And Youth Go On…

Despite all the changes, all of the technologies, all the activities and all the news of the world, youth go on. Everything that I’ve read has shown me that young people have existed for all of time, whether recognized for their unique status in society or for their integral contributions to the good of the whole, youth have always been there.

I go on as well. Starting today I am rededicating this blog: Here I will continue to share, examine, critique and explore young people in the world today. Expect more of the same commentary, as well as news, links and other information about young people, youth activism, social change, student engagement and youth empowerment. If you think this has been whiley or critical in the past, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Look for more from here on out – and send me more, too. I’m willing to stand out if you’re reading. Thanks for that support.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

My Review of “Walking on Water”

Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution was written by Derrick Jensen. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

 

One of the most important components of both education and activism is contextualization. As Paulo Freire argued, learning must be rooted in the context in which education takes place. For a sixth-grader in the US, that would be their local community; for a elderly person, that might be their family. For Derrick Jensen, that place was in classrooms at a university and a maximum security prison, where he was taught creative writing to Washington state college students and prisoners convicted of robbery, rape, and murder. In this book Jensen shares stories from those places as a guise and guide for the larger lessons, both hinted at and carefully detailed throughout this book.

The lessons here are truly revolutionary. “As is true for most people I know, I’ve always loved learning. As is also true for most people I know, I always hated school. Why is that?” With this opening line, Jensen begins a more-than-casual assault on traditional schooling, railing on everything from classroom seating arrangements to grading; from teaching methods to attendance. The lessons here a resonant of the teachings of both John Holt and John Taylor Gatto, the latter of whom Jensen credits greatly, and they give anecdotal meaning to some of the wisdom of by Grace Llewellyn and William Upski Wimsatt.

Through his lessons, Jensen gives substance and validity to many peoples’ feelings of alienation and disconnectedness in school, and offers a brilliant guide to creative writing along the way. Jensen writes, “Throughout our adult lives, most of us are expected to get to work on time, to do our boss’s bidding…and not to leave till the final bell has rung. It is expected that we will watch the clock, counting seconds till five o’clock, till Friday, till payday, till retirement, when at last our time will again be our own, as it was before we began kindergarten, or preschool, or daycare. Where do we learn to do all of this waiting?” The answer, of course, is school. School is the “day-prison” where we learn to be “a nation of slaves.”

He then follows this daring declaration with another story from his prison experience, where he created “an atmosphere in which students wish to learn…”, which included asking both prisoners and college students to be uncomfortable in their search for meaning through writing. Throughout this book Jensen includes several useful writing tips that offer a unique twist to this book: while a significant diatribe against historical approaches to education, it provides useful methods for self-education and learning through life.

Ultimately Jensen achieves Freire’s challenge of sharing with students the goal of “reading the word through the world,” and in that is Jensen’s greatest success. This book is vitally important to any person seeking inspiration for learning outside the lines, both for its practical advice, and for the fact that it is coming from a seasoned educator. I believe that it can also be important to young people particularly, because through his intelligent, accessible thinking, Jensen acknowledges what many youth believe: school isn’t relevant to young people today because teachers can’t be relevant to learning today. They just don’t know how. However, more importantly, Jensen himself disproves that, and may actually inspire young readers to look into places of higher education for the vital allyship and mentorship that adult educators can potentially offer.

As Jensen ponders the weight of the world throughout the book, including wrestling with conservatism, hopelessness and apathy, war, and many other feelings, he leaves readers with a challenging thought that easily summarizes the motivation of this book, and lends this book its essentialness in the activist library: “There is much work to be done. What are you waiting for? It’s time to begin.”

It is time to begin. Thank you, Derrick Jensen, for giving us a roadway to get started.

My Review of “Eliminating Corporal Punishment”

Eliminating Corporal Punishment: The Way Forward To Constructive Child Discipline was edited by Joan Durrant. This is my review for The Freechild Project website.

Spanking, slapping, smacking, pulling ears, pinching, shaking… Hitting with rulers, belts, wooden spoons, extension cords, slippers, hairbrushes, pins, sticks, whips, rubber hoses, flyswatters, wire hangers, stones, bats, canes, or paddles… Forcing a child to stand for a long period; hold an uncomfortable position; stand motionless; kneel on rice, corn, floor grates, pencils or stones; retain body wastes; perform strenuous exersize; or ingest soap, hot sauce, or lemon juice… THIS IS CORPOREAL PUNISHMENT. Anytime a young person is subjected to this treatment they are being abused. These forms of abuse are the cruelest, most unjust, and most ineffective treatment young people can receive.
I can hear Alex’s voice right now: “That’s sentimental crap! Those people just want to babysit kids without giving them a chance to run their own lives!” Alex is the head of a large national organization that proponents the rights of young people to, well, run their own lives. His is a noble cause that I fully support, and that I agree with most of the time – except now.

