The most important contribution to our collective work for social change by and with young people in recent years is not being talked about. Perhaps because it is the most dangerous. Truth is told, lies exposed, agendas revealed, and purpose questioned.
The Abandoned Generation: Democracy Beyond the Culture of Fear was written by cultural theorist and Freechild Project advisor Henry Giroux. Giroux has been a scholar for 25 years, publishing more than 30 books and 250 scholarly articles. Some people refer to his work as socialist, dissident, and revolutionary; all very stand-offish terms for a man dedicated to revealing the various agendas against young people, democracy and social justice today. And reveal plots he does.
In this latest book Giroux carefully outlines several competing agendas for America’s children and youth, including that of the “Compassionate conservatives” of the Bush Administration destroying the federal funding base for several social programs designed to support low-income children and youth across the nation; Corporations fighting for a chance to run America’s schools, determined to indoctrinate the values of patriotic consumerism in school students by taking the “public” out of public schools, and; Mass media’s continued assault on mass culture’s perceptions of youth by consistently portraying young people as apathetic, trashed out waste who are only motivated by punishment and rewards.
Giroux speaks directly to young activists today, recognizing the power behind a lot of different groups, and offering a challenge for young people to connect with larger movements for social justice, like fighting for a radical, inclusive democracy instead of simply an end to sweatshop labor.
He also addresses educators, continuously calling for social justice, empowerment, and action in classrooms. Giroux shows how standardized tests serve multiple gods, enforcing racism, consumption, and class segregation in the name of “high performance.” There is a constant thread throughout the book calling for educators to teach critical thinking, active democracy, and community action for social change.
At a time when a lot of people see hope as a dirty word, Giroux calls it front and center. He challenges the reader to examine the power of Hope for themselves, and calls for us to remove Hope from a silly, idyllic notion of someday faraway to a present, guiding, active notion that can guide and engage people, young and old, everyday.
In my continued effort to explore the depth, purpose, and effects of youth-led community action, I have not found another book that is so determined to tell the truth; the challenge now is to get people to read it. I thoroughly recommend The Abandoned Generation to anyone dedicated to promoting social change by and with young people around the world, and eagerly await for the action that will follow.
- Title: The Abandoned Generation: Democracy Beyond the Culture of Fear
- Author: Henry Giroux
- Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan