York PhD candidate Jennifer Bethune earns award for research in education

Osgoode teams take first and second at Canadian National Negotiation Competition

Faculty of Education PhD candidate Jennifer Bethune has won the American Educational Studies Association (AESA) Taylor & Francis Past President’s Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Research for her paper “Meeting the Citizens of the Future in the Present: A Case for Disagreeing.”

Jennifer Bethune
Jennifer Bethune

Bethune was presented with the award at AESA’s annual conference in Greenville, S.C., in November. The AESA Taylor & Francis Past President’s Award for Outstanding Graduate Research recognizes emerging scholars in the broad field of educational studies by supporting advanced graduate students in their dissertation writing and professional development.

The paper was part of a panel at the conference titled Ethical Dilemmas in Researching and Representing Young People, which included three York Graduate Program in Education alumni: Michelle Miller, Julia Sinclair-Palm and Alanna Goldstein.

In her paper, Bethune makes the claim that qualitative research with young people often does not take disagreement seriously and that by downplaying the possibility that we might disagree with our young research subjects, researchers foreclose an important ethical discussion: what can we make of these moments of disagreement? And how is disagreement with a child somehow different from other kinds of disagreement?

Bethune contends that the reticence to entertain the possibility of disagreement, particularly with child participants, is a symptom of a relational dynamic between the researcher and the child research participant that is characterized by projective fantasies about the political futurity of the child.

The paper is related to Bethune’s doctoral research at York, titled Citizens of Tomorrow, Today: Citizenship, Democracy, and the Political Futurity of Youth, a year-long ethnography of a high-school student council. The project explores the forms of citizenship and democracy offered to young people through educational policy and programming, including the tensions that underlie practices and discourses of youth citizenship.

“One of the greatest strengths of this study is how Jennifer is able to trace how larger political discourses weave their way through the everyday experiences of students and teachers walking the hallways of the school,” said Professor Jen Gilbert, Bethune’s dissertation supervisor. “She renders the life of the school with a careful, patient precision. It is a beautiful study.

“Jennifer’s work is very deserving of the recognition the Taylor & Francis Past President’s Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Research has conferred,” added Gilbert. “We congratulate her on this achievement.”