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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Becoming Protagonists for Integration: Youth Voices from Segregated Educational Spaces

  • Author(s): Johnston-Goodstar, Katie
  • Nagda, Biren (Ratnesh)
  • et al.

We report the preliminary findings of a community-based participatory action research project grounded in the principles of emancipatory education. Born as a grassroots response to profound racial and socioeconomic segregation between the "gifted" and "regular" learning programs, this action research collaboration was centered in a middle school. The project curriculum was built on the premise that youth have the potential to become protagonists of integration. With that in mind, the project provided a space in which to become increasingly conscious about segregation and to imagine and enact new possibilities for integration. Findings from in-depth qualitative interviews with six youth participants reveal various youth efforts toward integration in three distinct layers of consciousness that we refer to as voice: (a) reflective voice as an awareness of self in segregated places and the associated social consequences; (b) dialogic voice as communal recognition of the structural nature of segregation, solidarity in opposition to it, and a common need for healing and reconciliation; and (c) praxis voice as the commitment to transforming segregated educational spaces through a critique of segregation and demand for subdermal diversity. We discuss the implications of these findings for continued transformative action at the local site and lessons for educational pedagogies and actions in general.

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