adult producers of adolescent texts

i've been thinking more and more about who produces the images of youth that we see on television, on videos, in the newspaper, in literary texts, and in the movies (and elsewhere) and am more confused than before. confused by the motivation for some of the portrayals that are circulating, in particular. in the tv and youth course that i'm teaching this semester, someone made the following comment in response to the point that youth ought to be more engaged in how they are represented: "who would want to do that?" this person was referring to the related point that simple characters and flattened representations are what sell to the public at large.

following this discussion, i recalled the show "you can't do that on television" that aired in the early 80s on nickelodeon. i am struck by the memories of adolescent sketch comedy, green slime, and forgetful dialogue. yet i was hooked on this show, as i was to reading and re-reading nancy drew novels, the stack of enid blyton books given to me by my older cousin who grew up in london, and listening to old lp records (including elvis and audio recordings of the "six million dollar man") on my record player. as i recall this pastiche of not-very-critical texts that made up much of my childhood and adolescence, i wonder how i arrived here; that is, a stance of ongoing, critical inquiry.

while writing a paper for a course in grad school, i took to heart what bell hooks (1994) wrote about her relationship with critical thought and theory and noted that while the texts i consumed remained fairly uncritical, the texts i produced - namely, my journals, poetry, and the enacted performance of being - made attempts at raising questions, challenging existing cultural scripts and performing different identities. but what if i had met june jordan's words as a teenager? or written back to the musings of adrienne rich? would i have come into a critical consciousness earlier? and if so, what would have been different?

when i hear some adults talk about youth today i wonder if we expect too little of youth as we assume that they need to be taught how to be critical? that is, what if assumed that youth are developing a critical consciousness in various aspects of their lives? would we ask different questions in our literature, social studies, mathematics classes? would the space of education shift more toward the possibility of with? how would the scripts of youth be different if adults took seriously the notion that youth are collaborators in the pursuit of a more just, and socially conscious world?

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