Last week on Twitter I asked, “How much of what we call Youth Voice is really just manipulating youth to say what we want them to in their own words?”
franziskaseel replied that it “depends on the ‘we’. I don’t think you can speak of manipulation if the org/group is youth-run itself.” I agree with her in many ways. Can young people manipulate other young people? Sure, and they, like we adults, do all the time. And point taken: any youth voice, even when manipulated, driven, or otherwise wrought by youth, is still youth voice. By way of clarification, let me say that when I shared the question I intended it for the primarily adult audience on Twitter (http://u.nu/39qr).
Clarification stated, I think it’s important to reach into the heart of the question: I have experienced a lot of adults who intentionally and unintentionally steer youth voice the directions they want or need it to go. In my Twitter conversation dmmenthol wrote, “Not unlike vaudeville puppet shows and ventriloquist acts-adults pulling strings and throwing their voices – it’s changing.” I don’t like the way that children and youth are painted as inanimate, but unfortunately I think that the point here is more profound than that. Adults are ultimately responsible for engaging, listening to, and most of the time responding to youth voice. This is true in institutions throughout our society, and whether young people are portrayed as powerful or pathetic, they are still privvy to the passing fancy of adults. That is a terrible truth. Luckily, as dmmenthol’s post states, there is change and the situation is beginning to transform so that young people have more authentic relationships with adults. chollingsworth wrote, “that’s something all youth leadership groups should keep in mind. Important point.” As always I believe in the most expansive definition of “youth leadership groups” should be used, and not limited to youth, leadership, or groups. Parents, pastors, teachers, politicians, government workers and all others who work with young people should consider this, too.
The final post from DJ777 concurs with my assumption, with the author stating that “I’d say a large portion of that community is guilty of it. A good follow up question is how much is done unconsciously.” How much manipulation of youth voice is done unconsciously? And is there a difference between being “unconcious” versus well-intended and ill-informed? Think about it, respond, and let me know what you think!