Help Promote Ending Discrimination Against Young People!

You know I’m not the most famous person in the world, right?!?

I don’t have a publicist, and I want people to get a hold of my newest book, Ending Discrimination Against Young People. I need your help!

If you want to pitch in, you can help me by helping get the word out. The biggest help you can do is find one person who needs and wants Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Offer the book to that person, and then if you want to, repeat.


Slower than you want, but faster than you think, we can help stop adultism and end discrimination. Here are some ways to help reach out for my awesome, powerful, strong book, Ending Discrimination Against Young People.

10 Steps to Promote Ending Discrimination Against Young People

1. Contribute to Facebook groups and Web forums—Every field has at least one or two facebook groups and web forums that people who should know about Ending Discrimination Against Young People read. Find and join these forums. Contribute to them freely. Give advice from the book and reach out. Put a link to http://adamfletcher.net in your signature line, or add the name of the book in your signature block.

2. Write a Blog—Writing about the book with helpful, inspirational information from it. Relate your experience and stories to the subjects in Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Aim to inspire people to buy the book, and share the link with them.

3. Write a Remarkable Review—Go to Amazon.com and write a review of the book. You can say things like: “I loved it! This book is amazing!”, and tell your story related to the book. Ending Discrimination Against Young People needs word-of-mouth publicity. Recommend it to your friends. They will recommend it to their friends. This is the best publicity the book can get.

4. Share Stuff from the Media Kit—My online media for the book kit includes

5. Share the Webpage—There’s a full webpage that includes:

  • A link to the Amazon page for your book, so people can buy the book online
  • Your media kit 
  • Book reviews and blurbs
  • My schedule of appearances, including bookstores, speaking engagements and conferences
  • Contact information.
6. Write Articles—Every field has websites and magazines that needs to share Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Find them and tell me about them. You can also write articles about the book for newsletters, websites, magazines, or eZines. Mention Ending Discrimination Against Young People in the article. In online articles, link the book title to its Amazon page so readers can click over and buy the book.

7. Help the Book Get 20 Amazon Reviews—Amazon.com reviews are amazingly effective. Everyone from book buyers to publishers reads them. Our goal is to get at least 20 reviews of Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Contact everyone you know and ask each of them if they would give the book an honest review. Let them know it can be brief. If they agree, let me know and I will send them either a PDF containing a table of contents, two sample chapters, and me bio.

8. Get the Book Mentioned in Email Blasts—Get Ending Discrimination Against Young People mentioned in your org’s large-volume emails. Review the book the email newsletter.

9. Make and Post Online Videos—Make a few 1 or 2 minute video reviewing and promoting Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Put the book title and URL on the bottom of the video screen and in the credits. Post your videos on several of the many video sharing sites including sites like blip.tv, jumpcut, ourmedia, Vimeo, vSocial and YouTube. Share the clips on your website, through your facebook or twitter page, and through emails to your friends and colleagues.
10. Ask for It—Go to your local bookstore and library and ask people to carry the book. Let them know you’re excited about it, share your copy with them, and ask them to carry it themselves. Tell them you’ll personally help others learn about it and send customers and users to them.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU for sharing Ending Discrimination Against Young People with your people. Let me know what I can do for YOU!
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!

An Imperative for Youth Empowerment

What is the missing element in almost all youth empowerment work today? It is an awareness of discrimination against young people.

We don’t like to hear it, but EVERY adult discriminates. While an increasing amount of people are concerned about racism, sexism, classism, or homophobia, that’s not what I’m talking about here. Today, I want you to understand that every day adults discriminate against young people – including YOU and ME.

Discrimination has many definitions, and one of them is the capability to discern difference between two or more things. It is in this way that adults constantly discriminate against young people. That’s not necessarily wrong or bad, but it is true. Adults who don’t discern the difference between them and young people generally have developmental restraints that limit their ability to discriminate. Again, discriminating against young people and being in favor of adults isn’t always bad; it simply IS. Accepting that reality is the first step to creating a more just and equitable society benefiting all people.

When adults don’t have the ability to discern the difference between young people and themselves, or when they either accidentally or intentionally blur or erase those differences, something is out-of-whack with them. Similarly, when the differences are hyper-exaggerated something is out-of-whack, too. Unfortunately, those two things are routine in our society today. 

