MS Podcast#74


The 74th MediaSnackers podcast discusses with Henry Giroux.

(WORLD) The MediaSnackers podcast focusses on individuals, organisations or companies who are simply impressing us and which are crying out for more discussion.

Henry Giroux is the Global Television Network Chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

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0.00—0.21 intros
0.22—1.54 representations of youth in mainstream media
1.55—2.32 the investment question
2.33—3.53 relationship between democracy and education
3.54—5.28 emergence of new media to readdress balance
5.29—6.53 places of change
6.54—7.25 public pedagogy
7.26—8.07 production vs deconstruction
8.08—9.00 what has to change
9.01—9.56 the future
9.57—10.11 outro

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Henry Giroux: My name is Henry Giroux and I’m the Global TV Network chair and communications and cultural studies at McMaster University here in Ontario, Canada.

DK: Brilliant. Well, Welcome Henry. I’ve been reading your stuff, my head’s blown away and we’ve just had a brief chat so let’s get into it. How do you see the impact of the current representation of young people in mainstream media?

Henry Giroux: Well, I think that one of the things that we’ve seen happened over the last 20 years, both in England and in the United States, particularly in the United States. There’s been a shift in understanding youth as something to invest in, to all of the sudden, beginning to recognize that youth for some odd reason are not to be invested in, but it represents some kind of problem. Youth are no longer at risk. They are the risk. So there’s this increasing demonization of young people at all levels, which is really quite alarming.

I mean when we talk about crime, we talk about young people. When we talk about poverty, we talk about young people. When we talk about the threat to democracy, we talk about a generation of people who are perceived as incredibly dangerous. And I think that what we have to realize that as the social state defines, as the social state is exhausted we have no way of talking about the future anymore.

We now live in a society, a neoliberal society, in both ends of the world, in which we make short-term investments. We don’t make long-term investments. We get, and youth, if anything has ever symbolized a long-term investment, it’s young people. So, we have no way of talking about the future anymore.

DK: Sorry, I was just going to say and then is that investment supposed to be in education then? Is that the disparity that –

Henry Giroux: I think it’s an investment in a whole range of things. Everything from providing decent housing, decent health care, providing decent education, providing after school programs, recognizing that there are public spheres that young people that are absolutely essential to young people’s growth. You name it. I mean, wherever we want to talk about the possibility of becoming more than we are and the resources that enable that, one could argue that youth are really at the short end of the stick.

DK: Definitely. And how then is the relationship between education and democracy part of your critical theory and thinking?

Henry Giroux: Well, for me, I mean, I’ve argued for years in the manner of John Dewey and Paulo Frede and others that people need to be, to live in a democracy you need knowledge and skills and you need the ability to be an agent. and I think that the foundation for that is to be found in various sites where people learn the skills and those knowledge’s and learn those understandings and learn how to be self-reflective and I think increasingly two things have happened.

One, is we have substituted training for education. And secondly, we have increasingly seen education as a place to warehouse kids. In the states what we have is we have an educational system organized around the schools that’s increasingly built on the model of a prison. So that the school no longer becomes a site of social investment, the school becomes a site of containment. And I think and at the same time for many young people education is not about schooling. It’s precisely about all those things that are going on outside of schooling, which schools don’t recognize as viable educational interventions or forces.

DK: Ok man and how do see then, if we can bring it back to the whole MediaSnackers mem, how do you see the immergence of self-publishing, new media, online platforms in terms of enabling young people to readdress that balance?

Henry Giroux: I think three things are going on here. One, the new media is the site where kids can actually become cultural producers. Where they can experiment, they can create different forms of community. They can talk to each other across national boundaries. They can imagine what it means, in some way, to develop relationships in which there are multiple forms of literacy at work. So the new media here is a site of enormous potential for young people, an enormous site for education and an enormous site through which they can narrate themselves, which is very, very crucial.

