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When Generosity Hurts: Bill Gates, Public School Teachers and the Politics of Humiliation

Posted Oct 05 2010 4:37pm
You must understand that in the attempt to correct so many generations of bad faith and cruelty, when it is operating not only in the classroom but in society, you will meet the most fantastic, the most brutal, and the most determined resistance. -James Baldwin

Baldwin's words offer a glimpse into a legacy of bad faith, culture of cruelty and politics of humiliation that seems to have gained momentum in American society since he spoke those words in 1963. His words reflect something of the all too evident brutish transformation of the revolutionary zeal that marked an earlier era's investment in substantive democratization to that which piously and patriotically calls itself revolutionary some 50 years later, and seeks nothing less than the total destruction of the democratic potential of American education. Not only have such pernicious practices descended on America like a dreadful and punishing plague, but they are now ironically embraced in the name of an educational reform movement whose "revolutionary" pretension is antithetical to the civil rights revolution for which Baldwin was fighting. Once eager public servants in the fight for equality and justice, teachers are now forced to play with a severe handicap, as if assembled on a field blindfolded and gagged. The one constancy that runs through these last several decades, less obvious only because of its utter pervasiveness in public life, is summed up by Baldwin as the legacy of "bad faith and cruelty." Bad faith and cruelty are now combined with a power-assisted politics of humiliation, all the more acute, because such commitments circulate continually as spectacle in a 24-hour media cycle universally assessable in a digital and commodified culture.

The complete article by Henry A. Giroux can be read at Truthout.

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