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Do Youth Count on the Left?

By       Message Tolu Olorunda       (Page 1 of 7 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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"We live at a time when social bonds are crumbling and institutions that provide collective help are disappearing. Reclaiming these social bonds and the protections of the social state means, in part, developing a new mode of politics and pedagogy in which young people are as central to this struggle as the future of the democratic society they once symbolized."

--Henry Giroux, Youth in a Suspect Society[1]

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Very few issues today should command the attention of progressives more than the future awaiting young people--a future dictated by the ethics of neoliberalism; a future hostile to the humanities of low-income and minority youth; a future devoid of all public and democratic possibilities. And even fewer issues should elicit greater address than the current reality under which young people--from all walks of life--live.

Youth constitute the most uninsured of all demographics in the U.S., with more than 13 million between the ages of 19 and 29 lacking coverage, while, according to Youth advocacy groups, also least likely to benefit from employer-based coverage. Never mind that 24% of Americans ages 18 to 29 spent some time at an emergency department in 2008. [2]

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Yet, far too few in progressive circles highlighted this concern as debates raged on for months about healthcare coverage and insurance reform.

But every now and then a courageous soul rises from amongst the rubble of rhetoric to speak candidly about the hypocritical shamelessness of a society which claims to value children as its future but abandons them to fend for, and defend, themselves in a world they themselves--the adults, that is--could never dream of living in. Cultural critics like Henry Giroux, Jonathan Kozol, and Shirley Steinberg have been remarkable exceptions, publishing book after book condemning those too callous to take issues afflicting Youth seriously, and offering hope for a future free from exploitation and biopolitical dominance.

But even after laborious research and painstaking writing, many see their works relegated to university libraries and conference halls, isolated from any meaningful public consumption or interrogation.

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Such has been the case with Youth in a Suspect Society, written by Henry Giroux (published September 2009). While a few progressive publications have honorably featured reviews, published excerpts, or conducted interviews with the author, and even fewer radio programs have invited him on for in-depth discourse, most have held it at arm's length, refusing to even mention that a book on this topic--with the timeliness of a ticking time bomb--was at all written.

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Tolu Olorunda is a cultural critic whose work regularly appears in various online journals including BlackCommentator.com, TruthOut.org, CounterPunch.org, DissidentVoice.org, including others. He can be reached at: Tolu.Olorunda (at) gmail.com.

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Do Youth Count on the Left?