Adultism is Everywhere

Think about it:

First thing in the morning mom’s saying, “In MY house you will follow MY rules,” enforcing your sense of displacement in the world.

On the way to school on the subway you glimpse at the headline of a magazine that says, “Look 20 years younger!” with a newspaper headline on the other side that says, “Study shows kids are out of control.”

When you get to school all self-control stripped away by matter of routine, with messaging reinforced through curriculum: No youth are mentioned in history, the classic literature was apparently written by old dead white guys, math seems like its from outer space, and the elective courses are from a 1947 curriculum guide. And when you ask why you’re learning all this, you are told, “Its for your own good,” “Its for your future,” or “You have to.”

When you leave school for the day, more than ever your life is driven by adults: filled with this activity or that, this job or that, there are few – if any – spaces where authentic youth culture is allowed to exist. Instead we’ve injected adults’ notion of what youth culture should be into every available crevasse of a young person’s life: Marketers are adults, youth program workers are adults, media-makers are adults, band managers and sports coaches and choir leaders and McDonald’s managers and so on and so forth…

The youth who apparently “succeed” most in our society are generally those who learn to accept these social norms; those who don’t accept them generally “fail,” particularly into early adulthood, where their economic/social/moral outcomes are apparently “questionable” at best – the history of any longtime surfer/punk/hip hop fan would demonstrate that quickly.

In response to this climate, the question becomes how to most successfully equip youth for this reality, particularly when any youth program is generally limited to 2-4 hours per week out of everything else. Is it responsible to actually tell youth they can do anything they want to, be anything they want to, or go anywhere they want to when they face the permeating reality that shows them otherwise for every other waking hour of their days? Or is there a middle ground, a compromise? I am not sure about that – I’m just not sure.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

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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