Youth-Led Organizations, the Arts, and the 411 Initiative for Change in Canada: Critical Pedagogy for the 21st Century

  • Brad J. Porfilio Lewis University
  • Michael Watz Buffalo State College, SUNY
Keywords: Activism, Youth Organizations, Youth Culture, Canada, Education Policy, Education Reform, Civil Society, Critical Pedagogy, Educational Change


The purpose of this essay is to document a group of Canadian youth activists’ and artists’ perceptions and experiences with developing and sustaining an arts-based educational initiative that “undertakes public education and the promotion of civic participation of young people on social issues that frame their development within their communities.”  Through the youth activists’ and artists’ narratives, we highlight the youths’ motivation to establish this organization, the methods they use to engage their audience in social commentary and activism, how they confront and overcome barriers in schools when implementing their pedagogical initiatives, and the challenges they face in keeping their project intellectually vibrant and culturally relevant to youth.  Moreover, we argue that critical pedagogues must take seriously the cultural work proffered by youth-led social justice initiatives if critical pedagogy is to remain relevant in promoting equity and social justice in schools and in society.