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‘Hanging in with Kids’ in Tough Times

Engagement in Contexts of Educational Disadvantage in the Relational School

John Smyth, Barry Down and Peter McInerney

This book brings a unique, innovative and refreshing perspective to one of the most protracted issues affecting young lives – disengagement from schooling. Rather than continuing to blame young people, as most educational policies do, this book examines disengagement from the vantage point of the lives, experiences, interests and aspirations of the communities from which young people come, and within which they are embedded. It uses a narrative and representational approach that gives detailed insights into the wider context of poverty, class, power, relationships and identity. A major and defining hallmark of the book is the emphasis it places upon a number of ‘doings’, – including community voice, identity formation, critical work education and education policy – all of which provide a very different set of scripts with which to reinvent the institution of high school.
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Critically Engaged Learning

Connecting to Young Lives

John Smyth, Lawrence Angus, Barry Down and Peter McInerney

This book – the finale in a trilogy by the authors – traces the way in which a number of disadvantaged schools and communities were able to move beyond deficit, victim-blaming and pathologizing approaches and access resources of trust, relationships, connectedness and hope. It describes how these Australian schools and communities were able to benefit from working with ‘street-level’ bureaucrats who had reinvented themselves around notions of socially just forms of capacity-building. The book provides a set of insights into what is possible from a critical engagement for school and community renewal perspective, by working with the resources that exist within disadvantaged contexts, even in damaging neoliberal policy times. Critically Engaged Learning breaks new and important ground across urgent and fractured boundaries.
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Doing Critical Educational Research

A Conversation with the Research of John Smyth

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John Smyth, Barry Down, Peter McInerney and Robert Hattam

John Smyth’s remarkable body of writing, research and scholarship has spanned four decades, and the urgency of our times makes it imperative to look in some depth at the breadth of his research and its trajectory, in order to see how we can connect, extend, build and enrich our understandings from it. Possibly the single most unique aspect to Smyth’s version of critical research is his passion for living and ‘doing’ what it means to be a critical pedagogue. For him, ‘doing’ is a verb that gives expression to what he believes it means to be a critical scholar. This necessitates actively listening to lives; taking on an advocacy position with informant groups; displaying a commitment to praxis; and being activist in celebrating ‘local responses’ to global issues. Smyth’s research is pursued with vigour through the lives he researches, as he interrupts and punctures ‘bad’ theory, supplanting it with more democratic alternatives, which, by his own admission, makes his research (and all research), political.