Youth Activism in an Era of Education Inequality

Ben Kirshner

NYU Press (publisher)

Winner, 2016 Best Authored Book presented by the Society for Research on Adolescence

This is what democracy looks like: Youth organizers in Colorado negotiate new school discipline policies to end the school to jail track. Latino and African American students march to district headquarters to protest high school closure. Young immigration rights activists persuade state legislators to pass a bill to make in-state tuition available to undocumented state residents. Students in an ESL class collect survey data revealing the prevalence of racism and xenophobia. 
 
These examples, based on ten years of research by youth development scholar Ben Kirshner, show young people building political power during an era of racial inequality, diminished educational opportunity, and an atrophied public square. The book’s case studies analyze what these experiences mean for young people and why they are good for democracy. What is youth activism and how does it contribute to youth development? How might collective movements of young people expand educational opportunity and participatory democracy? The interdependent relationship between youths’ political engagement, their personal development, and democratic renewal is the central focus of this book. Kirshner argues that youth and societal institutions are strengthened when young people, particularly those most disadvantaged by educational inequity, turn their critical gaze to education systems and participate in efforts to improve them.
 

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