In Favor of Adultism?

Over at Wikipedia there’s a debate flaring over the article on adultism. Two trains of thought occur in this debate: one regarding the validity of the article and whether there are enough reliable sources in the article to make it a legitimate Wikipedia article; the second focused on the validity of adultism as a topic to be addressed on Wikipedia. Both arguments are worthy debate. However, I find a recurring pattern of discrimination present in the former argument: There are those who firmly believe that adultism should be presented with a neutral definition that does not portray an inherently negative basis. Note that this is different from the treatment racism or hetrosexism receives on Wikipedia, as both of those are presented in their biased forms.

In coming out in favor of a neutral definition of adultism editors will often expose their bias towards adults. As one editor redefined the term, “Adultism the the belief that adults should have inordinate power over children”, and “Adultism is the act of exerting inordinate control over children by adults”. I believe that these very definitions, by nature of their phrasing, demands the reader to accept this “inordinate control”.

I have defined adultism three ways in my writing:

  • “Adultism is favoring adults by dismissing young people.”
  • “Adultism is the addiction to the attitudes, ideas, beliefs, and actions of adults.”
  • “Adultism promotes the discrimination of children and youth, and bias towards adults.”

Reviving my knowledge of the current literature surrounding adultism, I searched across the research databases to find out how adultism has been defined recently. Following is a collection of definitions from throughout the neutral, scholary realm of academic journals and books.

  • “…negative construction of the meaning of youth is a form of oppression, referred to as either ageism or ‘adultism’.” – C.A. MacNeil, “Bridging generations: Applying “adult” leadership theories to youth leadership development”, in ”New Directions for Youth Development” (2006).
  • “Adultism… can be defined as the inherent belief that adults are ultimate experts on youth, their issues, dreams, anxieties, abilities, and health; adults are thus thrust into positions of ultimate decision-makers and arbiters of policies, programs, and services involving youth.” – M. Delgado and D. Zhao, ”Youth-led health promotion in urban communities: A community capacity-enhancement perspective”. Rowman & Littlefield (2008).
  • “…an antiyouth bias sometimes called ‘adultism’…” – D. Hosang., “Family and community as the cornerstone of civic engagement: Immigrant and youth organizing in the southwest” in ”National Civic Review” (2006). 
  • “If we define abuse as restricting, controlling, humiliating, or hurting another, it’s clear that abuse is a daily experience for young people. We have a new word for it: adultism.” C. Close,  “Fostering youth leadership: students train students and adults in conflict resolution” in ”Theory into Practice” (2007).

These definitions show a clear patterning of negative perspectives in the defining of adultism. However, given the apparently predominant perspective of at least one Wikipedia editor, Wikipedia will soon feature a supposedly neutral definition.

Reviewing the definitions I have previously used in the Wikipedia article, I found this an active trending towards exposing the discriminatory basis of adultism by authors from across the realms. However, many of the following sources are questionable to Wikipedia editors who find them to be from “advocacy organizations” or authors with dubious bases for their assertions about adultism. (I personally find that perspective discriminatory, as it alienates perspectives, but for the sake of process I’ll accept it.) Following are some of those definitions.

  • “[Adultism is] behaviors and attitudes based on the assumptions that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without agreement.” J. Bell (1995) “Understanding Adultism” on the YouthBuild USA website.
  • “Oppression of Young People (from the day they are born), based on their age, by care givers (who are used as the oppression agents) and by the society and its institutions.” – Co-counseling.
  • “Adultism is an adult practice of forming certain beliefs about young people and practicing certain behaviors toward them because of societal views, usually negative, that are based on their age.” – Child Welfare League of America.
  • “Addressing adultist behavior by calling it ageism is discrimination against youth in itself.” – Youth On Board.

It is interesting to see how the tides of discrimination vary, washing back and forth over the bones of justice. We should take a close examination of our own biases before calling out others’, and afterwards revisit this conversation with a thorough acceptance of our own perspectives.

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

Am I a Bad Wikipedia Editor?

As I look deeper into the issue of anti-youth bias on Wikipedia, I find that I am frequently the target of these AfDs and TfDs. An editor called Herostratus called me out directly in a recent AfD, writing,

It’s a Freechild special, and it’s an advocacy article (a particularly noxious form of advocacy to my mind…) Freechild is nobody’s fool and he’s an energizer bunny when it comes to digging up enough refs for these things. He’s done his homework and he’s got us over a barrel. If his hobbyhorse was global warming denial or Scientology or whatever he’d have his head handed to him, but that’s not going to happen given the subject and the Wikipedia demographic, so I’d say we have to let it go.