Recognizing that reality is imperative for creating authentic youth empowerment. Otherwise, adults are simply giving lip service to young people and saying they’re equal, but acting in other ways. They are being disingenuous and inauthentic by going through the motions without any real meaning behind what they’re doing.

If you choose to see yourself or other adults as being devoid of discriminating against young people though your behavior, attitude, actions, and/or ideas, that is up to you. I choose to acknowledge that I’m discriminate against young people. Sometimes that that is a-okay, and sometimes its messed up. That’s me being honest, and this blog is meant I urge you to do the same.

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

Empowerment and Engagement

Opening

My friend Lori works with youth in the Midwest. She recently asked me, “In the scheme of things, how do we motivate the youth to be empowered rather than entitled?” I’ve learned that motivation comes through our own experience and example more than anything else. We have to actively demonstrate to young people our engagement, our empowerment, and our leadership more than any attempt to motivate them.
 

When we work in high-pressure environments with young people who really, really need us to connect with them, adults who work with young people need high-efficacy approaches to engaging those young people, ways that will lead to their personal empowerment. That means that engagement happens before empowerment, and this cycle happens before engagement.

 

The Cycle of Engagement, which I originally wrote about in my booklet, The Freechild Project Guide to Social Change Led By and With Young People
The Cycle of Engagement, which I originally wrote about in my booklet, The Freechild Project Guide to Social Change Led By and With Young People.

 
In reflecting on my own practice with young people and after researching youth work for so long, I identified a cycle that seems to consistently work to engage young people. This cycle works in a long-range, program-wide way, but more importantly, in a direct, one-on-one approach too. The more times we go through this cycle with young people, the more it expands and the deeper the returns are. Those results include trust-building, effective communication, and empowerment.
 

Part One: Listen.

The first thing we can do to engage young people is to listen to them. This means opening a a safe space where young people can tell the truth without fear of judgment, criticism, or rejection.

Important points about listening to children and listening to youth:
  • Not just a physical place, listening to young people requires an interpersonal connection between adults and young people where facades can soften and young people feel accepted and accepting.
  • Listening to young people requires that they feel free to share their feelings, work through conflicts, and experience that they are not alone.
  • Adults can facilitate these spaces intentionally and successfully, at home, in community programs, and at schools, and that is what is required to listen to young people.
  • If you don’t know how, learn more about nonviolent communication and compassionate listening.
  • Listening isn’t necessarily verbal, either, as young people have many ways of communicating about their lives, ideas, emotions and feelings, experiences, wisdom, power, and oppression.
  • In becoming responsive, adults learn about these expressions too. Listening is the first part of the cycle of engagement.

 

Part Two: Validate.

After we’ve listened to young people, as adults, we need to learn to validate children and youth.  You’ve heard adults say it, and you might have said it yourself: “Oh, that’s really nice.” We try to say “nice” in just the right way, but to young people it seems really insincere. We think we’re doing the “right thing” by encouraging young people move forward, but in our heads we really thinking about the time we fell flat on our face from the same approach.

Important points about validating young people:
  • Instead of actually acknowledging what they shared when we listened to them and instead of hiding our true thoughts, adults should to honestly validate what young people say or do by honestly responding to it and sharing how we sincerely feel or think about it.
  • If we think a young person’s ideas are off-base, or an initiative will fail, or that more information is needed, we should always say so.
  • Validation means disagreeing or agreeing with young people in open ways, and asking more questions when we need to.
  • This acknowledges their authentic humanity, their real selves.
  • Validation is the second part of engaging children and youth.

 

Part Three: Authorize.

After adults have listened to children and youth and validated what they’ve expressed, if we truly want to engage them we must authorize young people. Authority is a powerful word that can intimidate people who aren’t used to it.
Important points about authorizing children and youth:
  • Without authority, young people are just whispering in a loud argument.
  • Authority means giving young people the ability to tell their own story, and it happens through informal and formal education and positioning.
  • Education means building the skills of children and youth to engage in democracy.
  • Positioning means telling young people they can do a thing and giving them explicit permission.
  • Authorization builds the capacity and ability of young people with actual powerful, purposeful, and rewarding knowledge and opportunities.
  • As young people apply their new skills and knowledge to practical action, young people can make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of others.

 

Part Four: Act.

