COVID-19 Strikes; Perspectives of Youth Tank

A new reality is setting in around the world as more people are practicing social distancing, isolating themselves within their homes and accepting that Things have changed. Among those people are children and youth today.

Not merely passive actors in this gigantic play, young people are finding their schools shut for uncertain amounts of time; parents at home and out of work, or working from home; and the looming threat of a virus killing family members, neighbors, teachers and others they know and care about.

Unfortunately, the media is taking this as an opportunity to paint young people with a wide, negative brush. They are assaulting children and youth with hyperbole, dismissing them with adultism and demeaning them with plain hatred and antipathy.

What It Sounds Like

Youth participating in a summer camp facilitated by Adam Fletcher

For example, today, the Wall Street Journal alerted its readers to a fictitious impending generational war brewing over coronavirus. The Washington Post is using hyperbole to club people over the head that children might be secret agents for COVID-19. The Boston Globe is framing young people as schoolhouse marms who are scolding their parents. In Canada, youth are being pinned as carriers attacking adults, too.

Advocates for youth, including those of us who care about youth voice, youth involvement, youth empowerment, youth activism, youth leadership and any form of giving a damn about young people, have to be attentive right now to all these damning perceptions. They are not reality, and they will harm young people today and into the future.

I would suggest the tone being set right now is will shift the culture long into the future. For more than two decades, we’ve made progress with adults perspectives of young people leading positive social change. In recent years, this has become more pronounced with youth leading massive movements for social change.

However, given the threat that viewpoint poses to the adultocracy that dominates our daily lives, there will surely be a backlash. Unfortunately, I believe we’re seeing that emerge right now, and more pronounced than ever before.

What To Do

Adultocracy—A governing system that assumes power should be concentrated in the hands of adult members of society; the collection of obvious and unobvious tools adults use to impose their authority, domination and superiority over children and youth.

Freechild Institute Glossary

Adult allies to young people have to stand up with and for young people right now. We have to message on social media, promote in our online workspaces and otherwise communicate to our coworkers, our friends and family, politicians and others three essential messages:

  • Young people are not the problem; they are the solution;
  • Adults need to support young people with attitudes, words and actions right now, and;
  • Organizations need to stand with youth as allies more than ever before.

By focusing on deliberate support for young people right now, we can continue to move forward in our society with young people providing essential wisdom, ideas, action and outcomes. Without this focus, we might lose the ground we’ve gained for all these years of struggle.

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Exciting Youth Activism

People get excited watching the news. Like playing a fiddle, newscasters portray very depressing, very upsetting and slightly uplifting events as if they were regular, everyday events. Youth activism has fallen prey to this.

Using young activists as exceptional fodder to capture the attention of viewers and readers, sources including social media, newspapers, websites and television have taken comfort in knowing whenever they show a certain 16-year-old activist they’ll upset particular viewers into calling, emailing or responding somehow.

These same sources quickly post the latest protests, highlighting the picket signs and skin colors of the youth protesters. They are pulling on heartstrings of supporters, and pushing the buttons of haters.

Exciting youth activists aren’t to blame for this either. This isn’t a call to “get those kids off the stage.” Instead, I want to challenge the media to stop sensationalizing and tokenizing youth activism. This doesn’t mean they should normalize it, but it also means that they should quit with the alienation and separation of youth activists in the media. Infantilizing youth activists has to quit, too; when a large school district recently gave youth one day off yearly for civic engagement, a lot of media wrangled their hands at overwhelming the kids. Apparent indifference is no answer either, as was the media’s response to 20 years of activism before today.

Let’s move away from all the bogus responses to youth activism, and instead increase peaceful, kind and accepting responses that will benefit us all.

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Does The Media Treat Youth Fairly?

Recently, I answered an interview request with some pretty deep questions about adultism. I answered them, and thought I’d share my responses with you. In this question, the interviewer essentially asked me whether the media treats youth fairly. Here’s how I responded:

I’m an adherent to the analysis of Mike Males, Henry Giroux, Michele Fine and bell hooks, along with others, each of whom argues that American media, politicians and others have manipulated society’s perceptions of youth in order to profiteer off young people more effectively. This analysis informs the economic analysis I laid out in question 12, which relies on negative public conceptions of youth to continue their grossly cynical economization of youth today.

Whether portrayed as incapable, innocent children; hyper-violent adult-esque criminals; or apathetic irrelevant leeches on their parents; as a whole, youth today are wholly maligned by media of all sorts, and treated as mere economic pawns. That allows politicians, corporations, and others to profiteer off youth in countless ways, further perpetuating the oppression of adultism and the weaponization of social institutions against youth.

