I just got an email from a freechild.org reader in Indiana. The brief text follows:
Mission: The Freechild Project seeks to advocate, inform, and celebrate social change led by and with young people around the world, particularly those who have been historically denied the right to participate. Above is your mission statement. My question is: What young people around the world have historically been denied the right to participate and why? Who and what are you referring to?
Here’s my response:
Hi, and thanks for writing. You caught me at the right moment – I have time to reply!
Here are some ways that young people all denied the right to participate in the US:
- Planning, research, decision-making, and evaluation of programs for youth routinely happens without youth.
- The education system, from kindergarten classrooms through high school graduation to education agency administration makes attendance mandatory for all young people while denying meaningful student involvement in the design, delivery, and assessment of learning.
- Almost all formal civic responsibilities in the US, such as voting, government committee membership, and policy-making denies people under the age of 18 the right to participate.
- Low-income youth are routinely denied the right to participate in healthy recreation and social programs because of cost.
- Youth of color are systematically denied the right to participate throughout society because of the inability of white people to acknowledge and engage diversity.
- Across the country children of immigrants are increasingly denied the right to participate in higher education and health programs because of their parents’ immigration status.
- The increased commericialization of society routinely denies young people the right to participate in meaningful dialogue, critical thinking, and cultural construction by force-feeding mass-produced media down the throats of children and youth in schools, at home, and increasingly, through programs intending to serve youth themselves.
Why does this happen? The segregation of ages, the abandonment of “the public good,” the segregation of races, the demonization of the unknown, the commericalization of public schools, the militarization of youth programs, the privatization of the public sphere… those are all legitmate reasons.
There are many more as well, many of which we can identify in our own practices as youth workers, teachers, government officials, academics, parents, researchers, counselors…
Throughout the Freechild Project website we offer hundreds of answers to your question of who and what we are refering to, so I’ll send you back to http://freechild.org/issues.htm and http://freechild.org/actions.htm to learn more about our answer to those questions.
Everyday we train young people and adults from a variety of different communities and a variety of different settings about social change led by and with young people around the world. Let me know if there’s anything more I can share with you – I would love to be of assistance.
Thanks again for writing.
That’s it. What do you think?