Provost’s Digital Innovation Grants: Debunking the “Dropout” Stereotype

Debunking the “Dropout” Stereotype

Rondi Silva, Urban Education

Rondi Silva

This study aims to challenge conventional views of both “dropping out” and “dropouts.” When young people “drop out” of high school, they open themselves up to a world of negative assumptions and blame, which are directed at them from the outside and are also self-inflicted. Young people are constantly messaged that “dropping out,” or being a “dropout” is at best a bad choice and at worst something akin to being a criminal. While these messages come in obvious forms, such as popular media imagery, they also come in more insidious forms, such as GED prep manuals, the very materials that are supposed to be educational supports for “dropouts.” Lost in this messaging, however, is that in reality “dropping out” is very often a positive move out of untenable social and educational situations, and a first step toward a more meaningful and fruitful social and educational path. This multi-modal (largely video-based) dissertation will strive to chip away at the monolithic moniker of “dropout,” and help create a counter narrative to the “dropout” stereotype. Using my nine years of experience working with young people attempting to make the jump from out-of-school to higher education and my own journey from GED to PhD as a backdrop, my former students and I together will seek to broaden, deepen, and more accurately portray the images of the actual people buried within the “dropout” moniker. The video modules created in this project will be co-created and curated with my youth participants and are intended to reach a large audience. They could be presented in after school programs, youth centers, and teacher professional development sessions, and used to inform classroom practice, schooling policies, as well as help rewrite the script for out-of-school youth themselves and the actors in their lives.

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