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.
12 ‘It Gets Better’: Queer Youth and the History of the “Problem of the Homosexual” in Public Education
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The “It Gets Better” campaign organized by LGBT activist, Daniel Savage, in 2010 in the wake of a series of well-publicized suicides of gay teens, consisted of a series of short YouTube videos by well-known gay or gay-friendly adults, including President Obama—all affirming that bullying was developmentally limited to childhood and adolescence, and to the space of schooling (Savage & Miller, 2011). According to the project’s website, it “was created to show young LGBT people the level of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach—if they can just get through their teen years.” As Tina Majkowski (2011) has argued, the unfortunate message of the “It Gets Better” campaign is that queer youth just need to put up with the bullying and harassment for now, knowing that everything will be great once they are adults (p. 164). The “It Gets Better” campaign also forgets that most bullying occurs in schools or around schools, and that the bullying of LGBT youth is not just a “natural phase” they will outgrow. It is the result of being “schooled” to homophobia in a heteronormative school culture that actively encourages bullying, even when school leaders point with pride to zero-tolerance policies and anti-bullying workshops for teachers. Public schools continue to be primary institutions for the reproduction of heteronormativity, an ethos in which it is assumed everyone is or should be exclusively heterosexual, and where “deviants” are made invisible and unwelcome through stigmatization and exclusion practices. Most public schools in the US, in...
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