Kids who "talk back" - Critically literate or disruptive youth?
There is a need to question the ways in which high schools construct students, essentially, as children. Such practices are reflected in the relations between teachers and students and in the rules pertaining to space and conduct within these institutions. Within contemporary writings about youth, stereotypes are prevalent along with attempts to fix the youngsters' identities on a hierarchy of developmental stages, which may be dated because of children's intense exposure to mass media "infotainment". Moreover, development continues throughout a person's life, and recent research suggests that the "distinction between adolescence and adulthood is a matter of cultural expectations and restrictions rather than a matter of intrinsic psychological characteristics" (Moshman, 1999, p. 118). As economies globalize, the effects upon education and work will become increasingly significant. Indeed, they are already being felt, as unemployment and the demands for higher skills force young people into protracted periods of learning. However, no one seems to question the incongruence of a situation in which, for at least 30 hours a week, young people who have to cope with the contradictions and uncertainties of life in a globalizing, postmodern world are forced to pretend to believe in outdated educational structures and attitudes that have little resonance in their lives outside of institutional walls. The following discussion explores some implications for literacy and the changing context of young people's lives. It is not an empirical study but rather a narrative that invites reflection upon our expectations of adolescents and our assumptions about their capacity to work in more egalitarian ways with teachers rather than as subordinates within the traditionally hierarchical power structures of schools.
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy