Trends in Youth Voice

This is the forth of six posts today in honor of the election of Barack Obama as the next President of the United States.

As young people and their adult allies continue to expand and enliven the movement to integrate Youth Voice throughout society there are patterns and trends emerging. I began analyzing this development in 2001, when I worked with a group of friends and allies from across the US to develop The Freechild Project. Today our databases are widely acknowledged for their breadth and depth. I want to lay out three predictions for the future of Youth Voice, based on trends I’m identifying in current activities across the country and around the world.

Trend One: Youth are not content with being heard. In the past young people wanted to make their voices heard in decision-making; today that is just not enough. As I watch repeating patterns of youth engaging in politics, meaningful student involvement, youth involvement in government decision-making, and deepened youth/adult partnerships throughout nonprofit programs across the country I am seeing less contentment with a seat at the table; instead youth want to own the table, too.

Trend Two: Youth are progressive. The fractious and mostly arbitrary differentiation between Republicans and Democrats is divisive and derisive. However, there is a true and substantive difference between liberal and conservative thinking. Progressiveness is different – and the same – as both. To be progressive means to be committed to movement, either to the right or the left. In this way, and by way of generalization, I believe young people are largely progressive, as the inherent nature of life between the ages of birth and twenty-five (or older) is that of change. That makes their politics, their culture, their actions, their knowledge, their ideas and more progressive.

Trend Three: Youth can find equity in our society. Equity and equality are two different things, and I believe it is irresponsible to advocate for youth equality throughout society. However, equity is about fostering and engendering fairness and justice by deliberately making concessions, acknowledging mutual benefits, and creating partnerships that are sustainable and effective. Any adult who considers themselves an advocate and/or ally to young people has an ethical imperative to do nothing less.

These are patterns I’ve found – how about you? What do you see as the emerging, the next big thing?

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