The focus of this book is on the growing economic, political and cultural gap that has emerged in the United States between political leaders elected to govern and the citizenry whom they represent. It is also about the pernicious gap between ruling financial and corporate elites and the rest of society and how it has intensified the growth of a political and cultural landscape that is as anti-intellectual and devoid of a culture of questioning as it is authoritarian. I argue in this book that the deepening political, economic and moral deficit in America is inextricably connected to an education deficit, which is currently impacting young people most of all by starving them of both the economic resources and the formative educational experiences required to help them develop into knowledgeable and engaged citizens. The book begins with the premise that the crisis of schooling cannot be disconnected from the economic crisis – fueled by endless wars, a bloated military-industrial complex, and vast disparities in wealth and income. I argue throughout the book that as the United States proceeds headlong on a reckless course of civic illiteracy, which serves to legitimate and bolster a malignant gap in income, wealth and power, the end point is sure to entail the destruction of current and future possibilities for developing the educational institutions and formative culture that advance the imperatives of justice and democracy.
The book takes up the theme of the educational deficit by analyzing how recent attacks on youth can be linked to systemic attempts by a corporate and financial elite, conservative think tanks, and other right-wing forces to dismantle the social state and undermine opportunities for critical education, civic courage, and actions that make a world more just and democratic. These attacks range from the militarization of schools and the reduction in social services to the ongoing criminalization of a wide range of youth and adult behaviors and an increasing disinvestment in policies that would provide jobs, health care, and a future for young people.
Examining the regressive educational apparatuses, conservative politics, and cultures of cynicism that have dominated the United States in recent years,America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth describes and analyzes how American society is increasingly infused by real and symbolic forms of violence promoted by a range of intersecting forces, including neoliberal policymaking, militarization, religious fanaticism, corporate elitism, the violation of civil liberties, unconstitutional forms of surveillance, the disinvestment in public and higher education, and persistent racism. Despite widespread calls for electoral reform, the nation has arrived at such a crisis in governance that it cannot possibly begin to redress prevailing issues through political reform alone. Education must be taken seriously as a matter of primary importance among anyone who believes in the promise of US democracy.
In addition to documenting the authoritarian and morally malicious policies and actions of a government beholden to corporate, religious and military interests, America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth invites the reader to consider the possibilities for democratic renewal embodied by the ongoing actions of various modes of resistance that are emerging among young people, workers, feminists, and other individual and social movements that are demonstrating the importance of critical education, hope, and peaceful resistance against a creeping authoritarianism. All but abandoned by the adult generation, youth, with others are beginning to take matters into their own hands and are teaching themselves the power of democratic expression in a society that has all but relinquished its claim to democracy.
Society—especially capitalist societies, but also some earlier types such as feudalism—is divided by class, with a minority constituting a ruling class that lives by exploiting the direct producers. Thus, the majority is exploited and hence oppressed.
. . . [O]ne of capitalists’ favorite ideological ploys: individualism. We are the masters of our own fate, not society and its culture. If we fail, it is our own fault. We simply did not try hard enough or follow the right path. Individualism favors self-blame and a refusal even to look for social causes.
Enforced subordination calls forth coping reactions and leads to identities grounded in how well we manage to cope.
Examples of this kind of coping include what can be called “the good soldier” and “the sexy woman.” In the former, a person prides him or herself on the ability to demonstrate undying loyalty to a superior. In the latter, a woman prides herself on her ability to manipulate men in a world where men are dominant.
Southerners love trashing the rest of the country (when did you last hear a kind Rebel word for New York, Detroit or San Francisco?), but when their blood is really up the go-to move down South is to dismiss their fellow citizens as un-American.
Until enough Southerners are able to examine their society honestly—until they can begin to withstand external criticism without collapsing into blind hysteria—nothing will change.
The majority of Southerners are not uneducated rednecks flying Confederate flags from the backs of their pickups.
I never claimed they were, in the book or elsewhere.
However good and polite they may be, what the majority of Southerners are, and have always been, is willing to allow the most angry and “patriotic” firebrands among them to remain in control of their society’s most powerful and influential positions, be they in the realms of politics, business, education, religion or media.
As far back as 1941, Southern journalist W.J. Cash was remarking on “the ancient incapacity of the great body of Southerners to examine and analyze a case realistically even when their own fate hinged upon it, the tendency to take the easiest answer as explaining all their ills.”
- Books of The Times: ‘Better Off Without ‘Em,’ by Chuck Thompson (nytimes.com)
- Should the South secede? (salon.com)
Hitler and the Nazis are often cited as an example of the horrible crimes which atheists have committed in the 20th century. They are only assumed to be atheists, though, because people can’t imagineChristians doing such things; in reality, Hitler explicitly appealed to Christianity on a regular basis and this was part of why he was popular. Not every Christian supported the Nazis, of course, but he was most popular with conservative Christians seeking a restoration of traditional values. . . . .
Christians may not like acknowledging that Nazi actions might have anything to do with Christianity, but Germany saw itself as a fundamentally Christian nation and millions of Christians in Germany enthusiastically endorsed Hitler and the Nazi Party in part because they saw both as embodiments of both German and Christian ideals. Conservative Christians who wanted a return to traditional values either voted for the Nazis or one of the other right-wing nationalist parties which eventually supported and merged with the Nazis.
The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches From The Front Lines
By Dr. Michael Mann, Ph.D
Columbia University Press; Cost $10 to $30 (
Available in paperback )
Imagine a place where you and your family are threatened, your employer pressured by the most powerful people on earth to fire you, your email hacked and posted by the usual suspects in accusatory snippets, and where a mysterious letter containing white powder mixed in with tons of traditional hate mail land in your inbox. A suspected communist sympathizer during the McCarthy era, or a Muslim in the wake of 9-11? Nope. All because you helped make one of the most important scientific discoveries in a generation. That’s life in the land of the free and the home of the brave for prominent climate scientists these days, which is why I’m personally thrilled to feature one today who not only didn’t shrink an inch, he is fighting back, hard. . . .