Learning from the Me To We Scandal

There is a LOT to learn in the debacle behind the scandal affecting the Canadian organization working internationally called ME to WE.

As a Canadian and as a youth advocate, I’m particularly interested in the lessons of the vigorous anti-Me to WE campaign that’s rallying against the Craig and Marc Keilburger and the movement they’ve established over the last 25 years. To sum up the scandal, the Canadian federal government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is accused of cronyism with the Keilburgers and their organization by granting them a great deal of unsolicited funds designed to employ Canadian youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the organization isn’t without fault, I think the entire situation is merely a cover for a more covert and cynical move by Trudeau’s political opponents. If ME to WE is guilty of anything, it was becoming an opportunistic pawn in a political game they didn’t want to play.

“We were not chosen for this work by public servants because of our relationship with politicians,” said Craig. “We were chosen because we are willing to leverage every part of our 25 years of experience to build this program at the breakneck speed required to have an impact on Canadian youth over the summer.”

Craig Keilburger to the Canada House Finance Committee in July 2020

Now, for the sake of transparency, I’ll reveal that I’ve had some dealings with Free the Children in the past. Starting in 2002, they didn’t like my “Freechild” branding and let me know. I took a few phone calls with the organization to see if there were collaborative spaces we could share. We decided to go different ways, and I’ve tried to stay out of their lane since. I’ve also read two books by the Keilburgers and attended a WE event in Seattle. I am not pro-WE, but I’m not against them either. We work in not dissimilar ways to accomplish particularly related missions, and while I admire their success I’m particularly suspicious of their methods to accomplish their goals.

That said, I think in this case almost the entire case against Me to WE is a smear campaign. In Canada, the Conservative Party is the minority party right now, and they haaaaate Justin Trudeau. They were hunting for a place to go after him, and voila! They found it in Me to WE.

A recent McLean’s article did a pithy job of getting those nonprofit critics to rip on Me to WE, and what they said was just easy criticism. What Me to WE did was use connections to get funding — which is a typical, traditional nonprofit model. They didn’t color outside the lines and they were more successful than others.

Finding people to speak against them is easy for detractors, if only because so many organizations are truly envious of Me to WE’s successes; the same can be said for deeply cynical, thinly veiled haters who opine against the organization and the Keilburger brothers.

All that said, the valid part of the entire campaign targeting Me to WE is that the Keilburger’s relationship between their nonprofit and their business was shady. Coupled with the reality that the Keilberger brothers profited majorly from the whole thing, that’s not good. Early on there were rumors their parents were profiting too. Too much family involvement and too much individual benefit, and the appearance of them gaming the Canadian nonprofit system is real. As this 2010 article shows, concerns about Me to WE are long-standing too — but that’s one thing that reinforces my conclusion that this is a smear campaign: detractors of Me to WE were simply looking for an opportune moment to link Trudeau to something that appeared shady.

However, the real problem in the whole thing is that this smear is larger than Me to WE and larger than Trudeau.

Instead, its a multi-generational campaign intentionally designed by the Conservatives to ensure another generation of Canadians becomes cynical about the nonprofit complex and the do-gooder mission of Me to WE. This is fuel on the fire of hopelessness, and it bums me out because it is going to be successful.

Hundreds of schools will drop Me to WE curriculum and the mission of young people doing good things to help the world become a better place.

I don’t care how they did it (superstar rallies are cosmetic feel-good BS), the fact is they did motivate a generation to get active, both in Canada, here in the States, and in many other nations worldwide. That’s going to go missing now.

This entire scandal is part of a larger pattern that Canada’s Conservatives and Republicans here in the US saw, where young people in schools were taught for 20 years that they should do good things to help people in the world. They saw that was happening and they stepped in to stop it, and that’s largely worked.

Me to WE is the latest casualty in the war for the hearts and minds of young people. Unfortunately, if we lose their work entirely, we are closer to losing another generation of Canadian youth and young people around the world. The cynicism inherent in this scandal will scare the perceptions of young people, and after being reinforced by the media, their parents and their schools, young people will further withdraw from the absolutely essential efforts our world needs them to take to make the situation here better for everyone.

