Youth segregation rages across western society. Moving young people into full-time schools, part time afterschool programs for children and youth, youth-exclusive work environments, youth-isolated commercial spaces, and excluding them from public, democratic duties and spaces is creating a crisis of purpose, possibilities, and hope in our times, right now.
Youth segregation is terrible for our society. Aside from tearing at the very fabric of democracy, it is destroying cultures, thrashing at the economy, prohibiting innovation, and decimating community.
- Democracy—Youth segregation undermines the civic will of individuals to contribute to the community and societies they live in. It disallows young people from voting, running for office, speaking in many public venues, and from participating in the general democratic life of their communities.
- Cultures—By keeping young people from being able to produce, critically analyze, and share real culture, adults also keep them from sharing, maintaining, and building upon what already exists. Reduced to the role of passive recipient, youth segregation is killing off any sense of history and purpose from culture.
- Economy—Contributing more than 5% to the global economy in the last decade, young peoples’ economic impact is not underestimated by the commercial sector. Yet, they routinely rely on the rampant segregation of children and youth from adults in order to sell their wares. Identifying alienated youth subcultures and fostering parental and adult indifference to young peoples’ spending, saving, and earning habits only engenders further youth segregation from adults.
- Innovation—Stories about young inventors and young entrepreneurs abound. But young innovators aren’t simply middle class white kids hellbent on making millions of dollars. Instead, there are young social entrepreneurs, youth activists, advocates, and educators who are impacting their communities with radical and pragmatic innovations from this century and beyond. They’re routinely segregated from adults, limiting them to critical exposure for their efforts and sustainability.
- Community—Excluded from the formal decision-making of democracy in society, youth segregation also happens throughout communities. Young people’s interests are routinely left off the table, and they aren’t educated about what effects them the most. Because of this, they can’t stand up in the nonprofits, schools, and even homes where they spend their days.
More than a decade ago, I started The Freechild Project with the intention of demonstrating how young people and their adult allies are combating youth segregation in the U.S. and around the world. Today, there’s a growing awareness of what’s happening and the needle is starting to move. The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg for all the ways youth segregation happens. We need to do more.
What are YOU doing to stop youth segregation today? Learn more at freechild.org.