Adults Fighting Adultism Part Four

Adultism is pervasive throughout society. The bias towards adults happens everywhere, all the time, from our families to our institutions; our economies to our cultures. This isn’t inherently bad; it simply is.


The Roots of Adultism

The social roots of adultism are supported by the belief that society exists in order to promote overconsumption, the accumulation of wealth, and increased status/perception. If you want things to stay the way they are and for our social system to continuously reinforce the power of the powerful, while making sure the powerless don’t get that power, then adultism is good, right, acceptable, promotable, and necessary, everywhere, all the time.

Young and older people who are struggling against adultism are not failed consumers or social miscreants. They’re not just low-income youth, youth with single parents, or youth that live in segregated neighborhoods who don’t have adult guidance from parents, teachers, social workers, or other adults. They are people who are resisting predominant social values that ensure compliance and reinforce blind adherence to social norms that don’t reflect their perspectives.

They’re standing against discrimination by others who’d have them become blinded by systems of alienation and segregation that reinforce negative social perspectives and demeaning cultural norms. They are demanding through action that the old boxes that used to bind our society be broken through. They’re struggling against racial segregation, socio-economic isolationism, the corporatization of individualism, and age-based discrimination.


Our Role In Struggling Against Adultism

Adultism is bias towards adults, reflected by society’s addiction to adults. If you believe that decisions throughout society should be made by adults just because of their age, you are supporting adultism. I DO, so I am an adultist, and I acknowledge that. All adults are, simply because there are many things we agree adults should run. But that’s because we’re adults. I’m not saying it’s inherently wrong or bad; I’m just saying it exists at all, and I’m working to raise awareness of it.

However, just because a person benefits from a discrimination doesn’t mean they can’t struggle against it, and it doesn’t implicitly make them a hypocrite; instead, these are the very people who should struggle against it. This is particularly true of adultism, as adults have a distinct and necessary role in struggling against adultism.

Understanding the social roots of adultism is merely a first step towards re-envisioning our society. From there, there are concrete and actionable steps every adult and every young person can take.

7 Steps to ConnectYoung People And Social Change

You can take action and connect young people with social change right now!

1. Engage Young People in Social Change
Who better to work with children and youth than their peers? Learn how to empower young people to change the world by building engaged neighborhoods, schools and communities. START EMPOWERING YOUNG PEOPLE

2. Connect Young People + Social Change in Communities
Nonprofits, faith-based communities, and other community-based organizations should actively engage young people throughout their lives. This includes educational, recreational, religious, government, and other activities that happen out-of-school—before school, after school, during school breaks, and in the summertime. MAKE COMMUNITIES MORE ENGAGING

3. Do It in Schools

Young people spend the majority of their day at school. Students, teachers, school support staff, education leaders, parents, and other communities members can support in engaging young people to change the world. GET RESOURCES FOR SCHOOLS

4. Donate to the Freechild Project
Your donation will go toward our efforts to engage young people in changing the world. Its NOT tax-deductible and it still makes a difference. DONATE TO CHANGE THE WORLD

5. Train Others
Want to be more active along with your donation? Lead by example. Use our resources to train others to successfully engage young people and transform communities. START TRAINING NOW

6. Get Your Organization Involved
Engaging young people to change the world is a goal many people can support. Become a local collaborator or establish a volunteer relationship with us and together we can do great work. LEARN HOW WE CAN WORK TOGETHER

7. Transform Your Own Actions
Work throughout your own life to engage young people more effectively. Also work throughout your organization to create more engaged, more active, more just, and more engaging places for young people to change the world. ADD TO YOUR TOOLBOX
Let us know what YOU are doing to connect young people and social change today!
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

A Tool for Measuring Youth Involvement

The Youth Measure of Involvement for Community Engagement, or Youth MICE model, represents the most powerful possibilities for young people’s involvement around the world. Individuals and organizations can use this model to start thinking about how young people can be infused throughout programs, organizations, and communities.

This tool was designed by to foster reflection, consideration, and growth by individuals and organizations seeking to promote youth engagement throughout communities. It can be used in any setting where young people could work with adults. It grew from conversations I had more than a decade ago with people like Greg Williamson, Sasha Rabkin, and Yve Susskind, and evolved through my direct work with more than 100,000 youth and adult allies in events, workshops, conferences, and programs across the US and Canada.

