Youth, Global Citizenship and Help: A Critical Rhetorical Analysis of Free The Children
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Since 1995 Free The Children (FTC) has grown to be one of the largest and most recognized youth-focused and youth-led non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Canada. FTC has distinguished itself by developing slick marketing campaigns, promising youth that they will become agents of change who can make a significant contribution towards eradicating poverty and promoting global social justice. The organization has utilized the Internet, creating an engaging and dynamic web page used to promote its development initiatives and celebrate the altruistic actions of its young participants. FTC uses a variety of strategies including text, video and images to persuade the viewer to engage with and elicit support for the organization. FTC attracts viewers by highlighting the successes of its overseas initiatives and the contributions made by young Northern volunteers in the global South. The organization also uses celebrity ambassadors, and cultural events such as We Day to raise its profile. Using a critical rhetorical analysis, this thesis interrogates FTC’s online promotional materials, exploring how the organization uses rhetorical strategies to persuade young people to take an interest in social justice activities. More specifically, an examination of FTC web-based promotional materials identifies and problematizes the organization’s rhetorical emphasis on youth empowerment, global citizenship and direct forms of helping the global South. This thesis argues that FTC does not direct adequate attention to fostering critical awareness among it participants. Further, the organization fails to provide its online participants with the appropriate tools or opportunities to critically engage with the structural issues related to global inequities. This thesis also examines how the organization uses rhetoric that promotes simplistic, feel-good projects that avoid exposing young people to an analysis of global social injustices.