This paper explores various epistemological paradigms available to understand, interpret, and semiotically depict young people. These paradigms all draw upon a metadiscourse of developmental age and stage (e.g. Hall 1914) and then work from particular epistemological views of the world to cast young people in different lights. Using strategic essentialism (Spivak 1996), this paper offers four descriptions of existing paradigms, including biomedical (Erikson 1980), psychological (e.g. Piaget 1973), critical (e.g. Giroux & MacLaren 1982), and postmodern (e.g. Kenway & Bullen 2001). While some of these paradigms have been more distinct in particular cultural, historical, and political contexts, they have overlapped, informing each other as they continue to inform, our understandings of young people. Each paradigm carries unique consequences for the role of the learner, the teacher, and the curriculum. This paper explores contemporary manifestations of these paradigms. From this investigation, a potential new space for conceptualising young people is offered. This new space, underpinned by understandings of subjectivity (Grosz 1994), assumes sense of self to be both pivotal in generative learning and closely linked to the context and its dynamics. We aver that such a view of young people and educational settings is necessary at this time of focused attention to the middle years of schooling. In so doing, we explore the potential of classroom life and pre-service teacher education constructed within this new discourse of young people.