On Youth Liberation

There is a portion of youth advocates who believe all young people should be allowed to choose their own way all the time, and that this is equivalent to social justice. 

I believe that translates to allowing all young people in all schools, community centers, places of worship, and neighborhoods around the world to do whatever they wish, whenever they wish, wherever they wish, however they wish. I can hear certain readers say, “Surely there is nobody who is really like that, right? No one believes all those things to that extreme!” 
To them I say that surely there are, and I’ve learned a lot from them, calling many good friends and close allies. Those good friends are reading this, too, and wondering exactly where I’m heading here, as we’ve often converged with our thinking.

Let me say that I believe in youth liberation; however, I believe in it in the same sense I believe in freedom (thus, the “Freechild Project”): we are all complexly interwoven into a fabric of interdependence, and because of that we have to rely on one another for our independence. An aboriginal activst group in Australia in the 1970s came up with a creedo describing this idea far better than I ever could: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come to because your liberation is bound up in mine, we can work together.”

I also believe that the main station/duty/responsibility/right of young people is to learn- whether from each other, from adults, from culture or wherever. I would go so far to say that is a privilige of youth, that ability to focus on that task. I don’t believe in the compulsory, forced obligation we thrust upon young people today, making them attend schools and participate in educational programs in which their volition is inherently compromised. I think that is nothing less than a failure of adults who have no idea how to make education a fun, engaging and powerful experience that young people should be compelled to participate in because of their own will rather than that of adults. However, I do believe young people have that responsibility to learn, to grow and to be themselves.

So its a tricky path that currently offers me no clear resolution and few absolutes. However, I believe that this idea of youth liberation as complete emancipation from adults is disingenuous, to say the least. I will continue to explore that notion later.

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

Published by Adam

For almost two decades, Adam F. C. Fletcher has led international outreach focused on engaging people successfully. Working with thousands of youth-serving nonprofits, K-12 schools, government agencies, international NGOs and other organizations around the world, his work spans the fields of education, public health, economic development and social services, and includes professional development, public speaking, publishing, social media and more. He founded the Freechild Institute for Youth Engagement, SoundOut and CommonAction, as well as writing more than 50 publications and 500 articles. He has also established 150-plus community empowerment projects.

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