The spiral represents the non-linear motion of engagement. A person doesn’t just start in one place and end in another; instead, engagement is a process that continually evolves while hopefully growing larger. It has been going on a lot longer than the present, and the Youth MICE Model is meant to acknowledge the past. The spiral also represents the motion of opportunities becoming narrower as fewer people are engaged. The following descriptions can help you understand the different points throughout the model.

Starting from the tail of the Youth MICE Model…

  • Engagement is Shared Equitably. This is the most ideal position for youth involvement community change to occur because it engages everyone in a community as equitable partners. Instead of simply seeing community as geography, this approach embraces the roots of the word, which comes from the Latin communis, meaning “common, public, shared by all or many.” Age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, language, ethnicity, and other qualities are embraced as strengthening identity that contributes to a larger good, not as segregating differences. All people experience inclusive, meaningful, empowering participation. Each shares as they are able or desiring according to shared expectations.
  • Engagement is Self-Led. By focusing on the skills and leadership of young people, this approach leverages the power of youth and young adults with their ability to affect change across the whole community. Young people are the impetus and generators of action that reaches to other young people and across all age groups in their communities.
  • Engagement is Shared Equally. This approach leverages the skills and leadership of young people with the power of adults in order to benefit the whole community. While youth and young adults are recognized as the motivators of community change, adults are engaged for their unique experience, talents, and abilities. Each shares 50/50 responsibilities, rights, and reactions to engagement.
  • Engagement is Consulted On. The leadership of adults is predominant, engaging young people as input-sharers instead of movement-makers. Adults infuse the knowledge and ability of young people through action in particular ways in order to inform action.
  • Engagement is Informed. In this approach adults may listen to young people, or young people may listen to adults, during planning, decision-making, or evaluation. This one-way flow of information does not nurture cross-accountability between young people and adults. However, it is an introduction to youth involvement in community engagement.
  • Engagement is Assigned. Young people are assigned action by adults. Adults use their authority over young people through class credit, money, or mandates in order to foster community engagement. Young people influence adults through direct and indirect communication and action.
To learn more about the MICE Model and The Freechild Project’s other tools, or to contact us, visit or call (360) 489-9680.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

The CommonAction Principles of Learning

“I do not teach anyone, 
I only provide the environment in which they can learn.” 
— Albert Einstein

This is me facilitating in Seattle in 2009.
At CommonAction Consulting, we strive to create learning environments in all of our knowledge and skill-building activities. Over the last year we have facilitated learning for more than 4,500 children, youth, and adults in a variety of settings across the nation.
Each time we have led these activities, we have kept the CommonAction Principles of Learning in mind. Each of our trainers, facilitators, and consultants commit to upholding these principles, and I’m glad to share them here publicly at the request of a past workshop participant.

The CommonAction Principles of Learning

  • Be a Facilitator- Not a Teacher, Speaker, or Preacher. There’s a difference between a teacher, a speaker, a preacher, and a facilitator. A facilitator leads the gathering or group; guides the gathering towards its goals; and leads by example, not force. 
  • Create Guidelines and Goals. Overcome cynicism and inability by having participants create ground rules or guidelines before you begin. Brainstorm potential rules and write them down – but avoid too many rules. Every group should have some specific guidelines that all participants agree on.
  • Think about Framing & Sequencing. Facilitators introduce the purpose, or frame, the group they’re leading. An important consideration is the order in which you present groups, or sequencing.
  • Reflect, Reflect, Reflect. One way make group events matter is to reflect before, during, and after the reflection. You can see reflection as a circle: You start with an explanation what you are going to learn and
  • frame its purpose and goals to the group.
  • Create Safe Space. It is vital to create, foster, and support safe spaces where participants can learn together. Establishing a safe space is powerful, positive, and hopeful, and hope is a requirement for excellent facilitation.
  • Seek Consensus. Whenever a group is discussing a possible solution or coming to a decision on any matter, consensus is a tool excellent facilitators turn to.
  • Embrace the Journey. Learning is a process, not an outcome. Encourage participants to view the group process as a journey that has no particular destination. However, even experience cannot teach us what we do not seek to learn. John Dewey once wrote that we should seek, “Not perfection as a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, maturing, refining is the aim of living.” This is true of excellent facilitation.
  • Embrace Challenges. Since excellent facilitation is a process, it is important to understand that there will be difficult times ahead. One of the keys to excellent facilitation is knowing that criticism will come – and that can be good.

