Is There a Youth Movement?

In the last six years I have seen a lot of brave efforts to concieve, convince, and contrive a broad youth movement across the US and around the world. There are actually several organizations that hold this effort as one of their undergirding principles. Old-line youth orgs like scouts, Boys & Girls Club, and YMCA talk about it; new line up-and-comers do, too.

There are so many different angles to these efforts – probably as many different reasons for doing it as there are organizations. The efforts engaging the most youth are those that vere the closest to recreation for the masses; those that are most attractive to activists are the most radical.

With all that said, the question of existence begs to be asked. Is there actually a broad youth movement today? Do young people really have enough in common across racial, economic, religious, class, and cultural divisions? Is creating a movement for young people and “their” issues the “right” thing to do, or does it simply create a platform for conformity and an acceleration of opportunities for traditional youth leaders?

Those youth movements that have gained national or international prominence in the last ten years were neither solely focused on so-called “youth issues” nor were they led continuously by youth themselves. I particularly think of Craig Kielberger’s “Free The Children,” which focuses on global poverty; Billy Upski Wismatt’s “Active Element Foundation,” which focused on social/economic/environmental justice; and Michael Furdyk’s “TakingITGlobal,” which centres on technology.

Each of those efforts were significant, got good play among the mainstream media, and created buzz around the phrase “youth movement.” However, while all professed to be about youth, none were even led by young people. Kielberger aged out, Furdyk left anxiously, and Wismatt was old when he was young (read “Bombing the Suburbs”). Even the National Youth Rights Association, which is the only grassroots youth-issue focused org in the US today, isn’t led by a youth.

Is there a youth movement today? Maybe not. What do you think?

2 comments

  1. concerning becoming “aged out”… people get older, it’s an inevitable part of life. i started my anti-school site when i was 16. i’m turning 24 this year, the site is still going strong. just because i’m not at school anymore doesn’t make me think that i’m somehow “fake” now for continuing to run the site, i still feel the same way about school as i did back then. so i think this applies to others as well, just because they’re not *technically* a “youth” anymore, doesn’t mean they’re not still a youth *at heart*, or that they’re now unfit to lead a “youth movement”…

    just my 2 cents đŸ™‚

    by the way, that site i’m talking about is http://www.school-survival.net/

  2. While NYRA’s executive director is not a youth, 6 of its 9 directors are under 21, and 4 (or 5) are under 18. If anything, folks under 18 are playing a greater role in NYRA now than they did a few years ago.

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