In responding to me calling them out about their personal attack, Herostratus replied by saying, “If you’re going to be a radical and POV-pusher here you’d best have a thick skin.” I appreciate that, and according to another editor not only do I have thick skin, but I must be fat. Describing a photo of me during a 2005 AfD focused on the Wikipedia page about me, a user called Ashley Pomeroy got ugly and waged a personal attack, writing,

“I am also overweight, and I have pondered whether a goatee beard would help hide this, but I’ve never really had the courage to just let it grow.”

The editor called Herostratus has an axe to grind against me, as they have called me out repeatedly in the past. In 2007 they slammed me during an AfD for pedophobia, writing,

“Your essay (and this is what it is, not an encyclopedia article) transparently attempts to conflate medical and sociological terminolgy for advocacy purposes. Scholarly journals don’t fall for that. Sorry to be harsh, but there it is.”

During an 2008 AfD for Fear of youth, Herostratus continued by writing,

The main protector of this article is freechild and this is no coincidence, this article was designed and is maintained as an unsubtle POV hammer. Sure it has a lot of citations; good original essays do.

Calling something original research on Wikipedia is a way of calling out it’s illegitimacy; calling it a “POV hammer” is a way of saying that it’s someone’s personal point of view and that they’re using Wikipedia to drive the point home. Herostratus has established a 4-year-old pattern of haunting my edits and accusing me of bad editing behavior.

However, with widespread response and the continued concern of more than one editor, perhaps there is more for me to learn about editing on Wikipedia. A user called orlady has commented on my AfDs and talk pages related to articles I have created or edited repeatedly. Her concern repeats throughout, and is generally summarized by this comment from a comment she wrote on the Youth Empowerment template talk page in 2007,

I don’t see the point of this template, except perhaps as a way to gather/advertise the personal interests of one particular Wikipedia contributor.

Maybe I’m a bad Wikipedia editor. Thoughts?

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

Anti-Youth Bias on Wikipedia


Tonight I’ve been thinking about the anti-youth bias on Wikipedia.

Systemic bias is a serious charge on Wikipedia. According to the special project page about the topic on Wikipedia, systemic bias “…naturally grows from its contributors’ demographic groups, manifesting an imbalanced coverage of a subject, thereby discriminating against the less represented demographic groups.” This is especially true of the presence of adults on WP, who form the age of majority on the website. It is because of this systemic bias that I want to raise awareness about an ongoing trend of discrimination against youth-focused topics on WP.

After introducing a series of articles from the field of youth studies, I have seen articles addressing youth-focused issues be routinely subjected to the process known as Articles for Discussion on WP. These “AfDs” are essentially conversations focused on whether to keep or delete an article on WP. There is a pseudo-voting process, and in these discussions on these youth-focused articles editors tend to call out the validity of the topics rather than the worthiness of the articles themselves, often dismissing the verifiability and neutral point of view, which the core of WP article writing.

Note that oftentimes concern for these articles and templates are pointed at me directly, accusing me of article ownership and bias; however, this pattern of AfDs and TfDs ranges further than my direct editing. Following is the pattern I would like to draw attention to.

The AfDs include:

The only youth-focused template on WP is focused on youth empowerment, and it has been taken to Templates for Discussion not once, but twice.

There is also a pattern of discrimination against editors who identify themselves as middle or high school students, or as being under 18, or as youth; however, this bias is harder to demonstrate given the difficulty of searching editors’ talk pages.

The closest Wikipedia has come to having a conversation on this is a conversation started on the ageism talk page in 2007. There needs to be more conversation. Any responses are appreciated.

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

Favoring Adults By Dismissing Young People

Recently, I rewrote the Freechild Project webpage on adultism to add a short essay at the beginning of the page. This is going to be the new pattern for Freechild.org’s content pages, with unique essays by me featuring information not available anywhere else on the web. I’m going to give you a preview here.

This is the new text to the page called, “Adultism: Favoring Adults by Dismissing Young People“.

 
Introduction to Adultism
 
Adultism is favoring adults by dismissing young people. Adultism is also the addiction to the attitudes, ideas, beliefs, and actions of adults. Adultism promotes the discrimination of children and youth, and bias towards adults. 
 