Secondly, the traditional modes of education have really got to wake up and recognize that the new media is not just simply a joke. It’s not just simply out there; something that kids do when they’re bored. That’s it’s actually a way in which young people are beginning to understand each other, themselves and invest in the world. And it better be taken seriously as a form of knowledge and as a technology that’s crucial to what it means to be, it allows kids to get involved in the world per say.

And thirdly, we’ve got to create alternative sites outside of established boundaries where kids can, in a scene, not have to tow tow the corporate interests in order to use the new technology to produce things that they want to.

DK: Wow. I totally agree and that’s, in a sense, what sums up MediaSnackers is a very positive view on new media. Yes, we’ve got the negative side of it all going on and that’s not to be kind of disheartened and dismayed in any way. But also you’ve got a huge powerful side that needs to be steered in some way and embraced by those corporations, institutions that historically look at something and want to control it rather than use it and enable kids to use it in a learning environment. Are you seeing any schools out there that actually are taking that on? Or institutions?

Henry Giroux: Oh, yes I do. I mean, we see places where it’s starting to happen, but I think the most incredibly exciting experiment happening in two places that I see. One is in Brazil. I mean, something is going on in the Brazilian government’s investment, of all things, in hip hop and the new technology in which young kids are learning how to read. They’re learning how to write in ways that in which they share these technologies and then I see it in the emergence, and particularly in the states, of all kinds of alternative sites from Democracy Now to especially the Media Education Foundation and the work of Sid Jolly. I mean, these are people that take seriously a current that I’ve coined called Public Pedagogy.

DK: Ok, now what does that mean?

Henry Giroux: That means that you, when you refer to public pedagogy you’re talking about the educational force of the culture and not just restricting education to the schools. That it resides in the new media. It resides in new sites where these medias are emerging. It talks about the redistribution of power and it’s relationship to knowledge and for the first time it talks about the abilities of people to be cultural producers outside of traditional mainstream forms of education.

DK: And when you produce, you participate and that in a sense is democracy isn’t it?

Henry Giroux: You bet, but if you don’t, I’ll tell you. As I think we said earlier, to talk about the new media and to talk about production is not just simply about reading text. It’s about producing them.

DK: Exactly.

Henry Giroux: I’m not, I’m really not interested in tyly; in kids learning, for instance, how to read television critically, or read cinema or to read the new media. I want them to be producers. I want them to produce radio programs, to produce new music. You know, to produce new ways of communicating. That is absolutely central. I am less interested in the question of deconstruction than I am in question of production.

DK: Fantastic. So what has to change then? Is it cultural, physical, pedagogical or hardware, software investment? Where does the shift got to come?

Henry Giroux: Two things have to change. Three things. One, is this is a political question.

DK: Okay.

Henry Giroux: This is not really a cultural question. It’s political in that we have to raise fundamental questions about how the crisis of youth relates to the crisis of democracy. Once we resolve that, then the question becomes what kinds of investments do we have to make to allow students to be able to function in a global democracy through these technologies in ways in which we neither demonize the students nor the technologies themselves?

And thirdly, how can we allow students to do this collectively and not simply do it individually or in a way that utterly separates them from other students and other communities? And how do we do it across boundaries, across national boundaries?

DK: Yes, I totally agree. I want to wrap this question up with a kind of, sorry, this interview up with a kind of final question and over to you in a sense is do you see the future as being something that there’s totally going to be a struggle then, especially in terms of this new media platforms as people kind of populate on-line worlds? Or do you see it as something like you touched on that’s going to be a political question and with the Senate out there trying to raise the DOPA bills, Mac 2, is it going to try in some way take back that power that they used to have?

Henry Giroux: I mean, I think the struggle will operate on multiple fronts. But I’m optimistic. I mean, I believe in those people. I really do. I think they are innovative, they’re courageous. They’re facing the world unlike anything, any generation has seen before and for me I put my money on them.

DK: Ok, brilliant. Well, I thank you for giving up your time Henry. We really appreciate you talking to MediaSnackers.

Henry Giroux: We’ll listen. Thank you and thanks so much for what you’re doing. It’s such a pleasure.