Years before I even was one, I had only ever heard the word “teenager” in a negative context. I got the clear impression that once I turned 13 I’d become mean and rude. Then I actually turned 13 and passed through my teen years, realizing I was not particularly mean or rude, but simply myself. But everyone else assumed I was mean and rude. Often when they never met me and knew nothing about me except my age.

Our society encourages this. News reports emphasize crimes committed by teens over those by adults. Crimes by 17-year-olds are seen as representative of all teens and a sign of a youth crime wave, while a 37-year-old criminal, if his age is even given, is acting alone and other 37-year-olds remain innocent. It’s common to look at teens as lazy, spoiled, and prone to “misbehavior”, all taking a toll on “their poor worried parents”. As a result, parents, school officials, and politicians see teenagers as those to be controlled against their wishes, those to be forced into submission, those incapable of making sound decisions on their own, so our policies come to reflect this, and teens become more and more restricted.

But… it doesn’t have to be this way.

It doesn’t have to be that there are still 19 states that allow schools to paddle their students, something the practice’s proponents claim is necessary because of how “unruly” the students are. No adult can be legally paddled for any reason, yet such violation of bodily integrity is seen as justified for young people because it’s more important they are obedient, submissive, and “well-behaved”.

It doesn’t have to be that, around the country, for these “misbehaving” youth, there are unregulated behavior modification facilities that withhold food, water, and medical care, that harmfully restrain and seclude young people, all as part of their “treatment”. Usually they were sent there not because a judge ordered it but their parents merely gave the word, decided their son/daughter needed to be “fixed”, and that was all that was needed to subject this teen to such life-threatening conditions. And in many cases, the teen’s only “crime” was slipping grades, questioning the family’s religion, or being gay.

And all of these things are still legal, being kept legal by politicians the young victims cannot vote against. These young victims are the result of a culture that insistently fears young people.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We all know it doesn’t have to be this way or the countless other ways our ephebephobic culture hurts youth. For the past 13 years, NYRA has known and operated under the ideal that it doesn’t have to be this way. For the past 13 years, our organization has grown and our chapters and members have run big and small campaigns to make change for youth rights, because it doesn’t have to be this way. We stand up and challenge the anti-youth assumptions and policies that hurt young people, even when “common knowledge” and prejudices are so widely against us, because it doesn’t have to be this way.

That is what Usiel Phoenix says at rallies and protests.

That is what Jeffrey Nadel says in his TV and radio spots.

That is what Samantha Godwin says in scholarly journals.

That is what Chris Hardy says to rights-violating schools.

That is what Alex Koroknay-Palicz says in testimonies against ageist legislation.

That is what we all say, all the time.

Our ever-growing strength to turn the tide, to right all these anti-youth wrongs, has always come from one place: YOU! It is devoted members like YOU who carry and spread the ideal that it doesn’t have to be this way, that it shouldn’t be this way, that our anti-youth culture hurts youth and helps no one. You spread the word in conversations and on social media, on blogs and in letters. You may come to our online forums and chats and talk with us about your views and ideas. You tell school officials and politicians their anti-youth policies are unacceptable. You may have seen us tabling at your event and talked with us. You may have attended our annual meeting. Even where our individual specialties and visions differ, we still all share the same ideal that discrimination against the young is a serious problem, and that it doesn’t have to be this way. That things MUST change! We’re all in this together!

So to help make 2012 an even greater year for our cause, to help NYRA grow and become even stronger against ageism, please consider making a donation!

Your generous contributions help us to reach new audiences and run bigger campaigns. Your contributions help maintain our current projects and expand into new areas. Your contributions help us make a bigger and more lasting impact in eliminating anti-youth policies and increasing youth rights and freedom.

We just helped stop a curfew proposal in Montgomery County, MD. Help us to grow and expand, to spread support for youth rights, and make it so curfews are no longer even considered anywhere! Help us change curfews and other anti-youth policies from a current oppressive reality to just a shameful thing of the past.

Because… it doesn’t have to be this way. So we’re changing it!

Katrina Moncure
Secretary, Board Member
National Youth Rights Association

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