Welcome to the new Mayday Group website!

Posted on Posted in eColumns, Rural Music Education

Thanks to all who worked on the new Mayday Group website. It looks great! Now, I can resume writing about rural music education: I was watching a Henry Giroux video recently where he spoke with Bill Moyers (http://billmoyers.com/segment/henry-giroux-on-zombie-politics/) about his new book,  Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino CapitalismThere is much that I agree with regarding the need for critical thinking and critical pedagogy. However, I become somewhat uncomfortable when Giroux begins talking negatively about conservatism and anti-intellectualism. I get the feeling that he really doesn’t know these (often rural) folks. The people I know value tradition, family, freedom, and place. They are intelligent and caring. Modern technical rationality has done very little for them in the long run. It has, in fact, closed and/or consolidated their schools, pushed many families off of their family farms, and gutted many of their communities. And, the modern university and its intellectuals, catalysts for leftist, progressive, and Marxist thought, have facilitated the urbanization and modernization that has been so destructive to rural communities. They (we) have good reason to feel anti-intellectual; intellectuals have been anti-them (us). Wrote Marx and Engels in their Manifesto of the Communist Party: “The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns. It has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life.” On the one hand, the new industrial, capitalist forces centralized control and robbed labor of its joy. On the other hand, it supposedly rescued rural people from their ignorance. This anti-rural bias among those who consider themselves intellectuals continues (their lack of humility being another strike against them among rural populations). That’s all I’m saying. It’s hard to be pro someone who is anti you (right?), even though a lot of what they think and say might make some sense.

One thought on “Welcome to the new Mayday Group website!

  1. In “The Last Intellectuals” (1987), Russell Jacoby traced to loss of intellectuals to the placement of intellectuals in universities (especially in the 1950s). I find much of Jacoby’s book difficult to agree with. But taking Jacoby’s basic historical premise as accurate, with the institutionalization of intellectuals–re-placing (or dis-placing; or uprooting) in university-institutions–came the decline of writing meant for a general educated populous (read any of Thomas Paine’s popular pamphlets and you can see that the intellectual expectations of the populous was even more taxing than our most popular teacher journals); and the increase of mental work by intellectuals (effort) spent on dissertations and journals read (primarily and, at times, only) by other institutionalized (dis-placed) intellectuals. Marx might (or might not) decry this institutionalization because institutionalization redirects intellectual efforts away from the solidarity of all the proletariat (the underlying solidarity between working people living in urban, suburban, and rural places)–might I say away from “praxis” (on the street) and toward “theoria” (in the Ivory Tower). In “The Need for Roots” (1949), Simone Weil discussed how all people need to live rooted lives (e.g. rooted in place, in community, in family, in history). Her identification of the needs seems in sharp contrast to the mobile values we teach in our institutions. Following Weil’s “need” and the challenges of Jaques Ellul and Ivan Illich, I think institutions are inherently uprooting: Institutions instill in students the desire to leave beloved homes, to find career “success” (often defined as leaving home for bigger careers and houses), and to teach (educate, preach) the development discourse that fuels our current unjust industrial society. I think this is in line with your work; and Giroux’s difficulty seems to come from his being an uprooted & institutionalized intellectual. And, so are we! I hope conservative people trying to hold onto the roots they still have see as their “anti” the uprooting institutions we intellectuals work for, and any unreflected-upon values we hold in naive solidarity with our institutions, and not automatically intellectuals (flesh and blood people often trying our best) striving to realize better solidarity. Separating the proletariat (including we proletarian intelligentsia) can only result in greater injustices, greater uprooting (as intellectuals fail to join in action against lost water-tables, lost mountains to unsustainable mining, and lost top soil).

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