Youth are Segregated

Adam’s note: If you’re a subscriber, sorry about filling up your inbox. I’m cleaning out half-finished blog entries and want to make sure the ones from today hit the streets. Notice the dates; a lot are from January 2008. Hope you enjoy!
The underlying assumption behind all youth involvement programs is that youth are segregated. American society has relied on the ongoing and consistent alienation, isolation and institutionalization of young people for more than 10 decades now, only to the detriment of families, communities, and ultimately, democracy.

Youth segregation happens throughout our lives. Starting from the first moments of a child’s life, newborn infants are oftentimes removed from their mothers immediately after birth. Incubated like chicken eggs under glaring lights, babies are immediately wrenched away from the healthy grips of the mother-child bond, and mothers are immediately trained to believe and trust that the segregation of their children is a normal, acceptable, and even beneficial thing.

As children grow they continue to experience this alienation and abandonment. Daycare, schooling and many community programs all rely on the isolation of children and youth from adults, and worse still is that our adultcentric economy relies on this isolation as well. In addition to serving as captive audiences for promoting violence, consumerism and nationalism, these programs oftentimes also become the many purveyors of social values for young people, effectively negating the ability and responsibility the larger community has for “raising its own,” as Hilary Clinton professs in her book It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us.

Schooling is the main vehicle for reinforcing the youth segregation throughout our society. As John Taylor Gatto powerfully explains in Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, schools have long succeeded at teaching and reinforcing segregation for young people. Reflecting on his 25 years of teaching in public schools, the premise of his book are the following seven lessons:”

“The first lesson I teach is, Stay in the class where you belong… The second lesson I teach kids is to turn on and off like a light switch… The third lesson I teach you is to surrender your will to a predestined chain of command… The fourth lesson I teach is that only I determine what curriculum you will study… In lesson five I teach that your self-respect should depend on an observer’s measure of your worth… In lesson six I teach children that they are being watched… The seventh lesson I teach is that you can’t hide.”

Between those seven lessons, which Gatto suggests all teachers follow to varying extents, is the moral of a story: young people are segregated. After we acknowledge that we can begin to identify how to defeat that segregation; but we must start by seeing it and naming it what it is.
Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

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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