Let me know what you think about the question or my response in the comments below? Thanks!


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Youth Hyperbole of the Day

Two murders by two sets of teens within a week in two towns somewhere in America: Get ready for the onslaught of generalizations, hyperbole, and overall negative news about the state of youth today.

Once again, we’ll see the media overhype these particular situations to serve their own purposes.

In reality, young people murder young people every day in the US. Young people murder older people, old people murder young people, and old people murder old people. People of European descent murder people of African descent, people of African descent murder people of European descent, people of European descent murder people of European descent, people of African descent murder people of African descent. Rich murder poor, poor murder rich, rich murder rich, poor murder poor.

Guess which of these will get news coverage? The ones that makes the most profit for the media, the advertisers, and the manufacturers who buy advertisements.

On the other end, parents and teachers, youth workers and counselors across the country and even reaching around the world will be left with the further disenfranchisement of their young people. All because a few people will make many dollars off a few particular circumstances that are strung together in a convenient package to form a false image of the state of youth today.

If it isn’t violence, there is a litany of other topics focused on children and youth that are hyped by the media too, including education, healthcare, pop culture, toys, fashion, employment, and much more.

This makes media outlets no different from the rappers they frequently disparage, or the politicians who demonize these events in order to further their careers. However, instead of sensationalizing youth violence today, we need to be talking about how, why, and where discrimination against young people is happening today.

In my new book, Ending Discrimination Against Young People, I explore how the media, schools, governments, and others work together to make their hyperbole sell web ads, mold politicians, drive school agendas, and generally blow up democracy and public well-being every single day.

That’s the real conversation we need to have.

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

Stop Attacking Youth!

Another day, another article slamming young people for not being activists. This one comes from the Left, effectively making its author a fremeny to youth activists today. (He joins these hallowed ranks with Todd Gitlin, among others.)

This well-meaning, but poorly informed narrative generally leaves readers with the following points:

  • There isn’t any/enough youth activism today.
  • The world is hard.
  • Young people are held down by the world.
  • There are logical reasons why they’re held down.
  • Things will never be as good as they were in the past.
  • Youth today will never be as good as they were in the past.

Its that last point that sounds so familiar. Given the long shadow cast by false generational analysis over the last 20 years (thank you Strauss and Howe), its no wonder why the Left attacks young people in equal measure to the Right. People who are progressive or liberal must must depart from this bad ideology and find consensus in post-modern analyses focused on socio-economic realities, instead of arbitrary age markers.

Realize this: Young people are working to change America like they never have before, using effective, sustainable ways that take time, energy, and commitment. Anti-democratic and uneffective roguish rock-throwing and police harassing only ever goes so far, and that’s why there’s very little left of the 60s and 70s youth movement. Today’s youth movement is a lot more sophisticated and is creating long-lasting change. Bad analyses, like the one cited at the beginning of this entry, mislead people into believing otherwise. However, there’s plenty going on right now.

The reason why we need to see what’s really going on is that it’s mostly young people of color and low-income youth who are deeply activating and making change happen. Mainstream media and mainstream academia isn’t going to promote what’s actually happening because they’re deeply invested in sustaining the status quo. Portraying youth in a true light, including their inspired organizing and powerful outcomes, challenges that status quo.

By comparing generations, conservative news sources and neoliberal academics effectively perpetuate disingenuous support of the past by lionizing those activists, while demonizing and demoralizing young people today. The vast majority of these authors don’t see the level of efficacy, depth of action, and breadth of engagement that’s going on out there.

Calling for the rallying of masses of young people, these authors are perpetuating a disillusion myth about the past. The masses of youth were never truly activists in any social movement, particularly in the 1960s and 70s. For every young person on the front lines holding picket signs and teach ins, how many others were mere moochers on the movement who joined in so-called “love-ins” and smoked pot in order to enjoy the escapism those activities offered? True adult supporters of youth activists shouldn’t be concerned with those masses of youth. Well-positioned upper class and middle class kids get all the coverage in the media and from many of the world-changing youth programs they want. They don’t need our interest or support, because they have very little authentic motivation to change anything. They do it for reasons that I don’t personally connect with, and that I don’t think are fair to the world we live in today.

Its the young people who don’t have any choice but to change the world, who will be swallowed up by the abyss of consumeristic self-interest, those are the ones I’m most interested in. Those are the ones the Left should really keep an eye on, because while they’re the ones most in need of social change right now, luckily, they are the fighters who are most deeply engaged in the struggle right now.

