Youth, Critical Literacies, and Civic Engagement: Arts, Media, and Literacy in the Lives of Adolescents. Routledge 2015.
Theresa Rogers, Kari-Lynn Winters, Mia Perry, Anne-Marie LaMonde.
As a team of educators who participate in the arts through writing, visual arts, video production, and theatre, we were interested in the intersections of arts, media, and critical literacy in the lives of youth in and out of schools as expressions of how they experienced their lives and social worlds; that is, we wanted to hear their claims about contemporary cultural issues and what alternatives they imagined for themselves and others.
We began the multi-year YouthCLAIM project from which this book grows in 2007, with funding from the Canadian government. At that time Vancouver was emerging as a North American global city and was on the verge of hosting the 2010 Olympics, an event that provoked public dialogues about the city itself as a player on the world stage. The city was rife with debates about the cost of the games in relation to much-needed social services, the contrasting images of a city of wealth and poverty, and the policies that were being enacted to present a more sanitized view of the city. The youth, as cultural critics, questioned these developments and policies and other urban issues related to homelessness, violence, and contemporary adolescence, actively engaging in public dialogue through their work.
We thoroughly enjoyed working with the youth in two community sites and one school site and experiencing their energy, talents, and perspectives on the city and the world across several years of the project. Over time we realized that this project was not only about youth arts, media, and literacy practices, but also about youth civic engagement, and ultimately points to the tensions between the literacy practices in schools and the kinds of active and engaged youth participation in public life.
Overview of the Book
Chapter 1 provides the context and the theoretical and methodological framing for the book. Chapters 2, 3, and 4 reflect the themes of student productions at each site—homelessness, violence, and performing contemporary adolescence—to illustrate how the youth used arts, media, and literacy as creative tools of expression and critique, addressing local and wider audiences to make claims about their lives and the world they find themselves in. Chapter 5, the closing chapter, further theorizes youth engagement in public pedagogy in relation to current conversations about youth, literacies, and local/global contexts and discourses. We describe how the youth in the various projects entered the public sphere, the claims they made, and the ways we might think about pedagogical engagements, practices, and goals as forms of civic engagement. We close with implications for critical and arts and media-based literacy pedagogies in schools. We call for more uncommon curricula that address the energies, skills, and resources that young people bring to the classroom and that forward democratic citizenship in a time when we are losing sight of issues of equity and social justice in our communities and nations.