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ABSTRACT. This article argues that at the root of the emerging authoritarianism is a crisis in memory, history, and civic literacy. As the social state is gutted those public spaces in which critical thought, thoughtfulness, and informed dialogue is produced are being erased. One consequence is that ideological forms of domination are being formed through a reign of anti-intellectualism in which reason is trumped by emotion, entertainment replaces informed dialogue, and literacy gives way to diverse forms of ignorance that undercuts the possibility for producing critical citizens willing to struggle over and fight for a sustained democracy. The scourge of civic illiteracy undermines a formative culture capable of creating the informed and critical citizens necessary in a robust democracy. Giroux argues in this article that these new forces of domination are largely educational in nature and demand a new understanding of the educative nature of politics itself. In other words, democracy should be a way of thinking about education, one that thrives on connecting equity to excellence, learning to ethics, and agency to the imperatives of social responsibility and the public good. The question regarding what role education should play in democracy becomes all the more urgent at a time when the dark forces of authoritarianism are on the march in the United States. pp. 14–27

Keywords: pedagogy; authoritarianism; agency; civic literacy; illiteracy; higher education; resistance; hope

How to cite: Giroux, Henry A. (2017), “The Scourge of Illiteracy in Authoritarian Times,” Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 9(1): 14–27.

Received 14 April 2016 • Received in revised form 29 April 2016
Accepted 29 April 2016 • Available online 15 May 2016

doi:10.22381/CRLSJ9120172

HENRY A. GIROUX
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McMaster University

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