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.

10 Signs You’re Experiencing Adultism

Here’s the new “10 Signs You’re Experiencing Adultism” poster I made for The Freechild Project. Following are the 10 signs:

  1. “You’ll understand when you get older” is your middle name.
  2. You’re forced to go to school.
  3. You aren’t allowed to choose your clothes, the people you hang out with, or the places you spend your time.
  4. You can’t make decisions about your own body without parental consent.
  5. You do the same work for less pay than adults.
  6. Adults say, “Because I said so,” to you.
  7. You have to take standardized tests in underfunded schools.
  8. Marketers sell you cool things instead of useful things.
  9. You can’t vote because you’re under a certain age.
  10. The sign says, “No two people under 18 without adult supervision.”

Other signs: Arbitrary punishments, Driving While Young, School-to-Prison Pipeline, School choice, Forced medical care, No access to banking, Access to healthcare, Standardized curriculum, Age of candidacy, Commercialization of youth culture… And So Much More!

 

Related Articles

 

 

Olympia—Partners Needed for a Youth Event

Talking with a number of young people in Olympia in informal settings, I recently discovered there is a desire for a youth leadership training for them. However, without money to attend, these “nontraditionally engaged” youth don’t feel like they can do it. So I’m going to pull together a one-day youth action training here in Olympia focused on The Freechild Project Youth Action Kit.

Right now I’m calling for volunteers and partner orgs for this one day event at the end of June.
WHY
Provide nontraditional youth leaders the opportunity to build their skills and knowledge on how to change the world.
WHAT/WHEN 
In late June 2013, I am going to facilitate a one-day, nine-hour training for youth and adults focused on youth leadership in changing the world. This is a skill-building, knowledge-sharing event that will increase participants’ abilities to successfully take action for social change. The main target group is local youth of all stripes from the Thurston County area. 
This will be a hands-on, interactive, fun event that focuses on actual action to change the world. I do not talk down to youth, and I’m not a hype-man; instead, I facilitate practical, meaningful action by young people working with adults as partners. The goal of the training is to promote youth engagement in practical, powerful, and positive social change.
WHO
  • Up to 100 participants will be accepted to come individually or in groups.
  • There is no cost to participate, and there are NO requirements beyond pre-registration. 
  • Certificates can be given that designate the number of hours attended and topics covered.
  • Youth ages 12 to 19 will be invited directly.
  • Local youth-serving programs and organizations will be invited.
  • Adult allies of all kinds, including teachers, parents, youth workers, counselors, business people, elected officials, government workers, and others will be invited to attend.
WHERE 
TBD. Suggestions are welcome.
YOUR ROLE 
Freechild needs co-sponsors for this event. I am facilitating it for free and I’m 
not collecting any fees. I invite YOU and your organization to provide any of the following:
  • Participants
  • Logistical support
  • Location 
  • Event planning
  • Food
  • Promotion
  • Flip chart paper
  • Markers
  • Photocopies & printing
  • Give-aways
  • ?????
TOPICS
The topics for this training are still being determined, but will definitely cover how to organize Youth Action as I’ve written in The Freechild Project Youth Action Kit. They may also cover topics from The Freechild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide, which is focused on youth taking action to change the world.
QUESTIONS
  • What do I get for partnering? If you choose to partner with me for this event, I will include your logo on materials and acknowledge your org or business during the event.
  • How often will this happen? Its a one-time training.
  • How much does it cost? Its free.
  • Is there a program supporting it? This event is not program-centered.
  • What is it going to cover? This is a general skill-building and knowledge-sharing training event, and not a train-the-trainer event.
  • What are the outcomes? It may inspire participants to go out and take action in the community, and they’ll received materials to support that. It may inspire participants to change their own lives. It might just be fun for a day.
  • Are there other programs doing this? WASC, based in Oly, offers a statewide student leadership training statewide program doesn’t reach the generally disengaged youth population of the area. Voices of Youth is program-driven youth voice with a specific agenda focused on school health.
  • Why do you think you can do this? I have trained thousands of youth in hundreds of topics for more than a decade, and have developed youth leadership development programs in 50 communities nationwide. Learn more about me at my website.
  • Is there any real need for this beyond a few youths’ opinions? I love Oly’s youth programs, and have supported each of them by donating my time and money and volunteering for more. Currently, I know of no programs offered by CYS, GRuB, Together, Stonewall Youth, or the even among the city’s state agenciesthat  provide leadership development for their participants focused on general social change. Instead, they’re all topic-specific, if at all. So yes, there’s a real need, and generally speaking, local nonprofits don’t have the resources or staff to facilitate this kind of training. I’ve also done this 6 times before in Oly.
  • Why do you REALLY want to do this? Basically, I do all this work nationally and want to contribute back to the city I live in by volunteering my time, knowledge, and ability.
  • How can I get involved? Give me a call at (360) 489-9680 or email adam@freechild.org.
  • I’m not from Oly—can I still come? YES! Get in touch. 
  • How can I get this in my city? Contact me.
  • How can I get more info? Sign up for the CommonAction newsletter, the Freechild facebook page, or send me an email.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

