Are YOU Making Adultism Okay?

In nonprofits today, there is attention paid towards racial, gender, and other forms of discrimination. However, little is made of a very real form of discrimination that is undermining a lot of well-meaning social justice activists’ work today: adultism.

In my new book, Ending Discrimination Against Young People, I define adultism in three ways:

  • Bias towards adults;
  • Discrimination against children and youth;
  • The addiction to adults expressed throughout our culture, society, and personal ways of being.

Adultism occurs throughout education, including K-12 schools, government agencies and policy-making, and many other places that intersect with education – even democratic education!

Despite our best intentions, many adults and students try to make discrimination against young people okay in all kinds of ways. Following are some of them.

15 Ways Adults Try to Make Adultism Okay

  1. Denying discrimination against children and youth. Adults might say: “This is a free country, and kids can do whatever they want if they put their minds to it,” or “Hey, wait a second, that’s not what I meant… I mean… you took my words out of context, don’t make it try to sound like I’m adultist!” They may also claim that young people being able to talk about adultism makes the adults non-adultist.
  2. Telling young people they are too sensitive. Adults might say, ”You’re too sensitive,” or, “If youth weren’t so aggressive, vocal, hostile, angry, or upset, adults would listen to youth and they wouldn’t get in trouble!”
  3. Speaking for children and youth. Adults might say, “I’m a youth ally myself, so why can’t we all just ignore age, it’s not like it’s even real. It is not as if I tangibly benefit from being an adult every day or anything! Can’t we all just get along?”
  4. Turning the tables. Adults might say, “You are just discriminating against adults, you know. You’re discriminating against me right now, you hypocrite!”
  5. Denying reality. Adults might say, ”Whoa, that guy over there is SUCH an adultist, unlike me… I know exactly the right things to say and I’m never adultist. By which I mean overtly offensive about it. Hold on, I think I’m going to go spit on that adult. I hate him.”
  6. Bending over backwards. Adults might say, ”You kids are so right! I agree with everything you say, because you’re right, of course
  7. Reinforcing adultism with personal reasons. Adults might say, ”But a youth cut in front of me in line at the grocery store last night, said something stupid, mugged me, or took my hubcaps! So as far as I’m concerned, they proved all of my prejudices!”
  8. Taking on adultism. Adults might say, ”I can’t possibly be an adultist… I’m part of the oppressed due to the fact that I’m a woman! (or gay, poor, young, transsexual, etc.)”.
  9. Trying to be a youth. Adults might say, “Dang, dude! I listen to emo and rock out at the shows, and you know I’m down with the homies. Did you see the last edition of that graphic novel?”
  10. Being constantly available to youth. Adults might say, ”Teach me, help me. I’m just an adult, so I need your wisdom as a youth to show me how not to be adultist. Wait, is what I said earlier adultist? How about this shirt I’m wearing? Can you come with me to this meeting, so they know I’m not adultist?”
  11. Rationalizing adultism through faux-empathy. Adults might say, “Unlike all those other adults out there, I’m an anti-adultist.” “I do anti-adultist work and I try to educate other adults about adultism.” “Wait, did you hear me?”
  12. Switching sides. Adults might say, ”I totally agree. Adultism is one system of oppression among many interlocking ones that specifically awards more privilege and power to all adults whether they like it or not and serves to keep the existing power structure in place. Oh… what? You want me to volunteer in a community organization, contribute money, do security for your protest march? Uh… yeah maybe next time, I’ve got to wash my hair tonight. And walk my dog, see the latest episode of my favorite show, manage my stock portfolio…”
  13. Sympathy for youth. Adults might say,”Oh my god… that is so awful. I’m so sorry. Sorry. I can’t imagine what it must be like… I’m sorry. That’s so awful. I feel so bad for you. Sorry.”
  14. Being a friend by force. Adults might say, “Hey, I’m not an adultist, OK? Some of my best friends are youth. See?” or “Yeah, I’ve known her since I was a kid, and she’s never said anything adultist to me!”
  15. Hiding behind their age. Youth might say, ”What? I can’t possibly be adultist – I AM a youth. How can I be adultist against myself, huh? No, I haven’t heard of internalized adultism, and I still think youth involvement is reverse discrimination!”

All of these things actually discriminate against young people by favoring adults over young people. Identifying how you personally rationalize adultism can lead to becoming a more effective adult ally. All adults are adultist, and most young people are too.

To learn more about adultism, check out my book Facing Adultism. Full of examples and actions, I intend for educators, youth workers, parents, and others to step up and change the ways they interact with young people. Read the book to learn more!

Help Promote Ending Discrimination Against Young People!

You know I’m not the most famous person in the world, right?!?

I don’t have a publicist, and I want people to get a hold of my newest book, Ending Discrimination Against Young People. I need your help!

If you want to pitch in, you can help me by helping get the word out. The biggest help you can do is find one person who needs and wants Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Offer the book to that person, and then if you want to, repeat.


Slower than you want, but faster than you think, we can help stop adultism and end discrimination. Here are some ways to help reach out for my awesome, powerful, strong book, Ending Discrimination Against Young People.

10 Steps to Promote Ending Discrimination Against Young People

1. Contribute to Facebook groups and Web forums—Every field has at least one or two facebook groups and web forums that people who should know about Ending Discrimination Against Young People read. Find and join these forums. Contribute to them freely. Give advice from the book and reach out. Put a link to http://adamfletcher.net in your signature line, or add the name of the book in your signature block.

