JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
img

When Youth Leaders Sell Out

Written by freechild Jan 24, 2011

Yesterday I was at a meeting of folks from across my local community who work with youth, including school personnel, nonprofit staff, government agency workers, and others. One topic discussed was what youth in the community should be invited to an event focused on listening to youth voice. As usual I raised a voice for nontraditional youth leaders, the kind who are inconveniently positioned in their schools and social lives to provide vital perspectives in any conversation about any topic. Those perspectives are often uncomfortable, unpredictable, and inconvenient, which ultimately only adds to their value.

You’ve seen “convenient youth voice” happen, or maybe you’ve done it yourself: A young person gets a position with an adult-led group, and suddenly they start dressing and talking like an adult. Adults often reward this behavior with recognition and encouragement, even foisting these “youth leaders” into more representative positions. In a way, adults are rewarding compliance: By acting like us, we are not threatened by them, and this must be acknowledged.

Paulo Freire wrote about natural community leaders who are taken from their neighborhoods for leadership training only to become ineffective afterwards. He explained this happens because of a mis-alignment of values between the community leader and the leadership teacher. However, minus the ability or desire to see the mis-alignment clearly, the community leader literally learns their way out of effectiveness by ultimately becoming a purveyor of cultural norms and values that are not their own. They literally lose touch., and for want of a better word, “sell out.”

This is what happens to a lot of youth leaders. Unconsciously, these young peoples’ desires to achieve and please adults alienates them from their peers. They inadvertently sell out by becoming “little adults” whose perspectives often align only with other little adults, and adults themselves.

Needless to say, my perspective wasn’t acknowledged to my satisfaction in the course of the meeting I was in yesterday. The perspective of a local school administrator who has “worked over a dozen years to lead youth forums of all kinds” was that the group select “the kids who know how to do it.” This seemed to me to be coded language for what I call “convenient youth voice,” which is a predictable, familiar, and acceptable type of behavior.

For me, this goes back to the idiom that, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

In order to meet the harsh realities facing our communities today we need to embrace inconvenient youth voice. This requires brave and bold and intentional new approaches that get the results adults want while meeting young peoples’ own desires to make their voices and actions heard and felt throughout the world we share.

I know that as a community we can rise to this challenge. Let’s go!

— This is Adam Fletcher’s blog originally posted at http://www.YoungerWorld.org/. For more see http://www.bicyclingfish.com/
Written by Adam Fletcher for CommonAction Consulting. It was originally posted at YoungerWorld.org. Contact us for more information by emailing info@commonaction.org or calling +1 (360)489-9680.

img

OUR BLOG

img

Avi Hein – 20th Anniversary Reflection

Growing up outside of Washington, DC, politics is life. But, as a 15 year old, volunteering isn’t the same as voting. It was the second half...

BY Avi Hein
img

Alex Jonlin – 20th Anniversary Reflection

As a ten-year-old kid in Seattle, I was already interested in politics. My friends and I marched around the playground protesting the Iraq War, and I...

BY Alex Jonlin
img

Scott Davidson – 20th Anniversary Reflection

Former board member (2003-2007) and president, Scott Davidson reflects on his time with NYRA and the people he got to know during his time being active...

BY Scott Davidson
img

Jackie Ferro – 20th Anniversary Reflection

I first got involved with NYRA in 2009, when I was in 8th grade. I had formed a small coalition with some fellow middle schoolers called...

BY Jackie Ferro
img

NYRA-Fairfax Secures Voting Age Endorsements

Thanks to the efforts of the newly formed Fairfax County NYRA chapter, the Fairfax County Democratic Party and grassroots organizations Virginia Democracy Forward and Virginia Civic...

BY Brian Conner
img

NYRA Mourns Passing of John Taylor Gatto

Renowned critic of compulsory schooling, John Taylor Gatto passed away this week at the age of 82.  A teacher for 30 years, he achieved notoriety after...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
img

Stefan Muller – 20th Anniversary Reflection

I joined NYRA in 2003 after reading about it in a news article about the voting age. This wasn’t my first introduction to youth rights—I’ve believed...

BY Stefan Muller
img

NYRA Launches New Website!

After months of hard work by NYRA's team of volunteers, we are pleased to finally unveil our brand new look! With a new logo, a new...

BY NYRA
img

Bill introduced in U.S. House to lower the voting age to sixteen

Last week, U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced a resolution proposing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would lower the voting age to sixteen throughout...

BY NYRA
View More
img

Support the New YouthRights.org!

NYRA's current website was redesigned in 2011 and while it looked great for the time, it is now dated in both style and function. The current...

BY NYRA
img

Portland Student Rights Union joins NYRA to address Student Rights

Members of Portland Student Rights Union - A NYRA Chapter We originally started the Portland Student Rights Union (SRU) in October 2017 to protest the administration...

BY Portland Student Rights Union
img

Scott Davidson – 20th Anniversary Reflection

Former board member (2003-2007) and president, Scott Davidson reflects on his time with NYRA and the people he got to know during his time being active...

BY Scott Davidson
img

Schwarzenegger v Gamers – Help Us Fight Back

Arnold is trying to take away your games. Don't let him. California passed a law that would ban the sale of all "violent" video games to...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
img

Activists in Massachusetts Make Progress in Lowering the Voting Age

In Massachusetts, two best friends made headway in the push to lower the voting age. Aaron Nelson and Max Carr passed articles in their hometowns of...

BY NYRA
img

Over 70 people testify in favor of lowering the voting age in Washington D.C.

On Wednesday, NYRA members attended a public hearing before the Washington, D.C. City Council to support the Youth Vote Amendment Act of 2018. If passed, this...

BY NYRA
img

Alex Jonlin – 20th Anniversary Reflection

As a ten-year-old kid in Seattle, I was already interested in politics. My friends and I marched around the playground protesting the Iraq War, and I...

BY Alex Jonlin
img

Speaking out against curfew laws in Fort Worth, TX

NYRA Chapter leader Bryce Hall spoke out against extending the juvenile curfew law in his home town of Fort Worth, Texas last Tuesday. He and other...

BY NYRA
img

Time Flies When You’re Having Fun, And Drags When You’re Young

When I talk to people about lowering the voting age to 16 or lowering the drinking age to 18 they often say “Why the rush? Two...

BY Alex Koroknay-Palicz
View More