It is a major factor in how society is organized: By assuming children and youth do not have anything of substance or value to add to the majority of social activities, adults keep their power intact. Adultism happens in government, education, social services, religious communities, and families. It is present in our laws, legal practices, economic activities, and the ways we share our cultures.
 
There is value to adultism, as adults sometimes act more responsibly and capably than young people. However, adults often act as if children and youth are never responsible and never capable. That is the problem.
 
Adultism ignores, silences, neglects, and punishes children and youth simply because they are not adults. Every young person experiences adultism from the day they are born until the day the world around them recognizes them as an adult. Every adult in our society today has experienced adultism.

Because of this unconscious sharing of the same experiences, adults often perpetuate adultism without knowing it. In some cases, young people themselves perpetuate adultism.
 
The result of adultism is severe. Seeing and treating young people as weak, helpless and less intelligent than adults impresses inability in the hearts and minds of youth into adulthood. Adultism often makes verbal, physical, and emotional abuse towards young people seem “okay”. Further, adultism can make other negative opinions about people seem okay, so that young people see racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination being “okay”.
 
There are children, youth, and adult allies who are working to challenge adultism right now. Find resources on our website at http://freechild.org/adultism.htm

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

Youth Are Our Only Hope

The other day I listened to another adult rant about how terrible youth today are. She was my age (36). Back in the 1990s, she and I were subject to the same media demonization of our generation, railed against as “Generation X” and labelled slackers, we grew up with a bad name pinned to our commercialized lapels. To hear her lob insults at kids today, well, reminded me why I do what I do.

 

Finding Hope

“So I simply don’t buy the concept of “Generation X” as the “lost generation.” I see too many good kids out there, kids who are ready and willing to do the right thing, just as Jack was. Their distractions are greater, though. There’s no more simple life with simple choices for the young.”— Johnny Cash

Over the last decade I have conducted an ongoing action research project focused on perceptions of young people. Parents and teachers, cops and lawyers, politicians and academics have all lined up to reveal their bias against young people simply because they are young, and because the adults are old. Youth have skewered themselves and their peers in front of me, degrading themselves and their peers with the same arguments of the adults around them. I have even heard young kids do this, and have seen the parental behavior that condones and expects this, too.

At the same time, I have seen the opposite, too: A finely balanced tight wire act focused on allowing young people to assume the roles they’re most comfortable with or the ones adults need for them to have throughout society. Meeting young people whose intellectual and emotional development allow them to lead powerful campaigns for systems change and cultural development has become a norm in my life, both as they make themselves known, and as I’ve come to know them.

 

It Can’t Last

All of this said, in our North American society we are simply dead wrong about the ways we treat young people.

“The American way of life is not sustainable. It doesn’t acknowledge that there is a world beyond America.” – Arundhati Roy

For millennia societies around the world have known this. They developed authentic responses to the various implications of young people, systematically teaching them their cultures, allowing them to mature at their own paces, and encouraging them to see themselves as the continuation and sustainability society. This directly opposes the North American behavior of treating young people as a cultural anomaly and inconvenience.

We are facing cataclysmic crises across our planet, more innumerable and loudly enumerated enough to not have to list here. Its the proportion of those realities that is duly set to overwhelm the masses. In order to address the situations that face every single one of us every single day, we must catalyze a new approach to social change. We must invigorate and activate new engines for change, new motivators and developers, organizers and leaders. We must turn to children and youth to lead our way forward.

 

The Greatest Resources

The fact of the matter is that we have simple used up all our current resource pools. People my age have become deeply indebted to the capitalist/consumerist systems we begrudge, and older people own them. The hippies who were going to liberate the planet have become saturated by the cultural messages designed to placate them, while our oldest elders maintain the mythology that since they were the “greatest generation” they can simply cruise towards death. That is just not true.

“Our answer is the world’s hope; it is to rely on youth… This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” – Senator Robert Kennedy

More than ever we need to turn to the source of the world’s hope for change. We must devise deft strategies to engage young people across the planet right now. I believe that this is ultimately our only hope. What about you?


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Hatred Of Youth Is Real

Antipathy is extreme dislike or hate.

Antipathy toward youth is spreading wider throughout our society than ever before. Often cloaked in cynicism, antipathy is a dangerously current phenomenon. Politicians mocks young people, teachers eschew their jobs, and even parents share a kind of pathetic “buyers remorse” for the people they brought into the world.

