Learning through Organizing: Youth-led movements as critical spaces of education in Baltimore, MD and Lima, Peru

Authors: Dena Aufseeser*, University of Maryland Baltimore County
Topics: Social Geography, Political Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: youth, education, social movements, inequality
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: 8228, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In the United States and beyond, the words ‘education’ and ‘schooling’ are almost used interchangeably. Policy makers argue for a need to invest in children’s education, and use various indicators of school attendance and performance on standardized exams as signs of progress (or a lack there of). However, in these broad studies, much less attention is paid to what children actual learn, especially in terms of less tangible skills, such as critical thinking, awareness of rights, and the belief that young people have a legitimate role to play in reshaping the societies in which they live. Further, in arguing for the importance of schooling, little attention is paid to the ways in which schools also serve as sites in which inequalities are perpetuated and legitimated. Although the contexts are arguably different, in this paper, I examine the role Baltimore’s Algebra Project and MANTHOC, Peru’s child workers movement, play as spaces in which young people collectively develop political identities and learn to advocate for themselves and their peers. In both contexts, youths’ efforts to reform policy—for example to eliminate state testing or to legalize children’s labor—rarely succeed. However, I suggest the organizations themselves provide young people with a space to develop ways of thinking and acting which they then apply to other aspects of their lives-- to fight against police violence, join larger coalitions of groups advocating for social change, and work to legitimate youth presence in public and political spaces.

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