As they gain ability through authorization, the next step is revealed as youth action. Youth action is about young people creating change, either in their own life or in the lives of others. Learn about what youth can do to change the world, and how they can take action.
Important points about youth action:
  • Young people, especially those experiencing multiple depths of oppression, rarely take action in ways that help themselves or their communities for fear of failure, retribution or punishment.
  • In situations where young people are deeply oppressed and disengaged from changing their lives and changing the world, taking action for requires children, youth, and adults working together to make the space, place, and ability for young people to create change.
  • Action can – and should – look different everywhere: from identifying the challenge, researching the issue, planning for action, training for effectiveness, reflection on the process, to celebrating the outcomes, youth action is totally flexible.
  • The purpose of youth action is always to create, support, and sustain powerful, purposeful, and meaningful lives.
  • An important caution: Action is often seen as the most important step of this cycle. That’s not true, and all parts of this cycle are equally important.

 

Part Five: Reflect.

Finally, while youth action is underway and when its finished, reflect. However you reflect, the important part is that you are making meaning of what you’ve gone through by identifying what you’ve learned and suggesting how you might apply that to future activities. Learn to facilitate reflection in ways that reach diverse young peoples’ desires, expectations, and abilities in order to be effective.
 
Important points about reflection with young people:
  • Reflection is an ongoing process that can deeply, sustainably engage children and youth.
  • When young people and adults critically assess and analyze their lives together, learning becomes a vibrant, intricate, and powerful tool for personal change and community transformation.
  • Reflection activities used should be appropriate for diverse learners, and include opportunities for talking, writing, acting, creating collages, and building activities, among others.
  • Once you’ve finished reflecting, those lessons should be incorporated into the next listening activity, to support a cyclical approach to engaging young people.

 

Closing

When this cycle is done as a whole, these parts of youth engagement lead to youth empowerment. The parts can be done with individual young people in single interactions, or with groups of young people over the course of a program year. Ultimately, they lead to children and youth discovering the positive, powerful relationships they can form with adults, and create intentional youth/adult partnerships that can change lives, and ultimately change the world.

The Purpose of Learning


Revolution is not ‘showing’ life to people, but making them live. A revolutionary organization must always remember that its objective is not getting its adherents to listen to convincing talks by expert leaders, but getting them to speak for themselves, in order to achieve, or at least strive toward, an equal degree of participation. – Guy Debord

I believe that ultimately, all learning should gather towards revealing who we are as individual people within the collective whole of humanity. Anything in life can be facilitated towards that learning by skilled teachers, and with time we can learn to facilitate that learning within ourselves. Understanding education within that space, life can be understood only as learning, no matter what the opportunities or oppression we face.

This leaves everything else as a discussion about process, and as the best teachers always seem to know, the journey is the destination. So whether the conversation is about standards, methodologies, assessments, or transitions throughout schooling, all of that’s about journeys and traveling.

In this light, discussions about meaningfulness are largely irrelevant. The meaning of an experience is a subjective thing. Because of that, it is arbitrary to talk about what is meaningful for learners or in schools. In a similar way, acceptability is arbitrary, too. That’s a dangerous thing to say, and I’m by no means accepting corporal punishment or drill-and-kill testing. But there are some students who would say that getting spanked and excessively tested are the best ways for them to learn. Because of that, the development of a personal sense of meaningfulness cannot be legislated or mandated in schools, if only because of its arbitrary nature.

What should be done instead is a re-envisioning of what the relationship is between teaching and learning, learning and life. What should be done is a thorough examination of our social norms and cultural outcomes. What should be done is to radically, wholly transform our entire educative process towards becoming a preparation for life as humans, rather than preparation for life as robots, products, or operators.

I want all learners everywhere to gain their humanity, win their lives, and hold themselves in right understanding in the world. That’s what schools should be for.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Youth Work on AutoPilot

Thinking can feel like a luxury.

In times when we’re deep in the work we do and the ways we get it done, it can be nearly impossible to take care of ourselves. We are so busy meeting the needs of the kids, filling out forms for our bosses, or writing up the report for our funders that thinking can feel like a luxury.

As a result, we go on autopilot. Day in and out, we punch the clock and get the job done, struggle through challenges and hustle through fun. We get off work, head to our next job or go home and crash, only to do it all over again tomorrow.

Maybe you’re bobbing your head right now, or maybe you’re thinking that people need to get their acts right. Either way, reality is that thinking can feel like a luxury in youth work.

