Skip to main content area Skip to sub-navigation
Skip to main content

GS554 – Coming of Age: The Culture & Literature of Youth in America

Explore the history and literature of childhood and youth in America in ways that engage the challenges of the rapidly changing multicultural and technological classroom.

Photo courtesy of Eli Epstein.
Photo courtesy of Eli Epstein.


Professor Craig Werner email

This six-week Institute for Experienced Teachers focuses on the history, social construction, and culture of American youth. Emphasizing the diversity of young people’s experience, the Institute will give particular attention to the challenges of education in a rapidly changing multicultural society. Drawing on the teaching team’s experience building bridges between academic and community settings, the Institute will provide participants with the opportunity to address the issues they face in their specific institutions. The Institute is structured in four units: 1) an investigation of the historical consrruction of childhood and youth in America from the colonial period to the digital age; 2) a reconsideration of a set of key texts which have shaped American attitudes towards growing up; 3) the history and cultural premises of Latino, African-American and Native American education; and 4) a cross-section of issues facing contemporary youth, including the impact of war, bilingual education, the relationship between poverty and drug use, and the changing forms of popular culture. In addition to classic and contemporary novels by writers from Mark Twain and Louis May Alcott to Toni Morrison, Rudolfo Anaya, Sherman Alexie and Sandra Cisneros, the Institute offers a weekly film series for participants featuring youth-oriented films such as "Kids," "Quinceanera," "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "Winter’s Bone." Throughout, the emphasis will be practical, focusing on participants’ classroom locations. The Institute will conclude with a two-day mini-symposium on “Youth and Education in the 21st Century.” Participants will have the opportunity to participate in a Huffington Post blog focusing on issues that arise in the Institute.

The coordinating Professor for GS554 is Craig Werner, a graduate of Colorado College and Colorado Springs District 11 schools, who teaches in the Department of Afro-American Studies and the Integrated Liberal Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The author of numerous books on American literary and cultural history and articles on pedagogical issues, he has won teaching awards at the Department, campus and national levels. During the second three week block, he will be joined by Chris Teuton, a member of the Cherokee nation, who will join the faculty of the Programs of American Studies and Native American Studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the fall. Highlights of the Institute include visits from Juan Gonzalez, a member of the Department of Spanish at Northern University who has worked extensively with bilingual students and heritage learners; and The Turtle Island Liar’s Club, a group of Cherokee elders and storytellers who have collaborated with Teuton on a book titled "Stories of the Turtle Island Liar’s Club," which will be published this fall.