The Freechild Project Publication Guide

Did you know about all the publications offered by The Freechild Project? For more than a decade we’ve offered a series of publications for free and available on Amazon.com. Below is The Freechild Project publication guide, featuring our most popular books and guides!

 

The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide

This guide is an introduction to youth-driven programming for nonprofits, government agencies, and other youth-serving organizations. The booklet gives a definition and compares approaches, and then provides planning tools, evaluations and assessments, and more. It includes the Ladder of Youth Voice, rubrics for assessing youth-driven programming, and links to examples and resources that readers can explore on their own. Available here.

Freechild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide

24 hands-on, interactive workshops designed to teach youth and adults about how to successfully engage young people. Includes workshops on communication, planning, and other topics. Available here.
Washington Youth Voice Handbook

An introductory guide that lays out what, why, who, when, where, and how youth voice happens in diverse communities across Washington State. The handbook includes a Youth Voice Assessment, the Washington Youth Voice Directory, and a resource section. Available here.

Guide to Social Change Led By and With Young People

Centering on the “Cycle of Youth Engagement,” this publication is a summary of the social change issues and actions addressed by and with young people around the world. Written by Adam Fletcher and Joseph Vavrus. Available here.

Guide to Cooperative Games for Social Change

An introductory guide for young people, youth workers, teachers, and others interested in making social change engaging and relevant to all participants. Written by Adam Fletcher and Kari Kunst. Available here.

Firestarter Program Participant Guidebook

A hands-on guide to youth engagement in social change. Includes sections on motivation, skill-building, issue awareness, action planning, and resources. Written by Adam Fletcher. Available here.

Firestarter Facilitator’s Guide

A guide for youth and adult facilitators to the activities used in the Firestarter Program. Written by Adam Fletcher. Available here.

Discover many more articles, tools, and assorted publications available from The Freechild Project here. We also have a collection of free info from across the internet in The Freechild Project Library.
Let me know what YOU’D like to see available from Freechild next!
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Coming May 2013: "Inconvenient Youth" by Adam Fletcher

CommonAction is proud to announce
Coming May 2013
“Inconvenient Youth: A Guide to Discrimination Against Young People” 
by Adam Fletcher, founder of The Freechild Project.

Contact us for information, including author booking and appearances, orders, and more.
Phone (360) 489-9680
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

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 http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

White Culture Dominates Youth Engagement

White middle class culture dominates youth engagement. As the predominant culture in the U.S. today, white people operate many of the nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and education institutions where youth engagement activities occur throughout our society.

In most communities, white people like me create the policy, write the grants, operate the programs, identify the participants, develop the activities, hire the workers, manage the budgets, discipline the participants, evaluate and assess the activities, and promote youth engagement as a concept.

Elements of white middle class dominant culture are the driving force in our notions, activities, knowledge, ideals, and outcomes from youth engagement. Our ways of operating, our systems of belief, and our culture drives the nature of the work we do. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.

In their article “Elements of White Middle Class Dominant Culture“, authors Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun identify the following traits as elements: Perfectionism, sense of urgency, defensiveness, quantity over quality, worship of the written word, only one right way, paternalism, either/or thinking, power hoarding, fear of open conflict, individualism, I’m the only one, progress is bigger/more, objectivity, and the right to comfort.

These traits are predominant in much of the youth engagement work I’ve seen across North America over the last decade. Perfectionism is typical of many organizations and programs that constantly strive to “get it right” without ever finding contentment among the ambiguity of young people. Many other traits, including quantity over quality; only one right way; either/or thinking; power hoarding; I’m the only one; bigger/more thinking; and the right to comfort are hallmarks for many programs and projects.

