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.
44 Youth against the Wall
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While this seminal piece in early critical youth studies was written in the 1990s, Gaines’ work resonates with today, and unfortunately tomorrow. We have included this piece from Teenage Wasteland: Suburbia’s Dead End Kids (1998) as a classic example of criticalizing the narrative of cultural work with and for youth. We ask … how far have we come? How far do we have to go to remove kids from against the wall? S. Steinberg.
When I heard about the suicide pact, it grabbed me in the solar plexus. I looked at the pictures of the kids and their friends. I read what the reporters said. I was in my apartment looking out on Long Island’s Jericho Turnpike thinking maybe this is how the world ends with the last generation bowing out first.
In Bergenfield, New Jersey, on March 11, 1987, the bodies of four teenagers were discovered inside a 1977 rust-colored Chevrolet Camaro. The car, which belonged to Thomas Olton, was parked in an unused garage in the Foster Village garden apartment complex, behind the Foster Village Shopping Center. Two sisters, Lisa and Cheryl Burress, and their friends, Thomas Rizzo and Thomas Olton, had died of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Lisa was sixteen, Cheryl was seventeen, and boys were nineteen—they were suburban teens, turnpike kids like the ones in the town I live in. And thinking about them made me remember how it felt to be a teenager too. I was horrified that it had...
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