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.
13 Cross-Cultural Reflections on Gender Diversity in the Earliest Stages of Youth Identity Formation
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This is a critical reflection on two powerful and critical “teaching moments” around gender identity in Early Childhood Education, the aim being to contemplate the role that teachers—as significant social agents—play in this initial context of institutionalized learning, and how such dynamics set the stage for the ongoing development of gender identity in youth as they mature. The two instances occurred in my own classroom practice, which has taken place on both sides of the Atlantic. What impressed me in each case was not only the gender identities and relations present in the respective educational contexts, but the self-revelations regarding my own perspectives on gender as a result of such encounters.
This brief study thus represents an exploration, from standpoints at once personal and cross-cultural, of issues related more specifically to gender ambiguity and queerness in two geographically and culturally distant—but in other ways, closely related—early learning environments: in Berkeley, California (USA) and in Santiago de Compostela, Galiza (Spain). The focus is on critical self-reflective teaching practice that is committed to promoting social justice through respect for diverse forms of gender identity formation in youth, even in the youngest of schoolchildren; for their experiences and perceptions at this early stage of development stand to influence in significant ways the ease with which gender identity and sexuality are experienced at later stages in their lives. What is ultimately explored here is the crucial role teachers play in the broader critical project of supporting youths’ personal...
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