Sometimes you see two separate stories in the same newspaper that seem so perfectly related you wonder why they weren’t combined. Look for example at the May 14th edition of the Centre Daily Times, the local paper of
The story retells Paterno’s impressive 38-year win-loss record at PSU. It also notes that his team went 3-9 last year, including 1-7 in the Big Ten conference, and that Paterno has taken his squad to just one bowl game in the last 4 years. No problem, Paterno says, explaining that “I still enjoy coaching” and “I am excited about the upcoming season.” PSU President Graham Spanier is quoted saying that Paterno has had “a positive impact on society” (www.bradenton.com/ mld/ centredaily/news/local/ 8665831.htm). “Joe is an extraordinary person,” Spanier told the local NBC affiliate, “and a treasured resource for the institution. He has meant so much to Penn State and we wanted to continue a long term relationship that recognizes everything that he has done to bring the university…to the highest standards of excellence” (www.nbc10.com/sports/3304591/detail.html).
Paterno, it is worth noting, is a staunch Republican, a strong supporter of a regressive political party that works consistently to starve public education at both primary and secondary levels and to hand American educational structures over to private/corporate control. The university has different feelings about its leading former professor Henry Giroux.
A second Centre Daily Times story in the same issue reports that Giroux will be leaving PSU for good after the school’s administrators refused to make any serious effort to retain him in the wake of a teaching offer he received from
“Before McMaster’s offer,” the paper reports, Henry and his wife Susan (herself a highly productive academician), “attempted repeatedly to stay at
According to one of Giroux’s students, Scott Morris, “if [
Along with the impressive teaching and lecturing record, these publications have established Giroux as one of the world’s leading intellectuals and the inventor of the field of critical pedagogy. According to the Centre Daily Times, Giroux has been named “one of the top educators of the 20th century…Giroux’s work has been translated throughout the world and many of his students say that the only reason they came to Penn State was to study with him. One of his students says Giroux is to
Giroux is a shining light of prolific, politically engaged left scholarship and inspiring pedagogy: a “treasured resource” – one would think – “for the institution” (“Departure of PSU Professor Stirs Higher-Education Debate,” available online at http://www.centredaily.com/ mld/centredaily/8665832.htm).
Unlike Paterno, moreover, Giroux has had a consistent recent string of winning seasons. The last six years have seen the publication of at least six (I’m probably leaving out some books) impressive Giroux monographs: Channel Surfing (1998), the Mouse That Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (1999), Stealing Innocence (2001), Breaking in to The Movies (2002), The Abandoned Generation (2003), Private Spaces, Public Lives (2003), and (co-authored with Susan) Taking Back Higher Education: Race, Youth, and the Crisis of Higher Education in the Post-Civil rights Era (2004) (I get arthritis just thinking about that much writing).
The last book, it is worth noting, is an especially important critical reflection on the modern American university. Based on careful analyses of U.S. higher education’s leading institutional and intellectual developments, it shows show how academia is implicated in the wider society’s retreat from democracy, racial inclusion, and social justice.
Giroux and Giroux make a passionate, richly informed case for the university’s role as a safe democratic and public space, not a haven for the privileged and powerful few. Take Back Higher Education belongs on the shelves of all concerned public thinkers, including the all-too rare such intellectuals that survive within the interstices of the corporate, neo-liberal university. It’s no wonder that Paterno/Penn-State administrators received a flurry of e-mails from students and faculty inquiring about Giroux’s departure and what
Beneath its stated commitment to “the highest standards of [academic] excellence,” PSU has curious higher-educational priorities. It spends an untold fortune to retain a failing, nearly octogenarian football legend, who happens to be a reactionary supporter of American education’s chief political opponent party. At the same time, it refuses to retain, at much lower cost, one of the planet’s leading anti-authoritarian intellectuals. But then that makes sense given the analysis presented in Take Back Higher Education (1).
1. Yesterday the online version of the Centre Daily Times’ article on the Girouxs’ departure from