Listening to and with the lives of adolescents

It's been far too long since I posted an entry here. I have no one to blame but myself... but for good measure I'll also give a little credit to the very long and not always voluntary todo list that consumed me for the past many months.

But another reason is a very good one -- the publication of a new volume that brings a focus of arts and aesthetics to the work my research team and I have been doing over the past several years. Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal Explorations with Youth features contributions from graduate students, youth researchers, arts educators, and established literacy scholars who take up various contours of the intersections of the titular concepts of the book. The book is co-edited with Tiffany DeJaynes, a wonderful colleague and friend who is up to some amazing work of her own with high school students turned budding qualitative researchers.

Building from this volume, that draws on the Reimagining Futures Project, last year some colleagues, graduates students and I launched the Youth, Media, and Educational Justice Project -- a consortium that we are building in an effort to bring participatory approaches to the study and support of the lives of court-involved youth, including the young people involved in the Juvenile Justice system with whom we have been working for the past near decade (and a bit longer than that for some of us...!) as well as young people in foster care who will likely age out while still in the the care of the child welfare system.

What, pray tell, might this have to do with adolescent literacies? In this work we are deeply informed by the basic ideas that have always grounded my study of young people's literate lives:

  • youth are engaged in myriad forms of expression and communication (thus rendering the use of "illiterate" utterly moot); 
  • found within adolescents' literacies are markers of affiliation and connection (to communities, to people, to texts, and more);
  • the varied contours of youths' literate lives are replete with evidence of their ways of knowing -- of knowing about the world, of making themselves known in the world.

We bring to this set of underlying assumptions new questions about belonging and becoming, questions that gain new urgency in the current and ongoing discourses of laws and policies that place adolescents' wellbeing at a far remove from decision making. Most notably, these concerns are brought into stark relief in the ongoing and deeply divided debates about the NYPD's #stopandfrisk policies, including today's ruling on the policy.

We take as our mission four entry points into the pursuit of educational justice for court-involved youth in which our position and posture is that of listening both to and with young people:

  • Media making
  • Mentoring
  • Research
  • Education

I, along with my YMEJ team members, will be blogging about these and related ideas over on our YMEJ blog. I encourage you to follow and also to keep up with us on Twitter.

Next up here -- a short post about some of the excellent reads I encountered this summer, all of which touched, in some way, on adolescents' ways of communicating, knowing, being, becoming, and belonging...

Wishing you a restorative August in the meantime.

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