In order to see these youth activists, the Left has to stop framing young people and making their disengagement the issue. Doing this the Left perpetuating the horribly minimalistic and defeatist misconception that’s been popular in mainstream media and academia over the last 15+ years. The reality that’s been waiting to be seen is that young people are changing the world right now in positive, powerful ways. They could really use the support of the Left in all its myriad forms.

Here’s what’s really happening right now:

  • There is a lot of youth activism happening today.
  • The world is changing for the better, right now.
  • Young people are partially responsible for the positive, powerful change happening.
  • Youth activists today are not recognized for the hard won successes happening.
  • A new world is possible, and young people are ushering that world in.
  • Youth today stand in solidarity with the past, while ushering in the future.
  • They could use adult support. All youth can.

Let’s look at the whole picture instead of hen-pecking according to popular assumptions and projections. Let’s support young people, for real.

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

Youth Power in 2012

Long-ranging, deep, effective social change largely happens through communication, people talking with people. Education and entertainment are tools of manipulation as well as enlightenment, and they work to change society. 

In mainstream social change, the 1960s and 70s hippies in the U.S. relied on educating their peers and young people in order to bring more people into the ranks. They held workshops and sit-ins, classes and rallies all focused on raising individual knowledge and awareness of the social change they wanted to see. In the 1990s and 2000s conservatives in the U.S. relied on manipulating people through the media in order to spread their message and bring “believers” on board. Perhaps the most sophisticated approach to large scale social change happened from the 1920s through the 1960s, when the African American Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. staged a two-pronged approach to transforming American society. Their usage of mainstream media pulled on heartstrings while their consciousness-raising education activities effectively reached every American, and caused transformations that still ripple through society today.
In the process of the last century, youth power emerged as a startlingly effective force for communicating social change. Starting with the 1936 Declaration of the Rights of American Youth written by the American Youth Congress, young peoples’ voices are being heard with ever-greater power and impact on society. This 1936 creed resulted in the creation of the National Youth Administration, which while it was short lived, showed the power of youth when it was destroyed by Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare. The 1943 Zoot Suit Riots in Los Angeles showed the compelling power of Latino youth to control popular culture, and the effect when white American adults don’t like that. Their actions led to an increased awareness of the presence of Latinos throughout the U.S., and introduced the weapon of cultural awareness into the battle against discrimination.  The emergence continued in the early 1960s with the formation of Students for a Democratic Society. Their Port Huron Statement effectively set the agenda for a generation of white, middle class young people who were determined to fight for democracy. In the 1970s, the Youth Liberation Press of Ann Arbor, Michigan, began printing and mailing thousands of copies of publications written by young people, for young people- and adults. And many read these pieces, too. There are so many other ways youth power became more real than ever before, but that’s the past.
In 2012, young people are educating and manipulating society as never before. Social media, which is the predominant tool for popular culture manipulation and education, is being used by children, youth, young adults, and their adults in order to create, grow, foster, sustain, and enhance social change. There has never been a force like it before, and young people have never experienced power like this before.
Youth power is by no means limited to the Internet or computers, either. I predict we will see a surge in the development of participatory technologies throughout society that allow, encourage, and build social action in all corners of our community and world over the next 20 years. We will see more effective democratic voting platforms, more engaging community group activism, more substantive usage of social media. All of these tools are being built to engage; more importantly, they are going to enhance and grow. 
Communication is power, and that power belongs to young people today.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

Most Popular Posts of 2011

Alright, here are the most popular posts of 2011 written by Adam Fletcher for the CommonAction Consulting blog. Enjoy!

  1. When Youth Leaders Sell Out, 
  2. Why Adultism Must Stop,
  3. All Engagement Matters,
  4. Heartspace: The Engine of Personal Engagement,
  5. The Rough Moments,
  6. Brand New Youth,
  7. Anti-Adultism Parenting Resources,
  8. What Did We Do?,
  9. 20 Steps Towards Youth Engagement,
  10. What It Looks Like: Adultism In Schools,
  11. Infinite Ripples, or, Standing WITH Other People, 
  12. Every Young Person Engaged,

What do you think? Anything you’d add to the list?

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

See Young People

The epidemic focused on denying young people’s role in modern society continues. In the last week I have seen two articles that attack the very existence of youth today, albeit from two different angles. A major problem with these two specific articles is that they come from within the so-called “youth movement.”

