Everday young people and adult allies struggling to change the world run into an unseen barrier. As we seek to partner, teach, educate and otherwise transform the lives of children and youth we stand against an unacknowledged, yet widely felt, force whose presence is pervasive. This force, this barrier is destructive to the point of absolute, and yet it is not commonly named by the fighters who struggle against it.
Its the ads on television that teach adults to see youth as fleeting, disgusting or regretful. Its the cartoons that teach children to disparage adults because of their age. Its the music that encourages alienation, the comic books that deny reality, the television shows that idolize ignorance and the movies that encapsulate culture as a stagnate reality. But its more than simply popular media. It includes the attitudes exuded by politicians, teachers, youth workers and youth themselves.
These are the forces that Henry Giroux calls “popular pedagogy,” which I will define as the forces that teach us, consciously or otherwise, throughout popular culture. Its more than theory, naming this gives us language to define, critically examine and struggle against these forces. This has helped me move beyond reducing the challenges facing youth. We have to see it, name it, call it out, and move it to the forefront. That’s popular pedagogy.