Our Generation Should Revolt
We’ve failed to examine or challenge America’s most pervasive and destructive prejudice: adultism – the oppression of children. Like white supremacists and male chauvinists, adultist bigots discriminate against a group of people because they see us as stupid, dirty, violent, drug-abusing, suicidal, promiscuous, and inferior. However, as definitive psychological studies prove, most youths don’t fit any such labels. Yet to ephebiphobics a few deviants justify stigmatizing us all. (See sociologist Mike Males’ The Scapegoat Generation and Framing Youth.)
Even the best of newspapers, such as the San Antonio Express-News, aren’t immune; I enter into evidence the following headlines – “There’s hope in battle with teens, alcohol” (2 October 1998), “Cars, teen-agers don’t usually mix” (12 July 1998), “Teen pregnancy no Christmas story” (24 December 1997). To better show the ephebiphobia, let’s change these headlines to reveal other prejudices – “There’s hope in battle with Irish, alcohol” or “Cars, chicks don’t usually mix” or “Negro pregnancy no Christmas story.” Even if evidence backed these headlines, EN would never publish them because distinctions like nationality, sex, and race shouldn’t bias ‘objective news’.
And the dehumanization of children causes atrocities more appalling than two students with guns could perpetrate:
In the home, parents sexually and/or physically abuse millions of children and murder thousands annually. While spanking an adult constitutes assault, spanking a child remains legal and acceptable. Like sexist husbands, ephebiphobic parents turn the parent-child relationship into master-slave domination. (See law professor Barbara Bennett Woodhouse’s work.)
In the economy, where racists once enslaved blacks with chains of poverty, adults today, the richest generation in American history, let one in five children live impoverished – one in four in Texas. (See statistics at the child advocacy group, Children’s Defense Fund.)
In schools, students receive a full-time class in totalitarianism where our adult overseers brainwash us into submission. We learn that who’s in power counts more than who’s right or wrong and that who conforms gets more than who thinks independently. (See educator Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society.)
In politics, since youths hold no legal standing or voting rights, unjust laws discard our equal right to work, drive, copulate, smoke, sue, drink, and freely assemble at anytime. All ephebiphobic restrictions could be abolished without harm, applied to all ages, or replaced with non-age-based licensing systems. However, adults cling to the segregation of youths as tightly as past whites the segregation of blacks. (See Richard Farson’s Birthrights.)
In society, where before the industrial revolution, most adults and youths worked together in myriad-aged families, adults today exclude youths from the “real” (adult) world. Since adults grant us no responsibilities, we can’t act responsibly. Since adults isolate us, we only relate with other “irresponsible” peers. De facto age segregation eradicates our self-reliance, thus justifying greater oppression. As with other minorities, youths act like inferiors because we’re treated like inferiors. (See historian Howard P. Chudacoff’s How Old Are You?)
Strangely, my time in Lee’s indoctrination facility hasn’t repressed my hope, for I see in my persecuted peers the same passion that ignited past liberatory movements. Our hearts hurt when ephebiphobics treat us unfairly. Gloriously, we can turn resentment into passion, with passion gain intelligence, and with intelligence organize a national rebellion.
Every youth should contribute. Too many of us wallow in the prejudice of our elders and accept the deception that we’re helpless and worthless. Too many of us ignore that we can and should create powerful students’ rights unions, youth public forums, and anti-ephebiphobia associations to non-violently transform our oppressive society with a theory of liberation and a practice of love. Tremendous changes occur one family, one school, and one person at a time. Right here, right now, you can critique and resist ephebiphobic domination.
It’s time for a massive integration of young and old. It’s time competency replaced age as the criterion for bestowing rights. It’s time to abolish voting age restrictions, ensure no child’s needs go unmet, pass a constitutional amendment repealing all age-based laws, and empower students to emancipate education. It’s time to convince ephebiphobics of the value of freedom, equality, and love.
It’s time for a revolution by a new generation.
§ I dedicate this article to the memory of critical pedagogist, Paulo Freire, who dedicated his life to empowering oppressed peoples through education.