Henry A. Giroux


On his book Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?

Cover Interview of January 07, 2010

A close-up

I have always been concerned about the role that theory might play as a resource in providing both a language and a context for understanding and addressing important social issues.  Many narratives in this book are designed to connect peoples’ everyday lives with larger social issues.  By entering the book through these narratives, the reader may connect private considerations to larger public problems, and vice versa.

The transformation of the school from an invaluable public good and laboratory for critical learning and engaged citizenship to a containment site modeled after prisons is made clear in a number of narratives concerning the abuse perpetuated in the name of zero tolerance policies. For instance, in Miami a first grader took a table knife to school, using it to rob a classmate of $1 in lunch money.  School officials claimed he was facing “possible expulsion and charges of armed robbery.”

In another instance that took place in December 2004, a fourth-grade student at a Philadelphia elementary school was yanked out of class, handcuffed, taken to the police station, and held for eight hours for bringing a pair of 8-inch scissors to school.  She had been using the scissors to work on a school project at home.  School district officials acknowledged that the young girl was not using the scissors as a weapon or threatening anyone with them, but scissors qualified as a potential weapon under Pennsylvania state law.