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Article

Popular Media and Youth Resistances  

Amber Moore and Elizabeth Marshall

“Popular media” and “youth resistance” are significant areas of inquiry in studies and theorizations of gender and sexuality in education. Yet, the terms popular media, youth, and resistance are highly contentious, sometimes overlapping and consistently posing definitional challenges. Popular media is at first exactly what it sounds like: broadly accessible and commercially produced texts like the Harry Potter franchise; however, popular media is also deeply complex and contextually determined, shifting over time in accordance with audiences as well as popular discourses to produce plural meanings. Likewise, youth resistance encompasses ever-changing, and often reductively problematic conceptualizations. Young people are frequently misrepresented in popular media as rebellious which in turn informs popular understanding(s) of resistance as calcified, domesticated, fetishized, masculinized, and romanticized. Youth resistance then, is complex, discursive, and a nuanced material reality. The complexity of popular culture and youth’s resistance within and against it demonstrates and demands creativity and criticality.

Article

Gender and Sexuality in Street Youth Cultures in the United States and Canada  

Sam Stiegler

Young people’s experiences with spaces commonly called “the streets” are greatly influenced by gender and sexuality. Because queer and trans youth are policed in specific ways because of their identities and presentations and because queer and trans youth are more likely to experience homelessness than their peers, it is vitally important to understand the ways these young people are making meaning, knowledge, and culture from their experiences on “the streets” within the contexts of the United States and Canada.

Article

Queer Youth and Education  

Hannah Dyer

Discussions surrounding the rights, desires, and subjectivities of queer youth in education have a history marked by both controversy and optimism. Many researchers, practitioners, and teachers who critically examine the role of education in the lives of queer youth insist that the youth themselves should be involved in setting the terms of debate surrounding if and how they should be included in sites of education. This is important because the ways in which their needs and subjectivities are conceptualized have a direct impact on the futures that queer youth imagine for themselves and for others. For example, the furious and impassioned debates about sex education in schooling are also to do with the amount of empathy we have for queer youth. Thus, sex education is a frequent point of analysis in literature on queer youth in education. Literature on queer youth and education also helpfully demonstrates how racialization, gender, neoliberalism, and settler-colonialism permeate discourses of queer inclusion and constitute the conditions of both acceptance and oppression for queer youth. While queer studies has at times sharpened perceptions of queer youth’s subjective and systemic experiences in education, it cannot be collapsed into a unified theory of sexuality because it too is ripe with debate, variation, and contradiction. As many scholars and intellectual traditions make clear, the global and transnational dimensions of gender and sexuality cannot be subsumed into a unified taxonomy of desire or subject formation. More ethical interactions between teachers, peers, and queer youth are needed because our theories of queer desire and the discourses we attach to them evince material realities for queer youth. Despite the often prevailing insistence that queer youth belong in educational institutions, homophobia and heteronormativity continue to make inclusion a complicated landscape. In recognition of these dynamics, literature in the field of educational studies also insists that some queer youth find hope in education. Withdrawing advocacy and representation for queer, trans, and nonbinary youth in educational settings becomes dangerous when it creates a terrain for isolation and shame. Importantly, queer theory and LGBTQ studies have conceptualized the needs of queer youth in ways that emphasize education as a space wrought with emotion, power, and desire. Early theorizing of non-normative sexual desire continues to set the stage for contemporary discussions of schools as spaces of power and repression. That is, histories of activism, knowledge, and policy construction have made the present conditions of both inclusion and exclusion for queer youth. Contemporary debates about belonging and marginalization in schools are made from the residues and endurance of earlier formations of gender and race.

