Youth-Driven Programming Dos and Don’ts

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This is a short checklist for Youth-Driven Programming. I wrote it for nonprofits, schools, and other organizations that want to ensure their activities are meaningful for young people. You can own your own copy of the dos and don’ts by purchasing a copy of our new book from! ORDER YOUR COPY NOW.

If you want to learn more about Youth-Driven Programming, contact our office today by emailing or calling (360)489-9680.

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

Stop Beating Kids: Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools

  • 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 time
  • Forcing a child to stay in an uncomfortable position
  • Forcing a child to stand motionless
  • Forcing a child to kneel on rice, corn, floor grates, pencils or stones
  • Forcing a child to retain body wastes
  • Forcing a child to perform strenuous exersize
  • Forcing a child to ingest soap, hot sauce, or lemon juice

THIS IS CORPORAL PUNISHMENT. All corporal punishment is child abuse, and child abuse teaches students nothing. 19 states in the U.S. still allow corporal punishment in their schools, and this must stop now.

“Bullying is enough of a problem among students; the teachers shouldn’t be doing it, too. There’s nothing positive or productive about corporal punishment and it should be discouraged everywhere.” Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)

Anytime a young person is treated this way they are being abused. These forms of abuse are the cruelest, most unjust, and most ineffective treatment young people can receive. While including both, corporal punishment goes beyond adultism, beyond adultcentrism, and straight to child abuse. 
The most basic right of any person today is the right to live in peace. 

While that may sound simplistic or naive, violence is a daily reality for almost every young person in the world today. Physical violencewar, family abuse, bullying, and gang violence; mental abuseparental abuse, teacher abuse, or verbal put-downs— and child neglect surround young people. These are all forms of violence. The institutions that are purportedly supposed to support our children and youth, places like schools, hospitals, and governments, abuse young people. In their homes young people face violence through popular media, like television shows, movies, pop music, and video games. And violence surrounds young people in many ways that we don’t see, 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 news.
This abuse adds up. According to a United Nations study,

“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.”

It’s a statistic like this that leaves 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.
Luckily, our North American eyes are beginning to fully comprehend the imperative any ethical person faces when dealing with the situation of young people and violence today. We are beginning to stand with young people to change the situations that they face, and the situations our world faces. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (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 worldminus the US and Somalia, who are the only non-signatory countries. Canada and Mexico have signed on. There is no other convention, consensus, or constitution in the world that is more widely accepted than the CRC. So the vast majority of global governments agree that corporal punishment is a significant premise for social change, and we agree that young people should help lead anti-abuse efforts.

I believe that corporal punishment is the root of all discrimination in society. Premised on the hatred of young people, on adultism, on the self- and cultural repression of childhood, corporal punishment is made worse through dozens of other factors, including socio-economic class, gender, race, ethnicity, and more… Corporal punishment is at the heart of all this.

Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act
In 2010, Representative Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat from New York, introduced a bill called “Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act” in the US House of Representatives. The bill would impose a ban on all public and private schools with students that receive federal services. Learn more about the bill, and support it. I do. 

Stop beating kids.

Resources on the Ending Corporal Punishment in Schools Act

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

Youth Involvement Stagnates

The national youth involvement movement has stagnated. For more than 20 years it has promoted almost the exact same approaches to addressing challenges are radically different today than ever before. Something has got to get different, and get that way rapidly.

I first became aware of the national effort to systematically involve youth throughout systems when I was 15. That year I was given a manual by the neighborhood Methodist church focused on youth involvement at church. I don’t remember too much about it, but I know that it highlighted different models of youth involvement and gave examples. That was 1990.

Ten years later I was hired into the national youth voice movement as a youth ambassador by the Points of Light Foundation, or POLF. At that point POLF had a high profile in that movement, sending folks around the country to promote the gospel of involving youth throughout society. That diminished in the years after, but the movement did not. Instead, throughout the 2000s more organizations than ever before sought to involve youth in decision-making, planning, evaluation, training, and advocacy. It was a powerful time. I logged a lot of these groups through my work in building The Freechild Project online database.

One of the feature technical assistance organizations, Youth On Board, contracted with me a few years ago to rewrite their primary manual about youth involvement, now called 15 Points to Successfully Involving Youth in Decision-Making. It was exciting to expose new action happening across the country focused on diversity in youth involvement, and show how deep the national movement had grown.

