Psychology Conference Focuses on Youth Organizing and Desegregation

By Valerie Futch, Postdoctoral Fellow at Youth-Nex.

Related posts are available under Conferences, Research

Changing Societies

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the 9th biennial conference of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Division 9). The theme for the conference was Changing Societies: Learning From and For Research, Social Action, and Policy. As part of the presidential programming, I had the great fortune to organize an invited panel on desegregation stories in the South and chair an invited panel on youth organizing for educational engagement and justice. These two panels turned out to be just one of many that featured youth development and youth organizing throughout the conference.

The panels were part of SPSSI president Maureen O’Connor’s “3E” programming focusing on education, environment, and equity. The panel “Southern Desegregation Stories Across Generations: Oral History, Video and Autoethnographic Accounts of Desegregation and the Challenges that Persist Today” featured three scholars engaged with documenting experiences of desegregation and challenging educators today to consider the ways that segregation still persists in less overt ways.

Lee Anne Bell presented a clip of her documentary “40 Years Later: Now Can We Talk?” that followed a group of African-American men and women from the Mississippi Delta as they attended their 40th high school reunion (the first time they had been invited). Lee’s documentary and supplemental teaching materials will be available in the late Fall to facilitate discussions of race and privilege, particularly in educational settings.

George Noblit, a distinguished professor at the University of North Carolina, shared the story of Barbara Lorie, an educator in Chapel Hill who was ultimately pushed out of her district for trying to implement the very multicultural pedagogies and practices championed today. Charles Price, also of UNC, shared the experiences of his mother, himself, and his daughter within the same school system across generations. His account documents one small school district in South Carolina as it moved from desegregation in the 1950s to re-segregation in the 1990s.

The second set of panels featured two presenters who also attended Youth-Nex’s inaugural conference last October. Under the broader framework of understanding youth organizing and engagement for educational justice, panelists Ben Kirshner and Constance Flanagan presented two compelling talks that helped the audience understand the opportunities that classrooms and teachers present for cultivating civic engagement, civic identities, and encouraging youth organizing for social justice. Ben’s talk focused on the Critical Civic Inquiry project in Boulder, CO, an action research project that trains teachers to work collaboratively with their students to examine an issue of inequality within their schools and develop ways to solve it. Connie’s talk looked more closely at the psychological processes of developing civic identities and the role that parents, peers, and teachers play in reinforcing values and beliefs. Ultimately, she and colleagues Taehan Kim and Les Gallay found that collective classroom norms increase the likelihood that individuals will display more social responsibility outcomes.

In addition to these panels, I also had the chance to participate on a panel called “The Psychology of Community Involvement.” I presented my work on The SOURCE Teen Theatre, looking specifically at the role of space and place in experiences of after-school youth programs. Fellow panelists included Manyu Li, who talked about her worth with place attachment in Pittsburgh; Wen Liu, who discussed her experiences with an NGO for migrant workers in Taiwan, and Laura Wray-Lake who discussed the development of social responsibility in adolescents. We were lucky enough to have Irene Hanson-Frieze as our discussant and she pointed out that, although it wasn’t the explicit intention of the panel, all of the presentations focused on youth and young adults, emphasizing that community involvement is a developmental task that is present at all developmental stages but may be of particular importance during adolescence and emerging adulthood.

These panels and all of the great conference programming left many of us eager for the 10th Biennial conference in 2014!

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