We have to do better.

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New Training Opportunities

Has your nonprofit received a grant to engage youth? Does your local conference need a keynote speaker? Do the staff in your agency need professional development? Contact me today to talk about what The Freechild Project can do for you!

The Freechild Project Training flyer

Promote Youth Engagement in Organizations

How to Promote Youth Engagement in Organizations

1) Share Youth Engagement.

  • Talk with your supervisor, Executive Director, board members, and other decision-makers.
  • Build support by talking to staff members about youth engagement.
  • Train young people about youth engagement, why it matters, and how they can experience it more.
  • Research resources that might help different people in different roles throughout your organization understand youth engagement more.
  • Pass along useful websites, materials, and other info with people who care or need to know.

2) Advocate Action.

  • Explore policy-making in your organization, and advocate for changes that reflect a commitment to sustained youth engagement through programs and throughout the organization.
  • Create an action plan that focuses on sustained programs and projects.
  • Be a constant and strong champion for youth engagement throughout your program or organization.
3) Facilitate Approaches.
  • Remember Gandhi’s idiom, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If you want youth engagement in your program or organization, start engaging youth personally right now.
  • Start leading activities and programs that foster youth engagement right now. Build youth engagement on the personal level for young people, then solidify it throughout your organization.
  • Strengthen your knowledge about youth engagement and then facilitate opportunities for others to learn about it.
4) Critique and Examine Outcomes.
  • Create safe space to engage diverse youth and adults in critical thinking and cultural examinations.
  • Actively engage young people and adults in frank, open conversations about the activity, program, or organization.
  • Ask questions that inquire further into peoples’ assumptions or beliefs, and foster new understanding through having everyone share their experiences and opinions as applicable.
  • Ask hard questions about beliefs, understanding, and outcomes.
  • Examine new opportunities to talk change.
5) DO IT AGAIN!
 
When you travel through each of these steps, you’ll find a variety of awards for your hard work, including youth retention, re-engagement, and much more.
Where These Came From

Recently, I’ve been working with a group of traditional, mainline youth-serving organizations. They offer services to young people living in adverse situations, including homelessness, family disruptions, addiction, and other circumstances. The activities generally fall into the realms of intervention, education, and employment.

Working with them to establish new approaches to their work, I have been slowly introduce my conceptual frameworks focused on youth engagement, especially how I wrote about the subject in my publication, A Short Introduction to Youth EngagementWhen I wrote the Short Intro…, I intentionally didn’t cover many important aspects of moving forward with the concept. Here’s one area that wasn’t addressed.

These are steps that I’ve followed for more than a decade as I’ve taught, trained, advocated for, and lived through many, many youth engagement programs and projects. They’re also what I’m using right now to help others promote this vital concept, too.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you would add, take out, or challenge in the comments section below.More Resources



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

Share the Word!

Help spread the word about my latest book, Ending Discrimination Against Young People. You can share this post, or the webpage, or the Amazon.com page with your friends, family, and colleagues. 

You can also interview me for your blog, write an article about the book, or line me up with any of your contacts to do the same. Contact me today!

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

Factors Affecting Youth Engagement

factors
There are several factors that affect youth engagement. However, today’s popular forms of youth engagement generally don’t acknowledge those factors. Whether or not a young person is going to become engaged is determined by three things:
  • Social and economic environment
  • Physical environment, and
  • Individual characteristics and behaviors

The ways young people live determine their engagement. Because of this, blaming youth for being disengaged from particular activities or issues or crediting them for being engaged in ways you approve of is inappropriate. Youth are unlikely to be able to directly control many of the factors affecting youth engagement.

 

8 Rude Things Adults Say to Young People

When adults are talking rude to young people, they show patronizing superiority. Many parents, youth workers, teachers, and others are not aware of how rude they are towards children and youth.

Most adults would be shocked if young people were as rude towards them as they are towards young people. When we’re confronted by a brave youth, we usually deny it (“that’s not what I meant”, or “you’re being too sensitive”).

