Here’s an interview I did with Kris Welch of the Bay Area’s KPFA 94.1 station on June 13, 2018. An exciting conversation, we covered adultism, youth engagement, ephebiphobia and more.
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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!
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.
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.
This well-meaning, but poorly informed narrative generally leaves readers with the following points:
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.
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:
Let’s look at the whole picture instead of hen-pecking according to popular assumptions and projections. Let’s support young people, for real.
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.
What do you think? Anything you’d add to the list?
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.
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…