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Forsaken Study: Youth Organizing, Development and Sustaining Abolitionist Visions in Late Liberal San Francisco


Within education and youth studies, the concept of “positive youth development” has been taken up by researchers and practitioners usually as a framework for structuring learning settings and pedagogy to optimize educational achievement. At the same time, such frameworks stop short of the questions of “to what end” or “for what purpose”? As such, this text questions the assumptions and limitations of positive youth development frameworks, especially as their efficacy is increasingly reduced to its correlation with measures of academic achievement. Based upon two and a half years of ethnographic field work with Latinx and Asian American youth organizers in San Francisco, this text focuses how social movements served as contexts for youth development. Youth organizers developed skills and built community through agitation, refusal and resistance rather than through conventional notions of individualism, professionalism and compliance associated with schooling. Through their active participation and investments in movement campaigns for housing justice, educational inequality, environmental justice and workers’ rights, youth organizers in San Francisco illustrated how movement work can foster alternative visions of youth development and career readiness that are intertwined with social justice.

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