However, even well-meaning adults can say things to youth with good intentions that come across as rude. Because of their past experiences, social conditioning, peer influence, and other reasons, most youth are really hesitant to share their real feelings with adults. Because of that, most parents, teachers, youth workers, and other adults who work with youth may never know how they talk towards youth.

Here are eight rude things adults often say to youth. Whenever you say them, its going to sound rude.

8 Rude Things Adults Say to Young People

The risk of writing a list like this is that there are almost always exceptions depending on the context. With young people, as with all people, it’s often not what is said, but how you say it–the tone of the message. A simple phase like, “What’s up” can come across as rude if truly someone feels that they are superior to the other person.

Whatever the case, just beware that if you’re working with young people, you probably sound rude today.

1. “I’m not a creative youth like Lavonia here is, so she should do that!” 

I really doubt that Lavonia loves slogging through mundane details any more than you do, but she has to – as a youth council member or youth staff, it’s her job and not yours, so she does it. She takes pride in what she does too, and does it well. So don’t call her out in front of other adults and youth as a “detail” youth, as if that’s her job as a youth, and then congratulate yourself for being an adult who knows the “big picture”. A similar condensing bit of “praise” for youth is something like, “Hey, let me introduce you to Juan – he’s the one who really runs things around here, not me (snicker, wink).” No, he doesn’t really. You’re an adult, and you run things. Juan is just doing his job as a youth council member, stuff he’s supposed to do. Don’t pretend otherwise.  It may not be a big deal to you, but it must be a big deal to the youth in your program or they would not have brought it up. Adults need to take the time to listen to youth and find out why they are concerned. Then, adults can take the opportunity to coach young people to help them find a solution.

2. “Don’t worry about it,” or “It’s no big deal.” 

It may not be a big deal to you, but it must be a big deal to the youth in your program or they would not have brought it up. Adults need to take the time to listen to youth and find out why they are concerned. Then, adults can take the opportunity to coach young people to help them find a solution.

3. “It’s for your own good.”

That makes adults the only people who can decide what is good for young people? Children and youth should be expected to have a serious, meaningful role in determining their “own good”.

4. “Well, that sounds good in theory, but in the real world….” 

So what world are you saying the young people your are talking to are from? You might want to take some time to hear young peoples’ “theory” out and check your assumptions at the door – the children and youth around you might be more real than you.

5. “We’ll look into that,” “I’ll think about that,” or “You’ll have to work that out on your own.” 

Noncommittal answers dismiss youth and imply they aren’t worth the time, honesty, and effort of adults. Also, again, you’re missing a great opportunity to coach. Ultimately, that’s your job – to coach and guide the young people around you.

6. “I know you’re feeling ______ right now, but you really shouldn’t because…” 

Never assume you know what young people are feeling or tell them how they should be feeling. Ask them how they feel, and acknowledge it by responding with empathy.

7. “You’ll understand when you’re older,” or “When I was your age…” 

Well, maybe young people do understand you right now, and just don’t agree with you. Try finding out why and you might learn something. Taking this approach creates a line of separation between young people and adults and invalidates what children and youth are experiencing right now.

8. “Kid” or “Homie” or “Sweetie” or “Dude” 

Many young people prefer to be called by their first names – but its always a good practice to ask individual people what they’d like to be called.

MORE RUDE THINGS ADULTS SAY TO YOUTH:

Thanks to all the folks who contributed on the FACING ADULTISM Facebook page!): 

  • “I brought you into this world, and I can also take you out!” 
  • ”You’re so smart for fifteen!”
  • “When are you going to grow up?”
  • “Don’t touch that, you’ll break it!”
  • “As long as you are in my house, you’ll do it!”
  • “You’re being childish.”
  • “You’re so stupid (or clumsy, inconsiderate, etc.)!”
  • “Go to your room!”
  • “Don’t ever yell at your mother like that!” (yelling)
  • “She doesn’t understand anything.” (about a baby)
  • “You are too old for that!”
  • “You’re not old enough!”
  • “Oh, it’s only puppy love.” 
  • “If you don’t stop crying I’ll give you something to cry about.” 
  • “What do you know? You haven’t experienced anything!”
  • “It’s just a stage. You’ll outgrow it.”
  • “Go to your room!”
  • “Act your age.”
  • “Children should be seen and not heard.”
  • “What do you know, you’re just a kid!”
  • “Do as I say, not as I do.”
  • “You’ll understand it someday, just you wait.”
  • “It’s my house and you’ll follow my rules!” 
  • ”Calm down,”
  • “You’re just a kid,”
  • “Grow up!”
  • “These kids are a form of birth control!” 
  • “You’re cruisin’ for a bruisin!’” 
  • “Did you just do what I saw you do?”
  • “Because I said so.”
  • “Someday I hope you have a kid and she’s just like you.”
  • “Don’t get smart with me.”
  • “You’ll do it and you’ll like it.”

