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slowed significantly in the other two cities, Detroit and Cleveland. The overall citywide pattern is encouraging. The revival of major downtowns across the United States has been underway for some time. According to Philadelphia’s Center City District, from 2000 to 2010, the country’s ten largest downtowns, generally the stronger coastal or Sunbelt cities, grew 77% faster than the country as a whole.10 But a broader shift in population patterns began after the Great Recession. 2010 marked the first time in decades that population growth in the 50 largest US

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to reconnect, meet the current members of my research team,3 view their own and each other’s new photographs, and to learn how to use VoiceThread (described further on). I had also raised funds to support a final gathering at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, where I am a faculty member. On this “field trip” the young people screened and discussed their videos. The software program VoiceThread allows users to upload photographs and create audio and text-based commentaries or stories within a secure collaborative network. These “threads

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Working-Class Kids’ Visions of Care
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Urban educational research, practice, and policy is preoccupied with problems, brokenness, stigma, and blame. As a result, too many people are unable to recognize the capacities and desires of children and youth growing up in working-class communities.

This book offers an alternative angle of vision—animated by young people’s own photographs, videos, and perspectives over time. It shows how a racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse community of young people in Worcester, MA used cameras at different ages (10, 12, 16 and 18) to capture and value the centrality of care in their lives, homes, and classrooms.

Luttrell’s immersive, creative, and layered analysis of the young people’s images and narratives boldly refutes biased assumptions about working-class childhoods and re-envisions schools as inclusive, imaginative, and care-ful spaces. With an accompanying website featuring additional digital resources (childrenframingchildhoods.com), this book challenges us to see differently and, thus, set our sights on a better future.

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This chapter introduces Worcester, Massachusetts, Park Central School, and the project through the lens of a critical childhood studies perspective. A key tenet of critical childhood studies is to take children seriously as witnesses to their experiences, no matter where they “fit” into child development discourses. A critical childhood perspective interrogates the changing meanings of childhood—including who counts as a child, when this status begins and ends—and recognizes that these meanings are contingent on historical, economic, cultural, and institutional contexts. Children’s new identities as “learners” were intertwined with schooling practices developed to manage, control, and orient them to fitting into society. In addition, a critical childhood perspective must take account of how the legacy of slavery, institutional racism, and colorism shape who is afforded the protected status of “child” to begin with. In adopting a critical childhood perspective, then, this study aims to address multiple challenges—avoiding “adultist” and neoliberal viewpoints and placing young people’s agency, voices, and images at its center; rethinking how children’s value and worth is assigned, especially in schooling; maintaining a focus on parallels and intersections between women’s and children’s experiences of structural oppression; and accounting for how the legacy of slavery, structural racism, and anti-Blackness inform views of childhood, gender, discipline/punishment, and learning.

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This chapter examines belongings as markers of belonging. It offers a way of seeing the children’s photographs of prized possessions as a means to position themselves as the objects of others’ care and as agile navigators of social and cultural differences. The children used their cameras in multiple ways: to traverse home and school cultures; to engage in the politics of belonging, both building and tearing down social divisions, including boundaries between public and private housing; and to manage difficult emotions and anxieties about care and belonging. Whether they were endeavoring to show themselves as the focal point of someone’s care and attention, as knowledgeable about forms of social currency, as tied to a homeland and cultural heritage, or as secure in their difference, this work was accomplished through their belongings. It was not about what they had; it was about how cherished items brought them into significant relationship with others, enabling them to forge community around valuable tokens of care and belonging.

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This chapter discusses how the Park Central School children used their cameras to render “choreographies of care” visible and to acknowledge and affirm its value. “Choreographies of care” is a concept meant to highlight the constellation of resources, people, rhythms shaped by different occupational demands and shifting schedules, feelings, and intimacies of family living. Amidst prevailing deficit and stigmatizing portrayals of wage-poor households and working mothers’ invisibility, the children’s photographs and accounts accomplish two things. First, when given the opportunity, the children confirmed their mothers’ care work, educational presence, and value. Second, the children, albeit differently for boys and girls, highlighted their own participation in choreographies of family care. The chapter then calls the children’s images and accounts counter-narratives of care because they offer an alternative way of seeing care as a concerted, collective activity, not as individualized or unidirectional. Through these interdependent activities (children and adults), the children’s gendered identities are forged and emotional relations are structured.

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This chapter explores how the children portrayed the hub of classroom life, the web of adult female caregivers in their “schoolplaces.” Just as they used their cameras to highlight their mothers as loving, caring, and present, and to portray themselves as active participants in their own family choreographies of care, they also used them to render visible the care work taking place in their elementary school. Their images and accounts depicted a school choreography of care that was similarly intentional and relational, and also influenced by gendered and racialized undercurrents. From the children’s perspective, schools are “affective enterprises” in which both teaching and learning are deeply intertwined with relational, ethical, and affective dimensions of care and interdependence in ways that challenge an individualized and unidirectional concept of care. Moreover, the children express a critical awareness that learning goes beyond student–teacher relationships. Even when teachers are perceived as “nice” and “caring” and children’s educational needs are met, students also recognize that they themselves are playing an active role in this dynamic—they are helping each other to make learning happen.

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This chapter reflects on distorted visions of education, care, and freedom. It revisits the contours of the kids’ perspectives of care as they played out over the course of the project, examining what these young people have to say about care—its value, its rewards, its invisibilities, and contradictions. Against this backdrop, the chapter considers the current realities of care in a neoliberal capitalist society, limited and structured by gender-, race-, and class-bias; institutional racism and anti-Blackness; and economic strictures that narrow people’s conceptualizations of time, productivity, and human value. The young people’s visions offer much-needed hope—and in their understandings, one can locate possibilities for a new narrative of care. Drawing on the continuing challenges that the Park Central School students identified and the insights that they offered, the chapter then imagines an alternative social orientation in which care and care work take their rightful place at the center of everyday life—highly visible and highly regarded not only in the spheres of family and school, but in the very fabric of democratic society and in the fundamental understanding of freedom and social justice itself.

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This postlude evaluates the author’s research process over time. It accounts for the choices made, offering a portrayal of reflexivity in action. As the author’s relationships with the young people stretched out in time, and the world changed (including new technologies), the author found that older ways of doing visual analysis were no longer sufficient for the task. The author reflects on crossing into new theoretical, methodological, and ethical territory, stepping outside her comfort zone as a researcher, and highlights the value of creative collaboration that resulted in the digital interludes that accompany this book. These videos intentionally blur borders between research and art; analysis and evocation; looking and feeling; seeing and knowing. Characterizing her style of research in terms of what has become known as slow sociology, the author stresses the value of time and being open to life’s disruptions that require care and repair as well as the joys of connectedness as “what matters most” in life and intellectual labor.

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This prelude provides an overview of the author’s research conducted at Park Central School in Worcester, Massachusetts. The idea was to give kids cameras to record, represent, and reflect on their everyday lives. The goal was that their photos will serve as a window onto the school culture, and at the same time allow the author and her colleagues to ask other, more complex questions. The author and the principal of PCS, Dr. Galinsky, both agree that there is tremendous value in listening to kids’ voices as a way to help educators improve teaching and learning. Thus, the author planned to use the children’s photographs and recorded interviews about their images as materials that will engage graduate students and teachers-in-training in assessing their own ways of seeing, and perhaps questioning their own assumptions about children growing up in working-class and immigrant communities of color. A key discovery of this research is the centrality and saliency of how care matters in childhood, in development, and in schooling from kids’ own perspectives.

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