First Advisor

Sherrie Gradin

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in English




Literacy, Juvenile delinquents



Physical Description

1 online resource (2, 80 p.)


This thesis attempts to problematize a collective silence around the concept of race that developed in a Research Methodology English 510 course taught by Dr. Gradin, the Director of Writing at Portland State University, during the Fall quarter of 1995. The members of ENG 510 created a qualitative research protocol that was intended to create knowledge about the literacy needs of juvenile offenders. This was done in partnership with the Juvenile Rights Project, a non-profit advocate for juveniles in the Multnomah county courts, and with Portland Youth Redirection, a program that offers detention alternatives to juvenile offenders. The research was supported by a community-based Learn & Serve Grant through Portland State University's Center for Academic Excellence. I argue that our methods, critical self-reflection and interviews with youth, became fundamentally flawed when we allowed gender issues to displace the more difficult discussion around race. This displacement resulted in a rejection of the concept of self- reflexivity, thereby reproducing a self-serving racist power hierarchy which qualitative research explicitly means to expose. I approach this issue through a critique of Enlightenment philosophy set within the framework of a post-modern theory that denies the truth claims of universalizing metanarratives. The thesis analyses and reflects on theory, class dynamics, and interviews in the field. It also includes quotes from exchanges and spontaneous conversations with youth, juvenile counselors, and class members. Recommendations for further research include highly self-reflexive discussions on the role of race, class, and gender in the researchers' agendas and in their interactions with youth, as well as possible ways to ground the research more strongly and with more visible continuity in a communityrelated context. Here, Portland State University's Writing Center could serve as a nexus.


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