Ground Rules to Stop Rude Adult Talk

One way to set the stage for clear and comfortable communication between young people and adults is to set ground rules when working together. Here is an example of some commonly used ground rules:

  • Speak for yourself—No put-downs Take responsibility for your words, your action, and your learning
  • Expect unfinished business—Listen to others and to what you are saying, too
  • Have fun—You have the right to pass at any time in group discussions or activities  
  • Create Space—Its important to create environments where young people and adults feel comfortable asking questions and being themselves.
  • Stop Hesitating—Make sure everyone knows they can stop conversation and ask questions at any point. Make it a norm to inject in the conversation when its appropriate.
  • Be Diverse—Celebrate the variety between youth and adults, and among youth, and among adults. AND try to always talk in ways that are understood by everyone in the group.
  • Body Language—Be aware of body language and facial expressions. If you are speaking, pay attention to how other people are reacting and ask questions, if you need to.
  • Be Comfortable—Use language you are comfortable with. Don’t use jargon or slang just to fit in. Just be sure you’re sensitive to others in the group, no matter what their age.  
  • Questions to Ask Yourself—How about you? What does rude speech sound like to you? Do you speak in a way that everyone can understand what you’re saying – young people? adults? people who speak English as a second language? others? Are you aware of the views and perspectives of the young people and adults in the room? Do you talk with others respectfully? Do you listen carefully to what they have to say? If somebody is speaking with words or in a way that is confusing to me, what should I do? When is it okay to use slang or jargon?

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Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher at http://amzn.to/2noYclH
Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

Press Release: Youth Discrimination Is Tearing Society Apart!

PRESS RELEASE:
Youth Discrimination Is Tearing Society Apart!

Olympia, WA—Every parent, teacher, and youth worker knows they aren’t as effective as they could be, but often aren’t sure why. Using willpower to force children and youth to comply, even the most well-meaning adult uses curfews, takes away toys, and bribes with rewards.

There’s hope. ENDING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST YOUNG PEOPLE, by internationally-recognized youth expert Adam Fletcher ($19.95, Createspace Publishing), uses powerful analysis and introduces language related youth discrimination to show readers where, how, and why this problem affects them every single day.

ENDING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST YOUNG PEOPLE details how society routinely discriminates against young people by forcing adult will, implementing rigid age-based policies, and encouraging negative attitudes towards children and youth. Diving deeply throughout communities, Fletcher exposes cultural assumptions and details structural systems that keep young voices from being heard. He also shows how social injustices such as racism, classism, and sexism are related to discriminating against the young.

“We don’t like to hear it, but every adult discriminates against young people,” Fletcher explains. “Understanding and accepting that reality is the really the first step to creating a more just and equitable society for all people.”

Like many parents and youth workers, Fletcher wondered for a long time why more young people weren’t powerfully, purposefully engaged throughout their own lives. After a decade training youth, Fletcher began to piece together the massive, society-wide patterns of discrimination against young people. When he began finding language throughout psychology, sociology, and youth work describing different parts of this discrimination, he saw a blanket literally smothering children and youth in every corner.

“All young people face these issues, and few people are actually talking about them,” Fletcher explains. “When adults begin to speak frankly about their inabilities to connect with kids, and when children and youth can speak openly, we discover this isn’t just theory; it is actually happening everywhere, all the time.”

ENDING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST YOUNG PEOPLE is the only modern book designed to explore this reality in depth. What better way to become a better parent, more effective teacher, or more positive role model than addressing your own biases?