Contact me if you’re interested in booking a training on excellent facilitation for your school, nonprofit, community, or agency. If you’re ready to take action to become an excellent facilitator all on your own, you can learn more about these principles from my 2011 article, “Becoming An Excellent Facilitator,” which is required reading for all CommonAction team members.

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

New Student Voice Orgs!

Schools opening up for the year, and already new student voice organizations are popping up across the US! The ones I’m most interested in are focused on engaging students within the education system, and line up with my Frameworks for Meaningful Student Involvement. Here’s a low-down on what’s come across my radar so far:

  • Students 4 Our Schools – From their website: “Will lead the students’ voice in education, Spark the conversation, Encourage schools and teachers to authentically evaluate their students, Create education on a personal level, Help students pursue their passions and rediscover the joy of learning.” Facebook page.
  • Student Voice – From their website: “We work to unite and centralize the increasingly powerful student voice. We are a movement connecting the organizers of tomorrow and giving them a voice today.” Facebook page.
  • The Student Voice Project – From their website: “Strives to give youth nation wide an influential voice. We encourage members of our youth communities to stand up and speak today!” Facebook page
  • Student Voice Research and Practice – Dana Mitra, researcher extraordinaire at Penn State, has launched this hodgepodge collection of researchers and practitioners from across the US and around the world. Living on facebook, the group is exchanging ideas and more! Facebook page.

As always, we continue to host a facebook group called “Student Voice is Changing Schools” in addition to our SoundOut facebook page. The SoundOut website is at

It is exciting to see so many initiatives emerge simultaneously, and I look forward to seeing where they’ll go. As always, drop an email or give a call if we can be of use to your school, program, or organization’s student voice efforts!

CommonAction is available to train, speak, and share about this topic and many others. Contact me to talk about the possibilities by emailing or calling (360)489-9680.

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

Presenting… Seattle Youth Media Camp!

Standing in the projection booth, Sekai stood still and simply scanned around the audience, ease and grace filling her expression. In the meantime, Young hustled and Sun wasn’t there. I was standing mid-audience and Austin was talking to the crowd gathered. Despite the apparent chaos, in that instant it all made sense and everything was awesome.

Understanding Why Youth Media Matters

Last Friday evening was the wrap of the first-ever Seattle Youth Media Camp, a partnership between Seattle Public Schools’s Service Learning Seattle program, Social Moguls, and CommonAction’s The Freechild Project that was funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service Seattle Youth Engagement Zone grant. A meeting of minds and priorities, it was a rarefied space where a convergence of the agendas of service learning, media literacy, STEM, CTE, film making, amounted to social change led by and with young people. You can read my earlier account here.

Making Media

At the end of two weeks of hustling, bustling learning and production, the students premiered a short film they created from the ground up, including conception, acting, directing, supporting, gaffing, laughing, critiquing, scoring, editing, and presenting. These students- who Seattle has grumbled at for more than 15 years- were powerhouses of hope, glaring their brightness into the hot summer evening above I-5.

Their film was witty and deft, making its point and moving on rapidly. Its presentation was relatively smooth, as I subbed in to take the audience taken through my usual paces of humor and progressive learning until I had them exactly where I wanted them. Nobody knew the depths of what was amiss behind the scenes until the very end, and that was okay. It turned out that despite my facilitators’ best intentions, we weren’t fully prepared to show the film in the auditorium where the 50+ audience members were comfortably seated! So we gracefully ushered them into the classroom where the camp edited the film and everything turned out excellently.


So much of our time- each of us, right now- is taken up worrying and waiting, wondering and hoping. In the meantime the fierce urgency of now is calling for our attention. The Seattle Youth Media Camp presentation reminded me that young people, those who are struggling with the future meeting the present right now, they don’t have the luxury of waiting. Now is their time. Honestly, that’s true for each of us right now, no matter what your age is.