There are all kinds of reasons that are expressed and underexpressed for this. Sociologist Mike Males has long contended that the ephebiphobia– extreme fear of youth- that rips up our society is the product of racism, and the reality that America is becoming predominately people of color. I believe antipathy has those exact same roots, with an extension beyond obvious skin color and towards the cultures that young people are influenced by, the education that young people are receiving, and the beliefs that young people express.

There is always a fear of the unknown, especially when they’re knocking at your door or living under the same roof. The question is whether we are ready to become familiar with that which we don’t know, or if we’re going to shun, reject, deny, and punish that which we don’t know.

The Chinese Communists apparently have this same struggle. In the face of the aging Party leadership, they are struggling to instill and maintain the interest of young people in Communism, and not simply because they don’t know how. Apparently, there is a deep-seeded antipathy toward youth in China, with party leaders long criticizing and demeaning young people. They demanded a kind of social conformity and enforced a rigidity designed to malign the inherently progressive nature of young people while reinforcing the conservativism of their brand of socialism.

The dilemmas of antipathy toward youth are innumerable. Political antipathy toward youth is critically irresponsible, and is echoed across the aisle. During his campaign for president early this year former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich proposed legislated hatred, suggesting that, “It wouldn’t be bad to have a test for young Americans before they start voting,” making a comparison to the citizenship test new immigrants are required to take. This is a thinly veiled antipathy, suggesting that Gingrich believes all youth are suspect criminals who have to “earn” citizenship rights in addition to the qualification of age. It’s one or the other, not both. It’s bad enough that the political infrastructure of the U.S. reinforces second-tiered citizenship for American children and youth; Gingrich seems to believe that adding injury upon insult is more apt. That’s hatred at it’s best.

At it’s worse, antipathy towards youth gets very ugly, very fast. The War On Youth has been raging in this country for at least 30 years; some would suggest it goes back to the beginning of the Commercial Age. It is definitely the grand reinforcer of discrimination against youth, and certainly calls for a radical redefinition of values in this country if we are to defeat it. Recently we’ve seen antipathy toward youth take the form of defunding public education and healthcare for children; the criminalization of youth through curfews, dress codes, and raised driving ages; and myriad more examples. It’s mildly sickening, mostly because we know the outcomes from this type of rage. The 1960s didn’t happen by accident.

And ultimately, that is my concern: We are fomenting revolution in the U.S. today. Young people here aren’t going to sit idly by and watch the youth of the Middle East demand democracy while they suffer authoritarianism at it’s worst. Antipathy toward youth is enforced through authoritarianism towards young people, and both of those phenomena are on the rise.

Something must be done differently. Learn how.

SOME LINKS

  • I Hate Young People – “I Hate Young People is a website for those of us who are out of our cavity-prone years and tired of feeling marginalized by a generation capable of little more than whining, tweeting and playing “Grand Theft Auto.””
  • Why I Hate Young People” – A blog entry that includes, “Young people can be very annoying, and everyone knows this – even children…”
  • “Why Older People Hate Gen Y” – Australia’s Daily Telegraph published this jewel of an article back in 2008. “The gist is this: Old people frothing about how young people don’t work hard enough, have entitlement issues, are too goddamn optimistic and wear their pants too low.”
  • “I Hate Young People” – An 18-year-old shares his disdain for popular culture, which he masks as antipathy for his own generation. And hipster mag McSweeney’s gave him an award for it.
  • Do Adults Really Hate Young People?” – New Zealand’s Green Party wonders if its true, then lists all the ways it is, and still has the gall to ask if its so at the end.
  • I Hate Young People – Another website all about antipathy for youth, this one focused on pitching a tv show! “We want you to create a video of yourself explaining what you hate the most about young people. It’s your chance to rant and rave and vent about the younger generation.”
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

I Am An Abetting Radical

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. And when I ask why they have no food, they call me a Communist.” – Brazilian bishop Helder Camara

I am a default questioner. I think that starting at a young age I took it upon myself to question and examine and critique and analyze life, situations, assumptions, even other questions, not as a defense mechanism or routine, but as a default, a way of being, a practice that acknowledges the corners of my soul that are always asking, “Why?” It’s a childlike part of me that continues to sustain me.

Why is it that when I ask adults why they don’t share society with youth, they call me a radical?