With this book, Fletcher hopes adults will, “develop new perspectives of young people to open positive, powerful futures for all people, instead of just a few, so that instead of times getting impossibly hopeless, they show that another world is always possible.” 

Others are taking note of this book. Reviewing the book, Alex Koroknay-Palicz writes, “Fletcher provides an expert look at the revolutionary idea that youth endure, and are harmed by, pervasive age discrimination and supplies supportive advice on how young people and adults can work against it in their daily lives.” Koroknay-Palicz is the former executive director of the National Youth Rights Association. 

To set up an interview or to request a review copy, contact Adam Fletcher at 360.489.9680 or email info@adamfletcher.net. 

ENDING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST YOUNG PEOPLE
by Adam Fletcher
ISBN-13 978-1492183822

US$19.95 
Paperback 
190 pp. 
8 ½” x 5″
Available on Amazon.com or ask at your local bookstore.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

3 Secrets of Adults Who Help Youth

SeattleYEPC

As teachers, youth workers, parents, counselors, and other adults who work with young people every single day, we have our secrets. They’re not true for every adult, and being able to admit them takes courage, especially when we admit them to other adults we work with.

In my new book, Ending Discrimination Against Young PeopleI explore the need to create safe spaces for honest conversations among adults who work with young people, and parents who are progressive. I am not one to tell others’ secrets; however, here I want to distill some of what I’ve heard and share it with you. These are secrets that many adults who work with young people have told me about the young people they work with.

3 Secrets of Adults Who Help Youth

SECRET #1: Adults don’t trust young people.

Generally, the reason why adults work with young people in any supportive way is that they simply don’t trust them. They don’t believe children and youth can get the supports, experiences, ideas, knowledge, or outcomes adults think they should without the active participation of adults throughout their lives. This is true in the best classrooms and the lovingest homes, as well as the friendliest offices and healthiest workplaces. Ask an adult if this is true, and they’re likely to adamantly deny it. You can tell adults don’t trust youth when they…

  • Make decisions for young people without young people
  • Give young people consequences that wouldn’t be there without those adults’ interventions
  • Use phrases like, “I’m the adult here,” and insist on young peoples’ compliance

 

SECRET #2: Adults almost always think they know best.

An evolutionary mechanism of many creatures, including humans, is called the fight or flight response. The idea is that animals react to threats with a feeling in our nerves that helps us determine whether to fight or flee. I believe adults are almost constantly aware of what they perceive is the compromised ability of young people to respond accordingly to perceived threats. Because of this, there is an evolutionary response within adults that causes us to believe that we need to know the best for ourselves and young people whenever we share company. This is apparent when…

  • Adults limit young peoples’ options “for their own good”
  • Young people are infantalized (treated like infants) no matter what age they are
  • Children and youth constantly defer to adults

 

SECRET #3: Adults are scared of youth.

Any adult who says anything about the future in a negative context is plainly afraid of youth. This is true because they lack the faith, trust, or perspective to see that young people are inheriting a world that is gonna survive. It’s not going to fall apart, stop spinning, or implode at any second. Instead, it’s going to keep on turning, and things are going to work out. This becomes obvious when…

  • Adults talk about “kids today” in a negative sense, or talk about their childhood and youth as if there was nothing wrong, bad, or challenging when they were that age
  • Young people talk, act, dress, or behave like adults in order to make adults more comfortable with them
  • Adults make generalizations about today’s generation
I began this article by talking about adults who work in “helping professions” and parents. The reason why I single these folks out is that first, I am one of both. Secondly, as adults we get into these professions and learn to rationalize our work through many guises, which are the bulletpoints I shared above. But those are the symptoms; the words in bold are the realities.
Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Ways Young People Change The World

There are many roles in democracy-building by youth. Following are several different opportunities for young people to take action.

