This course draws on new conversations among child and youth care scholars around the idea of fostering an intellectually rigorous and transformative praxis (see this new site). These scholars are exploring how child and youth care might engage differently with the problems and opportunities of the 21st century: What might caring for children, youth, families and communities entail in a complex and increasingly globalized and politicized world?
For instance, Jennifer White, Scott Kouri and myself, in a recent working paper, propose that we become “responsive to how our colonial past and present shape child and youth care practice, to the ecological challenges that 21st century children and youth are inheriting, and to the move toward biotechnological deployments including ‘cognitive enhancement’ and genetic manipulation through human/computer interfaces and pharmaceuticals.” We suggest that these “enormous issues – intractably tied to globalized neoliberal capitalism, extreme inequality, energy and food crises, burgeoning prison and arms industries and wars that are displacing and massacring hundreds of thousands of children yearly across the middle east and North Africa – can no longer be set outside our child and youth care purview or unproblematically relegated to the macrosystem level of an ecological model”.
These child and youth care scholars challenge us to interrogate the early 20th-century psychological and ecological theories that currently inform child and youth care practice because these theories stem from the same “progress and development” thinking that drove European colonization and precipitated the current social/ecological/global crisis we face today. We cannot accommodate the paradigm shift we seek for 21st-century children through theories that are resolutely committed to individually focused child/youth-centred practice. What is needed, they argue, is political praxis.
In this course, we will explore theorizations of childhood that might help us to engage in a political praxis. Importantly, this praxis does not provide answers, but encourages experimentation and questioning. We will then not only learn about the questions that these CYC scholars are asking, but we will also create new questions for child and youth care.
Our initial task in this process will be to complicate normative understandings of childhood/adolescence, by asking questions such as: How do we conceptualize childhood/youth/families? How have our understandings of childhood and adolescence been constructed throughout history? How are our understandings of childhood intertwined with social, political, economic trends? As we complicate normative perspectives, we will be exploring some insightful conversations taking place in postcolonial, poststructural, Indigenous, feminist, posthumanist theories.