Does Higher Education Have a Future in a Time of Tyranny? Implications for Critical Pedagogy by Henry A. Giroux

2nd Inaugural Lecture: Brunel Academy for the Transformation of Teaching

Does Higher Education Have a Future in a Time of Tyranny? Implications for Critical Pedagogy

Henry A. Giroux, McMaster Univeristy, Canada

Within the last few years, the discourses of authoritarianism and the echoes of a fascist past have moved from the margins to the center of politics across the globe. Increasingly, higher education has been implicated in this process by becoming less a practice for freedom than an instrumentalised theory and practice for domination, particularly as the culture of the academy has been transformed into a corporate environment. The lecture challenges this reactionary mode of education and pedagogy, particularly in its neoliberal versions, and explores how critical pedagogy might provide the theoretical and practical grounds for rethinking the purpose of higher education and the nature of politics itself, and how these two realms are inseparable. Central to such a task is rethinking the role of educators as public intellectuals and their responsibility not only to address crucial social problems, but to interrogate critically what it might mean to produce those pedagogical practices and formative cultures that are essential to any substantive democracy. An important issue addressed in this case is that pedagogy is always a moral and political practice and points not only to a struggle over agency and power, but also presupposes discourses of critique and possibility as part of a broader democratic project deeply implicated in addressing matters of economic and social justice and the grounds upon which life is lived and experienced.

Henry A. Giroux, an acclaimed founding theorist of critical pedagogy, currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the Department of English and Cultural Studies. Professor Giroux is also the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. An author of over 60 books, he has been a leading voice on the struggle between education and public life for four decades. In 2002, he was named as one of the top fifty educational thinkers of the modern period in Fifty Modern Thinkers on Education: From Piaget to the Present as part of Routledge’s Key Guides Publication Series. In 2007, he was named by the Toronto Star as one of the “12 Canadians Changing the Way We Think.” His most recent books include:  On Critical Pedagogy (Bloomsbury 2011), Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket 2014), The Violence of Organized Forgetting (City Lights 2014), Dangerous Thinking in the Age of the New Authoritarianism (Routledge, 2015), America’s Addiction to Terrorism (Monthly Review Press 2016), America at War with Itself (City Lights 2017), The Public in Peril (Routledge 2018), American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism (City Lights 2018), and his forthcoming, The Terror of the Unforeseen (Los Angeles Review of Books, in press).  Professor Giroux is also a member of Truthout’s Board of Directors. His web site is


You may also be interested in attending Susan Searls Giroux‘s lunchtime open workshop on Wednesday 20 February. Susan will be examining Gender Quity in Higher Education. More details can be found HERE.

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