Winter in America: Exploring Epistemologies of Youth Activism in the 21st Century
Wilson, Asif J
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This descriptive case study (Merriam, 1998) examined the relationship between agency (Solorzano & Delgado-Bernal, 2001) and Paulo Freire’s (1970) popular education approach (problem posing pedagogy) in a year-long, out-of-school, Fellowship program for young adults. Five recent high school graduates completed a full-time, paid program that engaged them in critical study of their community and action related to their findings. The author of this study also served as the executive director of the sponsoring organization. Participant-created artifacts collected during the Fellowship and three follow up interviews with the organization’s second administrator served as data into the exploration of: (a) how the youth of the research setting made sense of their lived experiences using Freire’s problem posing pedagogy, (b) how the youth of the research setting negotiated their agentic identities in the real world, and (c) how the adult-facilitators of the research setting created and facilitated spaces of agency development. Findings from the study illuminate the relationship between societal structures and agency. The author defines contours as the localized converging points between the structures of society and agency. Contours enable and constrain agency and change over time through peoples’ actions. Additionally, this study presents a six-pillar framework for teaching and learning, a pedagogy of risk, that emerged from the administrators’ experiences. Exploring the shifting agentic identities of the youth engaged in this study reveals that the youth of the research setting entered the Fellowship with agency from their previous experiences, and the Fellowship served as a context that supported their agentic development and transformation through praxis. Implications of this research include: (a) youth and popular education contexts can serve as vital catalysts to transforming the world; (b) teaching and research are political acts grounded in praxis; and (c) there is a need to provide structural supports for popular education projects in and out of schools.
participatory action research
critical race praxis