Article

Theater, Drama, Education, and Pasifika Youth in Aotearoa New Zealand  

Michelle Johansson

Pasifika people constitute a young, diverse, and growing portion of the population of Aotearoa New Zealand, with multiple cultural identities originating in the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Tuvalu, Tahiti, and Kiribati. Pasifika people are also subject to both new and historical disparities in income, employment, education, housing, and health in comparison with other ethnic groups. Significantly, education in Aotearoa continues to fail Pasifika youth, reporting a persistent long brown tail of underachievement in standards-based assessment. Multiple government interventions have been implemented to address these increasing disparities, but these have been ineffective in achieving the widespread systemic change necessary for true equity. Pasifika youth are regularly required to code-switch between Western colonial worldviews, systems, and structures and those of indigenous-Oceania. Theater in Aotearoa provides a powerful site in which to navigate these multiple cultural identities, advocate for societal change, and negotiate the heritage literacies associated with storytelling and the performing arts. South Auckland, in particular, is a crucible for nurturing young Pasifika creative artists interested in re-storying their world.

Article

School Ethnography  

Jennifer Bethune and Jen Gilbert

School ethnography is a qualitative research method through which the researcher immerses herself in the life of the school, usually for an extended period, and through observation, interviews, and analyses of artifacts and documents explores questions about life in school. The school ethnographer gathers data in the form of fieldnotes, interviews, images of school life, and texts that are part of the school and continually analyses all of this data in order to discover or produce meaning from the patterns that emerge: the routines that shape school life, for instance, and the disturbances that upend these patterns. Finally, the researcher creates a written product. The school ethnography, as a product of research, often emulates the research process by immersing the reader in the life of the school and by making transparent the challenges and delights of the research. By drawing on social theories that seek to understand systems of domination and oppression, school ethnographies can expose how inequalities circulate through the everyday life of schools, affecting students’ and teachers’ experiences and shaping policy and curriculum. Many school ethnographies highlight the positionality of the researcher as not-quite insider and not-quite outsider as a way to foreground the ways that power relations shape research in schools, influencing all stages of the research process, including the selection of a site, the researcher’s behavior in the field, the kinds of data that are recorded as fieldnotes, the approach to analysis, and the writerly decisions that shape the final product. Through this recursive and reflexive approach to research, school ethnographers lay the groundwork for social change that is grounded in a comprehensive, detailed, and complex portrait of life in the school.

Article

Qualitative Methodologies and the Life Course in Brazil  

Marilia Sposito and Felipe Tarábola

The specifics of approaches to qualitative research in the field of youth studies in Brazil are presented. Research projects that focus on young people should recognize the specificities that can be translated into analyses of the diversity and inequalities of youth experience. Two aspects are key: Markers of age can inform early approaches, since there is international agreement on the general extent of this stage of life (from 15 to 29 years of age), and the occurrence of differences among adolescents, that is, young people approaching the age of majority and young people in transition to adult life. Thus, the process of data collection needs to allow for the possibility of bricolage techniques in order to effectively study the subjects, presupposing their interactions and positions in contemporary society. Starting from an initial reflection on the main milestones that guide the very idea of youth and the ways in which the studies in education have dialogued with this field in Brazil, four aspects need to be considered when carrying out empirical investigations: contexts and research spaces; the successive approximations and times of investigation; sounds and images; and the potential benefits and hazards of using virtual networks and the internet for data collection in studies of young people. This combination of procedures requires the researcher to exercise sociological imagination and act with some degree of creativity. However, there must also be rigorous care in selecting research techniques and applying them to whatever the project may be.

Article

Health and Gender in Adolescence in the United States  

Chris Barcelos

In the United States, gender and health in adolescence are sites of contestation and conflict marked by both hyperrepresentations and absences. Youth who are multiply marginalized by interlocking systems of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and so on are overrepresented in cultural and policy domains as “at risk” for negative health outcomes. At the same time, absences surrounding young people’s complex health needs and experiences abound in schools, healthcare settings, families, and the media. For instance, debates around sex education and teen pregnancy prevention have dominated the policy landscape for decades, with no signs of receding any time soon. Missing from these debates has been an analysis of how the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality structure the health outcomes and educational experiences of diverse youth. Likewise, queer, transgender, and gender-expansive youth are overrepresented in discussions about bullying to the detriment of the social structural factors that produce poor mental health outcomes. Understanding how gender and health play out in the lives of adolescents, as well as at the level of social institutions and structures, is central to teasing out the dynamics of gender, health, and social inequalities.

