FES seminar series features renowned critical educator Henry Giroux

A popular seminar series presented by York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES), in partnership with the Faculty of Education, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and the Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability, will host renowned critical educator and theorist Henry Giroux. Giroux will speak on “Disposable Futures, Dirty Democracy, and the Politics of Higher Education” tomorrow, Nov. 22, from 2:30-4:30pm at the Burton Auditorium on York’s Keele Campus. Admission is free and all are welcome.

Right: Henry Giroux

Titled “Education by Design”, the fall seminars have explored key issues in university planning, design and policy and will be followed in winter by more focused conversations on the pedagogical potential of York’s natural, organizational, social and built environments.

“The goal of the series is to explore what communities implicitly learn from environments such as the conventional University campus, while reflecting on broader notions of learning, design and place,” says series coordinator and FES PhD student Nadine Gudz, whose proposal for the annual series was selected through a competition. “‘Education by Design’ suggests that we learn a great deal from the way our institutions are structured, their patterns of consumption and production of waste, as well as institutional relationships with local, regional and global actors.”

The series launched on Sept. 20 with David Orr, professor and Chair of the Environmental Studies program at Oberlin College. Perhaps best known for his work in environmental literacy and ecological design, Orr’s provocative and inspiring talk characterized global climate destabilization as an ecological crisis of mind and, subsequently, education. Orr asserted that since climate change is driven by our overdependence on fossil energy, it reflects disorder in our thoughts, perceptions and values – and points to the need to integrate the understanding of the world as a biophysical system into institutional operations and curriculum.

Then on Nov. 6, Mark Roseland, professor of geography and director of the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at Simon Fraser University (SFU), spoke about the challenge of institutionalizing sustainability by drawing insight from the case of "UniverCity" – a new, sustainable community that will eventually house 10,000 people adjoining the SFU campus in Burnaby, BC. Roseland, a founding member of the trust that oversees the project, explained that the design and construction of the community was guided by four key elements: environment, equity, economy and education. He said that Intentionally integrating these elements into every aspect of the community resulted in innovative sustainability initiatives such as the first community transit pass in Canada, green density bonusing, use of geo-exchange heating systems, an affordable green housing development for junior faculty and staff, preference to locally owned retailers, and extensive cycling and pedestrian paths.

Roseland also discussed another project he is associated with, the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) building that will be part of the Great Northern Way Campus, a consortium of four post-secondary institutions in Vancouver. The CIRS building is being designed to be “the mother of all green buildings. It’s green, it’s humane, and it’s smart – people will be more productive inside. Why would you not do this? By doing it right, we can achieve better communities, better scholarship, and better citizenship,”  said Roseland.

The fall sessions will culminate in Giroux’s talk – sponsored in partnership with the University Consortium on the Global South – which promises to be a passionate and challenging discussion linking higher education even more concretely to democracy and principles of sustainable design, and based on Giroux’s extensive knowledge and experience as a critical educator and theorist.

After receiving his PhD from Carnegie-Mellon in 1977, Giroux became professor of education at Boston University. In 1983 he became professor of education and scholar in residence at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where he also served as director at the Center for Education and Cultural Studies. In 1992 he moved to Penn State University where he took up the Waterbury Chair Professorship at Penn State University until 2004, and also served as the director of the Waterbury Forum in Education and Cultural Studies. He currently holds the Global Television Network Chair in English & Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. His extensive publication record includes recent titles such as Take Back Higher Education: Race, Youth, and the Crisis of Democracy in the Post Civil Rights Era (Palgrave, 2004), The Terror of Neoliberalism: Authoritarianism and the Eclipse of Democracy (Paradigm Publishers, 2004), and The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial Academic Complex (Paradigm Publishers, 2007).

For more information on the featured speakers and details on the winter sessions of the seminar series, see the Education By Design Web site.