Rachel Conrad teaches interdisciplinary courses on critical childhood and youth studies, twentieth- and twenty-first century poetry of childhood, and youth-authored texts. Her courses focus on centering young people’s participation, cultural creation, and political action and activism.

REFRAMING YOUNG WRITERS:  For what and whose purposes do young writers write, and how are these purposes represented in our literary, cultural, and political worlds? How can works by young writers be read as literary texts, and how can adults facilitate opportunities for young writers? How do young writers engage with themes of injustice and oppression? This course integrates literary studies and critical youth studies in reframing young writers as cultural producers and participants in literary culture. We will focus on case studies in genres of poetry and diary/memoir including: Vanessa Howard and other young Black poets who wrote in the US during the 1960s and early 1970s Civil Rights movement; and young white Jewish writer Anne Frank whose Diary of a Young Girl was written in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II.

YOUTH WRITING FOR JUSTICE:  Young activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has written that “the youth of the world are continuing to rise to power and shape our culture.” In this course, we will examine texts written by youth, and youth action and activism primarily in the contemporary U.S., as forms of enacting such power and shaping. We will use methods from critical youth studies and literary studies to take seriously young people’s literary, cultural and social-political engagements. In focusing on young people writing and taking action for racial, environmental, and climate justice, we will consider youth-produced texts and action/activism as well as conditions that make possible youth-and-adult collaborations.

YOUTH/POETS:  This seminar in critical social and literary studies of childhood will take up multiple perspectives on young people as writers of poetry. We will explore the work of recent scholars in childhood studies, literary studies, children’s literature studies, and critical literacy studies who contemplate questions about young people as consumers and/or producers of culture; as potential poets in the future and/or actual poets in the present; as objects of adult teachers’ pedagogical ideas and/or as subjects producing and performing their own ideas and artistry. Examples of youth-authored poetry are drawn largely from late twentieth-century and early twenty-first-century US contexts. The course involves collaborating with young people on poetry projects.

CRITICAL STUDIES OF YOUTH, AGE, AND GENERATION: What would it mean for age to be understood as an axis of power and a category of sociopolitical dynamics such as gender, race, or class? How does ageism or age-related injustice intersect with other forms of injustice? How does the idea of generations inform studies of literature, sociology, history, youth-produced culture, or forms of cultural or political activism? What do critical studies of youth and age add to our understanding of education, antiracism studies, literature, ethnic studies, history, psychology, and the arts? Students will formulate and pursue their own questions about youth, age and/or generation in relation to their own areas of interest.

CHILDREN’S RIGHTS:  John Wall has written that “children’s rights are arguably the major human rights challenge of the twenty-first century.” In this course, we will critically explore approaches, controversies, ambiguities, and promise related to theory and practice concerning the rights of people under the age of 18. We will review the emergence across the twentieth century of international human rights approaches to children’s rights, and consider domestic and global examples of contemporary structures and practices that support young people’s active, participatory roles in their societies. A central component of the course will be students’ project-based research on particular topics related to children’s rights.