Related Articles


10 Ways To Promote Youth Engagement

Here’s 10 things you can do to promote youth engagement right now. These don’t require you to graduate high school, get a college degree, or change the whole entire world right now. Instead they are things you can do right now! 

  1. Learn about Youth Engagement. Did you know that Youth Engagement – or Youth Engagement – is more than classes voting or school-wide meetings? Learn about Youth Engagement on The Freechild Project website, through Wikipedia, or through a number of books.
  2. Brainstorm what your organization and community can do to change. The power of your imagination is an incredible tool to use! Brainstorm different ways your organization or school could be more engaging, and make a list or mind map.
  3. Talk to other youth about Youth Engagement. Ask your friends if they know about Youth Engagement. Share your ideas about which changes your community can make, and ask if they have any ideas themselves. Challenge them to ask you hard questions, and see if you can answer them, or tell them you’ll get back to them after your learn more.
  4. Find an adult ally. Create a real youth/adult partnership with an adult to help your efforts. Engaging an adult ally can make planning more effective and connections with other adults easier.
  5. Create a Youth Engagement plan for your organization or community. Maybe your school or the neighborhood nonprofit needs more Youth Engagement. Work with your friends to make a plan for who, what, when, where and how Youth Engagement can be used.
  6. Host a Youth Engagement workshop. Invite other youth and adults in your community to learn about Youth Engagement by facilitating a hands-on workshop. Research Youth Engagement learning activities and use them to help participants learn by experiencing democracy in education. Bring The Freechild Project to your community to train youth and adults.
  7. Present your plan to community decision-makers. Who makes decisions about how adults should treat youth in your community or in schools? Teachers, youth workers, government workers, politicians, and school board members can all effect Youth Engagement. Share your plan to them one-on-one or make a presentation to local organizations, committees, and others.
  8. Present your plan to community decision-makers. Who chooses which nonprofit organizations get government funding or philanthropic donations? Present your plan to them, as well as neighborhood association presidents, local businesspeople and youth organization leaders.
  9. Organize! If your efforts to work with the community aren’t working, organize. Find other people who care about Youth Engagement by sharing the idea every chance you get, and ask them to join you in promoting the concept in your community. Then determine a goal and take action to put Youth Engagement into action for everyone!
  10. Find allies online. Having a hard time finding other youth and adults who care? Look on The Freechild Project’s Facebook page or start your own group. People you can partner with are everywhere, and sometimes it’s just a matter of asking!

Good luck – and remember to share your story with me!

CommonAction staff are available to train on Youth Engagement and much more. Learn what we can do for you by and call Adam at (360)489-9680.

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Professional Development on Student Voice

Adam Fletcher facilitating a professional development session in 2011.

Find out what more than 100 K-12 schools, districts, and state education agencies across the US and Canada already know!

Teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and school support staff who are looking for professional development on student voice have found their answer with CommonAction Consulting and our SoundOut program. Providing hands-on, interactive learning sessions for adults, CommonAction staff are considered experts around the world. 

Our sessions include: 

  • Introduction to Student Voice
  • More than Student Voice
  • Intro and Advanced Meaningful Student Involvement
  • Advanced Student Leadership Training
  • Successful Student Involvement in Decision-Making
  • Learning about Learning
  • Students as Partners in School Improvement
  • Engaging Nontraditional Student Leaders
  • Changing Classroom Climate

…and more.

ASCD, Australia’s Connect magazine, and Education Northwest are some of the sources that have included our president Adam Fletcher’s writing on student voice. He is also a contributing editor to an academic journal called The Review of Education, Pedagogy and Cultural Studies

About Adam Fletcher:

“Adam is one of the most knowledgable people in the world regarding student voice and youth rights. I have attended his thorough and excellent presentations and confer regularly on current work in the field. I highly recommend him as a presenter and a writer in our field.” – Dana Mitra, Associate Professor, Penn State University; Author, “Student Voice in School Reform: Building youth-adult partnerships that strengthen schools and empower youth”.

CommonAction staff is available to train on Student Voice and much more. To talk about the possibilities call Adam at (360)489-9680.

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