The following dialogue between Noam Chomsky and Harvard Educational Review
Editors Pepi Leistyna and Stephen Sherblom occurred in the fall of 1994, at Chomsky's office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In conceptualizing this Special Issue, the Editorial Board thought it imperative to frame the lives of youth within an interdisciplinary perspective that explores and lays bare the historical, sociopolitical, economic, ideological, and cultural conditions of U.S. society. Chomsky's prolific work accomplishes this in many important respects; however, his political critiques and insights have been almost entirely excluded from national efforts to understand community disintegration and address issues of youth violence. It is the Board's belief that by bringing Chomsky's critical perspectives, concerns, and outlooks to the center of educational debates we can better understand the complex roots and history of violence in this country, and thus better inform educators of the current social contexts in which children live.
The dialogue begins by confronting the dominant ideologies that drive our history of systemic inequalities, oppression, and sanctioned violence that have resulted in this country's current culture of violence. Moving from a discussion of how the poor and middle-class in the United States subsidize the rich, to how the media and public institutions such as schools function to manufacture public consent for, and complicity with, such unequal distribution of power and wealth, Chomsky concludes with a discussion of the possibilities for progressive social change. Throughout, the dialogue vividly illustrates how we as a society often work against the values that we publicly profess, such as the growth and health of children, the social and economic well-being of all people, and the basic tenets of democracy.
As participants in this dialogue, Editors Sherblom and Leistyna acknowledge their understanding of violence as endemic to unequal and exclusionary economic and social structures. This understanding and their commitment to social transformation shaped both the flavor of the questions and the evolution of the discussion, and may not reflect the opinion of the full Board of the Harvard Educational Review.
The Board sincerely hopes that the following will contribute significantly to meaningful public dialogue, support the development and implementation of social policy that will reduce violence in the lives of youth, and work toward realizing a vision of a society without violence.
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