Earlier this year the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, released the seminal publication available for anyone interested in securing the most basic right of any person today: that is, the right to live in peace. While it sounds simplistic and naive, violence is a daily reality for almost every young person in the world today. There is physical violence, like war, family abuse, bullying, and gang violence. There is mental abuse, like parental abuse, teacher abuse, or verbal put-downs. But there is also the abuse of being neglected everyday by the institutions that purportedly are designed to empower children and youth, such as schools, hospitals, and governments. There is violence hurdled through popular media, like television shows, songs on the radio, and video games. And there is the violence that surrounds young people everyday, seeping into everyone’s hearts and minds without us being aware of it: another bombing overseas, another vicious attack on public funding, another slander against youth in the paper…

These abuses add up. As the book notes, “Corporal punishment of adults is prohibited in well over half the world’s countries, yet only 15 of the 190-plus nations have prohibited all corporal punishment of children, including in the family.” There is little wonder in my mind about why young people appear “apathetic” and “disenchanted” with a world so intent on numbing them to pain, hatred, cynicism and violence.

That is why this book is so important. For the first time my Americanized eyes are beginning to fully comprehend the global imperative any ethical person faces when dealing with the situation of young people today. That is, we must stand with young people to change the situations that they face, and that our world faces. While I’ve always believed that, I’ve never been fully able to describe why – until now. Now I’m beginning to understand the larger picture.

By situating its premise in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, or the CRC, Eliminating Corporal Punishment serves as a powerful international wake-up call, shattering any formerly sentimentalist or naive perceptions about the need to fight with young people for their rights. The CRC boldly declares that,

“Young people must be meaningfully involved in promoting and strategizing action on violence against children… Children… need to be well informed about their rights, and fully involved in the life of the [community and] school…”

This call situates corporal punishment as a fully-authorized premise for social action in 198 countries around the world- minus the US and Somalia- and even they have signaled their intent to sign on. There is no other convention, consensus, or constitution in the world that is more widely accepted.

So the majority of global society aggress that corporal punishment is a significant premise social change. I believe that corporal punishment is the root of all discrimination in society. Sure, its premised on the hatred of young people, on adultism, on the self- and cultural repression of childhood… and its exacerbated by dozens of other factors, including socio-economic class, gender, race, ethnicity, and more… but I wouldn’t have been able to confirm that for you without this book. Today I understand that corporal punishment is at the heart of all this, and more.

What this book essentially does is provides an astoundingly comprehensive, yet relatively simple summary and analysis of corporal punishment, its background, and the effects and outcomes on our society. Then it carefully proposes culturally-relevant, socially-progressive responses to developing holistic, caring, and supportive responses to discipline that all adults – parents, teachers, youth workers, and others – can stand to learn from. A variety of illustrative anecdotes and a massive research scan all confirm that this is the most powerful, positive change that can possibly affect young people in around the world today.

There is so much I can say about this book. My own copy is almost completely marked-up on many pages, and I have dog-eared dozens of pages to reference and return to in the future. I would strongly suggest this book to anyone who wants an introduction to corporal punishment; to anyone interested in understanding the larger societal influences, impacts, outcomes, and forces at work behind corporal punishment; to anyone who wants to discover the international affects of corporal punishment; and to anyone who wants to understand the relationships between corporal punishment and adultism, ageism, and discrimination of all sorts. In short, I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares. I would even recommend it to Alex.

 

Order Eliminating Corporal Punishment: The Way Forward To Constructive Child Discipline at http://amzn.to/UfX9E9

My Review of “The Abandoned Generation”

The Abandoned Generation: Democracy Beyond the Culture of Fear was written by Henry Giroux. This is my review for The Freechild Project.

The most important contribution to our collective work for social change by and with young people in recent years is not being talked about. Perhaps because it is the most dangerous. Truth is told, lies exposed, agendas revealed, and purpose questioned.

