Congratulations to Alexander Camardelle for successfully defending his dissertation on April 1. We are proud of his hard work. Camardelle graduates Spring 2021 with a Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies with a concentration in Social Foundations of Education.
This is a critical discourse analysis of discourses that are present within an opportunity youth initiative in Atlanta, Georgia that disproportionately serves Black youth. Historically, job training policies and the stakeholders who influence the formation and implementation of programs and services do so in the context of neoliberalism, which fails to direct explicit attention to systemic barriers that Black youth face when navigating education and employment. To that end, there are concerns that the race-neutral orientation of job training policies and programs, their associated discourses, and the actors that deploy those discourses may negatively construct Black youth and advance neoliberal ideology. To address these concerns, this study asks the following question: How are youth constructed by discourses in the opportunity youth initiative?
Policy documents and media associated with WIOA and Atlanta’s opportunity youth initiative were analyzed using critical discourse analysis methods to understand the linkage between power, policy and discourse. Critical policy studies and critiques of neoliberal ideology informed the analysis. The findings suggest that although the opportunity youth initiative appears to positively frame youth, actors in the discursive web utilize the mechanisms of neoliberal governmentality to uphold negative “truths” about Black youth. I articulate some of the flaws in the discourse, while also pointing to alternative opportunities for counter-hegemonic resistance. This study lays the groundwork for a new critical framework that will reject the typical negative social construction of Black youth.