23 Ways Young People Can Change the World

  1. Children and Youth as Facilitators. Knowledge comes from study, experience, and reflection. Engaging young people as teachers helps reinforce their commitment to learning and the subject they are teaching; it also engages both young and older learners in exciting ways.
  2. Children and Youth as Researchers. Identifying issues, surveying interests, analyzing findings, and developing projects in response are all powerful avenues for Youth Voice. 
  3. Children and Youth as Planners. Planning includes program design, event planning, curriculum development, and hiring staff. Youth planning activities can lend validity, creativity, and applicability to abstract concepts and broad outcomes.
  4. Children and Youth as Organizers. Community organizing happens when leaders bring together everyone in a community in a role that fosters social change. Youth community organizers focus on issues that affect themselves and their communities; they rally their peers, families, and community members for action.
  5. Children and Youth as Decision-Makers. Making rules in classrooms is not the only way to engage young people in decision-making. Committees, board membership, and other forms of representation and leadership reinforce the significance of Youth Voice throughout communities.
  6. Children and Youth as Advocates. When young people stand for their beliefs and understand the impact of their voices, they can represent their families and communities with pride, courage, and ability.
  7. Children and Youth as Evaluators. Assessing and evaluating the effects of programs, classes, activities, and projects can promote Youth Voice in powerful ways. Young people can learn that their opinions are important, and their experiences are valid indicators of success.
  8. Children and Youth as Specialists. Envisioning roles for youth to teach youth is relatively easy; seeing new roles for youth to teach adults is more challenging. Youth specialists bring expert knowledge about particular subjects to programs and organizations, enriching everyone’s ability to be more effective.
  9. Children and Youth as Advisors. When youth advise adults they provide genuine knowledge, wisdom, and ideas to each other, adults, organizations, institutions, communities, and other locations and activities that affect them and their world at large.
  10. Children and Youth as Designers. Youth participate in creating intentional, strategic plans for an array of activities, including curriculum, building construction, youth and community programs, and more.
  11. Children and Youth as Teachers. Facilitating learning for themselves, other youth, adults, or children, youth can be teachers of small and large groups in all kinds of topics.
  12. Children and Youth as Grant-makers. Youth in philanthropy identify funding, distribute grants, evaluate effectiveness, and conduct other parts of the process involved in grant-making.
  13. Children and Youth as Planners. When planning programs, operations, activities, and other events and activities, youth can benefit nonprofits, schools, their homes, and any other institution throughout society.
  14. Children and Youth as Lobbyists. Influencing policy-makers, legislators, politicians, and the people who work for them are among the activities for youth as lobbyists.
  15. Children and Youth as Trainers. When they train adults, youth, children, and others, youth can share their wisdom, ideas, knowledge, attitudes, actions, and processes in order to guide programs, nurture organization and community cultures, and change the world.
  16. Children and Youth as Politicians. Running for political office at the community, city, county, or state levels, youth as politicians can run for a variety of positions.
  17. Children and Youth as Recruiters. Youth building excitement, sharing motivation, or otherwise helping their communities or people to get involved, create change, or make all sorts of things happen can happen through youth as recruiters.
  18. Children and Youth as Social entrepreneurs. When youth recognize a social problem, they can use entrepreneurial principles to organize, create, and manage a venture to make social change.
  19. Children and Youth as Paid staff. When organizations, businesses, agencies, and other groups hire youth, they can be staff members in programs for adults, other youth, children, or for the community at large. They can fulfill many roles on this list in paid positions.
  20. Children and Youth as Mentors. Mentoring is a non-hierarchical relationship between youth and adults, adults and youth, or among youth themselves, that helps facilitate learning and guidance for each participant. 
  21. Children and Youth as Decision makers. Participating in formal and informal decision-making, youth can be board members, committee members, and in many different roles.
  22. Children and Youth as Activity Leaders. As activity leaders in nonprofits, community organizations, and other areas, youth can facilitate, teach, guide, direct, and otherwise lead youth, adults, and children in a variety of ways.
  23. Children and Youth as Policy-makers. When they research, plan, write, and evaluate rules, regulations, laws, and other policies, youth as policy-makers can enrich, substantiate, enliven, and impact the outcomes of policies in many ways.

To imagine these are just some of the ways youth are changing the world right now! There are so many other ways that aren’t accounted for here. If you’re interested, learn more from my publication called The Freechild Project Guide to Social Change Led By and With Young People.

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