A lot of these efforts have been cut lately, and those that are left are generally slugging on the ropes. However, as much as I think this is a failure of politicians and movement builders to understand the necessity of youth involvement, I think it’s a failure of the movement itself to transform with the times.

Instead of adopting radical new approaches to engaging youth throughout society, most organizations promoting youth involvement stagnated through the last decade, and are now stuck precisely where they started.

Here are some examples of youth involvement that might be from 2001 or 2011, reflecting the inability of the movement to change with the times:

Those are all typical youth board member positions. Here are some exceptional ones:

Other places to look for exceptional examples of fully participating youth board members include city governments, and cities like Hampton, Virginia.

We need new approaches that re-envision the roles of young people throughout society. Youth involvement has stagnated.

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

Making Public Policy

The levers of public policy aren’t often considered when it comes to youth involvement and youth voice. Sure, there is a group of America’s Youth Councils that is rallying the nation’s youth councils to unite and take action and everything – and I’m with them 100%. But honestly, what this movement needs are strategic agendas that are designed to secure actual support from actual politicians in order to foster actual change.

Governments at all levels across the US can create changes in law, rules and regulations in order to promote youth voice and youth involvement. Those policy changes could look like this:

  • Local, county, regional, state, and federal governments mandated to create policies that ensure youth civic engagement;
  • Lower the federal voting age from 18 to 12;
  • All federal agencies that affect young people must create an Office of Student Engagement to foster youth involvement in the management, evaluation, programs, planning, research and decision-making of programs affecting them;
  • Eliminate all age restrictions on public office;
  • Create youth-adult partnership councils for all substantive public offices, including state governors, city councils, and more.
These are just simple ideas. More complex governmental change strategies must be designed to meet the realistic and practical goals of government, in order for advocates to successfully navigate the complex inner workings of democratic government. Making public policy is the one step of many to re-envision the roles of young people throughout society. 
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Youth Voice & the Federal Government

My first work with the federal government was in 1997 when I joined AmeriCorps in Lincoln, Nebraska. After that I worked in two other AmeriCorps programs and subcontracted with a national training organization for the Corporation for National Service. When I worked at the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction I was in the US Department of Education-funded Title 5 program office. Over the last year I’ve been working with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Coordinated School Health Program in Washington State. All along I have worked as a private contractor and nonprofit organization executive director, providing training and technical assistance directly to dozens of federally-funded education, AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve, and other federally-funded efforts around the country. Needless to say, I am invested in the idea that the federal government has a role in engaging and promoting Youth Voice throughout the U.S.

Today I had the privilege of listening to Washington State Health Officer Dr. Maxine Hayes discuss the central role of women in public health. She spoke a great deal about the role of the federal government in guiding public health practice nationally, and it inspired me to consider my belief and advocacy a little more. Here is what I think about the federal government’s responsibility in engaging, promoting and sustaining Youth Voice throughout our community. I credit Dr. Hayes for inspiring and directing parts of the following.
We need the federal government to create a cohesive Youth Voice agenda that centers on a unified federal strategy that addresses the needs of young people today. It should be based on what we already know through existing data and practice focused on youth voice, youth involvement and youth engagement. Currently policy addressing children and youth is fragmented and spread out across the federal governement. Because of that our Youth Voice strategies are, too.
The federal government needs to invovle states in figuring out the structures needed to support and sustain them in involving young people. The plan should address young people holistically throughout the communities they live in. The most priority should be given to engaging young people who are historically disengaged throughout our society, including low-income youth and young people of color. Additionally the federal government should create some national performance measures for Youth Voice. Let’s use data we already have and measure Youth Voice in every program, every town, every state and answer questions like:
  • Who are the young people in our program/town or state?
  • What do I know about those young people? 
  • What have those young people told me indirectly? Directly?
  • What ways does our community engage their voices?
  • What issues are these young people addressing?
  • What are the disparaties they face in Youth Voice?
  • What resources does our program/town/state have to address those disparities?
We must embrace Youth Voice from all parts of our society. My experience has shown me that the federal government can provide essential leadership in that effort. The President’s office should take leadership, but any agency should step up. “Yes we can.”
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!