Smyth, John and McInerney, Peter (2012) Sculpting a ‘social space’ for re-engaging disengaged ‘disadvantaged’ young people with learning. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 44 (3). pp. 187-201. ISSN 0022-0620

This paper examines the complex constellation of conditions that turn many young people into ‘exiles’ from schooling. From the vantage point of young people, the paper traces out a profile of the conditions that need to be brought into existence for these young people to find a way back into learning. The paper argues that current educational policies are deeply hostile to young people in the ways they position them as ‘silent witnesses’ and exclude them from having a voice in the important decisions about what they learn, how, with whom, and with what effects. In contrast, the paper explores six alternative programmes in Australia, warehoused from within the same systems that ‘damaged’ these young people. Paradoxically these programmes are seen as providing these damaged young people with the spaces in which they can become powerful ‘active agents’ in re-forming an educational identity for themselves. Where these alternatives depart from the damaging policy regime is in the highly context-sensitive way they enable young learners and local policy advocates who work with them, to effectively contest exclusionary and undemocratic neoliberal policies.

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