What They’re Reading (and Talking About)
The Political Is Personal
We editors at Youth Communication meet regularly to discuss aspects of our work—how to focus a story quickly, when to challenge teen writers and when to follow their lead. Though we rarely talk about readings that aren’t students’ work, one particularly fruitful conversation resulted when we read an excerpt from Jonathan Kozol’s Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.
In it, Kozol lays bare the disparity between money spent on kids and their teachers in suburban schools, versus those in inner cities. He argues that segregation is thriving in American urban public schools, and not by accident.
Because the book examines the same public schools many Youth Comunication writers attend, we discussed how teens might explore the same questions Kozol raises from a personal angle. This led to a broader conversation about how to guide teens to explore connections between their lives and larger policy issues like education.
The Shoulders We Stand On
Another New York City learning group frequently discusses readings that illuminate the educational theory behind their daily practice. The writings of Paulo Freire, one of the most influential thinkers about late-20th century education, proved to be particularly relevant, said Steven Goodman, study group participant and director of the Educational Video Center.
Freire, the Brazilian author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Continuum Books), believed learning occurred best through the give and take of dialogue, as well as through action with the intent to build community. Known for his saying “reading the word is reading the world,” Freire could be considered a precursor of the youth and grassroots media movements, committed to giving the typically voiceless a voice to transform society.
The Rollercoaster of Adolescence
Staff at the paper L.A. Youth consult with Dr. Leonard Simon about the emotional issues facing their students. Initial meetings about specific issues troubling their young writers eventually gave way to more general discussions of adolescence. Soon Simon assigned staff the slim but seminal account of teen turmoil: J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.
Though most staff had already read it as teens themselves, a fresh look through a psychologist-facilitated discussion helped them see it anew. “It really spells out a lot of the struggles and problems of adolescence,” said Simon. “I don’t know they had thought about all its implications before.”
For a considerably more theoretical perspective on what it means to be a teen, Simon recommended reading Eric Erikson, the psychologist who coined the phrase “identity crisis.” His writing is standard fare for psychologists, said Simon, admitting, “I’m a little old-fashioned in that area.”
Want to start your own learning group? Steven Goodman of Educational Video Center tells how.
Youth media learning groups meet to look at the theory behind the practice. Here are some of the books that get them talking.