2. Write a Blog—Writing about the book with helpful, inspirational information from it. Relate your experience and stories to the subjects in Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Aim to inspire people to buy the book, and share the link with them.

3. Write a Remarkable Review—Go to Amazon.com and write a review of the book. You can say things like: “I loved it! This book is amazing!”, and tell your story related to the book. Ending Discrimination Against Young People needs word-of-mouth publicity. Recommend it to your friends. They will recommend it to their friends. This is the best publicity the book can get.

4. Share Stuff from the Media Kit—My online media for the book kit includes

5. Share the Webpage—There’s a full webpage that includes:

  • A link to the Amazon page for your book, so people can buy the book online
  • Your media kit 
  • Book reviews and blurbs
  • My schedule of appearances, including bookstores, speaking engagements and conferences
  • Contact information.
6. Write Articles—Every field has websites and magazines that needs to share Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Find them and tell me about them. You can also write articles about the book for newsletters, websites, magazines, or eZines. Mention Ending Discrimination Against Young People in the article. In online articles, link the book title to its Amazon page so readers can click over and buy the book.


7. Help the Book Get 20 Amazon Reviews—Amazon.com reviews are amazingly effective. Everyone from book buyers to publishers reads them. Our goal is to get at least 20 reviews of Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Contact everyone you know and ask each of them if they would give the book an honest review. Let them know it can be brief. If they agree, let me know and I will send them either a PDF containing a table of contents, two sample chapters, and me bio.

8. Get the Book Mentioned in Email Blasts—Get Ending Discrimination Against Young People mentioned in your org’s large-volume emails. Review the book the email newsletter.

9. Make and Post Online Videos—Make a few 1 or 2 minute video reviewing and promoting Ending Discrimination Against Young People. Put the book title and URL on the bottom of the video screen and in the credits. Post your videos on several of the many video sharing sites including sites like blip.tv, jumpcut, ourmedia, Vimeo, vSocial and YouTube. Share the clips on your website, through your facebook or twitter page, and through emails to your friends and colleagues.
10. Ask for It—Go to your local bookstore and library and ask people to carry the book. Let them know you’re excited about it, share your copy with them, and ask them to carry it themselves. Tell them you’ll personally help others learn about it and send customers and users to them.

THANK YOU, THANK YOU for sharing Ending Discrimination Against Young People with your people. Let me know what I can do for YOU!

Activity: Take A Stand

Take A Stand is an icebreaker that lasts five to twenty minutes. It can be used with any group size, and in order to facilitate it you’ll need a list of topics and signs (see below)
TAKE A STAND DIRECTIONS
Facilitator Notes
This icebreaker works in more ways than one. Not only do you get your
group thinking and taking a stand on topics that participants will have the
chance to defend, but you get your group physically moving. You’ll need to
prepare in advance—and the variations of this group ice breaker are only
narrowed by your imagination.
Before You Arrive…
  • Bring topics to the session. Take A Stand is most effective if the topics about which you ask participants to take a stand are related to your session. These topics will let you move into related discussions and content at the appropriate time.
  • The topics you choose will help participants think about the topic of the session while getting comfortable talking with the other participants.
  • Take A Stand can also work well with groups who know each other and with strangers.
  • There are no right or wrong answers—just different opinions and feelings about the topic.
  • Select topics that are controversial without being divisively controversial. Topics focused on schools, education, youth may help you accomplish your purpose. Remember: you want participants opening up to each other, not closing down.

Steps
Step 1: Prior to the arrival of participants,
turn your session room into a continuum. Do this by hanging a sign on each end
of the room.
·        
One
sign should say: Totally Agree – 100%.
·        
The
sign on the other end of the room should say: Completely Disagree – 0%.
·        
At
the midpoint in the room, hang a third sign that says: Neutral or Undecided –
50%.
This provides your
participants with guidance about where to stand when they take a stand in the
group ice breaker.
Step 2: As participants arrive, ask them to take a seat
as they normally would for your session.


Step 3:
When everyone is seated, explain
the following: 
o  
You
will present the group with a series of topics, statements, or conundrums.
o  
Group
members are to react to the presented statement by signifying the degree of
their agreement or disagreement with the statement by taking a stand physically
somewhere along the continuum. Point out the different locations where you hung
the signs.
o  
Once
all participants have physically moved to the location that best represents
their point of view, suggest that participants share their rationale with the
people standing near them. Do that with each statement.
Step 4: When you’ve read through all the topics, lead
an overall debrief of the exercise by drawing out the thoughts of various
participants about why they took the stand they took.
After you’ve done the
first part, ask the group whether anyone or anything in the room influenced the
stand that they took took.
Sample Topics for the
Take a Stand
Here are ideas for common group ice breaker topics.
Schools
  • My students would think less of me if I showed them I didn’t know or understand a topic in class.
  • School leaders like principals and school board members would be suspicious if I started engaging students in all classroom decision-making.
  • Students who ingratiate themselves with adults in schools receive extra privileges, favored treatment, and maybe, better grades.
Community Building
  • How important is developing community norms or guidelines to a project’s success?
  • How key is the role of nonprofits to your community’s success?

Youth Involvement
  •  Adults care more about enforcing policies
    than being youth advocates.