Sunday, November 25, 2012

Giroux and Tuchman

Similar to many authors we have read this year Giroux argues, “that neoliberalism is the most dangerous ideology of the current historical movement” because it has been adopted by most political parties and considered the “dominant global political economic trend” (425). Neoliberal discourse has dominated the ways in which we view democracy and public entities, public space is now viewed “as an investment opportunity” (428).  Neoliberal ideology has created an army of “self-interest individuals” (425) and has changed the ways in which we view freedom and democracy but we must discuss the larger issue. I know that when we discuss these issues I tend to feel discouraged that there can be no solution because this issue is so deeply rooted in the way we think of society and how it works. Giroux writes, “as democratic values give way to commercial values, intellectual ambitions are often reduced to an instrument of the entrepreneurial self and social visions are dismissed as hopelessly out of date” (428). I believe that I feel hopeless because neoliberalism “wraps itself in what appears to be common sense” (428). Giroux suggests one way in which to create change is by “addressing the meaning and purpose of public and higher education” (430) in order to change the discourse of neoliberalism. I agree with Giroux that public and higher education should be viewed and “defended as both a public good and an autonomous sphere for the development of a critical and productive democratic citizenry” (433). But can we do more in order to really make a change? Giroux explains that as a result of the neoliberal era students feel the only purpose of higher education is to obtain a better position in the job market (435). Is that true for Colgate students? Do we believe the most important aspect about getting our education is to get a job? If we believe this how can the purpose of high education ever be changed?
Tuchman agrees with Giroux when he writes that the neoliberal era has changed the way we view higher education. Instead of defining higher education as “the development of critical thinking, the nurturing of civic responsibility, or the pursuit of knowledge” universities are focused on “more practical terms, such as preparing students for job” (11). Neoliberal ideology and those who are administrators of such universities define knowledge and job preparation as “commodities” (11).  Education is viewed as a “market transaction” and the objective is to make a profit (11). The language used in the Chronicle of Higher Education (Arnone 2003) to define a wannabe university is very similar to the discourse in neoliberal ideology. For example, the university wants to “spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new construction…well known faculty members and recruiting top students” (15). The Chronicle emphasizes the universities as “being on the cusp of greatness” (15). Finally the institution wants to be recognized in the top rankings and “act as engines for the state economies” (15).  Education needs to be praised and associated with its “contribution it makes to the quality of life” by emphasizing democratic values “to provide students with the capacities they need for civic courage and engaged critical citizenship” (Giroux 457).


  1. As Olivia explained, Giroux articulates how neoliberalism differs from other ideologies in that has become the taken-for-granted way of the world and is rarely questioned (428). We have become a society that thinks and speaks in market terms, and questioning that worldview is seen as overly progressive, idealistic, and naive. While I was home for the holiday, my parents, epitomizing the ideas discussed by Tuchman, told me that a family friend of ours had taken a marketing job at his former university. They were explaining that this particular university had been trying to revamp its image and had largely succeeded as it was now highly regarded out-of-state (those within the state thought the tuition being paid now was egregious as their view of the university had been little swayed, largely because the school was primarily marketing to out-of-state students from whose tuition they would profit more). What struck me most was that this seemed so unexceptional to my parents. When I questioned the whole idea of marketing education institutions in such superficial ways and suggested that this mentality commodified students, they didn’t disagree, but they could envision no alternative. I think it is all too easy to become jaded and resign oneself to the system in place, particularly during challenging economic times when focusing on vocational training and preparing students for the work force is seen as pragmatic and realist. The stakes of accepting neoliberalism as the “irreversible logic of social reality” (428), however, are too high. Continuing to delude ourselves into believing that “market liberty is the same thing as civic liberty” (426) is morally irresponsible. We have seen how corporate reforms have further isolated and dehumanized already disenfranchised communities. By allowing this mentality to further permeate education institutions at all levels, the more upstanding goals of education have receded further and further into the realm of idealism. If this continues, who will be left to challenge the neoliberal ideology that pervades our current notion of education reform?

  2. I really liked the way that Giroux articulated his view on neo-liberalism. The most compelling argument that he made was when he said, “Corporate power, when left on its own, appears to respect few boundaries based on self-restraint and the public good, and is increasingly unresponsive to those broader human values that are central to a democratic civic culture” (431). Giroux believes that the corporate power, when left alone, does not respect the democratic ideals of society. The reason for that is the discourse that has been happening through recent history. Corporate leaders have been allowed to do as they pleased, which ahs thus led to unresponsive action to social issues. By worrying more about the financial aspect of life, social issues have been brushed aside because they are simply seen as black holes for money. Giroux states that it is not the overpowering of the corporate leaders but rather that “democracy is too weak”. People have stopped fighting for the democratic ideals, and have thus shifted to just accept what is put on their plate. If we do put our offensive face on, then we are going to continuously be pushed down and forced to become consumers.

  3. What I think is most interesting about Olivia’s post is how she applies the readings to Colgate: “Is that true for Colgate students? Do we believe the most important aspect about getting our education is to get a job?” I believe in many ways we continue to read our readings about charter schools, neoliberalism, public education etc. and yet still separate ourselves from it. Giroux discussed how we need to focus on the actual meaning of higher education, and Tuchman discussed the “transformation” of a school, but how unclear the definition of transformation is. When thinking about the ideas such as changing the discourse about education, the language used, and the ideas of efficiency and productivity, it is interesting to think of how it applies to our own lives. Educators continue to suggest changes that sound beneficial, but when looking closer one questions what those changes really mean. Every single time I go home, I get the question, “So what are you’re plans for the future and where are you applying for jobs?” Throughout college you hear students talking about what they can do to raise their resume, increase their GPA, and get the best internship to ensure a job. Yet by cram packing our schedules, what are we really learning? I personally have forgotten many things from previous classes and continue to focus my attention on what will benefit my future. If we are continuously being trained to prepare for jobs (or what comes next) then we will always be looking ahead to how we can better ourselves within the community, rather than looking at how we can better ourselves in the moment. I can only imagine that the less people care about the quality of their education, because they care more about getting the education that looks better, the more “unqualified” people will be entering the work force. It is not about the quality of what you do, but if it fits the requirements and looks good to continue to excel. In my opinion, it isn’t right.

  4. I think that Giroux did an excellent job at laying out the dangers that arise when democratic values are reinterpreted in terms of market/capitalist values, a trend that exists in society because of the pervasiveness of neoliberal ideals. He writes, “Within the language and images of corporate culture, citizenship is portrayed as an utterly privatized affair whose aim is to produce competitive self-interested individuals vying for their own material and ideological gain” (429). Here, I think that Giroux clarifies one of the biggest dangers of this neoliberal logic: that because of the new definition and demands of citizenship, people care only about individual gain, almost always at the expense of other people. Therefore, this neoliberal ideology has produced a society in which citizens no longer really care for the needs of others, especially those they do not know, if this “care” will not benefit themselves. I think that this is one of the biggest problems with our society today, that so many people are so wrapped up in the corporate culture, because of this need to make money, that they lack simple compassion for others.

    I think that these feelings must be changed immediately if we are to regain the fundamental principles of our democracy and create a nation that truly cares for all its citizens. However, I question when this will be possible because this lack of compassion seems so natural for so many people, so much so that they don’t even realize they are doing it. People claim that we should reduce poverty but fail to support reforms that would actually help those in poverty, and yet they don’t even realize the lack of real care embedded in these ideas. It’s upsetting that our society has become so twisted—that individual profit now trumps values such as the common good. How did this lack of care for others become so naturalized, so that people can no longer recognize it as such?