market mechanisms as a way of redefining almost every aspect of university life–in spite of the failure and excesses of this system.
Rather than challenge the economic irresponsibility, ecological damage, and human suffering, and culture of cruelty unleashed by free market fundamentalism, higher education appears to be one of its staunchest defenders, uncritically embracing a view of itself based on a market model of the academy.
"In the age of money and profit, academic subjects gain stature almost exclusively through their exchange value on the market. Twice as many students major in business studies than in any other major...... Whereas the university was once prized as a place where students learned how to be engaged citizens educated in the knowledge, skills, values, and virtues of democracy, today they are trained to be workers and adept consumers. Educational value is now measured according to cost/benefit formulas, and the only rationality that matters is one of economic exchange.
"Higher education is a hard-won democratic achievement and it is time that parents, faculty, students, alumni and concerned citizens reclaim higher education as a fundamental public good rather than merely a training ground for corporate interests, values, and profits. Education is not only about issues of work and economics–as important as these may be, but also about matters of justice, freedom, and the capacity for democratic agency, action, and change as well as the related issues of power, exclusion, and citizenship.

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