Nancy Lublin, the CEO of NYC-based Do Something, moonlights as a regular columnist for the progressive business magazine Fast Company. I meant Lublin once in the early 2000s at an America’s Promise event, and have read Fast Company for a decade. I wish neither of them ill.  For almost two years now, Lubkin’s articles in the magazine have rubbed me wrong. They’re either smuggly self-aggrandizing diatribes, not unlike my blogs, or they’re plainly generational boosterism that romanticizes the abilities of younger people. Last month’s article falls squarely into the ranks of the latter, and that’s why it makes this entry, aptly demanding that we, “See Young People.” In it Lublin goes about promoting Millennials as the be-all-end-all of social change, young people who, devoid of guidance or anchoring from previous generations, have risen to the tops of their communities to change the world, all on their own. Devoid of obligation to or acknowledgment of the giants who have walked before them, apparently Lublin believes that young people today are the whipping boys of all generations. That’s just a gross over-romanticization, and plays right into a sense of generational inferiority and inability that is not limited to any one generation. (Don’t get me wrong: Lublin’s organizational strategy relies on discriminating against youth, thinking she knows everything about youth today, and I get that. I disagree with her wholeheartedly.) Every generation is subjected to the scrutiny and judgment of previous turns, and in this way, this generation is no worse than others before it…

…which apparently flies in the face of the next article up for scrutiny. Global Youth Action Network, long run by people who I respect, is apparently siding with the generally age-discriminatory New York Times. In August The Times took it upon themselves to typecast all 20-somethings today with the type of news that makes Lublin’s analysis seem fitting and necessary. In one broad stroke, they validated every frustrated baby boomer by broadcasting their facetious answers to the questions, “What Is It About 20-Somethings? Why are so many people in their 20s taking so long to grow up?” Apparently, since people are taking longer today to do five “milestones” carved out by sociologists as essential to achieving adulthood, (completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child), our society may be going to a bad, bad place where it’s never gone before. (The best, best essay I’ve ever read about this is by Jeff Chang.)

What Lublin and The Times get wrong is their generational typecasting: simply because somebody fits into an age group doesn’t mean that they’re going to think or act in a prescribe-able, predictable way. Lublin is guilty of this because of her well-intended, but over-hyping, of young people today; The Times is just wrong. The author of this piece is apparently ignorant of young people for whom this mold just doesn’t fit.

All this brings to mind a quote by French revolutionary author Frantz Fanon, who once wrote that, “He who is reluctant to recognize me opposes me.” Ironically, I think the boosters and the detractors are in the same boat, in that they both refuse to recognize young people for who they really are: diverse, broad, and uncharactizable. For all intents and purposes, let’s quit typecasting children, youth, and young adults today- they are simply too different for any generalization to stick across their entire age range. Watch this excellent video with Sir Ken Robinson for more information. And then let’s get to the work of personalization: if you want to slam young people, be specific! Target those middle class white suburban youth who you grew up with! Aim at those low-income Hispanic and Latino youth who you fear! Pull for the upper class, well-meaning white girls who you’ve always envied.

Whatever you do, however you do it, please, please, please: SEE Young People.

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

DMV Crash Crisis Reaches Fever Pitch!

For years I’ve been reading media analyses of youth issues by renowned scholars and academics like Henry Giroux and Mike Males. A post on Facebook by a friend of mine inspires my first chance to share an observation of my own called, “DMV Crash Crisis Reaches Fever Pitch!”

For years the public has been bombarded by stories of scary young drivers by newspapers, t.v. reporters, and recently, car insurance providers. Today’s story comes courtesy of WPXI in Pennsylvania. Rather than simply reporting on a driver who crashed through the local DMV office after their test, the article’s title focused on the age of the offender: “Bridgeville DMV Closed After Teen Crashes Through Building.” This gross sensationalism highlights that the driver was a teenager, rather than being frustrated, intimidated, or forgetful.

Readers of this article are implicitly encouraged to assume this is a teen-specific issue. But a quick google search shows that crisis doesn’t just affect youth! Instead, it’s torturing all age groups across the country:

More importantly than it being an age-specific issue, I think the headlines should focus on the phenomenon and frequency of drivers crashing into DMVs before, during, and after their tests. What’s up with that? Maybe an in-depth analysis by a serious news agency or an expose on the pressures of driver’s tests is due; perhaps a bold legislator in some hyper-vigilant state will propose a bill to ban driver’s testing at DMV offices. Who knows how far this can go? But please, please, let’s stop with the media-fueled paranoia focused on youth for any reason, including driving…

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