“Young people aren’t turning away from mainstream media because they don’t care about current events but because the media don’t know how to connect with them.” – Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
Cuban made that comment in his blog about is working with Dan Rather to start a new tv show. Interesting, isn’t it, that someone who has to keep his finger on the pulse of so-called “youth culture” knows exactly why young people aren’t doing what adults want them to. Now let’s extend that same logic throughout society…
Young people aren’t turning away from youth programs because they don’t care about themselves, but because youth workers don’t know how to connect with them…
Young people aren’t turning away from schools because they don’t care about learning, but because educators don’t know how to connect with them…
Young people aren’t turning away from politics, neighborhood groups, churches, co-ops, colleges, clubs, and communities because they don’t care, but because we don’t know how to connect with them.
This logic replaces the long-standing trend of blaming youth for “youth problems” by placing responsibility for youth engagement squarely on the shoulders of those who wish youth were engaged – adults.
Anymore, anytime I say “responsibility” to anyone I think of Sasha Rabkin explaining to me the need for young people and adults to “response-able.” That’s what our society needs – people who are able to respond to the crisis of disengagement, alienation, segregation, and ostracization throughout our communities.
The first step towards becoming response-able is admiting that we aren’t current able to respond. Too many adults, youth workers, parents, teachers, and politicians won’t acknowledge their personal culpability in youth disengagement. Too many progressive activists have dismissed children and youth before ever letting them honestly fail by simply dismissing their ability. They conveniently fall back on the media’s systematic dismissal of youth, alternately labelling young people of color as “dangerous superpredators” and “criminals in training” and saying that white youth are lazy, tech-obsessed, or apathetic.
Young people aren’t dangerous because they’re predators – they’re dangerous because they are effective change agents. Young people aren’t apathetic – they’re disconnected. Let’s focus the powerful capacity of young people for creating change towards progressive social, economic, and environmental justice. Let’s transform our own pathos and move from being apathetic about young people to empathetic with young people.
Let’s simply acknowledge that the media steadily repulses young people by steadily condeming them.
Let’s simply acknowledge that our schools readily disenfranchise young people by steadily compelling them to partake in compulsory mediocrity and failure.
Let’s simply acknowledge that we – as a society led by adults for young people – have failed, are failing, and will keep failing ourselves, our families, our communities, and our national ideals if we continue on the same trajectory we have for the past three centuries.
Democracy requires nothing less than this type of commitment, and I want nothing less than democracy for my daughter, nieces and nephews, and the other young people I know and love. That’s why I can’t wait any longer.