Madelyn Pyeatt, Staff

Madelyn Pyeatt
Madelyn Pyeatt

Madelyn Pyeatt, an English teacher at Oakland Technical High School who collaborated on the media literacy curriculum, addressed the pitfalls of stereotyping youth as a self-fulfilling prophecy. “If what you expect from kids is a bunch of bad behaviors, that’s what you are likely to get. But if your expect great things from kids, that’s what you are going to get.” In a simple two part exercise, Pyeatt introduced media literacy to her students by asking them to cut out paper figures and to inscribe them wit h words that stereotype teenagers. The students listed words such as “in gangs, thieves, in jail before age 18, baggy clothes, no food, disrespectful, alcoholics, rude punks, insensitive, peace destroyers, immature, macho, uneducated, illiterate or close to it, violent, stupid beliefs, sells drugs, drop out, wears a beeper.”

For the second part of the exercise, Pyeatt asked the students to cut out another figure and to inscribe it with words that represent how they perceive themselves. The students listed “respectable, smart, caring, friendly, nice temperament, non-ignorant, lovable, peaceful, helpful, cautious, safe, good.”

Their responses in part two indicate their desire to challenge and change those depictions to represent the positive attributes of youth in Oakland.

(From Performing Pedagogy: Toward an Art of Politics by Charles Garoian, 1999