Consuming Schools: Commercialism and the End of Politics
by Trevor Norris
(University of Toronto Press, 2011; $27.95 paper)
Interview between Dr. Gavin Fridell, Chair of the Department of Politics at Trent University, and Dr. Trevor Norris, Assistant Professor of Philosophy of Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. This interview is a shortened version of the discussion that took place during the book launch of Consuming Schools: Commercialism and the End of Politics in the Hart House Library on Thursday Feb 24, 2011.
Gavin Fridell: To begin with, the forward to your book is written by Benjamin Barber who talks about consumerism as “a new ethos of infantilization” as corporations corrupt children and “dumb down” adults. I wonder what you think of this idea of “infantilization”?
Trevor Norris: You’ve raised a good question about a deep paradox regarding consumerism. On the one hand it results in what Neil Postman calls “the end of childhood,” because it undermines innocence, confines play, etc. By exposing kids to violence, sex, materialism, etc. it forces them to grow up quick.
However, in contrast, regarding citizenship, consumerism relentlessly promotes infantile values and world views, such as instant gratification, easy commodified solutions rather than those requiring more sustained efforts, and so on. Infantalization is how consumerism compromises democracy because it turns citizens into children.
It is ironic that we don’t let people vote unless they are of a certain age, and yet most advertising promotes infantile identities! So the innocence of childhood is compromised by consumerism even as consumerism promotes infantility among adults.