Kids for Sale: Corporate Culture and the Challenge of Public Schooling

  • Henry A. Giroux


One of the most important legacies of American public education has been providing students with the critical capacities, knowledge, and values that enable them to become active citizens striving to build a stronger democratic society. Within this tradition, Americans have defined schooling as a public good and a fundamental right.1 Such a definition rightfully asserts the primacy of democratic values over corporate culture and commercial values. Schools are an important indicator of the well-being of a democratic society. They remind us of the civic values that must be passed on to young people in order for them to think critically, to participate in power relations and policy decisions that affect their lives, and to transform the racial, social, and economic inequities that limit democratic social relations. Yet as crucial as the role of public schooling has been in American history, it is facing an unprecedented attack from proponents of market ideology who strongly advocate the unparalleled expansion of corporate culture.2


Public School Public Education Public Sphere Private Good Corporate Culture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York: Free Press, 1916);Google Scholar
  2. Henry Giroux, Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988);Google Scholar
  3. David Sehr, Education for Democracy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    Michael Jacobson and Laurie Masur, Laurie Marketing Madness (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1995);Google Scholar
  5. Alex Molnar, Giving Kids the Business (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1996);Google Scholar
  6. Consumer Union Education Service, Captive Kids: A Report on Commercial Pressures on Kids at School (Yonkers, N.Y.: Consumer Union Education Services, 1998).Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    David W. Kirkpatrick, Choice in Schooling: A Case for Tuition Vouchers (Chicago: Loyala University Press, 1990);Google Scholar
  8. Diane Ravitch, Debating the Future of American Education (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institute, 1995). Many of these reports are produced by right-wing think tanks with a vested interest in the privatization movement. For example, see Paul Pekin, “Schoolhouse Crock: Right-Wing Myths Behind the ‘New Stupidity,’” Extra! (January/February 1998), pp. 9–10.Google Scholar
  9. For an excellent rebuttal of the charge that American public education is in a state of disastrous decline, see David Berliner and Bruce Biddle, The Manufactured Crisis (Reading, Mass.: Addison Wesley, 1995); Gerald Bracey, “What Happened to America’s Public Schools? Not What You Think?” American Heritage (November 1997), pp. 39–52.Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    For a summary of the historical failures of privatization, see the Carol Ascher, Norm Fruchter, and Robert Berne, Hard Lessons: Public Schools and Privatization (New York: The Twentieth Century Fund, 1996). For a specific analysis of the failure of Education Alternatives, Inc., in Baltimore and Hartford, see Molnar, Giving Kids the Business, esp. chap. 4, pp. 77–116. Also, see Vine, “To Market, To Market,” pp. 11–17; Bruce Shapiro, “Privateers Flunk Schools,” The Nation, February 19, 1998, p. 4.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray, The Bell Curve (New York: The Free Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    Alan O’Shea, “A Special Relationship? Academia and Pedagogy,” Cultural Studies 12:4 (1998), pp. 521–522.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    Stanley Aronowitz, “Introduction,” in Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998), pp. 4–5.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    Svi Shapiro, “Public School Reform: The Mismeasure of Education,” Tikkun 13:1 (Winter 1998), p. 54.Google Scholar
  15. See also Henry A. Giroux, Teachers as Intellectuals (Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey Press, 1988);Google Scholar
  16. Stanley Aronowitz and Henry A. Giroux, Education Still Under Siege (Westport, Conn.: Bergin and Garvey Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  17. 23.
    I take up this issue in Henry A. Giroux, The Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999).Google Scholar
  18. 24.
    Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman, Corporate Predators (Monroe, Me.: Common Courage Press, 1999), p. 168.Google Scholar
  19. 25.
    Jeffrey Henig, “The Danger of Market Rhetoric,” in Robert Lowe and Barbara Miner, eds., Selling Out Our Schools (Milwaukee: Rethinking Schools Institute, 1996), p. 11.Google Scholar
  20. See also Jeffrey Henig, Rethinking School Choice (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  21. 27.
    Phyllis Sides, “Captive Kids: Teaching Students to be Consumers,” in Selling Out Our Schools: Vouchers, Markets, and the Future of Public Education (Milwaukee: Rethinking Schools Publication, 1996), p. 36.Google Scholar
  22. 28.
    For an extensive analysis of Channel One, see Henry A. Giroux, Disturbing Pleasures: Learning Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), esp. chap. 3, “pp. 47–67.Google Scholar
  23. 34.
    For a brilliant analysis of how citizenship is being privatized within an expanding corporate culture, see Lauren Berlant, The Queen of America Goes to Washington (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  24. 41.
    This issue is taken up in great detail in Molnar, Giving Kids the Business. For a more general analysis of the relationship between corporate culture and schooling, see Joe Kincheloe and Shirley Steinberg, eds., KinderCulture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1997).Google Scholar
  25. 42.
    Gerald Grace, “Politics, Markets, and Democratic Schools: On the Transformation of School Leadership,” in A. H. Halsey, Hugh Lauder, Phillip Brown, and Amy Stuart Wells, eds., Education: Culture, Economy, Society (New York: Oxford, 1997), p. 314.Google Scholar
  26. 44.
    R. George Wright, Selling Words: Free Speech in a Commercial Culture (New York: New York University Press, 1997), p. 181.Google Scholar
  27. 51.
    A number of books take up the relationship between schooling and democracy; some of the more important recent critical contributions include: Elizabeth A. Kelly, Education, Democracy, & Public Knowledge (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1995);Google Scholar
  28. Wilfred Carr and Anthony Hartnett, Education and the Struggle for Democracy (Philadelphia: Open University Press, 1996); Sehr, Education for Public Democracy;Google Scholar
  29. James Fraser, Reading, Writing and Justice: School Reform as If Democracy Matters (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997); see also Giroux, Schooling and the Struggle for Public Life;Google Scholar
  30. and Henry A. Giroux, Pedagogy and the Politics of Hope (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1997).Google Scholar
  31. 52.
    Robin D. G. Kelley, “Neo-Cons of the Black Nation,” Black Renaissance Noire 1:2 (Summer/Fall 1997), p. 146.Google Scholar
  32. 55.
    Cornel West, “America’s Three-Fold Crisis,” Tikkun 9:2 (1994), p. 42.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Henry A. Giroux 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry A. Giroux

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations