Amid concerns about the decreasing political engagement of young people, scholars and policy makers have begun discussing the “civic achievement gap,” disparities in civic capacity between low-income students and Students of Color and their White, wealthier counterparts. While this scholarship raises important issues, it often relies on a narrow view of civic engagement, downplaying alternative forms of civic activity and the variability of civic life across contexts. This can lead to deficit-based models of civic education that bypass the opportunity to tap into the many less-visible ways youth, particularly those from low-income Communities of Color, are already engaged in civic life. In this article, Paul J. Kuttner offers as an alternative approach, youth cultural organizing
, which engages young people in catalyzing change in their communities through the arts and other forms of cultural expression, drawing on shared cultural resources. He presents a theoretical framework for this culturally sustaining civic engagement pedagogy based on a case study of the organization Project HIP-HOP, and he explores the potential of the arts and hip-hop culture as asset-based spaces within which to engage young people in civic life.
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