Understanding Children and Youth AP/HUMA 1971 9.0

This large general education course builds a strong foundation in university skills by examining contemporary and historical understandings of young people. It traces key ideas in Western thought from the early modern period (seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) to the present. Through weekly lectures and small seminars, the course uses innovative role-playing, cross-cultural illustrated memoir and Photovoice to introduce students to key scholarship, debates and research methods in the fields of child and youth studies. We challenge powerful ideologies, such as childhood innocence or teen “folk devils". We begin by creatively investigating how the complexities of class, race, ethnicity, gender, politics, economics, and time and space inform understandings and experiences of age. Throughout the year we draw on a wide range of cultural representations from mass media, film, art and literature to help us engage dynamically with the multiple possible understandings of terms children and youth evokes.


We begin with such formative thinkers as Enlightenment philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) and his continued influence on contemporary symbolic and institutional approaches to the young. Through role-playing inspired by Barnard College’s Reacting to the Past curriculum, we imagine past experiences shaped by ideologies of race, class, sexuality, gender and age in British North America. Our interest in the past is always contextualized in relationship to present Canadian experiences. In August of 2014, the discovery of 15 year old Tina Fontaine's body in Winnipeg's Red River underscored the complex ways these ideologies shape contemporary childhoods. In the second half of the course we focus on teaching contemporary research practices. For their final essay students undertake their own Photovoice research with a young person. Completed projects become part of the holdings of the Canadian Children’s Culture Collection.

Role Playing Reacting to the Past

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In the fall of 2014, “Understanding Children and Youth” emerged from the introductory course to the Children’s Studies Program for non-majors, titled Worlds of Childhood - Section B (AP/HUMA 1970B 9.0). I have taught this course with Jeffrey Canton since 2007. We also taught the Section A version of the same course for Children's Studies majors and minors from 2007 to 2009.