I find myself responsible for perpetuating many of these traits as I teach people about youth engagement. I constantly talk about the urgency of now, frequently inciting Dr. King’s work while railing against the perpetual disengagement of youth in most communities. The defensiveness implicit in my call extends from a sense of not-worthiness when I bring up the topic of youth engagement. Thinking about individualism and paternalism, I can see my entire practice as a consultant come into focus, as I work alone in many circumstances.

Identifying these traits isn’t about what is bad or wrong; instead, its an acknowledgment that there is another way to do things. Einstein’s insistence that doing the same thing over and over again is the definition of insanity may be spot on; we need new visions for youth engagement if we’re ever going to achieve mainstream cultural and social change.

If nothing else, I am going to facilitate new conversations for people to talk about the white middle class hegemony of youth engagement. I am going to make space for more cultures to inform and motivate youth engagement. I am going to keep bringing more people into the conversation, and continue stepping out of the way when its time.

What are YOU going to do?

 

Resources

 

Adam Fletcher on Social Media

Here are some of the social media channels Adam Fletcher operates!

The Freechild Project—Connecting young people and social change.

SoundOut—Promoting Meaningful Student Involvement in school change.

Adam Fletcher—Youth engagement consultant, speaker and writer

 

A Culture of Age Discrimination


Age discrimination is everywhere. It’s our culture of age discrimination that ensures everyone discriminated against because of their age, and everyone will discriminate against someone because of their age at some point in their lives. Until we recognize this cause-and-effect relationship we all experience, we cannot truly fight any aspect of age discrimination.

Understanding Age
First, we have to recognize there is an age continuum that has been made up in our society. This continuum assumes abilities, knowledge, interest, and output for people according to their ages. 
On the continuum, there are four primary roles:
  • Child—Generally situated anywhere between the ages of birth and adulthood, in my analysis childhood focuses on birth to the age of youth. 
  • Youth—Between the ages of child and adult is a unique position called youth. Varying according to cultural tradition, youth can include ages 12 to 18, 12 to 21, 12 to 25, or even 12 to 34. 
  • Adult—Generally agreed on as a period of general social acceptance, adulthood is commonly seen as the period from age 18 through to being seen as a senior, or older person. 
  • Older—Also called seniors or geriatrics, older people are treated as a distinct population starting around age 65. They may demonstrate physical or mental signs of aging, or simply be treated differently because of their age. 

These four roles in society determine attitudes towards them, and in turn, treatments of them. They aren’t necessarily negative all the time; instead, the treatment variates according to environment, culture, socio-economic background, physical ability, and other identities.

However, in the vast majority of circumstances throughout our society, adults are treated most favorably. Adultcentrism is a dominant feature throughout communities, governments, homes and families, faith-based communities, and even schools.


Adultcentrism is based on adultism, which is bias towards adults. This bias is the central force in causing the three resultant phenomena of pediaphobia, which is the fear of children; ephebiphobia, which is fear of youth; and gerontophobia, which is fear of older people. While all of these are reliant on each other for their emphasis and power, each is rooted in the primary bias towards adults.

The Relationships Between Age Discriminations

Consistently favoring adults leads to these discriminations in a variety of ways. Namely, adultism is used internally by individuals to justify their fears of alternating age groups of which they don’t belong or don’t favor.

Adults may dislike children because they appear remote from behaving, acting, looking like, or becoming adults. This dislike is rationalized by developing a fear due to the perception of remoteness among children. This fear of children is pediaphobia.

Despite being an increasingly unique period of life distinct from childhood and adulthood, the period of youth or adolescence is seen as a transitory state that’s neither here nor there; it’s not child or adult. That lack of positioning in many adults’ eyes leads to distrust, which in turn is justified by fear. The fear of youth is ephebiphobia.

As adults seek to constantly secure and reinforce their positions as dominant authorities, they impose their will, perspectives, beliefs, ideas, cultures, structures, attitudes, and actions on all others who are not them. This enforces adultcentric perspectives, and reinforces adultism.

Aging beyond ready recognition as the mainline adult, older people or seniors become seen as less-than-adult. Justifying this perception with negative attitudes and actions, adults of a younger age enforce their perspectives over older people through adultism. They justify this with a conscious or unconscious fear of seniors, which is gerontophobia.

I have long contended that in order to address any of these, we must name them accordingly. Now I know that to name any of them, we must name all of them and see how they’re reliant on each other. How’d I do?

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