Writing the Public Good Back into Education: Reclaiming the Role of the Public Intellectual
Across the globe, the forces of casino capitalism are on the march. With the return of the Gilded Age and its dream worlds of consumption, privatization, and deregulation, not only are democratic values and social protections at risk, but the civic and formative cultures that make such values and protections crucial to democratic life are in danger of disappearing altogether. As public spheres, once enlivened by broad engagements with common concerns, are being transformed into “spectacular spaces of consumption,” the fight from mutual obligations and social responsibilities intensifies and has resulted in what Tony Judt identifies as a “loss of faith in the culture of open democracy.”1 This loss of faith in the power of public dialogue and dissent is not unrelated to the diminished belief in higher education as central to producing critical citizens and a crucial democratic public sphere in its own right. At stake here is not only the meaning and purpose of higher education, but also civil society, politics, and the fate of democracy itself. Tomas Frank is on target when he argues that “Over the course of the past few decades, the power of concentrated money has subverted professions, destroyed small investors, wrecked the regulatory state, corrupted legislators en masse and repeatedly put the economy through the wringer. Now it has come for our democracy itself.”2 And, yet, the only questions being asked about knowledge production, the purpose of education, the nature of politics, and our understanding of the future are determined largely by market forces.
KeywordsHigh Education Social Responsibility Public Sphere Civic Engagement Student Loan
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