Article

Youth Activism through Critical Arts, Transmedia, and Multiliteracies  

Theresa Rogers

In the context of increasing realizations of the fragility of democracy, the possibilities and accomplishments of youth activist projects across material and virtual spaces and sites continue to flourish. Research on this work is situated in the rich scholarly traditions of critical youth studies and critical youth literacies as well as in theories of civic engagement, public pedagogy, participatory politics, cosmopolitanism, and relational mobilities. Many youth projects draw on the resources of arts, digital media, and critical multiliteracies to participate, in material ways, in public and political life. Taking up issues such as citizenship for immigrant youth, homelessness, and poverty, young people powerfully create critical, social, and political narratives that resonate within and beyond their own communities. Theorizing this work in relation to public engagement, spatiality, and mobilities deepens our understanding of those moments when youth in community and educational sites create powerful transmediated counter-narratives about their lives and worlds—the ways they incorporate both local and global understandings to create these new forms of political participation. And the work itself underscores the need for more equitable access to various multimodal and digital resources and the importance of youth access to public and mediated spaces. Schools and educators are called to create pedagogical spaces that invite students’ subjectivities, locations, and creative uses of material resources to engage in local and larger public dialogues, counter dominant cultural ideologies, address multiple publics, and create new forms of political participation.

Article

Youth Movements and Climate Change Education for Justice  

Carrie Karsgaard and Lynette Shultz

In 2019, youth throughout the world held global student strikes for climate, also known as Fridays for Future, during which they articulated their collective concern and frustration at political inaction on climate change, demanding climate justice. During the same period, through concrete activities on specific lands, drawing attention to the colonial nature of climate change, Indigenous land-based and climate movements have resisted extraction and development projects that fuel climate change. Youth responses to the increasing intensification and unevenness of climate heating present a crucial moment for rethinking education. To adequately respond to the global youth climate strikes and Indigenous movements, climate change education is recognizing the need to engage issues of justice, including for children and youth in different positions globally. Education research has long recognized the need to layer climate science education with learning about the intersecting sociocultural, political, and economic components of climate issues, along with the need to support youth as they face uncertain futures. At the same time, much historic climate change education was critiqued for its instrumentalism because it endorsed predetermined outcomes, limiting critical thought and stripping youth of their agency. By contrast, the recent youth climate strikes have spurred increased legitimation of youth voice and agency in climate issues, in addition to increasing attention to the marginalized and excluded. With the citizenship participation of youth thus legitimized, new efforts in climate change education more deeply address climate justice through a critical focus on the culpability of the Global North, supporting pedagogical interventions that support more critical learning. At the same time, many scholars question the extent to which climate change education fully addresses the deep colonial–capitalist roots of the climate crisis, particularly because education relies on these same colonial–capitalist foundations. Furthermore, despite increased interest in climate change education, many youth remain marginal to the conversation because research is still largely situated in the Global North, to the exclusion of many young people’s realities and reflecting the ongoing coloniality of knowledge production within education. Considering these issues, decolonial climate change education offers more direct confrontation with the failures of Western modes of thought and engages with alternative knowledges. In doing so, it opens space for climate change education grounded in relationality and kinship founded in Indigenous relational ontologies, whereby humans are not the center of climate learning and decision-making but are inherent within webs of relations among all things.

Article

Critical Perspectives on Positive Youth Development and Environmental Education  

Marianne E. Krasny, Tania M. Schusler, Jesse Delia, Anne Katherine Armstrong, and Lilly Briggs

Positive youth development (PYD) assumes that, when given appropriate support, all youth have the capacity to develop the assets that enable them to succeed in life. Such assets include competence, confidence, connection, character, caring, and contribution to community, otherwise known as the six Cs of PYD. Environmental education (EE) programs that focus on youth action and empowerment offer the support needed for youth to develop these assets. Youth after-school, summer, and residential programs, often serving low-income and minoritized youth, increasingly are using environmental action and learning as a means to achieve PYD outcomes. Yet both PYD and EE have been criticized for not addressing the root causes of poverty and environmental degradation. In response, critical traditions in PYD and EE have emerged, in which youth reflect and act on structural barriers to human and environmental well-being in their communities. As youth and their mentors seek to address systemic inequities impacting themselves and their environment, they develop additional “Critical Positive Youth Development/Environmental Education” assets including critical reflection, efficacy, the ability to take collective action, and community-level empowerment.

