Preface by Paul Willis
This reader begins a conversation about the many aspects of critical youth studies. Chapters in this volume consider essential issues such as class, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, cultural capital, and schooling in creating a dialogue about and a conversation with youth. In a society that continues to devalue, demonize, and pathologize young women and men, leading names in the academy and youth communities argue that traditional studies of youth do not consider young people themselves. Engaging with today’s young adults in formal and informal pedagogical settings as an act of respect, social justice, and transgression creates a critical pedagogical path in which to establish a meaningful twenty-first century critical youth studies.
8 Foot Soldiers of Modernity: The Dialectics of Cultural Consumption and the 21st Century School
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School students are unconscious foot soldiers in the long front of modernity, involuntary and disoriented conscripts in battles never explained. Especially subordinate and working class students are the “compulsory” living materials of the future imaginings and mouldings of one generation for the next; institutional imaginings of immense social power but undertaken usually without the rudiments of a sociological or ethnographic imagination. What is crucial but missed is that the waves of attempted economic and technical modernisation “from above” are not synchronised with, often antagonistically related to, associated but usually misunderstood, waves of cultural modernisation “from below.” You could say that technical modernisation is fighting, not chaos, the recalcitrant past or the wrong type of future, but its own alter ego of late cultural modernism as articulated in the majority and unprivileged population. Though often standing in the way of, most often the latter tend to believe in ‘progress’ and certainly profoundly condition how it is played out socially and culturally, oddly especially in ensuring forms of unequal social stability. Schools are one of the principal sites for the dialectical playing out of these connected disjunctions and contradictions. Misunderstandings of them underlie most “urgent” education debates: from traditionalism Vs progressivism to the canon Vs multi-culturism. Though under our very noses, some lessons are never learned.
Youth are always among the first to experience, first hand, the problems and possibilities of the successive waves of technical and economic modernisation sweeping through capitalist societies. Young people respond in disorganised and chaotic...
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