The Abandoned Generation: Democracy Beyond the Culture of Fear was written by cultural theorist Henry Giroux. Giroux has been a scholar for 25 years, publishing more than 30 books and 250 scholarly articles. Some people refer to his work as socialist, dissident, and revolutionary; all very stand-offish terms for a man dedicated to revealing the various agendas against young people, democracy and social justice today. And reveal plots he does.

In this latest book Giroux carefully outlines several competing agendas for America’s children and youth, including that of the :
* “Compassionate conservatives” of the Bush Administration destroying the federal funding base for several social programs designed to support low-income children and youth across the nation;
* Corporations fighting for a chance to run America’s schools, determined to indoctrinate the values of patriotic consumerism in school students by taking the “public” out of public schools, and;
* Mass media’s continued assault on mass culture’s perceptions of youth by consistently portraying young people as apathetic, trashed out waste who are only motivated by punishment and rewards.
* Giroux speaks directly to young activists today, recognizing the power behind a lot of different groups, and offering a challenge for young people to connect with larger movements for social justice, like fighting for a radical, inclusive democracy instead of simply an end to sweatshop labor.

He also addresses educators, continuously calling for social justice, empowerment, and action in classrooms. Giroux shows how standardized tests serve multiple gods, enforcing racism, consumption, and class segregation in the name of “high performance.” There is a constant thread throughout the book calling for educators to teach critical thinking, active democracy, and community action for social change.

At a time when a lot of people see “Hope” as a dirty word, Giroux calls it front and center. He challenges the reader to examine the power of Hope for themselves, and calls for us to remove Hope from a silly, idyllic notion of “someday faraway” to a present, guiding, active notion that can guide and engage people, young and old, everyday.

In my continued effort to explore the depth, purpose, and effects of youth-led community action, I have not found another book that is so determined to tell the truth; the challenge now is to get people to read it. I thoroughly recommend ‘The Abandoned Generation’ to anyone dedicated to promoting social change by and with young people around the world, and eagerly await for the action that will follow.

Why Youth Can’t Wait

I look at the people around me and see the prisons and traps
we’re all stuck in. From an early age we are taught and trained
shown that we should stay put, sit still, hold on, walk (don’t run),
and be quiet. Whatever you do, be quiet.

So we do. We go to polite schools or content jobs and type and
read and feel nice. Our hair’s nice and our hearts are nice. We
live nice lives.

But what if… what if we were shown the whole picture from the first
day? What if they said “Hey, when you’re poor, you’re screwed.
If you’re black, you’re challenged. If you’re female, you’re up a creek
. Oh, yeah, and you’ll be young too! Let’s not even go there!”

What if we could awaken all people to the chains that tie them down?
What if everyone saw that we’re responsible for holding ourselves
down? What if the message of systematic and deliberate oppression
was exposed and the entire society- everyone everywhere- saw
that young people are looked down up, frowned upon, sat upon and
shat upon throughout their whole youth…

Then they become adults. And the world turns, and they start pooping
on youth… and the cycle continues…

We’ve gotta speak up. We’ve gotta act up. We’ve gotta quit putting
up, giving up and settling down.

We cannot wait any longer.

Its time to get up. Stand up. Scream out loud. Dream out loud.
We’ve gotta break outta the chains that hold us down. We’ve
gotta stand up for what is ours: freedom. The freedom to earn.
The freedom to learn. The freedom to speak. The freedom to
serve.

We’ve gotta tie people together instead of tearing them apart. We’re
taught that we’re not the same because we’re young and old, black
and white, educated and ignorant, rich and poor.

But we’re the same. And that’s why young people have gotta be free.

No one is free until everyone is free. Free Youth Now.

Download a spoken word version by Robert Grant here.

A Tribute to Z

Zzzzz – I hear it when I sleep

Zzzzz – I hear it when you preach
Zzzzz
There are so many words that start with z
Why is it that they all sound weird to me?
Zebra and zarth
Zeno and Zebulon
I didn’t know I could possibly go on so long!
Ziti and zest
Zither and zit
I’m beginning to think that Z is pretty hip!
Zepplin and zygote
Zoophile and Zoe
She’s not even Greek – unless I didn’t know.
Zoo’s are fun
Getting zonked can be great
Zien is a protein and Zen Buddhism can wait
Zax, zipper, zircon and Zealous
Go Z!
Why don’t you just tell us that this zipping Zimbabwean zephyr of a poem is really just a message to the one who will roam!

This is Adam Fletcher’s poetry blog. All works are copyright 2009 by Adam Fletcher, unless otherwise stated. Do not reproduce in any fashion without the explicit permission from the author.