Article

Youth Resisting the Popular Curriculum of Gender and Sexuality  

Ana Carolina Antunes

The concept of youth resistance has its roots in the field of sociology of education. Nevertheless, the concept has been taken up in fields such as economy, psychology, and anthropology and among other scholars who seek to understand education, schooling, and the ways in which young people experience everyday life. Although in its origins, resistance theory focused on oppositional behaviors of mostly white, cis, heterosexual young men, it has expanded to account for the ways in which minoritized communities (women, black, indigenous, people of color, LGBTQIA+, disabled, queer, and the multiple intersections of these identities) resist the oppression of mainstream society. In schools, the push and pull of youth resistance is constantly present. Schools have become a place for the maintenance and contestation of many societal expectations, including gendered and sexuality expectations. These societal expectations are taught and reinforced in schools through official or visible curriculum (i.e., the content that students learn in class) and through popular or invisible curriculum—everything else that is learned through interactions with peers, teachers, other adults on campus, and the cultural values they bring into the building with them. Educational spaces are very structured spaces, and youth who challenge norms and rules (even if they are unwritten) may face dire consequences. For that reason, the field scholars looking at LGBTQIA+ youth and resistance have argued that it is necessary to expand the field to look at not only youth culture but the ways in which this culture is performed in schools.

Article

Gender, Education, and Immigrant Children in the United States  

Bic Ngo, Nimo Abdi, and Diana Chandara

Education research has long highlighted gender disparities in the academic achievement of women and men. At the dawn of the 20th century, men attained higher levels of education than women. By the 21st century, women from all racial groups achieved higher levels of education than men. Likewise, among the children of post-1965 “new immigrants,” female students have higher levels of educational attainment than male students. While gender has remained important as a domain of analysis for understanding disparities in education, analyses of the significance of gender in the education of immigrant children have focused primarily on differences in gender norms and expectations of immigrant groups from those of dominant culture in the United States. Such an emphasis disregards the social, cultural, and political dynamics of acculturation and adaptation where gender is shaped by the ethnic family, race and racialization, and religion, among other things. The “caring,” translational work that Mexican American girls do for parents, the racialized gender construction of Southeast Asian American male students as Other (not male), and the Islamophobia faced by Somali American female students wearing hijabs make salient family obligations, race, and religious identity, respectively, in the educational experiences and outcomes of female and male immigrant students. Considerations of gender in the education of immigrant children in the United States necessitate an intersectional analysis that puts gender in conversation with social factors and institutions.

Article

Gender, Sexuality, Adolescence, and Identity in Schooling  

Marnina Gonick and Judith Conrads

Gender and sexuality are key aspects of identity that intersect with other social categories such as race, class, ethnicity, and ability to shape life experiences. While these forces are at work throughout one’s lifetime, adolescence is a particularly important time of discovery, negotiation, and resistance. Most young people in Western countries spend an enormous amount of time in schools, grouped together by age with others from their communities, including teachers and other school personnel. Schools are, therefore, important sites of sociality where young people are faced with the social and power dynamics of belonging, inclusion, and exclusion. The forms these processes take include forming friendships and romantic relationships as well as bullying and violence. Gender and sexuality are central to how these dynamics play out. Young people who do not conform to dominant binary versions of gendered expressions of femininity and masculinity as well as heterosexuality often encounter barriers to inclusion and recognition. Social relations among youth are central, but school curriculum, policies, teacher-student interactions, and how schools are physically organized all contribute to the shape that gender and sexuality will take in a particular context or location. Beyond the official curriculum, schools are sites where an unofficial curriculum of the body, gender performance, and gendered and sexed relations is learned through interactions with others and through encounters with powerful regimes of normativity. Young people are social agents who are actively involved in negotiating their gendered and sexed identities. However, they do so within the constraints of the discourses available to them to make meaning of their experience.

