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Re-engaging Disconnected Youth

Transformative Learning through Restorative and Social Justice Education – Revised Edition


Amy Vatne Bintliff

As many young adults continue to disengage with learning each day, teachers and administrators struggle to find ways to re-engage secondary students with their schooling and communities. Re-engaging Disconnected Youth profiles a program that succeeds in doing so, one that can serve as a model for others. In a Midwestern alternative school, three teachers built a curriculum around hands-on learning, restorative justice Talking Circles, and multicultural education, in the hopes that it would re-engage and inspire youth. Drawing on Adult Transformative Learning Theory, the book is an in-depth, qualitative study of the ways the program transformed adult and youth perceptions of trust, connections, schooling and human rights. It breaks down stereotypes about youth labeled «at-risk» and provides evidence that it is never too late to become passionate about learning. This new revised edition includes updated research and a chapter exploring the impact of the program on middle school youth.
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Chapter 4. Multicultural Education, Human Rights Education, and Teaching for Social Justice: Transforming Ideas About History, Racial Identity, and Service


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Transforming Ideas About History, Racial Identity, and Service

Multicultural education theory, human rights education, and an emphasis on teaching for social justice are all essential elements of our program’s approach towards educational pedagogy and curriculum development. Three questions have guided the research in this chapter:

In order to begin discussing these topics, it is essential to look at who Randy, Angel, and I are as educators and what brought us to this work and what enabled us to become multicultural. How did our own practice and beliefs concerning social justice and multicultural education frame the curriculum that we developed? Being multicultural is defined as a process whereby an individual develops competencies of perceiving, evaluating, believing, and doing in multiple ways (Banks, 1988). Research shows that teachers who come from bicultural backgrounds have a greater understanding of social ← 93 | 94 →injustice, which better prepares them to teach social justice curriculum (Park, 2008, p. 205). Though all three of us are White, each of us was exposed to human rights and social justice through a wide variety of life experiences and education. Randy had bicultural experiences living and working for years on a reservation in Minnesota, and through his teaching in Costa Rica. In addition, he was an active advocate for environmental justice and attended classes on social justice. Angel has the unique experience of being a lesbian educator, and has...

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