This is the situation in Washington, DC, where the nation’s hierarchy of youth organizations and government agencies that work with children and youth have routinely excluded me from their reindeer games in which they call meetings, determine agendas, set conferences, host forums, and write papers, all outside of my realm of contact. Oh, they’re influenced by me, as many of my colleagues back east readily acknowledge. I have contacts in large organizations and influential posts who cite me, note me, and drop my name in order to demonstrate their connection to critical thinking within our shared realms. As is our habit, we follow each other on twitter and friend one another on facebook, like we’re all old friends forming a club, a clique, a cabal that informs, decides, and maintains a social order determined to change the social order that disengages young people throughout society.

This reality echoes across the country as countless youth organizations, community groups, and activista institutions have adapted and plagiarized my materials without so much as mentioning my name in relationship to them. Academics in ivory towers freely liberate my theoretical frameworks, and authors in lonely rooms repeal my information to fill their fetid minds with incense, all the while incensing me.

Thus I am a rebel to the system, and an informant to the cause. For more than a decade I have sought nothing other than to influence, and now I’m seeing the fruits of those labors. More than ever my advocacy of radical democracy is informing and motivating this movement for change, this transformative re-imagining of the roles of young people throughout society… And for this, I am fully grateful.

So to those who have borrowed and left, and those who have taken and laughed, and those who snickered while they critiqued and snarked while they pursued, I thank you all. I am merely abetting an enemy whose name is “Children” and “Youth”. Occasionally, I’m helping you, too.

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

Three Tips for Youth Work Job Seekers

A few weeks ago I started offering free youth worker job coaching for people who have lost their jobs or are searching for jobs working with young people. Since I began I have talked with 20 people from across the US and Canada. 
Here are a few tips I’ve pulled together that keep emerging in those conversations:
  1. Speak in certain tones about your experience. Let the interviewer know that you know about who you are, what you’ve done, and what you’re capable of doing. 
  2. Create a personal narrative. You have a great story to share – make sure you tell it!
  3. Dream of the world you want to work for, and dream out loud! Its important for anyone who works with young people to have a personal vision for the world they want to live in. Not some fluffy, flowery, impossible thing, but definitely a vision. Share it, and let your interviewer know you’re in it to win it.
Hope these might help you! Give me a call if you’re interested in a free session yourself!
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

Youth Equality: A Utopian Story

‎”Utopia lies at the horizon. When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. If I proceed ten steps forward, it swiftly slips ten steps ahead. No matter how far I go, I can never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance.” – Eduardo Galeano

That year my daughter entered middle school was the end of the revolutionary phase. For years we’d struggled and taught, advocated and rallied. There had been advances and setbacks, until one day the levees broke. Suddenly, children and youth flooded the streets of our society’s consciousness. Almost without warning, they were everywhere throughout the city, including the government buildings downtown, the businesses in the strip malls, and the culture at night.

It was like they knew no limits aside from those we’d carefully negotiated; culture, identity, spirituality, and perception seemed like shared events while they were dancing in troupes, painting incredible murals, and reciting poems in every corner.

We had no idea how broad and how deep the revolution would affect our society.

Within just a few weeks there were billboards for youth candidates posted along the interstates, and within a few months citizen-driven green initiatives were transforming those interstates into multi-use travel corridors for bicycles, high-speed rail, and alternative vehicles like Segways. Technology became ubiquitous after young people did, with fully integrated usages throughout schools, homes, and public spaces; McDonald’s and shopping malls rapidly emptied out as the wisdom of young people emerged in a collective tour de force against consumerism and for community-building. Almost immediately young minds and hands were freed to resolve the centuries-old crises of poverty and racism, and with their elasticity apparent, “poor” neighborhoods were transformed into bastions of hope as the young people who lived in them were immediately engaged, employed, and empowered to take charge.

Replacing hatred with hope, people of all ages lined up to serve through AmeriCorps, and lines formed outside every Big Brothers/Big Sisters agency in the country. Every institution that served kids was suddenly flooded with donations and volunteers, all because the immediately reality of young people became fully apparent to every single person in the country.

For my daughter, well, none of this passed by her unnoticed. Her blog quickly announced every development, and her web series openly critiqued, celebrated, and challenged all the developments she’d helped bring about. As she wrote, “My determination and hope were only a drop of water in the sea of this new reality. I only want what is best for everyone, including myself.”

Utopia realized, I began to imagine a new reality further beyond this one.

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