Article

Gender and Gender Identity Development Among Young Trans People in North America  

Julia Sinclair-Palm

When children are born, they are typically assigned a sex, male or female, based on the appearance of external genitalia. The gender of the newborn is assumed based on the assigned sex. Researchers debate the origins of gender and whether gender is largely biologically based or socially constructed. Sociologists tend to argue that children learn about their gender from their parents and experiences at school through a process known as gender role socialization, whereas medical discourses argue that one’s gender should be aligned with one’s assigned sex. Schools are one of the first sites outside the home where researchers have studied the way gender nonconforming and trans children and youth face discrimination and harassment. Education research about trans youth documents the need for trans youth to have a voice in school policies and practices. Trans adults offer a wide range of theories about gender and critique traditional models of gender for their failure to capture the complexity, fluidity, and diversity of gender experiences and identities. Trans youth have yet to enter these conversations and their gender, access to treatment and services, and rights are often determined by medical discourses about gender and gender identity development. In the 21st century, the parents and families of trans youth are beginning to play an important role in advocating for and supporting the needs of their trans child. Trans identity development models are shaped by theories about gender and are often designed as a stage model. In 2004, Aaron Devor created the first trans identity development model based on the CASS model that Viviane Cass developed in 1979. Scholars have critiqued these models for their rigid conceptualization of gender, the linear structure of stages in these models, and the lack of recognition of the role race, class, disability, and sexuality have in the complexity of gender. Scholars have also remarked on the way these models were developed for trans adults and fail to conceptualize trans youth. Theories about gender and gender identity development have shaped gender models used in the treatment of gender nonconforming children. The gender affirmative model takes a progressive approach to this treatment, allowing children and youth to be experts on their gender and to be supported in socially transitioning at any age. Research about gender and gender identity development among trans youth in North America is increasingly recognizing the need to center the voices and needs of young trans people.

Article

Alternative Conceptions of Adolescence as a Basis for Curriculum  

Nancy Lesko, Jacqueline Simmons, and Jamie Uva

Adolescence has been defined as a unique stage of development, and youth are marked and understood by their differences from adults and children. This perceived border between youth and adults also influences curriculum development, since knowledge for youth is often determined by their current developmental stage and/or what they need to know and be able to do when they are adults. Thus, curricular knowledge often participates in keeping youth “less than” adults. When we start with a conception of youth that emphasizes their competence or power, curricular options open. If we recognize that youth can take on political organizing or use social media in more sophisticated ways than adults, schools’ tight management of youth appears overzealous and miseducative. To rethink conceptions of youth, educators must confront the power differentials built into and maintained by school curricular knowledge.

Article

Student Voice, Inequalities, and Class  

Rachel Finneran, Eve Mayes, and Rosalyn Black

It is well-understood that systems of education tend to disproportionately benefit already advantaged social groups. Students have been positioned in recent reform efforts as agents with the right to be involved in decision-making on an increasing range of issues related to their education, in practices commonly termed “student voice” in policy, practice, and research. Student voice has been argued to be a mechanism to intervene in educational inequalities and a means to enhance students’ choices at school. Student voice is frequently represented as a neutral proposition: that is, that students’ involvement in decision-making will directly benefit both the school and the students themselves. This apparently neutral proposition elides how, in practice, some students may benefit from experiences of “student voice” more than others. Critiques of student voice, as well as contemporary calls for a return to class analysis in education, compel attention to the potential ways that student voice practices can aggravate existing inequalities. Classed dynamics contour even well-intentioned attempts to intervene in educational inequalities. The dynamic experience of class has shifted in relation to student voice across contexts and over time, particularly in individualistic, market-driven educational systems structured by the rhetoric of “choice.” Further research into the shifting nature of class in relation to student voice may include longitudinal processes of “studying up” to understand how student voice can be mobilized to cultivate educational advantage and distinction in class-privileged schooling contexts. What is also needed is a renewed uptake of the concept of class consciousness in student-voice practice—that is, beyond voice as a strategy to personalize individual students’ learning and toward enactments of student voice as collective work—if student voice is to disrupt the reproduction of structural inequalities through schooling.

