Isolation Reading for the Week of June 22

Every week we’re bringing you some great books chosen by our staff for your work-from-home reading. This week, Brittney Sutherland, our Production Coordinator, has chosen Youth, School, and Community: Participatory Institutional Ethnographies by Naomi Nichols as her staff pick.


I was speaking to my sister today about how happy I am to no longer be in school, especially while quarantining (my heart goes out to everyone doing online classes right now, including my sister. I would surely have to defer). Transitioning to online learning isn’t easy. There’s a lot to think about, like figuring out new interfaces and how to manage learning schedules, while wondering if the online systems can teach what students need to learn? But maybe the more important question is this: Were educational institutions ever set up to help students succeed, particularly students from underprivileged groups?? The ongoing protests in support of Black Lives Matter, including appeals for justice for those who have been lost in Toronto, call us to examine systemic racism in all areas of life. Schools are key institutions that seek to “form” youth, and need to be examined.

Naomi Nichols’ book, Youth, School, and Community: Participatory Institutional Ethnographies investigates this issue in the context of young people’s experiences in Greater Toronto Area and Montreal neighbourhoods across institutions, including education. I think that this selection from the introduction reflects the core of the book: “My aim is for this book to crack open the assumptions of neutrality and objectivity upon which the public sector operates and continues to defend its legitimacy. . . . I also hope it rattles people’s convictions that their good intentions outweigh the clearly racist, classist, and gendered outcomes of their work, particularly in the ’helping‘ sectors: education, social work, and child welfare.” But, most importantly, the book also includes the experiences and insights of the young people from “racialized, economically marginalized, and criminologically stigmatized neighbourhoods….” We have to protect our youth, and understand our youth, especially those who are already disadvantaged by the systems that we think are supposed to set them up for success.


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