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A Curriculum of Fear

Homeland Security in U.S. Public Schools

2016
Author:

Nicole Nguyen

A Curriculum of Fear

Homeland Security goes to school

A Curriculum of Fear examines Milton High School’s specialized Homeland Security program—what it means to students and staff and what it says about the militarization of public schools. The first ethnography of such a program, it provides a close encounter with the new normal imposed by the global war on terror—a school under siege, actively preparing for the siege itself.

A Curriculum of Fear offers unique and engaging insight on the intersections of education, securitization, and militarism in the United States. It makes an important contribution to research in each of these fields.

Emily Gilbert, University of Toronto

Welcome to Milton High School, where fear is a teacher’s best tool and every student is a soldier in the war on terror. A struggling public school outside the nation’s capital, Milton sat squarely at the center of two trends: growing fear of resurgent terrorism and mounting pressure to run schools as job training sites. In response, the school established a specialized Homeland Security program.

A Curriculum of Fear takes us into Milton for a day-to-day look at how such a program works, what it means to students and staff, and what it says about the militarization of U.S. public schools and, more broadly, the state of public education in this country. Nicole Nguyen guides us through a curriculum of national security–themed classes, electives, and internships designed through public-private partnerships with major defense contractors like Northrop Grumman and federal agencies like the NSA. She introduces us to students in the process of becoming a corps of “diverse workers” for the national security industry, learning to be “vigilant” citizens; and she shows us the everyday realities of a program intended to improve the school, revitalize the community, and eliminate the achievement gap.

With reference to critical work on school militarization, neoliberal school reform, the impact of the global war on terror on everyday life, and the political uses of fear, A Curriculum of Fear maps the contexts that gave rise to Milton’s Homeland Security program and its popularity. Ultimately, as the first ethnography of such a program, the book provides a disturbing close encounter with the new normal imposed by the global war on terror—a school at once under siege and actively preparing for the siege itself.

A Curriculum of Fear

Nicole Nguyen is assistant professor of social foundations of education at the University of Illinois–Chicago.

A Curriculum of Fear

A Curriculum of Fear offers unique and engaging insight on the intersections of education, securitization, and militarism in the United States. It makes an important contribution to research in each of these fields.

Emily Gilbert, University of Toronto

A Curriculum of Fear provides a valuable contribution to the literature on the militarization and corporatization of schools, situating the topic in terms of the broader ideological and economic constellation of neoliberalism and militarism. Nicole Nguyen offers an expansive view that addresses school governance and policy, curriculum and cultural politics, and subjectivity formation.

Kenneth Saltman, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

A Curriculum of Fear

Contents
Introduction: Welcome to Milton High
1. Teaching War and Feeling Fear: Public School Reform during the Global War on Terror
2. The Covert Researcher: The Ethics of a School Ethnography
3. This Is Your Future: Militarizing the Dreams of Students
4. Teaching Terrorism: Inside the Homeland Security Program
5. Student, Terrorist, or Patriot? Learning to Fear, Mourn, and Love after September 11
Conclusion: Thinking Differently while under Siege
Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index