Article

Critical Perspectives in Youth Gang Formation in the United States  

Kevin D. Lam

Youth gangs of color in the United States have emerged in the context of larger structural forces. For example, Mexican American, Black, and Vietnamese/Asian American youth gang formation in Southern California is tied to their respective racialized communities’ initial movements into the Los Angeles area (from Mexico and Vietnam, and for Blacks, from the U.S. South). Structural forces such as political/social unrest and economic instability, both domestically and in their sending countries; the role of the U.S. military and economic apparatus; and (im)migration patterns and trends impact the particularities of youth gang subculture—including protection and self-preservation; ethnic pride and desire for family; having to navigate, resist, and rearticulate youth identities (in and outside the context of schooling); and the desire to garner money, power, and respect in a capitalist context. U.S. racism and state violence have also had an impact on youth gang formation. Anti-youth legislation in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in particular, have helped shape the discourse on youth of color, criminality, “gangs,” space, and citizenship over the past three decades. Although such youth are typically on the margins or left out of educational institutions, a critical pedagogy provides a space for engagement and hope.

Article

Climate Change and Social Resilience  

Edgar J. González-Gaudiano and Ana Lucía Maldonado-González

Without having yet overcome the problems that gave rise to climate change, the field of environmental education faces new challenges because of the onslaughts of this phenomenon. Growing contingents of people in many parts of the world are periodically affected by extreme hydro-meteorological phenomena, such as severe droughts in Africa and increasingly intense cyclones that affect tropical coastal areas. These environmental threats can be aggravated by decades of investment in development programs at the global and local levels that end up affecting vulnerable populations the most. Its consequences have generated synergic processes of humanitarian emergencies of unprecedented magnitude, in the form of increasing waves of temporary or permanently displaced populations, because of disasters, water and food shortages, as well as armed conflicts and social violence that demand more resources to alleviate long-standing poverty and environmental degradation. This complex situation entails colossal challenges but also new opportunities to face processes of environmental education, which require a different strategic approach to trigger processes of social resilience when communities face adversities. This, in a stable, organized way and to allow societies to learn from them, encourages changes that the societies consider necessary to reduce their risks and vulnerabilities. Social resilience is not a state to be achieved, but a community process in continuous movement, in which various actors and social agents participate. Some of the community actions to be carried out during a social resilience capacity building process must be oriented toward mitigating physical and social vulnerability, adapting to the new conditions generated by climate change, and managing risks, among other actions that invite collective learning of lived experiences. For instance, a case study carried out with high school students in the municipalities of La Antigua, Cotaxtla, and Tlacotalpan in the state of Veracruz (Mexico) allowed researchers to better understand the social resilience construction processes. Initially, an attempt was made to analyze the social representation of climate change in communities vulnerable to floods resulting from extreme tropical storms. Subsequently, the way in which the students perceived their risks and their vulnerability was investigated, as well as the guidelines that govern the community behavior in the face of climate events with extreme values (magnitude, intensity, duration), which tended to exceed the capacities of communities to face them appropriately. Youngsters were chosen because they are a highly influential population in the promotion of social resilience, as they are often voluntarily and spontaneously involved in situations of community emergency. This has allowed an understanding of possible routes to undertake environmental education processes, aimed at strengthening capacities so that affected people can adapt to the changes and have strategies to reduce disaster risks in the face of specific critical events. Although the studies examined here are based on experiences in communities in the Mexican coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico, the authors of this article are convinced that their findings can be useful in developing equivalent programs in communities that are similarly vulnerable.

