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Education Under Fire: Introduction

Education at the beginning of the twenty-first century is in crisis and contestation. The economic instability of capitalism—reflected in the slowdown in the economic growth trend since the mid-1970s, worsening financial crises, and the growth of draconian neoliberal policies—has had the effect of further compromising a capitalist educational system already beset with problems.… The conflict over the agenda of the powerful with respect to schools is increasingly apparent. On the one side we find: privatization; drastically lowered expectations for students and families; the demonization of teachers; zero-tolerance as a cat’s paw for surveillance and control; sort-and-punish curricula; a culture of obedience and conformity; and narrowing definition of learning as job-training and education, i.e., as a product to be bought and sold in the market. On the other side we find: a growing fight-back based on the principle that all human beings are of incalculable value and that life in a just and free society must be geared toward and powered by a profoundly radical idea: that the fullest development of all human beings—regardless of race or ethnicity, origin or background, gender identity, ability or disability—is the necessary condition for the full development of each person; and, conversely, the fullest development of each is the condition for the full development of all.