Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 5

“Educated hope combines the pedagogical and the political in ways that stress the contextual

nature of learning, emphasizing that different contexts give rise to diverse questions,
problems, and possibilities. (…) As a form of utopian thinking, educated hope provides the
foundational connection that must be made among three discourses that often remain
separated: democracy, political agency, and pedagogy”.

- Henry A. Giroux, Public Spaces, Private Lives. Beyond the Culture of Cynicism,
2001, p. 125.

Education is one of the cornerstones of human development. It always has been. But over the
years it has undergone changes that completely shifted the focus of education. In our modern,
allegedly democratic reality, the very nature of education has changed and it has become a
business tool rather than a form of intellectual development. Students are no longer acquiring
the skills of reasoning, critical thinking, and collective action. Instead, they are being taught
to fulfill specific roles and function in a specific type of society. Furthermore, in our times we
can observe that democracy is no longer fully democratic and we are consistently lacking in
political agency. What does this say about us and our future? And why is educated hope
necessary?

Henry Giroux (2001) states that “Educated hope combines the pedagogical and the
political in ways that stress the contextual nature of learning, emphasizing that different
contexts give rise to diverse questions, problems, and possibilities.” Education is more than
just a means of gaining credentials. It is not something that can be completely isolated and
categorized. Education is a fluid process and the system that regulates it must remain open in
order to facilitate the acquisition and development of knowledge. By imposing limits on
education, we limit the intellectual process itself, closing doors and windows that should
remain open. This halts development in all areas, not just intellectual. It limits us and our
societies by controlling us. Unfortunately, politicians tend to do just that by reducing
education to the production of human cogs that will keep the economic machinery of the
country running. The goal is to produce a lucrative, homogenous society of like-minded,
intellectually groomed, and compliant workers. As Tony Judt (2010) states in Ill Fares the
Land, we have become limited to the mathematics of profits and losses, where economy
excludes all other discourse. In his own words, “Markets do not automatically generate trust,
cooperation or collective action for the common good.” What then is the role of education and
how can it flourish in a democratic society? In a world that is evermore lacking in
egalitarianism and battle for the common good, we need to educate people to imagine, search
for their own truth, and question authorities.

Universities should be free from the cold, hard ideals of capitalism. This is especially
true of the humanities. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences notes that, “The
humanities remind us where we have been and help us envision where we are going.
Emphasizing critical perspective and imaginative response, the humanities – including the
study of languages, literature, history, film, civics, philosophy, religion, and the arts – foster
creativity, appreciation of our commonalities and our differences, and knowledge of all kind.”
They should be a place of freedom of thought and speech. A place where one has the right to
formulate and express opinions and ideas unrestricted by higher authorities. This is not to say
that they should be devoid of politics altogether. If we separate politics and power, politics
can also be pedagogical in nature. Understanding the connections between critical thinking
and political agency is the key to forming a better society that could be truly democratic in
nature. Universities should be places that combine political critique and hope for a new
democracy. According to John Dewey, “democracy needs to be reborn in each generation,
and education is its midwife.”1 Education is a crucial element in modern politics, as it is what
shapes society and our future. Knowing this, education should be a tool for democratic
development and progress, but not a tool to fulfill the development of a particular agenda. It
should open people’s minds to different possibilities and encourage creativity and
inquisitiveness, allowing for self-expression, but also preparing students for the social
responsibilities involved with leaving the University when they graduate. This is seriously
lacking in higher education today.

Privatization and corporatization have highly influenced society’s expectations of


education, leading them to accept the changes, and especially those taking place in higher
education (Giroux, 2009). Society is no longer aware of the repercussions of such limitations.
Education is being reduced to teaching predefined content and subjecting students to

1
Cited in Giroux, H. A. (2009, January). The Audacity of Educated Hope. Counterpunch.
standardized tests (Giroux, 2015). Even humanities, which should not be dictated by the
economic situation and market trends, are being limited. We do not have freedom of
imagination, instead we are expected to fit into imposed forms. Education has become a form
of consumption in a capitalistic environment. In Western civilization, education is something
you buy. Without financial stability it can be a challenge to achieve a higher degree,
especially in countries such as the United States, the alleged heart of the democratic world.
There is a battle for scholarships, which are rewarded for ticking all the boxes on a list of
achievements and conditions that are applied to everyone. Luckily, our higher education is
still free in Poland, nevertheless it is not free from similar limitations. We are being taught to
battle each other for grants by producing specific types of content, and if we refrain from
doing so, we are considered lesser than those who do. This creates a false construct of
creating for monetary reimbursement, teaching students that our ideas can be sold. The
intellectual value of what we create becomes secondary to the monetary value of creating
something that is accepted by higher authorities.

Henry Giroux (2001) notices that “educated hope provides the foundational
connection that must be made among three discourses that often remain separated:
democracy, political agency, and pedagogy.” Modern democracy in itself is far from being a
true democracy concentrated on the common good, but rather tends to be a system that seeks
only the good of the few or the privileged. Niall Ferguson (2014) confirms this idea, stating
that “The democratic deficits, the regulatory fragility, the rule of lawyers, and the uncivil
society: these offer better explanations of why the West is now delivering lower growth and
greater inequality.” We are lacking in political freedom as well, with the voice of the people
falling on deaf ears. Numerous protests and public opinions are being ignored, instead of
leading to real change. Finally, the lack of real education and knowledge, especially at
universities. According to Zygmunt Bauman (2002), schools are one of the last institutions
which have the opportunity to teach “skills for citizen participation and effective political
action. And where there are no [such] institutions, there is no “citizenship” either.” Parents,
teachers, but also intellectuals, and especially students should join together and according to
Henry Giroux (2009), “reclaim public and higher education as a resource vital to the
democratic and civic life of the nation.” As mentioned previously, the consumerist and
corporate orientation of higher education is limiting and “more concerned with accounting
than accountability.” (Giroux, 2009).

In a world faced with challenges educated hope is more important than ever. We are
continuously faced with challenges of limited civil rights, political integrity, undemocratic
solutions, and a culture of disposability and temporality. Public and higher education are the
key to redefining the future. With the correct changes, democracy, political freedom, and
education could come together and improve the civic life of our citizens, improving the moral
situation of democratic nations. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2013) reminds
us to “Invest in the preparation of citizens. Democratic decision-making is based on sharing
knowledge of history, civics, and social studies. A thorough grounding in these subjects
allows citizens to participate meaningfully in the democratic process – as voters, informed
consumers, and productive workers.” Hopefully, things will begin to change and younger
generations will continue to take a stand against oppressive changes and undemocratic
systems. And hopefully, the older generations will begin to listen.
REFERENCES

American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2013). The Heart of the Matter. Cambridge, MA:
American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Bauchman, Z. (2002). Introduction. In Society under Siege. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Dewey, J. cited in Giroux, H. A. (2009, January). The Audacity of Educated Hope.


Counterpunch.

Ferguson, N. (2014). The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die.
New York, NY: Penguin Books.

Giroux, H. A. (2001). Public Spaces, Private Lives. Beyond the Culture of Cynicism. Lanham,
MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Giroux, H. A. (2009, January). The Audacity of Educated Hope. Counterpunch.

Giroux, H. A. (2015). Educated Hope and the Promise of Democracy. (Commencement


Speech). Presented at Chapman University.

Judt, T. (2010). Ill fares the Land. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.