Article

Youth and Media Culture  

Stuart R. Poyntz and Jennesia Pedri

Media in the 21st century are changing when, where, what, and how young people learn. Some educators, youth researchers, and parents lament this reality; but youth, media culture, and learning nevertheless remain entangled in a rich set of relationships today. These relationships and the anxieties they produce are not new; they echo worries about the consequences of young people’s media attachments that have been around for decades. These anxieties first appeared in response to the fear that violence, vulgarity, and sexual desire in early popular culture was thought to pose to culture. Others, however, believed that media could be repurposed to have a broader educational impact. This sentiment crept into educational discourses throughout the 1960s in a way that would shift thinking about youth, media culture, and education. For example, it shaped the development of television shows such as Sesame Street as a kind of learning portal. In addition to the idea that youth can learn from the media, educators and activists have also turned to media education as a more direct intervention. Media education addresses how various media operate in and through particular institutions, technologies, texts, and audiences in an effort to affect how young people learn and engage with media culture. These developments have been enhanced by a growing interest in a broad project of literacy. By the 1990s and 2000s, media production became a common feature in media education practices because it was thought to enable young people to learn by doing, rather than just by analyzing or reading texts. This was enabled by the emergence of new digital media technologies that prioritize user participation. As we have come to read and write media differently in a digital era, however, a new set of problems have arisen that affect how media cultures are understood in relation to learning. Among these issues is how a participatory turn in media culture allows others, including corporations, governments, and predatory individuals, to monitor, survey, coordinate, and guide our activities as never before. Critical media literacy education addresses this context and continues to provide a framework to address the future of youth, media culture and learning.

Article

Race and Queerness in the U.S. Schooling System  

Ryan Schey

Despite the ubiquity of categories of race, sexuality, and gender in K–12 schools in the United States, there is limited research documenting how these categories influence the experiences of students, reflecting constraints on knowledge production, particularly with respect to queer of Color theories in education. Within the research that exists, scholars have used varying paradigms of difference, some of which erase and others of which recognize and theorize the relationships between race and queerness. Many studies have described intersecting structures of domination in U.S. schools and the lack of attention to intersectionality in school-based supports for queer youth. Fewer studies document examples of student resistance and activism, suggesting needs for future theorizing, research, and practice. Although the bodies of students, educators, staff, and family members in K–12 schools have been and continue to be understood through categories of race, sexuality, and gender, there is limited empirical research discussing the ways that race and queerness are co-constitutive of people’s experiences in the U.S. schooling system. In part, scholarly knowledge production has been constrained because of schools’ hostility to queer research and critical projects more generally, with queer research, and especially queer of Color research, often producing oppositional knowledge in tension with schools as state-sanctioned institutions. When research has been conducted about race and queerness in U.S. schools, scholars have used three main paradigms to conceptualize, or problematically erase, the relationship between race and queerness: discrete, additive, and intersectional perspectives. Discreteness suggests that race and queerness are separate, disconnected identities. The other two perspectives recognize interrelationships. An additive perspective suggests that identities are a sum of parts, whereas an intersectional perspective suggests identities as co-constitutive and resulting in unique, qualitatively different experiences. Research attending to the relationships of race and queerness has revealed that U.S. schools are unwelcoming if not outright hostile to queer youth, resulting in negative consequences such as lowered academic achievement and poorer psychological well-being. The particular experiences of and reactions to such marginalization vary with respect to intersections of race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and social class. Although school-based supports such as supportive educators, inclusive curriculum and policies, and extracurricular clubs are beneficial, too frequently these supports lack attention to intersections of race and queerness, limiting their beneficial impact. These tensions show the need for intersectional coalition building approaches to a key element of anti-racist queer educational activism. Importantly, queer youth enact resistance and activism in schools in ways that are individualized and collective. Some resistance has been school-sanctioned (such as writing) and other instances beyond what schools sanction (such as violence). Collective forms were most common as queer youth of Color often drew on embodied and community knowledges to advocate for themselves and peers. In the absence of broader support, queer youth often used privilege, such as whiteness, as protection and thus reified oppressive values and practices. Future educational research needs to focus further on the intersections of race and queerness to help inform educational theories and practices to help queer youth, both white and of Color, learn and flourish in U.S. schools.