After spending 10 years in the field as a line-level youth worker, I started training people like me and working with organization leaders to help them think about how to more effectively do their work. That has led me to action, over and over, focused on helping people who work with young people do their jobs more effectively.

If you were in a workshop with me right now, I’d walk you through the following steps, or something like them.

Step One: Claim Your Brain

Today, right now, I want you to give yourself a minute to think. If you wanna do it on your own, maybe just sit in your seat and chill for a few minutes on purpose. Try it now. If you want some guidance, maybe think about these three questions:

  • Why do you do the work you do right now?
  • What would you rather be doing?
  • How can you get from here and now to there?

Step Two: Discover Some Options

Want a few more? Here are some tools I created that you can think through:

Step Three: Do Things Differently

Once you’ve gone through those tools, or if you skip those and want to just do something different, here are some resources I’ve created for you:

Looking for more still? Keep your eyes open and you’ll see more action, information, and ideas coming soon!

Well-Meaning Adults Are Undermining Young People

Things dropped by well-meaning adults still do what?!?

There are several ways that adults undermine young people. I have grouped them into three main categories: well-meaning adults, indifferent adults, and hostile adults.

This post is exploring the first category, well-meaning adults. They are determined to “help kids”, and can often be identified as progressive teachers, social workers, counselors, and parents. 
Assuming young people need as much freedom as possible, they aspire to always think “the best” of youth and want to be their “friends”. However, this is a disingenuous understanding because it ignores or denies the realities of present-day society. Any right-thinking adult would never give a completely inexperienced person the keys to a car and expect them to teach themselves how to drive.This is seen as a dangerous and irresponsible gesture that can lead to death. 
Well-meaning adults routinely presume the abilities of all young people are on par with all adults. No matter what age a person is, without experience, exposure, and education, all people do not have the same abilities nor capacities. These people inadvertently deny young people their personal needs, wants, and desires by over-estimating them.
The problem inherent in their position is that well-meaning adults undermine their own best intentions and denying their ability to truly help children and youth. Through an honest, engaged, and deliberate awareness of their preconceptions, these adults can be among the greatest assets in the lives of young people. However, without increased awareness of their conditioning and behavior, they are doing as much good as adults who are anti-youth.
Read More from Other Writers
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Challenging Youth Gurus

They have become a staple of the world of afterschool programs and nonprofits: youth gurus.

I’ve spent a few years traveling around the country teaching adults how to relate to children and youth, and a few more before that doing exactly that. Through reflection and relentless critical self-examination, I’ve arrived at a few trinkets of learning that I enjoy using to help others discover what they know.

Along my path, I’ve interacted with a number of folks who are out on the circuits telling youth workers, teachers, and parents how to do their jobs. These are the “experts” about youth who often come armed with an big egos that match questionable credentials in youth work.

Here are some signs that you fall into the guru category.

25 Signs You’re A Youth Guru

  1. All of your friends in real life are youth.
  2. You think people over 30 can’t “get” youth.
  3. “Said no one ever”, “twerk” and “friend jack” are normal parts of your everyday vocabulary.
  4. You check your TakingITGlobal and KooDooz accounts every day.
  5. You can’t go a day without taking a selfie.
  6. You get excited by pop culture disasters because it means another topic in your convos with youth.
  7. You don’t really know much about youth themselves.
  8. You spend a lot of time thinking about your resume.
  9. You met your boyfriend or girlfriend at a youth program.
  10. You drop pop culture references while talking with your grandma.
  11. You swear by the mantra, “YOLO.”
  12. You think having a website is the same as actually creating an organization.
  13. You always talk about youth without youth.
  14. If you’re young, you talk about youth like you’re not one.
  15. You describe yourself as a “youth networker.”
  16. One of your proudest moments was when you were retweeted by the White House.
  17. You see nothing wrong with dressing like a youth no matter what age you are.
  18. You talk about all youth like they’re the same, no matter who, what, when, where, why, and how you’re talking about them.
  19. You only go to new places, listen to new music, or try new experiences based on youth recommendations.
  20. You write guest blog posts as a “youth expert” to share your wisdom about how to get more followers and likes.
  21. Your worst nightmare is not being to access a group of young people for a whole day.
  22. You have used a variety of descriptors for your youth guru-ness, like “ninja,” “evangelist,” “maven,” “pro.”
  23. You would never email a youth; you only txt ppl instead.
  24. There is almost nothing you wouldn’t share with youth.
  25. You don’t see why it’s so hard for adults to relate to youth.

