So-Called Juvenile Terrorism

We live in a time when being labeled a terrorist can lead a person to be indefinitely locked up in prison as a preventative measure designed to keep terrorists off the street. That’s what Guantanamo is for, and that’s what Mahar Arar suffered.

Mother Jones magazine has followed the long-standing diligence of the National Youth Rights Association to expose what they call a “School of Shock” where students who are labeled autistic, mentally retarded, and emotionally troubled are routinely treated like prisoners at Guantanamo, complete with food deprivation, isolation and electric shocks.

Out of the United Kingdom comes a story that proclaims that all “teenagers drinking, taking drugs and being aggressive” are “juvenile terrorists.” This from the country that brought us a large and damning study that shows how ephebiphobia – the fear of youth – is actually driving people to move away from the places they grew up. Oh, and let me correct myself – its not one story, or two, but dozens. Its not a new problem, either, and its not particularly English: a 2003 book exploring film making in the U.S. identified more than modern one film that uses “juvenile terrorism” as a plot point.

Now the American Youth Policy Forum thinks schools and youth development organizations should learn how to reach disaffected young people from the U.S. military, which is reportedly effective at doing that. Karen Pittman from the Forum for Youth Investment is helping them. Its discouraging to know that the leaders who purport to lead this field support institutions that systematically disenfranchise all of their members, meanwhile expecting organizations to learn from the very legion responsible for Abu Ghraib. That’s great.

KIDS ARE NOT TERRORISTS! EMPOWERMENT AND PREVENTION AND TREATMENT – NOT IMPRISONMENT AND DETENTION AND PUNISHMENT. Its so frustrating to have to consistently see this type of regressive, punitive and destructive thinking tearing at the heart of young people today. On top of the standardization they live in every single day, with the testing and the laws and the advertising and the programming directed at their every waking moment, now more than ever young people are the targets of demonization and alienation within the places they live! We’ve got to stop that. Got to.

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Published by Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker and writer who researches, writes and shares about youth, education, and history. Learn more about me at

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