"Youth" is Political

This is the first of twelve posts I’m putting up today to celebrate the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States. This is a historic time and we should all celebrate – and recommit ourselves to being the change we wish to see in the world.

Let’s start by addressing politics: In this sense I am not discussing party politics and the artificial discrimination between Democrats and Republicans or the true distinctions between liberals and conservatives. Rather, I am looking at politics as the social relations that seek, enforce, collect or ensure authority or power throughout society. My analysis of youth is inherently political, as I am almost exclusively concerned with the power relations between young people and adults throughout society.

The very definition of the word “youth” is political because every way you can define the word enforces their relationships to power:

  • Labeling someone a “youth” because of their age makes them different
  • Categorizing a group of people as “youth” because of their age, knowledge, opinions or actions makes them the Other
  • Routinely isolating groups of people because of their age segregates them and constitutes their relation to power for the rest of their lives
  • Identifying someone who is immature or inexperienced as a “youth” reinforces powerlessness and dismisses any notion of self-efficacy
  • Isolating the indiscretions or accidents human beings make throughout our lifelong development as “youthful” diminishes the responsibility all people share
  • Relegating freshness and vitality as “youthful” as the last definition after each of the others is cynical, to say the least.

This definition needs to be acknowledged for being what it is – a political tool that identifies, influences, isolates and otherwise differentiates between young people and everyone else in society. That type of “otherness” is political, and that is that.

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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