Higher Education, Democracy, Presidents, Politics of Education, Role of Education, Authoritarianism, Thinking Skills, Citizenship Education, Critical Thinking, Teacher Role, Civil Rights, Literacy, Teaching Conditions, Social Bias, Ideology, and Democratic Values
Henry Giroux begins this discussion by observing that he thinks there is a lot to be learned about what happens to higher education when authoritarians win elections and a liberal democracy morphs into something else. Giroux believes that under the regime of Donald Trump, higher education is under siege, and its stated purpose to produce the formative cultures necessary to support critical thinking, civic courage, expand the radical imagination, and nurture individual and social agency has been abandoned. He writes that at the same time, the growing crisis of higher education is expanding across the globe and increasingly echoes H. G. Wells' remark in 1920 that "History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe." Giroux further argues that Trump's brand of authoritarianism has emerged at a time in which there is an over abundance of information, coupled with the rise of new digital and visual media whose cognitive models reinforce the assumption that reality be echoed rather than interrogated and critically comprehended. It is Giroux's contention is that many colleges and universities have been "McDonaldized" as knowledge is increasingly viewed as a commodity resulting in curricula that resemble a fast-food menu. The author concludes the article by saying that one of the challenges facing the current generation of educators, students, and others is the need to address the question of what education should accomplish in a society at a historical moment when it is slipping into the dark night of authoritarianism. He asks educators what work they think is needed to create the economic, political, and ethical conditions necessary to endow young people and the general public with the capacities to think, question, doubt, imagine the unimaginable, and defend education as essential for inspiring and energizing the citizens necessary in order for a robust democracy to thrive. In conclusion Giroux details several recommendations that could provide and alternative to some of the oppressive conditions now shaping higher education: (1) Higher education needs to reassert its mission as a public good in order to reclaim its egalitarian and democratic impulses; (2) Educators need to acknowledge and make good on the claim that a critically literate citizen is indispensable to a democracy; (3) Higher education needs to be viewed as a right, as it is in many countries such as Germany, France, Norway, Finland, and Brazil, rather than a privilege for a limited few, as it is in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom; (4) In a world driven by data, metrics, and the replacement of knowledge by the over abundance of information, educators need to enable students to engage in multiple literacies extending from print and visual culture to digital culture; (5) There is a plague haunting higher education, especially in the United States, which has become the model for its unjust treatment of faculty; and (6) Another serious challenge facing educators is the need to develop both a discourse of critique and possibility.