All that’s not to say that these youth gurus are bad or wrong. However, it is meant to challenge the assumption that simply because someone calls themselves a guru, they are one. Do your due diligence and ask about folks, ask hard questions, and find out whether they pass the muster beyond simple appearances. That’s the only way to know when you’re dealing with a genuine article!

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

How to Start Engaging Children and Youth

As a seasoned youth worker, I have met my share of “good kids”. You know, the ones who were excited to do activities and eager to please adults? Generally, they are excited at the right times, attentive when they’re supposed to be, and friendly almost all the time. I was not one of those kids myself.

While growing up in adverse situations of many types, I constantly switched my behaviors and attitudes. There were places and people I felt like pleasing, and others that I cared less about. I struggled to make adults happy sometimes, and others I just didn’t care.

Somewhere along the way though, I met an adult who changed my mind and lassoed me in. He consistently engaged me and readily made hay of my bad moods. To this day, 25 years later, I’m still appreciative of the effect he had on my heart and mind.

A lot of people who are earnestly, honestly, and meaningfully concerned with engaging children and youth simply don’t know how to reach the kids like I was. They want to be like the adult who changed my life and simply don’t know how.

When I began my career as a youth worker, I didn’t know how to do it either. However, after more than a decade working directly with children and youth in many different situations, I learned a few things. Here are 10 ways I found to be effective to begin engaging young people.

10 Ways to Start Engaging Young People

  1. Name your motivation. Spend some time in personal reflection about why you want to engage children and youth in your program. Name the reasons why you think it matters, and write down the answers you already have but haven’t thought of yet.
  2. Be honest with young people. Let them know that you want to engage them, and be frank about what you want from engaging them. If you want children to trust you, tell them so. 
  3. Practice reciprocity with them. Relationships with children and youth work in circles, and how you feel and act towards them will come back toward you. That means that if you want young people in your program to be excited, you have to be excited.
  4. Keep it real. If young people in your program are hungry, they can’t be really concerned about being engaged with a program. If they’re lonely or tired or angry, they’re going to be challenged to engage with anything beyond those needs. Keep it real and meet their basic needs first.
  5. See the differences between friend and ally. Many children and youth don’t need adults in their lives to be their friends, per se. They want constructive, healthy relationships with you. Learn about being an adult ally to young people, including what that means and how that can happen.
  6. Stay consistent. Engaging young people who aren’t normally engaged requires acting in consistent, deliberate, and conscious ways. Don’t vary according to your mood or the situations you face. 
  7. Honor their boundaries. Children and youth will reveal their rough edges and attitudes to you. If you honestly want to engage them, you have to learn to identify their boundaries and honor them accordingly, and challenge them when possible.
  8. Recognize their contexts. Young people have their own lives before and after they walk out of the door to your program. Recognize the contexts they’re operating from. Engaging with adults might be threatening in 9/10s of their lives, and despite your best intention, you might be challenging that 1/10. See that.
  9. Open doors when possible. Adults often use the phrase “servant leadership” when talking about volunteering or church or leadership. We can apply it with young people too. Open doors for them when you can, and be humble enough to learn what they’re teaching you.
  10. Play, have fun, and give space. Remember that being young means having fun, not just for kids, but you too. Engaging young people means playing and giving space for them to play. Don’t be afraid, they’ll see you for what you are – a true adult ally worth engaging with.

When you start with these steps, you’ll find others unfurl in front of you. I have found it to be incredibly useful to be willing to have fun, consistently be an adult, find and honor appropriate boundaries with young people, and facilitate meaningful activities that honor the intelligence and capacities of children and youth.

Over time, engaging with young people become bonds that can transcend many other situations in their lives. As you slowly become an ally, young people will turn to you for healthy support, meaningful conversation, and real change making. From that place, you can change their lives, your life, and the world.

There’s no higher calling in working with children and youth than to do just that. Engaging children and youth is the road to get there.


When you start with these steps, you’ll find others unfurl in front of you. I have found it to be incredibly useful to be willing to have fun, consistently be an adult, find and honor appropriate boundaries with young people, and facilitate meaningful activities that honor the intelligence and capacities of children and youth. Learn more about these relationships from the rest of this blog.

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