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The Crisis of Meaning

In Culture and Education

David Trend

Publication Year: 1995

The Crisis of Meaning was first published in 1995. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.

Pick up any newspaper and it is clear that the United States is facing a democratic crisis. Recent culture wars and debates about political correctness and culture have illustrated how conventional definitions of citizenship and national identity have been thrown into question.

Investigating what he views as an inseparable link between culture and politics, David Trend analyzes how notions of patriotism, citizenship, community, and family are communicated within specific public and private institutions. He extends the meaning and purpose of pedagogy as a cultural practice outside the classroom, focusing on political activism in education, the mass media, and the art world.

The Crisis of Meaning supplies a crucial theoretical understanding of the ways in which the pedagogical and political intersect at a variety of cultural sites, as it points us toward a "democratic" process of national identity formation. It is indispensable reading for anyone interested in the connections between education and politics.

David Trend is executive director of the Center for Social Research and Education in San Francisco and also executive editor of the Socialist Review. He is the author of Cultural Pedagogy: Art/Education/Politics (1992).

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Pedagogy and Cultural Practice

Title Page, About the Series, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. vii

In developing this book, I received a great deal of help from the people around me. First, I must thank my friend and colleague Henry A. Giroux for his encouragement and critical guidance. Significant credit is also due to Dennis Carlson, Peter McLaren, Richard Quantz, and Susan Reilly for their engagement with the theoretical aspects of...

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1 The Crisis of Meaning in Culture and Education

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pp. 1-17

Pick up any newspaper and it is clear that the United States is facing a democratic crisis. Conventional definitions of citizenship and national identity have been thrown into question by ruptures in the global political landscape, changing postindustrial economic relations, shifting racial demographics, and new attitudes toward sexuality and religion...

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2 What's in a Name? National Identity and Media Literacy

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pp. 18-37

Nationality is a fiction. It is a story people tell themselves about who they are, where they live, and how they got there. As such it is a complicated and highly contested text. In the contemporary United States, issues of national identity resonate in debates over educational reform, literary canons, multiculturalism, political correctness, and artistic freedom. All of these result, at least in part, from the paradoxical manner in which "nations...

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3 Ordinary People: Material Culture and the Everyday

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pp. 38-57

In the preceding quotation from his often cited 1958 essay "Culture Is Ordinary," Raymond Williams posed a defining question for cultural studies. Why indeed has culture been conventionally defined in such narrow terms, and why are those terms endlessly reconstituted in successive discourse? What is behind the compulsion among traditionalist historians, curators, and journalists to separate the "extraordinary" in their...

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4 A Change of Address: Homelessness and the Politics of Voice

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pp. 58-74

Remember when we thought we could make a difference?" asks a recent advertisement from the Plan International foster parents program. "When I was in college we fought every kind of social and economic injustice. We sang songs like 'He Ain't Heavy. He's My Brother,' and we thought we could change the world. Then I started having other responsibilities."2 The ad tells the story of Adrienne, a woman in her mid-thirties....

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5 Look Who's Talking: Contested Narratives of Family Life

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pp. 75-90

"Thank you for not talking about your relationship," reads the opening cartoon in John Callahan's book Digesting the Child Within.2 In recent years, Callahan has achieved cult status for his cynical views of New Age introspection and twelve-step quests for "wellness." His favorite target is the family, as in his portrait of "The Dysfunctional Family Robinson,"3 or his image of a politically correct marriage ceremony: "I now pronounce...

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6 Read My Lips: Bureaucratic Rhetoric and Narrative Authority

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pp. 91-104

"Democracy" is a relative term. Like any other expression, its meaning is a matter of interpretation, debate, and contest. In recent years it is a word we have heard a great deal—from the "democratic" reforms in Nicaragua, to the suppression of democratic protest in China's Tiananmen Square, to the democratic revolutions throughout Eastern Europe, to the democratic liberation of Kuwait. Yet despite such historic circumstances...

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7 The Color of Money: Cultural Policy and the Public Interest

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pp. 105-121

In the 1990s the arts have moved from the margins of public debate to the center, as politicians, journalists, and government bureaucrats have recognized art's importance in shaping human identities and forging values. Recent controversies over literary canons, school curricula, and arts censorship all reflect a growing awareness of the relationship of culture to public life. Unfortunately, this important rela tionship is often misunderstood...

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8 Rethinking Media Activism: Why the Left Is Losing the Culture War

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pp. 122-137

At the height of the recent arts censorship controversies, conservative columnist Patrick Buchanan wrote a column entitled, "In the War for America's Culture, Is the 'Right' Side Losing?"2 In this frequently quoted piece Buchanan claimed that while conservatives had been busy defending democracy around the globe, leftists had been infiltrating schools, the media, and the art world at home. It is no secret what happened next, as...

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9 Pedagogy and Ethics: Notes for a Radical Democracy

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pp. 138-148

Much of this book has been devoted to an analysis of the culture wars and of the strategies both Right and Left have used in the struggle over civic subjectivity. Without a doubt, conservatives are seeking to regain their grip on U.S. politics by targeting cultural issues. With a rhetoric of ethical foundationalism, the Right has seized on popular symbols to put both liberals and radicals on the defensive. This has included an appropriation...


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pp. 149-170


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pp. 171-174

About the Author

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p. 175-175

E-ISBN-13: 9780816686162
E-ISBN-10: 0816686165
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816625239

Page Count: 184
Publication Year: 1995

Series Title: Pedagogy and Cultural Practice

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Critical pedagogy -- United States.
  • Educational sociology -- United States.
  • Education -- Political aspects -- United States.
  • Discrimination in education -- United States.
  • Minorities -- Education -- United States.
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